Somewhere in Asia travel blog

Our route

Giant ferns

View of Pa Dalih below

Welcome to Pa Dalih

Splitting hard-wood

Returning home

Rice padi terraces

Distant fog

Our hosts with granddaughter

Classroom at a local primary school

Back of a Pa Dalih longhouse - 8 doors

A boy with his dog

Local house decorations

Sawing lumber - sans eye protection

Wrapping up rice for lunch

Father and son

Footwear of choice for jungle trekking and just about everything else

Picking through mushrooms

Wating for the hunt

We started heading towards Pa Dalih by 2pm. After two hours of walking passed giant ferns, giant trees, and the Baram river in its infancy we arrived at a hill top with a beautiful view of Pa Dalih at the valley bottom. Surrounded by lush mountains from all sides, the view had to be taken in slowly. We sat there for a while knowing we didn't have far to go. We arrived at Sinah's sister's home to find no one there. The rain was not far behind us, and just as the sound of thunder began to grow louder we saw an older man with graying hair and bare feet, carrying a massive basket full of un-husked rice coming up from the padi fields. Behind him was a small woman, with a pointy hat all wrapped up in a laundry detergent plastic that read "WOW". The two were our hosts for the night. Neither spoke English, but they welcomed us into their home with warm smiles.

As soon as they entered their home they started to prepare dinner. He tended to the hearth fire, and she prepared the vegetables and meat. We enjoyed a nice meal, which consisted of jungle greens, eggplant straight from their garden, Bario rice (probably from their padi field), and some barking deer in a curry sauce. They both waited to eat until we were finished, as is customary in this part of the world. We quickly moved to the back porch, to let them enjoy their meal. It was getting dark outside, and our host turned on the generator so we could have some light. The rain was hitting the zinc roof, amplifying the sound of each drop. It became quite chilly inside, so much so in fact that we got to wear our rain jackets for the very first time on this trip (the only time so far). We sat with the family by the hearth fire, and looked at their photos in silence, communicating only with smiles. They were happy to pose for a photo with their granddaughter, and we promised to send them prints. Judging by the many albums of family photos they had, they were fond of them.

We headed to bed early, knowing fully well that operating the generator was costly for them. As soon as we sealed the mosquito net around our bed, the lights were off. We fell asleep to the sound of thunder and a rat scratching underneath the floor of our room.

Pa Dalih has a school, and children come here from other villages to stay for the week. On Fridays at 1:00pm, they race back home through the jungle. Once they reach their teens they must fly to Marudi or Miri, and only come home for the holidays. They always return to an incredible community and strong family ties. This is not a unique situation in Sarawak.

Pa Dalih has loads of hunting dogs and they seem to enjoy just resting in the shade, and sleeping their days away. They are literally everywhere. Select dogs enjoy the perks of staying inside the longhouse, and getting fed regularly, while others scrounge for leftover crumbs. It is not surprising to hear them get into fights once in a while, most likely over some food morsels. On the flip side, they all have one thing in common - freedom to come and go as they please. No cages, fences, or dog collars in sight.

Most of the wood in these villages is cut from logs using a chainsaw with the help of a chalkline and the unprotected eye. It's incredible how straight they can be. In the not so distant past, a handsaw and adze were used to cut these planks. Fire wood is a very important part of living in this area, and the process to cut the wood is slow. Hardwood is often used because it burns slower, and only a small flame is required for cooking in the longhouse.

We woke up early in the morning, again to the sound of roosters (always on time). Sitting outside on the porch, I could hear singing coming from the nearby school. Myles and Andrew went out early to go for a walk, by the time they returned, breakfast was on the table. Before leaving for Ramudu, we headed to the Pa Dalih longhouse. There, we were treated to some coffee by a lady who was sorting through some wild mushrooms when we arrived. We spoke to a man who is originally from Pa Dalih, but who currently resides in Miri. He was 'home' for a visit. He told us about it taking him 2 weeks to get to Miri from Pa Dalih in 1967, it is no longer that far. We couldn't help but imagine what it was like back then, when the forests were still largely untouched and no roads linked the settlements to major cities.

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