Situated in the untouched jungle near Jelia River in Batang Ai, Nanga Delok is one of the longhouse that belongs to the members of the Iban families. It takes about 50 minute’s boat ride from the nearest roadside. Agriculture is the common livelihood among the residents. While the men are busy with fishing or patching up their fishing nets, the women are at home, preparing food for their family. Some of the women work at the nearby rice fields. Others are expert at making handicrafts.
With dogs running or contently relaxing under the sun, pigs loitering under the longhouse, and the smell of fire from the wood stove permeating the air, the longhouse presents peaceful atmosphere to the outsiders. The sound of the roosters crowing breaks the morning tranquility and beckons to the inhabitants of the dawn of another new day.
The Nanga Delok longhouse is resided by the Ibans, the largest tribe in Sarawak. For the Ibans who lived inland, they are famous for their jungle-dwelling nature. The source of their living materials such as food and medicine are all taken from nature. It was said by the local guide that the forest provide everything that they needed, while telling them stories to help them understand how they come to be.
Most of the men have tattoos covering their arms and torso, with various tribal or animal motives inspired by the Iban legend. It shows the courage of each person, and marks the important moment of his own journey in life.
However, what makes the Ibans special is their rumah panjai, which means longhouse in Iban language. Every longhouse in general has up to 50 families living in their own private quarters, connected by the ruai (long common veranda) in front of the quarters. In the past, longhouses were built from materials taken from nature such as ironwood and pandanus. Though, as time by passes and modernization had taken over, most houses are now built with concrete and plaster.
Yet, Nanga Delok longhouse inhabitants still retain their traditional way of life. Their longhouse is built using timber and thatch, with patch of corrugated iron as the roof. Even though they lived in the jungle, the longhouse has modern amenities such as running water, electricity supplied by the generator and satellite TV. When the generator is shut down at night, the atmosphere turns quiet, and the only sound that you can hear is the chirping birds and the rasp of insects.
Albeit some of them live in the city, their homes are still their longhouses. Here, big events happened. They have Gawai Festivals, marriages and funerals there. It has become a part of their life, and the longhouse is their identity.
If you want to know more about Nanga Delok, their culture and their customs, you can stay at Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort located nearby. The reservoir-edge hotel is inspired by the traditional longhouses, yet it has a pool, air-conditioning and a restaurant serving Malay dishes such as nasi lemak and satay.