Travel Features > Up the Ulu
Day 2 -Kapit/Rumah Achan
(Evening 21st August 1998)
Iban man performing a welcome dance. Rumah Achan, Kapit.
For such a small town, Kapit has bags of character. As the largest
of the many small towns and bazaars that line the Rejang upriver
from Sibu, there is always something going on. Torpedo-shaped
express boats constantly arrive and depart from the jetty, as
do small longboats and other river craft. The coffee shops along
the river front seem to be forever full, with a motley collection
of people sipping thick black coffee or tucking into a plate of
rice and unfamiliar-looking jungle vegetables.
© Wayne Tarman, 1998
Kapit is also one of the best places in Sarawak for 'people watching'.
A diverse range of people make Kapit their home and an equally
diverse range of people pass through the town each day. Some come
to trade, visit friends or just visit the 'big city', whilst others
pause briefly before travelling further upriver. Sit at a old
marble-topped table in a river-front coffee shop, or on a bench
near the jetty, and within a short space of time you will see
the many faces of Sarawak. Iban men and women, both young and
old; Kayan ladies with elongated ears and tattoos running from
their fingertips to their elbows; assorted young dudes of various
races clad in designer sun-glasses and walking along with youthful
'king of the world' swaggers; neatly dressed Chinese businessman
from Sibu; tough looking Chinese timber workers with dark brown,
sun-tanned faces; government officials and a host of other interesting
characters that make up the ethnic mosaic of Sarawak.
Kapit was certainly a good choice of stopover for the Sarawak
Safari. As we were on the Rejang, one of the Iban Heartlands,
it was only right that we visit an Iban Longhouse. After checking
into the Meligai Hotel, the whole crew jumped into the waiting
mini buses and headed to Rumah Achan, a sizeable Iban longhouse,
a 5 minute drive from the centre of Kapit.
Iban girls with offerings at Rumah Achan, Kapit.
With a host of VIPs - including Dato' Dr James Masing, the Minister
for Tourism - set to arrive, the longhouse was out in full force.
A line of Iban girls in ceremonial dress guarded the entrance
to the longhouse compound, holding various offerings. A crowd
of people, including the longhouse elders, patiently waited nearby
for the arrival of the Minister. When Dato' Dr Masing arrived
he greeted the longhouse leaders and the participants of the Safari
and was asked to 'spear the pig' before we could all proceed into
© Wayne Tarman, 1998
The longhouse was decked out with an incredible number of pua
kumbu, intricately woven Iban blankets. I've never seen so many
of these exquisite textiles displayed in one place. With a good
pua kumbu fetching RM 1,500 in the antique shops of Kuching, there
must have been over RM 1,000,000 worth of family heirlooms displayed
around the ruai, the covered verandah of the longhouse. The warm
longhouse welcome set the tone for a enjoyable night of hearty
food, speeches, traditional dances, fun and interaction. A miring,
a traditional Iban ritual, was conducted to appease the spirits
and pray for a safe journey. As the night wore on and the tuak
flowed and flowed, some people drifted back to Kapit whilst the
die-hard party crowd stayed on until dawn.