Travel Features > Up the Ulu

Day 5 - Long San (Rest Day)
Monday 24th August

Kenyah lady at Long San.

© Wayne Tarman, 1998
After some much needed quality sleep, I woke up to find the rest of our two-car forward crew tucking into a breakfast of ikan semah, a much-prized up-river fish. Ikan semah is no ordinary fish. It's a delicacy that costs RM 125 per kilo in Kuching, but fetches a lot less in the interior where it is caught. No wonder everyone was laughing as we polished off RM 400 worth. After a relaxing morning of washing clothes and drinking endless cups of coffee with my hosts, I went for a stroll around Long San.

Close-up of full arm tattoos. This lady explained that it took over a month to tattoo each of her arms.

© Wayne Tarman, 1998
By mid-day, the rest of the convoy had still not arrived. Philip and Stephen decided to go and see if they could find them on the nearby logging roads. After an hour of driving they found the convoy parked at the roadside. They had left Lapok early in the morning and had decided to deliberately by-pass Long San to get back on schedule. All-in-all this showed very little respect for the people of Long San who expected the vehicles to arrive sometime that day. Philip, forever the diplomat, explained that the whole community at Long San had waited up the night before and prepared a meal for 150 guests. By-passing the longhouse was not exactly the best way of expressing gratitude. Eventually the organisers were persuaded to return to Long San and they drifted in from 2-6pm. That evening the people of longhouse put on a whole programme of events and entertainment.

A Punan man at Long San carving the wooden handle of a parang.

© Wayne Tarman, 1998
For me, Long San was the highlight of the trip. Spending two nights there gave me the opportunity to get to know the people and learn something about the rich Kenyah culture. A full day of leisure meant that I could wander around and enjoy the place. I spent time observing a woodcarver at work; sat on the vast expanse of pebble beach at the river and watched longboats come and go; saw a hunting party return with a huge wild boar; listened to a group of Kenyah ladies tell me stories about how painful it was having their tattoos done; and chatted to a group of Kenyah from Indonesia who had travelled to Long San to trade handicrafts, including traditional baby carriers, beadwork, bark clothing and basketware.

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