Long Sela’an – A half Day Kenyah Village Experience

Juliana Asong, the few remaining Kenyah ladies that still do traditional chanting

“Last one… Last one Lawai” Asong kept saying, referring to me with my Kenyah name, as she stood her ground and would not budge until I down the glass of whisky she gave me. Quite a task though, as three or four glasses of the same whisky earlier was supposed to be the last one.

It is my second visit to Ulu Baram and I have grown fond of these lovely people of Long Sela’an but this is my first visit to their longhouse. Asong and the rest were determined I remember this trip.

My other colleagues with me also were shown no mercy. Rona and Paun too had to finish off the whisky. Not an easy task on a very warm afternoon and when we were still full of the lovely food prepared by the longhouse folks.

Earlier in the day, we took a boat ride down Se’laan River from Segah Sela’an Homestay to Long Sela’an. This scenic boat ride took us about two hours. The normal time by locals would be one and a half hour but we made two stops along the way, to stretch our legs and of course to soak in the calmness nature had to offer.

Quick stop en-route to stretch our legs and for the boatman to check the outboard engine

Plenty of small rapids along the way which I thought was perfect for kayaking. The highlight of this boat ride that day would be spotting what we all think is a … hornbill, flying through the jungle canopy, close enough to the river for us to adore it.

This lovely decorated arch received us at the Long Sela’an jetty

We arrived slightly earlier than planned and this gave us an opportunity to explore Long Sela’an. Long Sela’an is a community made up of three kenyah community, Tepuan, Belukun and Lepo K, each having their own longhouse.

One of the three Kenyah Longhouse of Long Sela’an

We went on tour around the village and explored the three longhouses briefly. It was rather quiet as many of the longhouse folks had gone back to work in nearby towns such as Miri and Lapok.

Tobacco patch for the infamous Kenyah Cigar

The only folks left are the small kids and the elders, a common sight throughout the rural communities of Sarawak. Most return to their villages during the year end holidays.

Elder Kenyah lady enjoying her home made cigar

Long Sela’an has a community hall in the centre of the village and at the far end of the village is their church.

Long Sela’an community hall
Sela’an Church

The people of Long Sela’an still plant hill paddy and is evident with the numerous paddy stores built around the village. These paddy stores are all around the village and are on stilts as to keep pest away from their hard earned labour.

Paddy Stores

Cultural Showcase

After the quick tour of the village, we then proceeded to the long house that was hosting us lunch. We were surprised that they had arranged for a cultural performance for us. We had a nice gentelemen by the name of John Nyaling playing for us some traditional sape tunes.

Taking a video recording of John Nyaling’s Sape tunes

Here is the video of a tune called Suling Apoi.

Once the ladies had finished with the lunch preparation they changed into their colourful costumes, some make up and got ready to do a welcoming dance for us. Juliana Asong began with the traditional welcoming chant with the rest of the longhouse folks chanted with her.

Welcoming Dance by the maidens of Long Sela’an

We then had a performance from Mr. Gau Engan, former chief of the Kenyah Tepuan. Despite being 81 years old, the old man still had the agility and grace in performing the warrior dance.

Chief Gau Engan

Once they were done dancing, it was time for the visitors to try out the Kenyah Dance and in true Sarawak style, before we tried the dance, we were kept “hydrated” with a medium sized glass of whisky.

We all obliged as we tried our very best to follow the dance. Again another tricky thing to do after a few glasses of whisky. We survived.

Lunch then followed and the whisky kept coming. I had to refuse a few glasses as I was already getting high.

Once lunch was done, it was time to say goodbye to Long Sela’an. As we shook hands, it was hard to say good bye. I truly had an enjoyable cultural experience. My only regret here is not making this trip an overnight trip.

Thank you Long Sela’an for your kind genuine hospitality.

“Last one, Last One”… Maybe not my last Asong.

Travel Tips

Trips to Long Sela’an need to be pre arranged with Segah Sela’an Homestay or with any registered travel agents based in Miri.

Thank you for reading and if you want extra details on the above, drop me a line and I’ll get back to you soon as possible. Till my next Bejalai, take care and don’t forget to comment.

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