Bintulu Day 1: Evacuating the plane, getting lost, throwing up – all in my “experiencing Bintulu weekend”!
(this was a while back ;-) )
As you may know, it was my virginal trip to Sarawak just a few weeks ago for the Bintulu Tune Hotels launch. Accomodation & itinerary was all taken care of by Tune Hotels and the local travel agent.
The trip itself was exciting enough, since it’s my first time to Sarawak & Bintulu. A planned itinerary which includes a belacan (shrimp paste) making factory tour & Similajau jungle trek seems my cup of tea.
But the real drama started as soon as we boarded our plane. All rev-ed up for take-off, we were all suddenly told to evacuate the plane as one of the engines were facing problems!
Darn, we had to evacuate the plane and ended up stuck in LCCT boarding gate for the next 2 hours. When the plane finally took off, I was famished and darn glad to be served Pak Nasser’s Nasi Lemak on board Air Asia.
The Nasi Lemak itself came in a pretty good portion and tastewise; well, can’t complain for airline food.
We landed at Bintulu airport an hour later.
A quick pick-up from the chartered buses got us to Tune Hotels, Bintulu.
Tune Hotels Bintulu,
Address: No.203, Lot 7923, Assyakirin Commerce Square, 97000 Bintulu, Sarawak.
GPS coordinates: N03° 11.83′, E113° 03.34′
After a quick check-in, (read about the hotel HERE) , we were bundled off in the chartered vans again bound for Tatau, where we will be taking the boat to the longhouse.
The longhouse we were visiting belonged to the last remaining Tatau tribe of Sarawak. Our boat were supposed to depart from the Tatau jetty, and this was where the 2nd drama starts. The blur guide took us on a 1.5 hours journey to Sebauh, and only realized we are at the wrong jetty when we were waiting for the boat!
Damn hopeless right? I haven’t had any food since the nasi lemak on board the flight, and it was nearly 330pm. I went into one of the closes shops, and vomitted my guts out. By then I was breaking out in cold sweat; dizzy from the heat & long ride & almost passing out from hunger. I’m not overdramatizing here, it was really that bad! :cry:
Below: Very old school shoplots in Bintulu, one of which I was in the washroom vomitting my guts out.
Anyway, to cut a long painful story short, we detoured and made the 3 hours reverse journey to Tatau.
The “jetty” here actually has a schedule. It makes sense, when later in the evening, we saw groups of school students taking the boat back to their respective homes. For others, the boat is their primary mode of transportation back & fro from the jungle to town for food, supplies & etc.
The boat is ..well, a boat powered by a basic motor. It feels like it can easily be overturned. And they were telling us that there are crocodiles in the river. Oh good god! ;-)
Next thing we know, we were gliding through the murky waters of Sungei Tatau towards our destination; the last remaining Tatau longhouse in the Sarawak/Malaysia.
Below: Sights along the way. An occasionally jetty or two, and mostly just green lush jungle on both sides of the river.
After about 30mins or so, we caught sight of the Tatau Longhouse. YAY!
A very warm welcome awaited us, and I felt better instantly! ;-)
I was also pleasantly surprised that the Tatau tribe took the trouble to dress up in their traditional outfits for our entourage. Truly it was all about giving us the real, “authentic” experience!
Even better, they greeted us with tuak, the Sarawak alcohol aka fermented rice wine.
The heady sweet wine was really nice, and deceivingly pleasant to drink hence the tendency for one to down glass after glass. Next thing you know, you are already slightly tipsy; which was what happened to some of the guys in our entourage!
A longhouse, as most of you are familiar with, is basically a communal housing that is home to almost 15-20 families at any one time.
The entire length of the “living room”; which the area that meets you the moment you enter the longhouse, is for gatherings, festivals, performances and general community activities.
We were served lunch, albeit a very late one; and everyone agreed that this was as authentic as it gets for a tribal experience!
This is the very famous manok pansuh. Tender chicken meat infused with scent and flavours of lemongrass & ginger, which are some of the spices used for the preparation of this Sarawakian delicacy.
They had the fish version as well.
Meals are simple, where on normal days it’s just rice, one meat dish and vegetables.
For us, they prepared so much more, of which we were all very grateful.
This is a sort of bamboo & jungle fern soup.
And this is the typical vegetable dish, of which I can’t remember the name by now. Oopss..
All that was followed by some traditional desserts & snacks, which was all made in-house.
It’s expected since they are the jungle tribe; and thus they are self- sustainable, growing their own crops, rice, and farming their own poultry.
Drinks were funky too, with some that are not even available in Peninsular Malaysia. And yes, the Dester can below is beer!
The kind Tatau tribe threw in some entertainment as well. This is little girl is a natural born performer. ;-)
I roamed around the longhouse, and got myself educated with the structure of this traditional & time tested abode.
From the communal living area, the inner domain of the longhouse is separated into private dwelling space for each family. Each of the doors above opens to a living room. Naturally, each living quarters are decorated differently, as it belongs to different families.
Example: Home No.1
Example: Home No.2
Yes, it is quite modern. They do have TVs, proper sofas and cabinets. I was most tempted to ask if they’ve got satellite TV, but that would be just me being cheeky. Heh..
I moved on to the back of the house.
The dining area (as above) is pretty spacious, and they have a separate cooking are further to the back (below).
Awesome isn’t it? They used actual firewood to cook!
A separate laundry/utility area. Yup, piped water is available.
I stumbled upon this room, where jars of tuak are being fermented.
Obviously I wanted to check out the toilet. And this shack below is it. Right at the end of the house. It wasn’t part of the longhouse and is a separate “unit”. I was stunned for while, staring at the door of the toilet and the chicken coop right beside it.
And I was greeted by this sight upon shoving the door open. At this point Iwas just glad to see a toilet bowl & not a hole in the ground. Hahhaha….
Enough of the longhouse.
I ventured outside to enjoy the lush jungle and absolutely crisp air. It doesn’t take a city girl like myself to feel the difference. This is place that is almost never populated by vehicle exhaust fumes.
Got myself a picture for rememberance. ;-)
So patriotic. It was January when I was there and this flag was still flying high. I think it might actually be a permanent fixture.
BBQ pit at the front of the longhouse. Not bad eh?
As the sun sets, we made our way back to Tatau jetty. ..
… in the same little motorboat over the same murky crocodile infested waters.
All in all, my few hours in the longhouse made the minor drama in the earlier part of the day seems distant and insignificant. A long day it has been indeed, but a fruitful one nonetheless.
Thank you Tune Hotels for the absolutely eye-opening tribal experience! ;-)