April 17, 2018 Tuesday – Batang Ai, Sarawak
After breakfast this morning at the resort, some of us take the canopy tour: hiking up a hill behind the resort to walk among the treetops to discover the canopy layer of the rainforest on a 120 metre-long (425-foot-long) walkway, suspended 56 metres (165 feet) above the jungle floor (see banner image above). We all find it challenging in the morning heat, and we see no animals or birds. We check each other over for leeches and ants before returning to the resort.
Later in the morning, we take a longboat trip upriver to visit the 34-family Mengkak Longhouse of Iban tribe. First, everyone toasts with their rice wine called tuak, then we watch them perform the Hornbill dance in costumes, have some lunch in the longhouse, and then return to the resort in the afternoon. They appear to be well-pleased by our gifts of exercise books and pencils for the children. Some work their way through us shaking hands and bowing as they return to their quarters after the chief distributes the gifts to each family. The tribe is protected by a carved wooden statue of Agum, which is setup right above the longboat docks at the entrance to the longhouse.
By the time we are taken back to the resort in the longboats, I’m pretty well wasted by the oppressive heat and humidity of the day. I retreat to my air-conditioned room, have a shower and go to the bar for a beer before returning back to my room, since the bar patio is far too hot. After I recover a bit, I sit outside on the covered deck with one of our group. We discuss our travels as we watch a thunderstorm break over the lake and enjoy the sounds and smells of the ensuing tropical rainstorm.
Although the Aiman Batang Ai Resort is quite elegant and large, it is showing its age. I would estimate that the facility is about 40 years old by the age of the original plumbing and other fixtures in the rooms and common areas. The staff work hard, but a facility this big is hard to keep clean and operational, when the “works” are aging. It appears to me they have about half the rooms mothballed.