Borneo 2014 – a day with the Dayak people of Ensaid Panjang

Borneo 2014 – a day with the Dayak people of Ensaid Panjang

The journey from Pontianak to Ensaid Panjang was long and very tiring. Part of the main road to Sintang was good but a lot of the time we had to pass hundreds of potholes and muddy puddles, but the journey here was very interesting indeed, meeting people and witnessing very lifely activities along the Kapuas River.

We were very lucky that we were here during the harvest season, so we met a lot of farmers during this trip and join in the fun. The Dayaks were very friendly and very welcoming, the real contrast to what I have read about these race in the past few months prior to my visit.  Months before departing for Borneo, I did a lot of internet research about the Dayak people, the places where they live and their culture, in migrant Madurese from the island of Madura off Java particular looking at the inter-ethnic violence between the indigenous Dayak and the migrant Madurese from the island of Madura, off East Java several decades back. Some stories surrounded this conflict was very harrowing and I had to prepare myself and tried to understand the many issues into why did it happen in the first place.

I was very lucky that I travelled to Ensaid Panjang on a charity mission and was accompanied by Fifiyati Hoesni and her team from PRCF Indonesia. During this journey, Fifi told me her own version of the stories and the truly chilling events she witnessed during this conflict.  For me, this was a very challenging journey and very daunting meetings with the local people, as I didn’t have any knowledge of the area or their culture, apart from reading about them on the internet and in books.

We got to Sintang (the largest town near Ensaid Panjang) very late in the evening, but as we planned to stay the night with the Dayaks families in Ensaid Panjang, and after a light dinner in Sintang, we continued our journey to Ensaid Panjang that evening. We arrived in the Ensaid Panjang very late in the evening, but some of the ladies were still up waiting for us. We chatted a little before heading to bed. Staying inside one of the last remaining traditional Dayak longhouses in Borneo for the night was truly special for me.  The accommodation was very basic, sleeping on a mattress placed on the floor. When I am travelling to remote places, I always carry my own bedding with me, just to make my stay more comfortable, and it was good to have these at hands.  The night was very silent and as we were all so tired from the journey, we all slept like a log.

Unfortunately having a lie-in in the morning was not an option here, as soon as sunrise was on the horizon, every living creatures around us were up and ready to start the day. First thing, the cockerels started making their calls at around 4.30 am, followed by the pigs just under the house, started making snorting sounds. They sounded very close, and it felt as if they were just under our bed and this was an incredible experience indeed. The weavers started to gather in the house where we stayed very early in the morning. Some of them brought their weaving textiles with them.  We told them that we were here to distribute free reading glasses from Connect Indonesia, The charity, and to understand how the weaving development going here in this part of Borneo.

The house “Rumah betang” as the Dayak call it, is very long, hand-built by the people who live there. The house made up of small family houses and each with a door opens to the long veranda, the communal area of the longhouse, where most of their activities take place. The families of Ensaid Panjang, particularly the men, left their houses very early in the morning to go to the farms or the forest.  We only spent very short hours with them that morning. It was very unfortunate for us that during our visit, a member of the Ensaid Panjang families passed away a few days before we arrived, so they were still mourning from their lost, hence all weaving activities had to come to a halt for a few days.  However, we had a lovely time with a few of the weavers, sharing their stories with us. Like most weaving regions in Indonesia, the Dayak weavers take pride in their work which takes months even years to produce.  We left Ensaid Panjang with happy memories and a wealth of knowledge about the people living here.

If you have any questions about anything you read here, please do not hesitate to contact me.  Check out my photo gallery below to see more images captured from Ensaid Panjang. 

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