The largest Iban settlement in Sibu is Bawang Assan, with nine longhouses. The shortest longhouse is shared by six families while the longest accommodates more than eighty families!
Here, Hari Gawai is their biggest and most elaborate festival, but even if guests stay here during other times of the year, the locals can replicate the celebration for the benefit of guests, to enable them to experience the Iban culture and tradition.
Some fifteen families are enrolled in this homestay programme. Guests are welcomed with ‘tuak’, a light alcoholic concoction.
We can partake in the daily activities of the Iban families, if we wish. These activities include racing of speed boats powered by water pump at the nearby river, Sungai Lebaan, and also frog catching.
A unique experience would be the ‘Miring’ ritual to appease the Iban Gods during the days of paganism. This is usually performed during Gawai festival and also to welcome guests to the house.
We also had the opportunity to participate in the ‘ngayat’ dance, a group dance to break the ice among strangers.
Guests are normally feasted with traditional dishes, usually cooked in bamboo shoots placed at a 45-degree slant over hot amber. The ‘manuk pansuh’ that we had was actually chicken, with tapioca leaves, shoots (pucuk) and seasoned with ginger, onion and salt.
Our time spent at Michael Ancho Longhouse here was a unique, eye-opening experience.
Those who would like further information or to make a reservation, can contact the Chairman of the Homestay Association here, Marcathy Ak. Gindau at his mobile number +6014-5828105 or the Sarawak Tourism Board.
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