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From my passenger’s seat, I check the meter: 10km passed the famous Bidayuh longhouse village of Annah Rais. We take a right turn to Kampungs Rudan Rayang and Senah Rayang. Our destination is the latter. Danson, whom I like to nick-name “tattoo driver” (for good reasons!) is never short of witty comments: “If lama on this road, no need drink beer, I mabuk free” (If we drive too long on this road, we won’t need beer to get drunk). He’s right, the road is winding and that’s what makes it such a great country ride through sceneries of amazing forest greens punctuated with striking white limestone cliffs which have been eroded by a million years of tropical rains. There are caves in there, some are known to the locals for their priceless bird’s nests; certainly as priceless to the swiftlets who build them as to the men who sell them.
On our left, the village reveals itself in the valley. Even from a distance Senah Rayang looks pretty and squeaky clean. Beyond the pleasant soft greys of the roof tops, the hills seem to have been gently shaped to cocoon the village without dwarfing or chocking it.
We reach down the hill and cross a wooden bridge; it’s so pretty, really. Danson remembers his last visit, a couple of years back when there had been no tar road and slippery mud had made it a real challenge to negotiate the slope, whether driving up or down. We stop at the Ketua Kampung’s house (Ketuah means “head” and Kampung means “village”), the village’s chief. He brings out a few cans of Malta for the men. Because he is Muslim, it is meant to replace beer. He explains that he belongs to the second generation of Muslim converts in this Land Dayak village which now counts six hundred souls, a small mosque and a brand new Anglican church in the making.
Today, and again, I am following Hubby and the Sarawak Rivers Board Delegation. There’s going to be a dinner followed by an audio visual show in the village hall. A team of experts will be answering questions, mostly on how to manage fish reproduction in the natural environment of the river and how to attract tourists, now that there is a proper road to come here, that they have beautified and cleaned up their river and that a home stay programme is being approved by the ministry of tourism.
Danson has volunteered to guide me through the kampong; he’s also set to become my photo-shooting manager: “From here, good photo. Not here; here, this way. Yes!” And I agree that it is a splendid sight as I am standing on a conventional wooden bridge, looking yet at another traditional Bidayuh bamboo bridge over the almost perfectly clear waters of Sungai Sungan. Danson is impatient to take me further into the streets, to visit the old longhouse, walk to the waterfall… It is true that the place, the children and the people I have met are very charming, but for a while I just want to stop and stand right here and love what I’m seeing.
Clean water is fast becoming a scarcity on our dear planet; in Africa only, some three hundred million people are either suffering or dying from lack of drinking water and irrigation for trees and crops to grow. Here in Borneo, it seems so plentiful, so easy and so it had always been until came the age of plastic, non recyclable and non degradable, which followed other degradable garbage into our rivers. Bad habits, like throwing waste where ever we stand and counting on a river to take it away and make the problem disappear (down to someone else’s village) is one of them, and that is why awareness campaigns, educating people on the need to preserve and protect our rivers are so important. Programmes promoting the conservation and rehabilitation of the Sarawak rivers have turned the clock back some twenty five years in Senah Rayang where a river has become again a metaphor for life on earth.
Down below me, in the sungai, children are jumping and splashing water; they want my attention; they are laughing and need not worry about the future here, now that their parents have learnt to respect their environment, their heritage. There will be fish and birds that feed from them; there will be all sorts of living creatures and there will be crops to feed the village.
Once again I meet Ketuah Kampung Rosli who asks me how to keep tourists satisfied? I am happy to list out many things visitors could do here, like visit the school during class, go trekking through the jungle looking for herbs and plants, go hunting or why not look for night insects; learn cooking from the women (they are good cooks!) and obviously enjoy the river and the waterfall. Yet, and truly, what will win over any visitor is the kindness of the people and their inspiring care for their environment.
I tease Hubby and his Chairman YB Datuk Roland Sagah that with an internet connection, I would gladly settle in Kampung Senah Rayang.
From Kuching: direction SERIAN for 10 miles
At Kota Padawan (also known as 10th mile bazaar): direction ANNAH RAIS.
Pass ANNAH RAIS junction (on the right is Annah Rais Home Stay) straight direction JALAN KUCHING SERIAN.
5km down the road, turn right. (if straight it is still Jalan Kuching Serian).
Pass Kampungs BUKIT NANAS and SEMERU.
7km from Annah Rais cross KAMPUNG DUNUK.
10km from Annah Rais you’ll find the road sign to: KG RUDAN RAYANG – KG SENAH RAYANG. Another 3.2km and you’re in KG SENAH RAYANG (on your right).
HOME STAY CONTACT:
Mr. Johari tel: (60) 146921075 Within Malaysia: 014 6921075
Mr. Amin Bin Abdullah : email email@example.com