Adventure travel often sells itself as the ‘real’ travel experience promising to get you off the tourist path and experience the actual country you are in rather than a resort that could be anywhere. Well, this is what you are lead to believe before you depart. A stay in a Malaysian longhouse is definitely an adventure.
I signed up for an adventure tour because I wanted to do more than sit by a pool for a few weeks and I wanted the experience of a guided tour through a country that may not always be safe for tourists, especially a mother and child travelling by themselves.
We left Kota Kinabalu in what we didn’t realise then was the height of luxury – all 3 stars of it. We arrived at Kinabalu National Park and headed to a tea plantation. We checked into our Malaysian longhouse right before it started to pour. A tropical downpour. And yet, there we were in our longhouse made of bamboo and its various outhouses. The rain came down and you couldn’t venture out. Not only was it heavy but the ground underneath was slippery clay and all you did was slide. The tour company possibly anticipated this as we were no longer out hiking through Kota Kinabalu National Park but back at the tree plantation playing cards in our Malaysian longhouse.
I noticed the idriver didn’t have to stay in the Malaysian longhouse. Interesting, where was he staying? Yep. In a cabin. A cabin surrounded by a garden. A cabin that wouldn’t look displaced in country England yet with air-conditioning. Oh, yes, the bus driver gets air-conditoning whilst the idiot tourist funding this trip had a mattress thinner than the book my 8 year old was reading and a very breezy Malaysian longhouse for accommodation.
A longhouse is designed with common area down one side and bedrooms or sleeping areas on the other side. Originally the Malaysian longhouse would not of had rooms but been one long continuous room for often a whole village. In that instance they could be quiet long. The longhouse we were staying in was at least 35 metres long. Each room fit 3 people with mosquito nets fitting over the bed with makeshift hanging device. Each room did have a light, a fan and a small sink. I mentioned it was made of bamboo? Yes. Bamboo is not soundproof and the ‘room’ had a door which locked but the walls were only about 2 metres tall between each room, leaving a gap over the top. We got the pleasure of hearing everyone get into bed after us, talk on their phones and walk back and forth from the bathroom. Seems they were right after all, this actually was a ‘real’ travel experience after all.
I was surprised to find the long house was so good at keeping us dry. Remembering this is a tourist gimmick. Only the very traditional rural families now live in Malaysian longhouses and as you can see in my photos, the longhouse has some modern adaptations thankfully in the downpours we experienced (this was the dry season). The modern gutters and foundations were greatly appreciated. My fan and sink greatly appreciated but as I had only been in Malaysia for a few days the third world wiring systems did have me a tad concerned in a wooden structure. At this point I was yet to experience far, far worse.
Would I go again? No! Was staying in a Malaysian longhouse a good experience? Yes. In so far as my son experiencing the way different cultures live. Do I think my other son needs to experience this? Yes, perhaps but not with me. Ha ha.
A girlfriend used the same tour company 2 months later but not on a family tour and she stayed in the airconditioned cabins. In fact she had air-conditioning and a western toilet the entire trip!