No other city in Malaysia has such a romantic and unlikely history, nor displays its charms with such easy grace. The residents of Kuching (pop. 680,000 approx.) enjoy living here and take great pride in their fascinating city, which is reflected in their attitude to visitors. Kuching welcomes visitors warmly, but it does not put on an act for them. Instead, it goes about its own business in a relaxed manner that hasn’t changed in 160 years. To make the most of your visit you must put on your walking shoes, take to the streets (and the water), and join in.
The Dayak, some of the original inhabitants of Borneo, build longhouses on stilts, using ironwood for the structure and tree bark for the walls; the floor is simple planks of wood placed side by side. The length of these houses was for the last century of 110 meters (over 360 feet) and today they generally range from 10 to 70 meters (33 to 230 feet).
On Borneo, the longhouse forms a centre for both social lives and rituals. Here people meet to talk after work, and it's where the central ceremonies and rituals of the group are performed.
In each longhouse is a central stilt or main post which is the first to be placed in position when the house is built. This post is associated with the ancestor who founded the house and has a sacred significance; it stands in the centre of the house and is looked at as the link between the underworld and the upper world. The longhouses were often decorated with representations of water snakes and rhinoceros birds. They were connected with the group’s central creation myth, for the water snake is associated with the underworld and the rhinoceros bird with the upper world of the good spirits.
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