Lamin Dana: My Awesome Escapade
IT WAS late afternoon when I finally stepped on the wooden foot bridge which weaved around and in-between most of the houses in Kampung Telian Tengah in Mukah, Sarawak. After six hours bus ride from Miri to Mukah in interior Sarawak, I truly marveled at abundant of green everywhere I turned to.
It was a big change from the urban-but-still-laid-back Miri which is also known as Malaysian oil and gas hub. In comparison, Mukah is a small town which I like immensely. I love Miri too. After staying in Miri for a week prior (million thanks to Diana Rose and husband Felix’s hospitality) and became BFF with their adorable precocious daughter Genista, my stay in Sarawak have been really amazing and wonderful. It was time for the internationally famous Lamin Dana.
Diana and myself were colleagues at The Star Media Group and we were also housemates at a house in Taman Tun Dr Ismail with the main tenant was my then sifu/editor Sujesh Pavithran. So this trip was a reunion of sort (well, minus Sujesh!)
Mukah bus/taxi station was small but nice enough. But I didn’t have to worry about getting around as my companion on that beautiful day was none other that the host, founder and the owner of the famed Lamin Dana – the affable journalist-turned-businesswoman Diana. According to her, Mukah is an ancient trading and fishing port, situated at the mouth of the Mukah River adjacent to the South China Sea. Historically, the town was an outpost of the Sultanate of Brunei. It became part of Sarawak in 1861.
As I was arranging my steps carefully on the small wooden bridge, I felt immense happiness and endless fascination. It was something about the (wooden foot) bridges which linked almost every houses there brought the (happy) inner child in me. It simply indescribable.
It was like a step back in time. And I love everything around me as I walked on timber foot bridge, the river flows underneath my feet, wooden houses everywhere, plus big jungle trees… Aaaah! What a bliss!
Finally after an enjoyable a few minutes walk I finally spotted Lamin Dana. The majestic and beautiful wooden house which was literally built on the bank of Telian river. This river is the main mode of transport here and has a 1,000-year-old history and the cradle of the Melanau culture and civilisation in Mukah.
For the uninitiated, Lamin Dana is aimed at bridging the past and the present, the old and young, the world and Mukah. Diana’s passion drove her to embark in a fulfilling journey to share Melanau wonderful heritage with the world by introducing Lamin Dana on February 14, 1999. A sense of ownership to her beloved Melanau tribe, Diana is a living prove that where there’s a will, there’s a way. Now it is internationally known, news coverage came from local, national and foreign medias the likes of History Asia – Hidden Cities, Wild Asia talking about Lamin Dana, Mukah’s iconic traveler destination.
The wooden building from top to bottom, with roof woven from sago fronds, reminded me of my parents’ old home back in Johor. Long before we turned ours into a brick house.
Stepping onto Lamin Dana wooden deck was like coming home to me. I have never been to this place before. With Telian river running across just few steps away it was like balm to my parched soul. Deep in my heart I wish John was with me. I could almost imagine his excitement to be in Lamin Dana. Knowing my late Scottish husband’s love for jungle and countryside. We did talk about coming to Lamin Dana a few times but it didn’t get as far as calling Diana. And now he’s gone.
And there I was in Lamin Dana. Alone. And at the crossroad of my life and my career.
The rooms are simply furnished and the toilets and showers are clean. A Melanau-style breakfast was included in the price. But if thats not enough, my first trip to the back room (where the laundry and washroom were located) simply took my breath away. The hallway was made by hundreds of the betelnut trunks being cut and beautifully arranged together as flooring.
The house has only nine rooms (eight standard and one family), so booking is a good idea.
I agreed with Diana, Lamin Dana is a perfect place to be in complete peace with nature and it definitely brings out the romantic and the poet in you. It was perfect place to do just nothing. That is, if you’re like me. No TV, no worries. Just bring along your favourite books. And yes there’s WiFi. And while you reading your book at the verandah, you could also see villagers transporting rows of sago trunks by pulling them along by boat along the river and it was definitely an interesting sight for visitors.
One of the highlights of my stay was an hour long traditional massage for three consecutive mornings by village midwife Mak Cik (Aunt) Nancy Sait. I loved her massaging skills!
I also got a chance to tag along Diana and Aunt Nancy to buy fresh produce from the wet market in Mukah town via an enjoyable boat ride!
And yes, I did ask Diana about crocodile… she said due to sago trees being cut and processed extensively (and all year long), along the river, the croc couldn’t care less to venture inland because for some reasons, the crocs hate sago and anything related to it.
Being a Malaysian, I was ashamed to admit that I didn’t know much about Sarawak and its people. But after this stay (both in Miri and Mukah/Lamin Dana) I have learnt a lot and I was really glad I came.
And here in Mukah, I was told that Melanau are among the earliest settlers in Sarawak, traditionally a fishermen, padi and sago farmers, they were previously known as “A-Likou” meaning ‘people of the river’ until the tribe name Melanau was given. Sago being the staple food here, are normally systematically planted and cultivated for its produce.
Sago palm tree is fully utilised; leaves, trunk even the worms are eaten (alive or cooked). Here at Lamin Dana, it showcased local handicrafts and food made from sago. Not only that, the house also displays Melanau music instruments, kitchen and earth wares, as well as traditional costumes around the house.
For those who are interested, Mukah can also be reached by flight via MASwings from Kuching and Miri and also on speedboat via Dalat from Sibu, either route would be equally enlightening as Sarawak scenery is known to be diversified and exciting. If you have plenty of time to spare and an adventurous type, you can always opt for bus ride with the locals and enjoy the scenery and then try out local delicacies at two stops in Bintulu and Selangau respectively.
For details and available packages you can email Diana Rose at email@example.com
Or login to Facebook : Lamin Dana Cultural Boutique Lodge : Lamin Dana
Or visit the website: http://lamindana.blogspot.my/
Interesting note: Don’t miss out the Kaul Festival (Pesta Kaul). Originating from the animistic beliefs traditionally held by the Melanaus, the Pesta Kaul is an annual event, usually held in March or early April, as a purification rituals to appease the spirits of the sea, land, forests and farm.
However, in the recent times the Pesta Kaul is celebrated more as a cultural festival as majority of Melanaus are now either Catholics or Muslims. One of the highlights of this festival is the Tibow, a traditional giant swing that can reached 20-feet high swing, here youths dive from a high bamboo scaffolding and catch a swinging rope as it reaches the height of its arc. First one, then two and eventually eight young men would join in the group as they swing high above the beach.
There’s also be a flotilla of highly decorated boats, beach games and lots of delicious Melanau food such as Umai, spicy raw fish salad marinated in fresh lime juice, will be on display and to be consumed by visitors. It is heartwarming to see how family members stay together in harmonious existence despite their different faiths (Catholics and Muslims). And they celebrate Pesta Kaul with gusto.This close relationship of family members despite different faiths is something we from peninsula MUST learn to emulate…