Longhouses around Putussibau

Some of Kalimantan's largest and most accessible betang (traditional Dayak longhouses) remain occupied and in use around Putussibau. A few can be easily visited by motorbike, taxi or chartered longboat without prior permission, while others further afield are best visited with a guide and advance notice (up to one week), particularly if you wish to stay overnight or see a dance performance. In any case, unless you speak Bahasa Indonesia, it pays to go with a guide or translator.

Some of these traditional Dayak dwellings house 30 families or more. Stand at one end of the communal front porch, and the other end disappears into converging lines interrupted occasionally by sleeping dogs or playing children. Betang range from historic and ornate affairs elevated on ironwood pillars to almost nondescript row houses with rusting corrugated-iron roofs resembling company barracks. Tragically the oldest longhouse in the region (if not Kalimantan), Betang Uluk Palin, burned down in 2014.

Many, but not all, betang welcome casual visitors, with overnight stays often possible. Ask permission before entering or taking photographs. Expect to be introduced to the headman or cultural liaison, who will invariably insist you join them for a cup of overly sweet coffee or tea, the modern equivalent of a welcoming ceremony. Seek out a local guide in Putussibau, or contact Kompakh for information.

Longhouses close to Putussibau include the following:

Ariung Mandalam Authentic and welcoming longhouse about 8km east of Putussibau. Follow Jl Mupa north of town, cross the bridge, turn left at Nanga Sambus village and look out for the sign. It's across the river via a swing bridge.

Betang Sauwes Tunggan About 7km southeast of Putussibau, Sauwes Tunggan is home to 30 families.

Melapi 1 The first of five betang along the Kapuas upriver of Putussibau. Head 10km southeast of town on Jl Lintas Timur, turn left at the church and hail a canoe taxi across the river. Or charter a boat from Putussibau dock. A homestay may be negotiable.

Further afield:

Betang Banua Tengah Built in 1864, this betang is home to Tamambaloh Apalin Dayak. Take the Badau bus or a taxi 50km northwest of Putussibau, then it's 4km southwest on a gravel road. A visit is best arranged in advance.

Betang Sadap One of the most welcoming longhouse communities, thanks to an ecotourism effort, this betang is 93km northwest of Putussibau.