Bario Asal Longhouse

House in Bario

This all-wood, 22-door longhouse has the traditional Kelabit layout. On the dapur (enclosed front verandah) each family has a hearth, while on the other side of the family units is the tawa’, a wide back verandah – essentially an enclosed hall over 100m long – used for weddings, funerals and celebrations, and decorated with historical family photos.

A few of the older residents still have earlobes that hang almost down to their shoulders, created by a lifetime of wearing heavy brass earrings. If you’d like a picture, it’s good form to chat with them (they may offer you something to drink) and only then ask if they’d be willing to be photographed. Afterwards you might want to leave a small tip.

Bario Asal has 24-hour electricity (evenings only during dry spells) thanks to a microhydro project salvaged from a larger government-funded project that functioned for just 45 minutes after it was switched on in 1999 (it had been designed to operate on a much bigger river).