Visiting Dayak Kenyah People in East Kalimantan

Submitted by viravira on 14 October 2015   •  Destination   •  Borneo

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What comes to your mind upon hearing the word “Dayak”? Some of you may have just heard about it, but those who knew that Dayak is an indigeneous tribe of Borneo or Kalimantan, might have some hints about their famous tattoo and piercing cultures. Is that what you could expect to see at the settlement of Dayak Kenyah tribe in Pampang Village, East Kalimantan?

Dayak Kenyah


Tattoos, piercing and fierce look are exactly what I expected on our trip to Betung Kerihun last year. Turns out, Dayak people nowadays don’t have enough reason to tattoo and pierce their ears or faces that much now that there’s no war, more of them have became Christians, and the need to blend in with the others. So when I visited the Dayak Kenyah village on #Terios7Wonders trip, I wasn’t surprised much.

The Dayak Kenyah tribe in Pampang Village is more of a cultural tourism village. Located about 30 km north to Samarinda, the capital of East Kalimantan, it is relatively easy to reach compared to other Dayak settlements that I know. The people are also accustomed to having visitors wanting to see bits of Dayak culture. They’re so ready, you could expect a weekly showcase from the Dayak Kenyah people each weekend. They’re ready to perform traditional dances for you and pose for/with you for some fee – IDR25,000 per person, if I’m not mistaken.

Dayak Kenyah


We were welcomed at their lamin house – the East Kalimantan’s term for a long house. “When we first built it, we wanted to make it a long house. But then we changed our minds and it ended up as a multifunction hall, and the living spaces were built separately, just like regular houses, but also on stilt,” Pak Simson Imang, the head of the house, explained. This frail-looking 70 year-old man was wearing traditional Dayak clothes, complete with the necklaces, feather on the hat, and wooden earrings that pulled down the earlobes.

He was standing in front of the lamin house, on the paved parking lot, with no shoes on. “The term Dayak derived from ‘daya’, which means upstream, and that’s where we came from, at the north border of East Kalimantan and Sarawak, Malaysia,” he said in Indonesian with a thick accent. “While ‘Borneo’ derived from “Brunei” because our people came from China through Brunei,” he added. Ah, I see. I never knew that before.

Dayak Kenyah

Pak Simson then performed Lemada Lasan Kanjet, which literally means ‘the dance of clearing the meeting area’ and is performed to welcome guests. He was gesturing ‘clearing the area’ with his mandau to a soothing melodious sound from the sampeq, a string musical instrument like a guitar meets chinese harp. Behind him is a meticulously carved wall, a lot like the replica in Taman Mini Indonesia Indah, Jakarta. Another dance followed, performed by a woman and a little girl. Still accompanied by the sound of sampeq, this was the friendship dance called Kanjet Lasan, with more gentle movements. Unlike Pak Simson who was wearing a vest with tiger motif, these girls were wearing another kind of Dayak ornaments. The clothes are full of colorful beads stitched to each other and to the cloth, and feather fan ringed to her fingers. But none of that bling-bling stole my heart like the sampeq sound did.

After an introduction speech from a younger Dayak Kenyah man, we were back outside, ready to move on to our next destination. But before we said goodbye to the village, a stall of souvenirs was calling out for us to shop. Oh, I’m a sucker for knick knack like this. I shopped a little for myself and my friend Firsta who always wears bracelets. The price of the bracelet varied from IDR10,000-25,000, some of the same ones could cost differently, it probably depends on which table you’re shopping, or your luck.

Dayak Kenyah


Overall, I think Pampang Village is a neat display of traditional Dayak culture, specifically Dayak Kenyah. However, it feels so much like a showcase. Everything’s ready and prepared for visitors, you can’t really see the real daily life of Dayak people. But who am I to say how Dayak people should live?

Dayak Kenyah

*This trip is fully paid by Astra Daihatsu Motor in exchange of blog publication, but the opinions are my own.

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5 years ago

Hey! I think you gave me a model of these houses when we were in high school! I love the colorful patterns.


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