Authentic Borneo – Longhouse Heartland

Authentic Borneo

Mancong Dayak Village in East Kalimantan, Borneo is a real taste of the longhouse heartland in Authentic Borneo, situated on both banks of a small river which emanates from the rather large Danau Jempang (Jempang Lake) which covers an area of around 15,000 Hectares along with the other two main Mahakam Lakes in the region of Lake Semayang 13,000 Ha and Lake Melintang 11,000 Ha in West Kutai region of East Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo


scenic mancong dayak village on river in borneo
Mancong Benuaq Dayak village – Authentic Borneo


The lakes are known as the Mahakam Lakes as they are all connected to and originating from the Mighty Mahakam River (980 km long and the second longest river in Indonesia). Mancong and its Dayak Community is a Benuaq Dayak settlement known more for it’s Lamin or Longhouse than anything else but it is a beautiful village with residents living an Eco-friendly and sustainable existence on the interior tropical lowlands and Rivers of Borneo.

Mancong dayak village longhouse lamin wooden structure

Mancong longhouse or a Lamin to Dayak People

A recent trip to Mancong Village proved an extremely worthwhile journey and a great chance to see a classic Dayak Lamin or to put it in layman’s terms an Ethnic Minorities Longhouse because Lamin Adat Mancong (Mancong Longhouse) is one of the very few longhouses in Kalimantan to be a two-story longhouse this is the real Authentic Borneo.

stock photo panorama image of mancong longhouse

Panorama Picture of Mancong Longhouse
Having undergone numerous renovations over the past century (the latest being a few years ago) it now makes for an impressive sight indeed and it is also worth noting that there has been a communal house on this site for around 300 years! Mancong Longhouse is around 60 metres in length so there can be no doubting that this is definitely a Long House!
Tribal Dayak designs on Ironwood Patung spirit posts

Tribal Dayak designs on Ironwood Patung spirit posts at Mancong Lamin

In front of Mancong Longhouse one can see more Authentic Borneo with a myriad of carved wooden posts very similar to the North American Indian Totem Poles, this is quite unique as usually there are just a handful not a plethora such as at Mancong. These carved spirit posts, statues or wooden sculptures are known as Patung to the Dayak Peoples and have a number of purposes.
Purpose of Patung
  •  To tether water buffalo’s at the sacrificial time during Tiwah Funeral Ceremonies
  •  Tell tale sign of how many buffalo have actually been sacrificed
  •  Spirit animals on the heads of the figures protect them in the afterlife
  •  To represent and remember the dead ancestors
  •  To scare away evil spirits
dayak longhouse wooden interior with buffalo skulls

Mancong Longhouse interior with Buffalo Skulls

Inside Mancong Longhouse one can see the sheer length of this incredible structure which is constructed almost entirely from Bornean Ironwood (Eusideroxylon zwageri) an extremely dense hardwood that can withstand the test of time and this is the reason why most Boardwalks throughout the Floating Dayak Villages of Kalimantan consist of this magnificent wood which is known to the local populace as Ulin or Billian in Malaysian Borneo. Yet another taste of Authentic BorneoMancong Village has its boardwalks on either side of the river along with quite a number of bridges going from one side to the other all constructed with the same material. Unfortunately now due to logging on a grand scale over the past 30 to 40 years Ironwood is much less abundant but thankfully there are now limits to how many trees can be felled.
Longhouses have a door and big room for every family that lives inside the longhouse. So Mancong Longhouse with its 12 doors would accommodate 12 families. There there are actually 24 doors if you count the upper floor doors but with Mancong Longhouse the lower room has steps connecting to the upper floor and room above but a two-story Longhouse is rare and the families that used to live there were exceptionally fortunate! Mancong Longhouse itself has not been lived in for quite some time by local families due to a slight increase in wealth and the possibility to buy their own Ironwood property but it is still used for ceremonial purposes and for cultural dance events.
mancong longhouse with patung wooden figurines stock photo

Mancong Longhouse with Patung Wooden Figurines

During certain ceremonies such as Tiwah Funeral Ceremonies buffalo will be tethered outside to one of the many Patung posts, (Wooden Figurines) usually at the far left corner of the building when facing it where the sacrifice will take place and this still continues to this day as one would expect in Authentic Borneo. Mancong Longhouse interior is also a great place for communal gatherings during a ceremony where musicians will play music, locals dressed in traditional ceremonial dress will perform age old dances and people will eat drink and be merry. It is also used as a Homestay where one can spend a night or two to soak in its former glory.
ironwood boardwalks in rural mancong dayak village

Ironwood boardwalks in rural Mancong Dayak Village

wooden bridge viewpoint of mancong dayak village on river

Ironwood bridge at Mancong Dayak Village on the River

Authentic Borneo Dayaks
About the Dayaks of BorneoDayak is an umbrella term given to the many ethnic groups or indigenous or native people of Borneo. Mainly located in Kalimantan in Indonesian Borneo and Sarawak and Sabah in Malaysian Borneo. They are riverine and hill peoples with their own individual cultural dress which distinguishes one ethnic group from another, each ethnic group also has their own language and it is said there are around 170 different dialects and languages! Regarding Religion the Dayak were originally Animist but have since converted to Islam and more recently within the past century to Christianity.
dayak kenyah girls costume authentic borneo
Girls costume worn by two Dayak girls
Mancong Village and the area around Jempang Lake is home to the Dayak Benuaq a subgroup of Dayaks. The geographical spread of the Benuaq Dayaks can be found also around the River Kedang Pahu in the interior of East Kalimantan. In West Kutai the Benuaq are the ethnic majority with as much as 60% Benuaq Dayak inhabiting places such as Muara Pahu, Muara Lawu, Barong Tongkok, Pondok Labu and even Tenggarong and its subdistricts.


Dayak Shield

I found the Dayak Benuaq at Mancong and Tanjung Isuy (Tanjung Isui) to be extremely friendly, hospitable and welcoming. A very calm and peaceful people who for all intents and purposes live an eco-friendly, self sustaining and biodegradable lifestyle. And seem to be very content with their lot without all the trappings of the modern hi-tech world.

Detailed description of Borneo Dayaks here

dayak woman making bamboo baskets in mancong
Skilled Dayak woman making Bamboo baskets
Even the toilets can be found floating on the river beside the stilt houses of the village akin to every other floating village in Kalimantan where the Riverine Dayaks use the water for a variety of reasons. It is a priceless resource used for laundry and washing the clothes, bathing, travelling by Prau, Kelotok or Ces (Long-tail Boats) from place to place and as an invaluable source of food by way of freshwater fish. Again, Authentic Borneo at its best!
Eco-friendly floating toilets stock photo
Eco-friendly Floating Toilets – Authentic Borneo

Panning Video of Mancong Longhouse – Authentic Borneo

A trip to Authentic Borneo should be high on the priority list of ‘things to do‘ for the adventure traveller who thrives on off the beaten track travel destinations, a trip back in time compared to developed parts of the world where one can meet beautiful people, get amongst nature, see rare species of flora and fauna such as the Freshwater Dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris) and Proboscis Monkeys (Nasalis larvatus), Hornbills ((Bucerotidae) and rare species of Black Orchids (Colongenia Pandurata) if one takes a river boat trip or enters the forest. Kalimantan still retains all the hallmarks of Authentic Borneo and remains relatively untouched in the heartland.
Mancong dayak village longhouse lamin wooden structure

Eco-friendly village of Mancong on the River

Getting There and Away


There are a number of ways to reach and depart from Mancong, by Land or by River. Land is by far the easiest due to improved roads from Samarinda.
There is a bus that leaves daily from Samarinda Bus Terminal Sungai Kunjang and takes about five hours to the New Camp, A few kilometres before the New Camp is the junction to Mancong and the road continues to Tanjung Isuy and Jempang Lake. Getting down at the junction it is about 4km to Mancong and 7km after is Tanjung Isuy.
The buses leave from around 7.30am. Sometimes the road is too bad from the junction for the bus to reach Mancong and Tanjung Isuy if heavy rains have flooded and left the road broken in places. Therefore it is possible to pay someone for an Ojek ride (motorbike taxi) or hitch it. Leaving Mancong by land again if the road is bad there is a free pick up service from Tanjung Isuy at around 7.30am which passes through Mancong and drops at the junction on the main Samarinda to Melak road where there will be a passing bus from the New Camp or Melak. You could be waiting up to an hour.

borneo river trip stock photo
River Trip in Kalimantan – Authentic Borneo


By river one has to first reach Muara Muntai floating village on Lake Semayang (Danau Semayang) where there is a Ces or Prau (Motorised long-tail boats). This requires a 3 hour journey by bus or car from Samarinda to Kota Bangun from where a boat trip to Muara Muntai is 2hrs by Ces or Prau. This is a very enjoyable trip to Mancong or Tanjung Isuy giving many opportunities to view the Wildlife such as Proboscis Monkeys and Freshwater Dolphin. A journey which travels through the wetlands of the lake and small rivers which flow into Lake Melintang and Lake Jempang as mentioned at the start of this article. The travel time can be up to 4 hours from Muara Muntai to Mancong and if the weather is bad and water is rough it will be difficult to find someone willing to take the journey but there is accommodation in Muara Muntai which in itself is a wonderful taste of Authentic Borneo. A village of Ironwood Boardwalks and Stilt Houses.


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2 Responses

  1. dely

    Thanks a lot for article,,mancong is my village..

  2. Antony

    Hi Dely, thanks for the comment and thumbs up. (Terima kasih banget ya teman) You are more than welcome, Mancong is a wonderful Indigenous village and I will never forget my trip there and I am sure I will revisit again in the future.

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