Three hours drive north of Kuala Lumpur, hidden amidst verdant rainforest, lies the tiny ‘kampong’ (village) of Pantus. While the road to this secreted Malaysian hamlet presents few challenges, the final path to the kampong involves crossing a fast moving river on a suspended footbridge. In truth, the task is easy. But it is still a good metaphor for the step out of time you take when arriving in the village.
Nestled among the durian and mangosteen trees, the kampong is kept noticeably cool by the shade provided by the surrounding rainforests. Boundaries within the village confines are indistinct and paths free-flowing, allowing for easy navigation through the grounds, which are remarkably clean.
To combat the effects of flooding, the homes of the local ‘Orang Asli’ (aboriginal people) are built on stilts. Less than a metre high, the supports are built with squared edges to prevent any unwanted snakes from popping-in for a bite. Built on more solid ground is the pre-school, which teaches local children basic Malay, mathematics and even English. No lessons are required in smiling.
For the 170 indigenous Malay inhabitants of the kampong, KL may as well be HK, LA or NYC, so far is it removed from urban life. And with solar power providing electricity for the entire village and water coming from the surrounding mountains, it’s little wonder why everyone here seems so happy.
Agriculture is the main source of income for the kampong, but today, we are shown how canoes are built. Constructed from single trees and taking around one month to complete, these vessels can be sold for approximately 1,200 Malaysian ringgit - a real bargain for around $400.
Up next is the bamboo blowpipe display, which demonstrates weapons that are still used in hunting today. Given my inaccuracy with the tranquilising darts, I think I would go hungry (if I weren’t vegetarian).
Perhaps a cause for concern for the village is the emergence nearby of government housing developments. Offering the inhabitants of Pantus the ‘comforts’ of a more modern existence, as well as the promise of agricultural jobs, these government projects could eventually threaten the villagers’ traditional way of life.
Fortunately, the move to the ‘burbs’ is optional. And given the contentment written on the villagers’ faces, it doesn’t look like anyone is going anywhere anytime soon.
|Villagers build boats...