|Learning darts, aboriginal-style!
After our two-hour return hike to see the Rafflesia blooms, we detoured to a small resettlement village of the Senoi, one of the orang asli or aboriginal groups of Malaysia for a demonstration of their blowpipe hunting skills. While there are no more real aboriginal villages in Lojing Highlands, the government has provided resettlement villages for displaced families, where some of them earn a living through eco-tourism and handicraft-making. There were 22 families living in the village we visited. Most of the structures were made of concrete, but two houses were still built the traditional way using only bamboo from the forest, and raised from the ground on stilts.
|Young Senoi children crafting blow darts at a resettlement village
Assisted by a Senoi villager, our tour guide demonstrated how to blow darts using a traditional blowpipe, which was about six-feet in length! The blowpipe is made from two shafts of bamboo; and, during real hunts, are equipped with poison darts which, according to our guide, can topple down an elephant. The darts are dipped in the deadly sap of the ipoh tree (Antiaris toxicaria). Until today, Senoi tribes in Lojing Highlands still hunt for monkeys and wild boar the traditional way.
|Traditional bamboo stilt house of the Senoi aboriginal people
With a styrofoam bull’s eye attached to a tree as our target, everyone in our tour group took turns practicing our hunting skills. Dart “blanks”, without poison, were used. Blowing darts was an fun and easy, though it was awkward at first holding the blowpipe the proper way, with both hands clasped together around the mouthpiece. I wish I had more than one go at it; but there was more in store for us for the rest of day, so we had to hop back onto the Land Rover and return to Cameron Highlands right after. I read in my guidebook that in reality only a little goes to the villagers themselves from tour group visits, so I bought two blowpipes for MYR 50 to take home as souvenirs. “Now you can practice with your neighbor,” our tour guide jokingly quipped.
|Our tour guide explaining the hunting style of the Senoi. Souvenir blowpipes at his side.
HOW TO GET THERE: Lojing Highlands, Kelantan is located an hour north of Tanah Rata, the main town of Cameron Highlands, Pahang. Aboriginal village visits can be arranged through tour operators in Tanah Rata. Our visit was part of a full-day tour that included other destinations, for only MYR 98 per person. We booked through Hill Top Travel & Tour, No. 24, Main Road, Tanah Rata, 39000 Cameron Highlands. Help support aboriginal villages by buying handicrafts directly from them. Do note, however, that certain countries (like Australia) prohibit the bringing in of blowpipes.
This trip was made possible by Airphil Express – which now flies from Manila to Kuala Lumpur thrice weekly – in cooperation with Tourism Malaysia and travel insurance provider, Travel Guard Chartis.