National Geographic : 1956 May
The National Geographic Magazine "What's a pantang?" I wanted to find out. "That's a taboo," Alastair said. "Our hosts seem to have more than their share. Because of them, they've had to stop work periodically during the growing season and go home while the rats and insects ate up the crop." The plight of the Kejamans and the con stant scudding rain clouds depressed us. We were glad to get away. We traveled two days up the Belaga River, walked across the water shed to Tubau, and floated down to Bintulu, center for the timber and jelutong trades. Harvesting Birds' Nests for Soup "Have you ever eaten bird's-nest soup?" asked a Government official. I confessed that, although I am fond of Chinese food, bird's-nest soup was so expen sive I had never tasted it. "Well, at least you can see a nest factory," said the official, and so we made a pleasant coastwise voyage in his launch to Niah, where limestone hills are honeycombed with immense caves. In the early morning we stood at the en trance to one cavern. Clouds of bats flew in, a torrent of swiftlets poured out. We fol lowed the bats. A few nest collectors were in side; their torches glowed in the echoing dark. The floor was thick with bat guano, musty smelling and soft underfoot. In places the deposits are many feet thick and provide, especially at the deeper levels, a source of valuable fertilizer which is extracted by enter prising Chinese. Innumerable bats hung above us, and a number of baby swiftlets which had fallen from their nests fluttered pathetically about. Solemn Friends Look On as a Dyak Boy Gets the First of Many Painful Tattoos Tattooing, once the mark of warriors, now serves certain tribes primarily as decoration. Here the artist completes a stylized design. On his client's shoulder he drew the pattern in a sooty ink. Now he taps with a stick on an instrument containing three needles, thus driving the ink under the skin. Infection usually results from such treatment but rarely proves serious. The women of some tribes are also tattooed.