A cultural getaway in rural Tutong

James Kon

Tucked away in a rural area of the Tutong District is Alai Gayoh Anak Pulau, a community-based tourism attraction providing a short getaway from the hustle and bustle of daily life and the opportunity to learn about the Dusun community’s tradition and culture.

Located at Bukit Kukub in Kampong Bukit Udal, Alai Gayoh Anak Pulau is a traditional Dusun house is built on a lagoon. Alai Gayoh means ‘big house’ in Dusun language. As the road leading to Bukit Kukub is not paved, it is recommended to use a 4×4 vehicle.

Once visitors arrive at the scenic location, they can see the wooden stilt house of Alai Gayoh Anak Pulau on a lagoon. Last year, some 200 visitors visited Alai Gayoh Anak Pulau, including researchers studying the surrounding forests.

Notably, it’s the only traditional Brunei Dusun ethnic house in the country that maintains the traditional architectural features.

According to the information exhibited at the house, Alai Gayoh Anak Pulau started off as a small hut called Alai Tadik in 2006.

The scenic view of Alai Gayoh Anak Pulau. PHOTOS: JAMES KON
Dusun warrior dance performance by a community member

It participated in the water procession at Pekan Tutong in conjunction with the celebration of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam’s 60th birthday.

In 2008, Alai Tadik II was built. The new house, measuring 13 by 11 feet, was made from local wooden beams, palm flooring and wooden wall with sago plant leaves as roofing.

One year later, manager of the Alai Gayoh Anak Pulau Benson Tunggang expanded the house to Alai Gayoh, to showcase the living heritage of a Dusun traditional house. The house was inspired by Benson’s own father’s experience. The house was constructed with 63 different species of plants from the local forests. Alai Gayoh Anak Pulau is divided into eight areas – Pantaran (verandah), Sarambi (lounge), Sirang (main hall), Salapir (kitchen), Lubok (main living room), Angkap (apex), Ambir (extended area of the kitchen and Sampir (main extension of the house).

In an interview with the Bulletin, Benson said, “Visitors get to enjoy nature and at the same time learn about the Dusun culture and tradition. However, we have been closed for more than three months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are waiting for restrictions to be eased to re-open again.”

Visitors to Alai Gayoh Anak Pulau can also explore the areas of the forest reserve, located at the eastern tip of Andulau Forest Reserve.

In support of the ‘One Village One Product’ (1K1P) Project, Alai Gayoh Anak Pulau conducted programmes aiming to make the community more creative and innovative while creating employment opportunities for locals.

The programmes include an overnight stay over the weekend, forest biodiversity trekking, bird watching, forest spot-lighting, traditional ethnic cultural showcase, traditional cooking, native fruit gathering and sampling. Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali bin Haji Apong recently made a working visit to Alai Gayoh Anak Pulau to look at the potential of the destination and as part of a continuous engagement with stakeholders, to strengthen and promote the tourism products in Brunei Darussalam.