Old West Lapok of Sarawak: Not American Quarter horses, but Hilux pickups (Travelogue Day 8)

Sea of Hilux pickups at Lapok town.

By D’Drift Team

SIBU, Oct 18: Instead of American Quarter horses that most cowboys ride, the ‘cowboy town’ of Lapok was swarmed with Hilux pickups, like no kidding!

As there are many palm oil plantations in the vicinity, most of the workers travel using 4 wheel drives (4WD), which was good investment for long journeys and bumpy roads.


Also driving a pickup, D’Drift Team when arrived in Lapok town did not seem at all out of the picture. We blended right in (chuckles~).

Pickups lining up in front of shoplots.

Another notable culture there that resembled the Old West was the beer drinking.

As early as 9am yesterday (Oct 17), we were surrounded by stout and beer drinkers at one of the coffeeshops, which seemed to be a routine for the locals here.

Other than alcohol, black coffee (‘kopi-o’) and Cola drinks were among the popular choices of drinks in town, and nothing else, at least from D’Drift Team’s observation in that half-an-hour stop for our breakfast.

We thought alcohol was extremely cheap there, but it was not the case. Beer price was almost the same as back in Kuching city – RM5 per can, RM10 per bottle.

Early morning cheers with stout among a group of young chaps at one of Lapok coffeeshops.
The elderly mostly chose beer.

Another thing we noticed about this bustling, little town was the really dirty roads that were mud-caked and some with pools of mucky water. It was a dirty town, to be honest.

Soiled and puddly roads due to frequent travels by pickups.


Standard operating procedure (SOP) compliance

Although it seemed like there was no law and order (the way of the Old West) in Lapok ‘cowboy town’, everyone complied with the Covid-19 standard operating procedure (SOP).

Face masks were always on except during eating and drinking. MySejahtera QR codes and temperature scanning counters were also available in front of every store.

The level of awareness about Covid-19 dangers, we would say, was pretty satisfactory in Lapok which was in one of the rural areas in Sarawak.

By the time D’Drift Team was about to leave Lapok market, Rela officers were seen going around town for their patrols, probably because it was a Sunday when the small town was crowded with people, mostly those coming out from nearby palm oil plantations for their weekend getaways.

Rela officers visiting the Lapok market for an inspection.


Stop thinking Sarawakians are living on trees

“Do Sarawakians live on trees?” This has always been a famous question to Sarawakians from those who have never stepped foot in the State before. Most of the time, however, this question is asked because of curiosity rather than a statement to enrage.

D’Drift Team had to travel over 400 kilometres of roads from Miri to Sibu today, and the seven-hour journey across multiple sub-districts and past countless townships somehow kindled our compulsion to answer that question of many.

There is no denying that many and most parts of Sarawak are still green. In fact, about 60 per cent of the State is covered in forest, but we don’t stay in tree houses. Cities in Sarawak are as developed as any other part of the country; our villages have longhouses more modern than you could ever imagine.

It feels exactly like entering the Perkins’ tent when visiting some of the more high-class longhouses. (Note: In Harry Potter, the Perkins’ tent was expanded on the inside with the ‘Undetectable Extension Charm’ which creates “wizard space”, so that the tent is larger on the inside than it appears on the outside.)

Longhouses here could be as long as over 100 doors (‘bilik’) in one row where one door is for one family. So, practically, one village of people stays in one longhouse whereby it is usually named after the longhouse chief (‘tuai rumah’). That has been the way of the Dayak in Sarawak since ages ago.

A longhouse as long as over 70 doors along the Miri-Bintulu Road near Niah.

And once completed, the longhouses would rarely be extended as the resident pleases, like our renovations in terrace houses or bungalows. When one longhouse could no longer accommodate the additional family members, the sons will have to build their own longhouses on their own lands.

Preserving the culture until today while being on par with development, most longhouses are no longer built with only ironwood, but mixture of concrete and hardwood.

Yes, some of them may be in the jungles or up on cliffs, but never should you underestimate the inside. It has everything or maybe more facilities than you could have in your homes.

So, no. Sarawakians don’t live on trees, even in the rural places. — Dayakdaily

A double-story longhouse by the Pan Borneo Highway.
Nicely designed 10-door longhouse on high grounds.
Another longhouse with over 20 doors along the Sibu-Bintulu road.

Related articles:

Travelogue, Day 1 – Beliong dragons trapped in cages for 6 years and counting

Travelogue, Day 2 – Headless coconut ‘pillars’ of Maludam

Travelogue, Day 3 – Pan Borneo Fury 1060 – ‘best’ coaster ride in Sarawak Theme Park

Travelogue, Day 4 – Spooky Mukah: Hanging coffins, burial totems and human sacrifices

Travelogue, Day 5 – A salty post-funeral cleansing ritual

Travelogue, Day 6 – Doleful-looking horse pile of rubble

Travelogue, Day 7 – Raining battery-size hail in Loagan Bunut National Park