Beautiful Belum Rainforest: Getting to Know the Jahai Tribe in Kg. Aman Damai, Royal Belum Rainforest

Malaysia is a developed country where the people are pretty much modernized, living in the city and trapped in the rat-race and such. But as modern as Malaysians goes, indegenuos tribes living in the forests of Peninsular Malaysia still exists. There are about 30 indigenous tribes living in the forests of Peninsular Malaysia. About 5,500 of them are scattered in forest reserves of Malaysia, still living their ancestral nomadic ways of life.

My family and I were given the opportunity to get up close and personal with the indegenious people from the Jahai tribes who lives in Royal Belum Rainforest (Royal Belum State Park) during my 2D1N trip with Caravan Serai Holidays crews to Royal Belum Rainforest recently and I thoughy it was quite an eye opening experience; to learn their culture and their way of life.

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The journey to the Kg. Aman Damai, the indegenious settlement of the Jahai tribes took about 2 hours from Tasik Banding Jetty via the waterway.

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Gateway to another world

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The village might lack worldly things but the place is so picturesque.

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A beautiful sight to behold

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A wefie with my family at Kg. Aman Damai

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The huts in the village are 100% from the forest’s produce and they are located pretty near to each other.

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Beautiful, isn’t it?

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The Jahai tribe’s hut.The Jahai tribes practices communal living and every family here maintains close relationship with each other. Their men hunt for food while their women are left behind to take care of their children at home and only the head of their tribe will stay behind as the protector while the rest goes hunting.

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The Jahai tribe is a sub-group of the Negrito. They are generally short, dark skinned with tightly curled hair. Although today most of the Jahai population live in settlements provided by government, there are families who still retain their forefather nomadic lives outside these settlements. Some of the Jahai tribe’s people settled themselves at one place for a couple of years, and only leave when something bad happened at their village. One of the things that commonly prompt them to be on the move to search for a new spot to live in again is death. It is believed that when a person in their community died, the place that they are living became contaminated and cursed by bad luck, and so the place became inhabitable. Their funeral management is rather mystical in my opinion. Instead of burying their dead, they place the bodies high up among the trees. Uprooting the village is just the start of a hugely elaborate burial ritual, in which the body is brought by procession to a hut, similar to the ones in the village, but constructed in a tree some 50 metres high. The body is covered and left with its possessions alongside it, together with food for the spirits. It is then left undisturbed for two to three years, upon which time the village returns to procure a bone from the skeletal remains. This is then buried, so returning the family member to the forest.

Apart from the complex culture and ritualistic nature that they subscribed to,they lead an unbelievably very basic lifestyle and have very fierce family bond. Being nomadic, they do not practice any agriculture activities, enabling them to move from one place to another easily, but I was told by our guide Uncle Joe that these days, the Jahai people are very much modernized, especially those living in Kg. Aman Damai. They are not that nomadic anymore and they no longer abandoned their village once death occurs in the village.

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Anyway, we get to mingle around with the Jahai people for a little while. Their women and children can be quite shy but most of them are very friendly and accommodative towards the visitors.

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Their youngsters are quite modernized and these are the superstars of Kg. Aman Damai. They usually entertained the visitors by singing traditional songs.

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Our hosts showed us around the village and even taught us how to use blowpipes.

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Trying the blowpipes.

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Visitors being shown the Tongkat Ali tree.

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My animal lover son playing with the cat who were found roaming about in the village.

I learned quite alot of things during my visit but if there’s one very important thing that I learnt from the people over here is that sometimes, money can be quite immaterial in comparison to family bond. Definitely a timely reminder for me who is constantly stuck in a neverending rat race.

Note: A visit to the indegenuos settlement in Kg. Aman Damai at Royal Belum State Park is part of the 2D1N Royal Belum Houseboat trip’s itinerary. The trip was organized by Caravan Serai Holidays. You may read the full trip experience HERE. For those who are interested to join the 2D1N Royal Belum Houseboat trip organized by Caravan Serai Holidays may hop over HERE for more information. Package for a 2D1N starts as low as RM199(+RM70 for two way bus transfer from Kuala Lumpur to Tasik Banding Jetty) per pax.

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