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But along the shores of the endless, snaking rivers that carve through the steamy rain forests of Borneo, tribal peoples have been living this way - by choice - for thousands of years. Crime is practically unheard of in these communities, along with divorce, child-abuse, and most of the other social diseases the rest of the world resigns itself to every day. These communities are called longhouses, and cultural tradition holds that anyone who visits them is welcome to stay as long as they like. For many, a visit to a longhouse offers not only a roof in the wilds of Borneo's fantastic rain forest, but a glimpse into a way of life that is in many ways an enviable model for communal living. Few people leave a longhouse without being impressed by how smoothly its residents get along, how well-behaved its children are, and the generosity of their hosts. 

The most accessible longhouses belong to Sarawak's Iban tribe (also called the Sea Dyaks) and are situated off the Skrang, Lemanak, Batang Ai and Rejang River areas. Because of Borneo's impenetrable rain-forest, getting to them almost inevitably involves a river ride in a long, pencil-thin boat called a perahu - the workhorse of the Sarawakian waterways. It is one of the most pleasureable forms of travel anywhere. These craft snake briskly along the rivers, hypnotizing their riders with their droning engines while they pass beneath huge, prehistoric-looking elipinat trees whose roots cling to the river's edge like giant fists. Just when you think the dreamlike scrolling of the forest wall will last forever, you turn one of the endless, looping bends in the river, and suddenly a longhouse appears, as if out of nowhere. 
A typical longhouse looks exactly like its name implies. It is a long, one-story dwelling, covered by single roof usually woven of fronds from the ubiquitous sago palm. It can stretch as long as a city block and have five hundred people living in it, or it can house a community as small as a few dozen. The families live in large rooms located off a main hall, a kind of social center that stretches the length of the entire building. During the day, when many of the residents are out working in the fields or forest, the main hall is mostly empty, a peaceful, somnolent space of cool refuge. If you stand on one end and look all the way down, you often see young children playing quietly on intricately woven matts, always watched by an older member of the community. In an environment where respect for each other's space is essential to a healthy community, even the family dogs seem to honor each other's small territory. They doze immediately in front of each household, respecting their invisible barriers. 
At night, just after supper, the main hall livens up. Families come out to socialize and  guests gather in front of the chief's room. The chief's home is almost always in the dead center of the building, and is often distinguished by a fetish of antique human skulls - a reminder of the days when the Iban and other tribes in Borneo practiced headhunting. The practice faded quickly following the arrival of colonialism and the White Rajas of Sarawak, who actively discouraged it. 

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