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Mark Moxon's Travel Writing

Malaysia: Meeting the Orang Asli

An Orang Asli 'lean-to'
An Orang Asli 'lean-to', used for shelter when it rains... which is most of the time in the rainforests of Taman Negara

It was two days into my six-day solo trek through the ancient rainforests of Taman Negara that I came across the Orang Asli. Orang means 'man' in its generic sense – hence 'orang-utan', or 'man of the jungle' – and the Orang Asli are the original inhabitants of the jungle. Evidence of their existence was obvious from the number of temporary shelters dotted around the place, mainly lean-tos with woven-leaf roofs that could be lowered above a sleeping body to keep out anything except horizontal rain, an unlikely occurrence in the jungle.

1 Their sarongs had their ends sewn together to form a kind of cylinder, into which they stepped before pulling the garment over their shoulders; I saw a similar design in Tana Toraja in Sulawesi.