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Traditional Wooden House from Arfak Mountains

Updated on September 26, 2011
The indigenous Papuan people In Arfak mountains posed in front of their wooden house
The indigenous Papuan people In Arfak mountains posed in front of their wooden house

Traditional Wooden Houses

Wooden houses in Arfak mountains are simple home construction that are resistant to earthquakes and "comfortable" dwelling places for the indigenous people. I saw these houses while guiding tourists to the region for some trekking trips through the tropical rainforests that cover the mountains. This mountain range is a 2-hour car ride from Manokwari city - the capital of West Papua province in the Republic of Indonesia. It has been my favorite destination that I promote for my eco-tourism project. When I and some European tourists visited the mountains in December 2010, we saw the wooden houses of the indigenous people whose design are unique and interesting to be studied. The indigenous Papuan people who live in the Arfak mountains constructed their homes using small wooden poles as the "pillars" and tree barks as the walls. For the floors, they use expanded bamboo shell. In the past, the roofs were made of thatched pandanus leaves. Now they have been replaced with corrugated metal roofs that are more resistant to extreme weather condition such as heavy rain and hot sunny days. Modern timber houses construction made of machined wood panels and blocks gradually replace them.

Papuan Children in Kwau village of Arfak mountains
Papuan Children in Kwau village of Arfak mountains

Sleeping Arrangement

There is a concrete house which was built across from the wooden house as a guesthouse for tourists. However, I don't sleep at the guesthouse. I prefer to sleep with the Papuan family who own the area. When I was sleeping with them, I see that they have special arrangement for sleeping inside the house. The male (father and the boys) will sleep on left side where as the female (mother, the girls, and perhaps a baby) will sleep on the right side. For a small house, a father with the sons sleep on the front side whereas the mother with the daughters or the little baby will sleep on the bamboo floor at the rear side of the house. All of their heads are near the center line of the house. Their feet were closer to the side wall near the fire that has been made to keep them warm during the cold nights. It is quite warm to be inside the house because the owner of the house (Mr. Hans Mandacan) wakes up in the middle of the night to arrange or add the firewood. However, because this house does not have windows, I inhaled the air that is mixed with smoke the whole night. When I return to the city, I can smell smoke on my jacket, t-shirt and trousers.

wooden house of Hatam tribe in Kwau village of Arfak mountains
wooden house of Hatam tribe in Kwau village of Arfak mountains

If no rooms inside - how can the husband and wife spend some private moments together?

The interior of the wooden house is not devided into several smaller rooms. So, we will not find any bedrooms, living room and kitchen inside the house. All of them is integrated into one room. This traditional wooden house is called "rumah kaki seribu" meaning "house of a thousand legs." Yes, it has a lot of poles which function as legs that stand around 1 to 2.5 meters above the ground. Because most of the houses were built on a slope, the lengths of its poles are not the same to ensure that the floor inside the house is leveled.

When I guided a Dutch tourist and 2 crews of TOP TV from Manokwari city last week, I asked some questions to Hans Mandacan, the owner of the guesthouse and the traditional wooden house.

  • Charles: "You said that husband and wife cannot have their intimate moments in the house because there are children and because the traditional customs of your HatamĀ  tribe tell you not to do. I am sorry to ask you this, Hans, how do you and your wife spend your private moments together in a house where there are no bedrooms?"
  • Hans: "I am also confused to answer your question, Sir."
  • Charles: "Hey, you already have three children, how can't you answer my question?

Later I find the answer by myself

  • Charles: "Oh, yeah I know. You will have your "private moments" when both of you go to the gardens?"
  • Hans: "Yes, Sir. That's right!"

When hearing his answers all of us laughed together.

some pink flowers in Arfak mountains
some pink flowers in Arfak mountains


The village where I took pictures of the traditional wooden houses of is called Kwau. It is located around 1,300 meters above sea level. The temperature in this mountain is cool during the days and cold at nights. The climate of Arfak mountains is suitable for tropical flowers. The villagers like to grow various species of flowers around their houses. They don't need fertilizer to grow them. It seems that the humidity and the temperature in the mountains as well as the soil condition are perfect for the flowers that look fresh and colorful. The indigenous Papuan people have beautiful flowers but they don't sell them. When domestic and foreign tourists from the city visit the Kwau village and ask for the flower plants which they grow at the front yards of their houses, they will give them away for free. If you are also interested in visiting Kwau village in Arfak mountains of the Republic of Indonesia, please, contact me via my email I will be happy to arrange your trip and accompany you to this tropical paradise.


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