Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mari Mari Cultural Village,Kota Kinabalu,Sabah

Leaping high - very skilful

'Mari- Mari' means ' come, come' in Malay and what a welcome it was to the Mari - Mari Cultural Village. Before departing for Kinabalu National Park, we did not want to miss this visit so we shared half day at Manukan Island and the other to experience the culture of some the tribes of Sabah.

The cultural village is situated in a remote forest about 30 minutes from Kota Kinabalu city. Be prepared to indulge in tribal customs, rituals and ways of life .

Verdict - insightful and a very hands-on visit with a wonderful guide to make our day. That day, there were only 4 of us - 2 Americans and 2 Malaysians ready to soak up old and gone traditional living of the tribes.

It was absolutely engrossing to see, smell, touch and do as we moved among the 5 longhouses of the tribes - Rungus, Dusun, Lundayeh, Bajau and the Murut. The bark of trees, the bamboo, the wooden utensils, the thatched roofs - nature in existence then and now, all meld to give us stories of each longhouse of the tribes. Very fascinating! Life 'As It was... As It Is' says the brochure lived up to its description.

Our adventure began with the high priestess, known as 'Bobohizan' appearing from the jungle and blessing the visitors with charmed water to ward off evil spirits that might intrude the village.

A green crocodile to show a head warrior lives in the longhouse.

Just lift the roof - let the breeze in and you are cooled ! Modernity takes a back seat here!

A Rungus lady prettily dressed in her costume (note the beadwork )

Happy feet doing the bamboo dance at the dance hall. It was fun and energetic. The Murut bamboo dance, the Magunatip gets your adrenaline pumping as the tempo quickens. The Sabah tribes make very good use of the abundant bamboo. Rhythmic stomping noises of the bamboo was music to our ears.

Tatoo designs as souvenirs. All 4 of us had our turns to have the henna decorations on our arms.

Getting ready for the leap from the trampoline. The other participants rhythmically move and shake the platform - the big trampoline made from bamboo. It looks simple but timing and skill are crucial to make the big leap and touch the ' prize' above.

The tobacco is rolled and now comes the smoking - for peace! It was strong. Didn't the men splutter trying it!!

Aim - blow! with a blowpipe. The young boy aced on his target, needless to say. We had more misses than hits! The blowpipe is made from bamboo. The poison (for real use) is a lethal prepared sap from the Ipoh tree (antiaris toxicaria)

We tasted the roti jala made the Sabahan way. Again, there's always bamboo used in some form or other in the daily lives of the Sabahans. We even prepared our own food of meat and herbs which we ate at the end of the entire tour.

Musical ingenuity with different sizes of the bamboo.

Painstaking method of making yarn

No matches to start a fire.
After the demo, it was our turn . Gosh, it was more than hard work ! Can you see the taut hands and face which got redder and redder and there was no fire - yet!!

Our guide holding up a vest - all made from the bark of trees. Real priceless piece of clothing.

The areca nut being shaved and then eaten with lime on a betel nut leaf. Want a 'high'? - this can give you some!

Also known as the sea gypsies of Sabah

A pretty Lundayeh lass

A group photo after the wonderful dances. A truly memorable visit to Sabah, 'The Land Below The Wind'.


  1. Wow!!
    You culture is very funny :)))
    Fantastic pictures and lovely lines written!!

  2. The mari mari high jump reminds me of Michael Schumacher's jump at the podium, think he must have learn it here. haha. Lovely 'tatoo' how long did it last? Tried the blowpipe before in Taman Negara kind of using the abdomen strength in order to blow the dart out. Nice tour and info of the mari mari cultural village. tQ.

  3. Wow, I didn't realise that your trip to Sabah was really extensive, comprehensive and exciting.

  4. Always learning new "Malaysian" things with your blog!! Thanks again!

  5. Wow! What awesome photographs! That bamboo dance brought back a memory for me, as I recall someone coming in and performing it for my school when I was little. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Hi
    Anya,I am amazed by the huge wealth of culture that I experienced myself.

    Bananaz, Are you a Schumacher fan? Do you follow the F1? My husband is an ardent follower. The tatoo lasts for about 3 days,fades slowly.Nice to know you tried the blowpipe too.

    Ocean Girl,I think we did quite a bit in our 5 days in Sabah.Am a go -getter!

    lupie,glad you discover things here too.Thanks for visiting.

  7. The Rungus lass looks tiny next to Ravi! What a delightful and eye-opening trip, Keats! Imagine -- just a generation or two ago, most of us would have lived the way our Sabahan brothers and sisters do -- close to nature, self-sufficient and able to provide for our immediate needs without significantly changing our landscape. How wise our elders were! Such clever use of resources! I learned how to make cordage from ginger plant fibres and fire using a bowdrill during Bushcraft before. It was tough and time-consuming. My admiration for those who live with the Earth grew even more after learning the skills passed on by those who walk before us.

  8. Very interesting. But that is always true when I get to your blog.

  9. Oh how I would love to go on a trip like this! You look like you're having such a wonderful, enlightening time. And to experience the marvellous cultures of the Malay tribes, it must be so utterly brilliant.

  10. Hi
    Rena,as a little girl, you must have wondered how fast the bamboo poles move and legs jumping off the ground to the quickening tempo!

    ~Covert_Operations'78~,you've captured the way of life of the Sabahans very nicely - a closeness to nature and living sustainably.

    Lucy, thanks so much,my dear.

    Sam Liu,indeed I enjoyed myself very much with a visit to Manukan Island too.So much more to discover but life is not lived in few days!! LOL. Have a good week ahead!

  11. Ardent fan of F1 but no particular constructor's team or driver. May the best wins..tQ

  12. never been to this place before .seems interesting

  13. Erm, in case you don't read Chinese, Keats, 淑娟 said: "I like your blog very much..."

  14. Hi
    Bananaz, eons ago I watched one of the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch. That was about the closet interest in the races. Haven't kept up with my hubby's interest tho.

    xplorer, this cultural village is pretty new - about a year or so old. If they maintain their passion to share with the rest of the world the Sabahan cultures, it'll be great.

    ~Covert_Operations'78~, thanks a million,dear friend!Now I know :)) I've just finished a beginner's course in spoken Mandarin and am revising the stuff !!! Talking to myself!

  15. Thank you for another tour in learning about other culture. Your photos are just fantastic.

  16. Thanks for the tour, it felt like I was there!

  17. Hi
    Icy BC, thanks! it's good to know how much sharing we can do in our blog posts.

    Jientje, thanks for joining the tour:)

  18. So fascinating to see a glimpse of your world - the photos are really great, too. Thanks for sharing it all with us !
    Bye for now
    Lynda, Kilimanjaro, East Africa

  19. wow! This must have been such an amazing experience! I really long to be able to visit different cultures, like this!

  20. Hi
    Lynda,thanks!it was an eye -opener for us too.

    Roshni Mitra Chintalapati, thanks for coming by. I would love to visit your country too - Kerala is on my list:)

  21. Reminded me of my trip to both KK and Kuching. I love it there, the food, people and most of all ---the culture! happy weekend Keats...and love your Rafflesia post too :)

  22. Thanks for coming over to visit the Chronicles. This is fascinating (and why I read Ocean Girl's blog -- because I love learning about new places).

  23. wow the blow pipe technique looks a bit scary! - really love the way you take us right to wherever you've been - almost feels like I am experiencing it directly - superb!!

  24. Hi
    M.Kate,yes, KK and Kuching are fascinating places. That's our lovely E. Malaysia:) Have a lovely weekend yourself. 2 things to do tomorrow - a community high tea and looking forward to unwinding at laugh fest at pjla. hey! it's Jo Kukathas and she's my favourite!

    Jeanne, thanks and welcome to my blog!Ocean Girl surely rings a bell. I visited her spa the other day and it was fabulous.

    magicdarts, thanks! like they say in our local lingo,'don't play, play!' ( meaning you'd better be serious!!) , the blowpipe is really lethal.

  25. Hi
    Marinela Reka, thanks for coming by. You have a treasure trove of poems - keep writing:)

  26. Very interesting! I have enjoyed the pictures and your comments. Wish I were there!

  27. Hi
    I am back after a brief absence. What an amazing "back to nature & tribal way of life" tour! Awesome photographs. Looks like you had sooo much fun and adventure what with tattoing, yarn making,bamboo dances,pipe smoking, blow pipe shooting, fire lighting followed by tribal music and food. Hope to travel to Mari Mari, Sabah some day !
    Best Wishes

  28. Hi
    Laura in Paris, thanks for coming by.glad you enjoyed the tour.

    R. Ramakrishnan, glad to have you back:) Yes, I had loads of fun - all in 3 hours and more. Do visit Sabah when you get the chance.

  29. I like KK too. The pace of life is so much more relaxed and many places are very beautiful and still unspoilt. I really enjoyed myself during my visits there. I wanna go again!

  30. Hi
    Autimn Belle, yay! go cuti cuti Malaysia!! KK is definintely a favourite destinaton among many for the reasons you've stated and more:))

  31. It is good that you visited the cultural village. We were there a few years ago. I'm so glad that the place is still open and the activities still vibrant. (Too many places locally closed prematurely.)

  32. Hi
    Thomas C B Chua, This cultural village is open for a year or so ago. perhaps you have mistaken it for another in KK too. Like you rightly say, it's good to have a good thing going - maintaining it well to attract visitors is so important. I'm always happy to support these good efforts.

  33. Great job done in bringing out such interesting details of the people and their culture and beliefs. Such things should flourish more.

  34. Always heard about Jimmy Choo, but never knew he was also a fellow Malaysian.

    The shoes you posted are gorgeous, even from a guy's point of view. ^_^


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