First and foremost, Happy Gawai to everyone that is reading this blog. Gawai is celebrated on the first of June every year to mark the end of the harvest seasons. Each longhouse will celebrate it on a different date but in September 1964, it was gazzetted a public holiday and is to be celebrated throughout Sarawak on the 1st and 2nd June. At the end of the celebration, there will be a closing ceremony to mark the end of the Gawai Festivals. It is called Ngiling Tikai or Ngiling Bidai, depending on the area.
I want to share my experience celebrating Gawai. My father is Iban and my mother is Bidayuh. These are 2 sets of culture that both celebrate Gawai Festivals. We would alternate celebrating Gawai every year between Saratok (Iban) and Taee (Bidayuh). This year, we went to my father’s longhouse at Rumah Lemang, Engkudu Atas, Saratok. It is about 6 hours drive from Kuching to the longhouse. We started our journey late since my sister’s arrival was at 1200 noon on the 31st May. We arrived at the longhouse at about 900pm at night. We missed the “Makai Malam Begelumu Gawai” which basically means the big family dinner event on Gawai Eve. The younger generations have to feed the older generation during this dinner. Luckily, it is just one spoonful. I can’t imagine feeding them the whole plate. I have 4 other siblings. That is 5 plates between us. That is a lot of rice.
After the dinner, there is a ceremony called “Nyambut Petara” or welcoming the ancestors. It is a memorial of past ancestors and each descendant of that particular ancestor is supposed to drink to them. Yes, the liquid of choice is Tuak. My head felt like a golf ball was lodged between the cerebrum and hypothalamus (Googletm it). And the celebration doesn’t ends there. Right before midnight, everyone would gather at the Longhouse Chief’s “Bilik” for the Gawai Countdown. And it goes all night. Everyone will drink “Ai Pengayu” (tuak for long life) while at the same time wishing each other “gayu-guru, gerai- nyamai” (long life, health and prosperity). I only manage to toast a few glasses before I lay me down to sleep.
And I missed the “Miring” ceremony and “Ngalu Petara”. It is usually perform at dawn. And I am not a morning person. Basically it is an offering ritual to the ancestors and gods for the previous harvest and hopping for a better harvest season next year. That is miring. “Ngalu Petara” is Welcoming the Spirits to the longhouse! How we do this? With a procession from the start of the longhouse to the other ends and back again. Each “Bilik” will have a representative standing in front of the bilik at an area called “Tempuan” (the area between the “Bilik” door and the “Ruai” (common area)). And guess what they have holding in their hands. TUAK…….
And being someone that only comes back once or twice a year, I have to drink one full cup. And there is 30 “bilik”. And it is only 10am in the morning. If you never tasted Tuak before, it is a sweet drink (or sour depending on how they like the taste to be). It doesn’t taste alcoholic. After Bilik no 15, I have weak knee. After the 30th Bilik, I feel like I could walk through wall. Literary. Except that I didn’t walk through the wall. More like a collision.
After having some time to recuperate (which is about half an hour), people started to “Ngabang”, which means visiting. We will have an open house and everyone can visit each “Bilik” and even other longhouse. We usually spend the first day at our own longhouse and the next few days visiting other longhouses. Once, when I was younger (not that long ago), I tried to finish visiting all 30 “Bilik”. It was an epic failure. Not because of the alcohol but because of all the food that was being shoved into my mouth. The most popular food items are “Asik Ruas, (Sticky rice cooked in Bamboo), Babi Menua Guring (Village Pork fried in Soya Sauce), chicken curries, masak merah, rendang and “Serati” (a hybrid of duck and goose fried in Soya Sauce). And the most popular question being “When are you getting married?” Please don’t hold your breath aunties and uncles. It won’t be soon. Have some Tuak and be merry. Did I mention that they also act like a match maker? I basically have a database of all the eligible women within 100 kilometers radius of the longhouse. Good for future references.
Gawai is also the season of holy matrimony. People will take this opportunity to have weddings as most of the people will be back for the holidays. It is held preferably after Gawai unless there is more than 1 couple getting married. We manage to excuse ourselves this year as one of my sisters has a flight to catch on the 3rd June…to attend a wedding. We went back to Kuching on the 2nd of June. The journey back was quite as there weren’t a lot of cars on the road. I saw on some of my Facebooktm friends post that there was a massive traffic jam on Saturday and Sunday, going back to Kuching. I bet the people in the cars must be thinking they should just spend another day back in the longhouse and return on Monday. But then it probably would cause another traffic jam on Monday.
To me, Gawai isn’t just about the food, the Tuak, the traditional ceremonies and “Ngabang”. It is a reminder of my culture and roots. It is about the sense of belonging to a community. It is about reconnecting with the extended families on our large family tree. I learned about whom I am related to and had the chance to hear stories and experience that they had experienced. I am proud of my heritage and would like to see it flourish for the future generations. And at the same time, I need to brush up on my Iban language. I get lost in some of the conversations. And on that note, Taee, I’ll party with you in 2017!
The unique Pesta Nukenen Bario 2015 is taking place from 30th July to the 1st August up in the highlands of Bario in Sarawak and this is one amazing and unique festival anyone should not miss when visiting Sarawak. Known as the Bario Food Festival, this three day festival promises visitors a time to remember as you will experience the unique Kelabit foods being served and sold here. Apart from the food, you will also witness the stunning Kelabit culture and heritage throughout the festival in this far-away town 1000 meters up in the cooling highlands.
Visitors to the Bario Highlands can expect pure authentic Kelabit food prepared by the highly skillful local chef’s who have carried the recipes from generation to generation and one of the highlights here is seeing how they are prepared in the traditional Kelabit longhouses which are scattered around the highlands. However, the main Bario town will be the core of the Pesta Nukenen so you will witness everything around the main town area.
For anyone seeking a cultural experience, this event and festival is highly recommended as it is one of the rare festivals celebrated in this part of the world. Apart from the cultural and food experience, you will be spoiled by the beautiful natural landscape surrounding this highland village. Trekking, hiking, rafting and bird watching are some of the main activities here for the outdoor lover.
Bario Food Festival 2015
To get to Bario, there is only one option – a 16-seater turboprop plane which flies in from Miri city. There are no other options unless you desire to travel 14 hours overland via a 4WD through the old logging roads. Bario has probably one of the smallest airports in Malaysia and MASwings services this place with 3 daily flights. During the Nukenen festival, there will be 3 additional flights added making it 5 flights a day.
Accommodation in Bario is limited to only homestays but some of them are pretty cosy and unique. You can always book a Bario Tour Package with Planet Borneo as we specialize in these kind of unique tours. For further information on the Pesta Nuneken Bario 2015, please contact us anytime and we hope to see you at the Bario Food Festival 2015.
Events and Festivals in Sarawak for 2015 offers visitors many different experiences throughout Sarawak. Most of the events are held in Kuching, while many outdoor events are all over Sarawak. The list of events range from adventure, music festivals, food festivals, sports events, conventions and exhibitions, Kite festival and many other cultural related events. The list below follows by month and for anyone interested in visiting these events and festivals, please take note of the dates and the locations.
among some of the world recognized events, visitors can look out for the Borneo Jazz Festival, Rainforest Music Festival, Tidal Bore Festival, World Harvest Festival, Kite Festival and also the Borneo International Beads Conference 2015. One to also lookout for is the ASEAN International Film Festival and Awards 2015 held at Kuching.
Borneo Jazz Festival 2015
The list of Events and Festival in Sarawak for 2015
Earth Hour 2015
Date: March 31
Where: Kuching Waterfront
MV Logos Hope (Cruise Ship)
Date: April 2-29, Mon-Tue: 2pm-9.30pm, Wed-Sat: 10am-9.30pm, Sun: 1pm-9.30pm
Where: Berth 6, Sim Kheng Hong Port, Pending
Contact: +6010 9606178
ASEAN International Film Festival and Awards (AIFFA 2015)
Date: April 9-11
where: Unnamed Venue, Kuching
Baleh-Kapit Raft Safari 2015
Date: April 11-12
Where: Kapit town, Kapit
Tidal Bore Festival (Pesta Benak)
Date: April 17
Where: Batang Lupar Riverfront, Sri Aman
Mukah Kaul Festival 2015
Date: April 22-27
Where: Tapak Pesta Kaul, Kuala Dana, Mukah
The Bornean Frog Race 2015
Date: April 25
Where: Kubah National Park, Matang, Kuching
World Harvest Festival 2015
Date: May 1-3
Where: Sarawak Cultural Village, Kuching
Borneo Jazz Festival 2015
Date: May 8, 6pm – May 9, 12pm
Where: Parkcity Everly Hotel, Miri
Runners Wild Bario 2015
Date: May 16
Where: Bario, Miri
Pesta Babulang 2015
Date: Jun 1
Where: Kampung Batu Danau, Limbang
Live Active Run 2015
Date: June 14, 5.30am
Where: The Spring mall, Kuching
Interbike Hash 2015
Date: July 10-12
Where: Bau, Kuching
Pesta Nukenen – Bario Food Festival 2015
Date: July 30 – Aug 1
Where: Bario, Miri
Borneo Cultural Festival 2015
Date: July 30 – August 8
Where: Sibu Town Square, Sibu
Rainforest World Music Festival 2015 (RWMF’15)
Date: Aug 7-9
Where: Sarawak Cultural Village, Kuching
Padawan Raft Safari 2015
Date: Aug 16
Where: Kampung Annah Rais, Kampung Temurang, Kampung Danu, Kampong Git, Padawan, Kuching
World Technical Vocational Education & Training (TVET) Conference 2015
Date : 25 – 27 August 2015
Where: Borneo Convention Centre, Kuching
Borneo International Kite Festival 2015
Date: Sept 1
Where: Old Airport Runway, Bintulu
Sarawak Regatta 2015
Date: Sept 25 – Sept 27
Where: Kuching Waterfront
Sibu Base Jump
Date: Sept 21
Where: Wisma Sanyan & Sibu Town Square (Phase I), Sibu
Sibu International Dance Festival 2015
Date: Sept 22-26
Where: Sibu town
Borneo International Beads Conference 2015
Date: Oct 9-11
Where: The Waterfront Hotel, Kuching
Borneo Talent Awards
Date: Nov 27-28
Where: Sibu Town Square, Sibu
Sibu Big Bike Week
Date: Dec 4
Where: Sibu town’
Anyone visiting Sarawak during any of these events should pre-book their travel and hotel arrangements in advance. You can also contact us for arrangements as our company is also linked to some of the events due to Planet Borneo Tours being the official ground transfer. If you have any questions about the Events and Festivals in Sarawak, please contact us anytime as we are always ready to assist you.
Sarawak Kolo Mee is hands down one of the must-try foods when you are visiting Sarawak Borneo. Kolo Mee or Mee Kolok is actually noodles served dry with chicken of pork meat and a bowl of soup and this dish is found just about anywhere in Sarawak. For any foodie or food enthusiast, the difference between one seller and another can be hugely vast and based on our experience as locals, we have tried many different types where each one has its own little distinctive taste. Well, the next time you are in Sarawak, just pop in to any local coffee shop, restaurant or cafe and order the Kolo Mee.
Due to Malaysia being a Muslim country, Kolo Mee comes in two genres, the halal one which serves chicken meat and the non-halal one which serves pork meat. Both are different based on the types of sauces used to prepare them and this of course, gives all walks of life an opportunity to savor this Sarawakian local favourite. In the smaller towns of Sarawak, yo can find some really awesome Kolo noodles, it’s all a matter of asking around which in turn, may lead you to one of the best in the town too. Try it the next time you are here.
Red and Normel Kolo Mee
And, there are also a variety of Kolo Mee found around Sarawak, which includes the standard Kolo Mee, Soup Kolo Mee, Red Kolo Mee and even Fried Kolo Mee. Each having their own taste and flavor, this is definitely something any foodie should try on their travels. If you have tried some, do let us know your feedback as we are quite curious to know what you think of this dish.
Planet Borneo organises all kinds of tours from general tours to photography tours and even customised tours which can include food tours around Kuching or even Miri in Sarawak. Do inquire with us if you have any questions and on your next visit, please make sure you try some of the varieties of Kolo Mee here in Sarawak.
For anyone heading to Mulu and if you use the traditional way, you will notice a number of traditional Penan Longhouses along the river to Mulu. This is currently how the Penan people live in the remote areas and nowadays in more modern longhouses provided by the government. The Penans are one of the indigenous ethnic people of Sarawak too. One of our unique Mulu overland tours includes taking the long route there via a long boat through the interiors of the Mulu National Park. Along the way, you will encounter a number of Penan Longhouses like in the photo above.
Usually, the Penan people will stay in longhouses where each one will easily hold about 5 to 10 families. In each longhouse, it is divided into rooms where each room will house one family. Similar to the Iban longhouses, these are very simple and basic. The Penan people are generally a nomadic tribe but in modern days,they have resorted to farming and agriculture and have since stopped moving around.
Penan Baskets sold at the market
Penan lady weaving a basket at the market
At one of the main Penan Villages, you will be treated to a local Penan Market that sells all kinds of ethnic accessories, craft and wood carvings. Here, the local Penans will greet and welcome you to their market to shop and most likely, you will end up buying some Penan souvenir as they are simple beautiful. Some of the traders are seen making the handicraft at the market too.
On the Mulu tours with long boat, you will make a couple of stops at local Penan villages where you can utilise the toilets and do a walk about here before continuing your journey to the Mulu National Park. This is one very unique tour which takes you about 5-7 hours cruising through the rivers of Sarawak. Planet Borneo offers a Mulu Overland Tour where visitors can experience the original way of going to Mulu. We have done this many times and trust us, this is something you will never forget in your travels. Do let us know if you have any questions on the tours or about the Penan Longhouse in Mulu.
While you explore the beautiful city of Kuching, you would most likely chance upon a couple of Chinese Temples here and both of them are open to visitors. Carpenter Street has two main entrances which is the East Entrance and the West Entrance. The East Entrance is located along Jalan Wayang and here stands a beautiful Hokkien Temple called Hong San Si Temple which is pretty hard to miss. The bright red colors at the side of the wall and the intricate temple designs are sure to catch your attention. This temple is one of the most beautiful temples in Kuching and is highly recommended to visit.
On the West Entrance which is located opposite where the Harmony Arch and General Post Office is located. Nearer to Little India as well. Here, you need to walk in about 100 meters and the temple is located on your right side. This Teochew Temple is called the Shang Ti Temple and has some very nice painted doors and brickwork. During Chinese festivals, loads of red lanterns are strung up for the ceremonies here and the best time to visit this place is around Chinese New Year in Kuching.
Inside the Chinese Temple
If you are visiting Kuching in February, namely around the 15th till the end of the month, there would be a lot of lively activity at both temples so don’t miss out on this opportunity to catch the Sarawak Chinese New Year festival here. If you are afraid of fire crackers, please stand at a distance as they can be really loud too. Another thing to watch for in the two weeks after Chinese New Year are the Lion Dances along the streets here. A colourful spectacle not to be missed.
Do check with Planet Borneo for any speciality tours needed while you are in Kuching as we cater to all kinds of tours and services for Sarawak and Borneo. Hope to bump into you at any of the Chinese Temples in Kuching.
While Kuching is the capitol of Sarawak, there are quite a number of things that can be done around the Cat City. Many may also ask the popular question – What to do in Kuching? Fear not as we take some time to fill you in with what can be done while you stay here. Forst of all, Kuching means Cat in the Malay language and one of the first things you will notice are the multiple cat sculptures and structures around the main city area. For anyone coming to Sarawak, Kuching will most likely be the first place you will disembark at before moving on to other places in Sarawak as the main international airport is located about 15 minutes from the city. Kuching boasts of some exciting culture, food and heritage where one can explore the many pre-war shophouses in old Kuching town.
Chinese temple near the Main Bazaar in Kuching
Antique shop at the Main Bazaar
Sightseeing in Kuching
In the newer part of the city, there is the Kuching Museum which is known as one of the best museums in the world to visit. Nearby, the most popular part of town is called the Kuching Main Street Bazaar. It is here where you will find all kind of shops selling souvenirs, antiques, nick-knacks and the prized Sarawakian handicraft. Across the Main Bazaar is the Kuching Waterfront where one can catch the Sarawak River Cruise to further explore the mighty Sarawak River.
Overall, exploring on foot will let you see a number of historical buildings, temples and museums in the vicinity. If cities are not your thing, a number of travelers would also opt for day trip tours to Bako National Park or even the traditional longhouse tours. One highly recommended place to visit is the Kuching Cat Museum, only if you are a feline lover.
Main Bazaar in Kuching
Nightlife in Kuching
Every city has its nightlife and entertainment spots and in Kuching, Jalan Padungan and Jalan Wayang is where you will find these places. Well known for bars, cafes and clubs, many of the locals flock here especially on weekends to enjoy. Notable spots include The Junk, Living Room and Bla Bla Bla. The places can get busy especially at Backstage, The Junk as this is one of the most popular spots here. Other notable spots include The Drunk Monkey Old Street Bar at Carpenter Street while there are a couple of other smaller bars here.
Eating in Kuching
Many will say that Top Spot, a popular seafood restaurant area located on the top floor of a car park in town is the best place and yes, we do agree with that as it is recommended to go only in the evening. However, if you are a true foodie, there are many notable local coffee shops and restaurants that serve some good authentic Sarawakian food. Notable ones to try are the Sarawak Laksa and Kolo Mee which can be found at Chong Choon Cafe which is located at Lot 121, Jalan Abell in town. Another notable Sarawak Laksa can be found at Woon Lam 1999 Cafe which is at Jalan Song Thian Cheok in town too. For the extreme foodie, we recommend you try the Sarawak Belachan Bee Hoon which is found at the local Padungan Food Center off Jalan Padungan. This is a highly acquired taste so be warned.
Finally, if you are in Kuching for a couple of days, you can easily explore town on foot. Everything is just a walk away. Finding a taxi in town can be tricky too as taxis usually gather at taxi stands rather than drive around. Plus all the taxis here operate on spoken price instead of meters. Anyhow, you need not take a taxi when you are in Kuching town. Our Planet Borneo Tours and Travel office is also just 5 minutes walk to Kuching town center, so if you are in the neighborhood, do look us up as we also have the Planet Borneo Lodge here.
For anyone visiting Kuching in Sarawak, we hope you have a great time and experience here and enjoyed this article about what to do in Kuching.
Next February, the 2nd Miri Country Music Festival 2015 will take place at the Everly Parkcity Hotel here. Based on the success of the first year, the 2nd Country Music Festival promises more music, fun and celebrations. As many may not know, Miri is located in the northern section of Sarawak on the island of Borneo. The resort city also borders Brunei and Sabah Borneo making this place a popular destination for travelers, tourist and just about anyone.
The Miri Country Music Festival or MCMF is organized by Unicoms and supported by various organizations here which include the Sarawak Tourism Board in assisting to promote Miri as a musical destinations. As it is, Miri is home to the Borneo Jazz Festival and also the Asia Music Festival where the MCMF is the third music festival that will keep the visitors busy in the early part of the year.
The region of Miri is also dominated by the love of country and western music influence and this goes back a long way therefore, country music is no stranger to the locals here. The MCMF is also for both the young and the old especially country music lovers and the activities include a craft and food bazaar offering various stalls selling wide varieties of food, games and souvenir items. Around the festival, there are also music and dance workshops while the main event is the concert in the evening.
Below are also photos from the 1st Miri Country Music Festival 2014.
The start of the country music festival at about 6.00pm
Even the hotel staff were dressed to the Country theme
Mel and Joe from Singapore were very popular here
The crowd at the festival
Sarawak Tourism Minister made a special appearance to the Miri Country Music Festival
Johnny Rogers during the finale of the festival
Unicoms staff dressed to the occasion
The concert features country music bands from around the region of Asia while the highlight band is usually from the USA. In the last festival, popular country band Johnny Rogers Band from the USA was the main star here and for the MCMF 2015, the line up of performers should be out before the end of this year. If you love country music, this is your opportunity to catch the first of its kind here in Borneo as the Miri Country Music Festival 2015 is all set to entertain Sarawak.
Early Bird Rate Tickets Available
- RM60 for Adult – inclusive 1st drink
- RM30 for Child – inclusive 1st soft drink/ice cream
- Get your tickets today by going here.
- you can also buy tickets at the door on the day at Parkcity Everly Hotel Miri
Planet Borneo will also be selling Miri Country Music Festival Packages which include stay and tickets.
For more information, you can visit the official Miri Country Music Festival website.
See you at the 2nd Miri Country Music Festival 2015!
For photographers visiting Kuching, it is recommended you explore Carpenter Street in old town Kuching to get some of the beautiful street photography offered here. Carpenter Street is located just behind the Main Bazaar by the Kuching Waterfront and is on of the most visited streets in Kuching for any traveler.
Carpenter Street is dotted with old shops in the form of coffee shops, traders, grocery shops, hotels, restaurants, furniture shops, goldsmiths and temples. A one way street which is narrow and shops on both sides, the fun here is walking along and spotting some of the unique features. There are two main temples on this street which are open to anyone. A notable place to make a stop is at the Black Bean Cafe, well known for one of the best coffee places in Kuching too.
Check out some of the photos below taken on a walk around Carpenter Street here in Kuching. On a good day, it is possible to get some really beautiful photos.
Dragons in Kuching
view of the State Parliament House from Carpenter Street
3D effect of a tiger at one of the temples here
Double bicycles for rent
Not for rent
One of the temple lanterns
Beautiful decorations on a temple roof
As for food, there are numerous choices which include the open aired food court called Lao Ya Keng Food Court which serves some great Chinese Sarawakian food, but avoid the Sarawak Laksa here. The Temple opposite the food court is called Siang Ti Temple which is quite nice to photograph. Walking further down, you will pass various shops before coming to the end of the road which is where the Hong San Si Temple is located. Hard to miss, this Hokkian temple has a bright red wall at the side. The ornaments and decorations are pretty interesting to photograph.
For the photographer, we recommend you explore Carpenter Street via foot to fully experience the old Kuching. Alternatively, there is a shop there which rents some unique group bicycles where you can cycle around Kuching to take photos. The best time of course is also in the mornings when the place is busy. By about 3.oopm, things start to slow down over here and by 4-5 pm, shops are closing. If you want to book a photography tour in Kuching or Sarawak, you can always contact Planet Borneo tours as we have a special department for this. Hope you enjoyed our Carpenter Street Photos in Kuching and hope to see your photos one day.
The much awaited Borneo Bird Race 2014 is going to happen in three countries around Borneo, namely Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei. The race is to be held from 24 Sept to 3 Oct 2014 in collaboration with Brunei Tourism, Sarawak Tourism Board and Sabah Tourism Board and this event is specially organized for Birders and Photographers primarily to promote Borneo Island as one of the premier birding and nature tourism destination in Asia.
In this year’s race, Sarawak is included under Race Location 3 which is at the Borneo Highlands Resort just outside of Kuching, Sarawak which is sited on an 850m to 1,300m elevation in the Gunung Penrissen Important Bird Area, provides access to the mid-mountain forest in Kuching district. The overlooking road provides good birding and vantage viewpoint across the Kalimantan border too. With a total of 200 bird species, it is one of the few places where hornbills of Sarawak can still be seen and highland specialties like Bornean Barbet and Pygmy White-eye and a chance to spot the Blue-banded Pitta and Rail-Babbler.
Borneo Highlands in Kuching, Sarawak – Photo by Cede Prudente
For anyone interested in participating or visiting this leg of the Borneo Bird Race, please feel free to contact us at Planet Borneo Tours. The Borneo highlands is about one and a half hours from Kuching city and we can arrange for transport or lodging for this.
The Objectives of the Borneo Bird Race
1.To promote Borneo as one of the premier bird watching destination of the world;
2.To Network with birdwatching fraternities around Asian region and to the world
3.To encourage travel within Asia.
4.Create awareness and conservation of the bird species unique to Borneo to the local community and to the global birding fraternities.
5.Foster closer integration and harmony through nature festival of the neighbouring States of Borneo, Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei and Kalimantan, Indonesia;
6.Develop and improvement of infrastructure to wildlife watching tourism;
7.To enhance and complement the “Heart of Borneo” initiative – Tourism Program.
8.To increase arrival of eco-tourists and birdwatchers to Borneo.
9.Further development of naturalist guide and birdwatching guide.
10.Support good policies to improve nature tourism.
The map of the Borneo Bird Race 2014
Borneo Bird Race 2014
Venues: Sarawak, Sabah and Brunei Seri Begawan
Date: 23rd Sept to 3rd Oct2014
Website: Borneo Bird Race 2014