Prior to flying to Kota Kinabalu, I received a digital copy of our trip itinerary. My eyes zeroed in on “Mari – Mari Cultural Village” on the list of places and activities that we can look forward to. The other tourist attractions and activities on the itinerary were self-explanatory as to what we will do and see: Kiulu River White Water Rafting, Kota Kinabalu City Tour, KK Shopping, a visit to a seafood floating restaurant. But what is “Mari-Mari”?
So of course I have to consult Mr Google and did some research. By the way, do you do online research prior to a trip or you just wing-it? 🙂
“Come Come” That is the literal translation of the Malay word “Mari Mari”. Now I have another Malay word that sticks to my brain aside from Selamat Datang (welcome), Selamat Pagi (good morning) and Terima Kasih (thank you), my vocabulary is widening hehehe.
Popular Tourist Attraction
This cultural village / museum is one of the popular tourist attractions that makes its way into Kota Kinabalu itineraries. This center showcases the heritage and culture of 5 ethnic tribes of Malaysian Borneo. Its kid’s friendly so you can bring the whole family.
On the global map, you’ll see Malaysian Peninsula on mainland Asia and then Sabah, a part of Malaysia, on the island of Borneo. Borneo is divided into three countries Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Mari Mari Cultural Village is a large complex in the midst of lush greenness and really tall trees. A river cuts through the complex and you’ll hear the gushing of water clearly at some parts of the trail.
Mari Mari Village Map
A visit to Mari Mari means leaving behind the glitz and glamour of city life as you will be out there one with nature. Also, if your trip’s goal is to for exposure, to learn, to immerse in the rich and diverse culture of Sabah’s native inhabitants and their way of life, come and visit this village, it is a window to their heritage.
Getting ready for the tour, orientation first!
The tour highlight is a visit to the houses of 5 ethnic tribes of Malaysian Borneo. You can explore the house, touch the native crafts, play the gong, drink the rice wine, cook a bamboo delicacy, taste a very expensive honey, shoot a native blow pipe, jump to ceiling high, make a fire! Your guide will encourage you to get involve and participate fully in the unique activities featured in each house, each tribe. At the end of the tour is a cultural dance show staged by the same staff you will see on the houses and lastly, there is a buffet of local delicacies and traditional food.
Walking Tour Exploration of Mari Mari Village
From the city center of Kota Kinabalu to Mari Mari Village, it takes about 30 to 45 minutes depending on traffic situation. For more info on how to get there, please contact Tourism Malaysia offices or do more research, I’m pretty sure you’d find tips on how to get to Mari Mari Village via public transportation.
We arrived there nearing dusk making it difficult for our group to get good pictures of the place. Also, we had to wait before we can start with our walking tour because there was another group who got there few minutes ahead of us.
Tip: Wear jeans and apply mosquito repellant. Also, you might want to bring umbrella in case it rains suddenly.
When we finally reached the first house, darkness has descended upon the village. Another challenge we faced during our tour was the electricity situation, every few minutes the lights went out and that’s when stories of ‘what’s out there’, ‘spirits’ and ‘not like ours’ made the rounds, scaring the less than brave hehe.
We were walking in almost complete darkness; at times the only light comes from our mobile phones and the moon above. It makes for a different experience with the sounds of the jungle magnified, and the stillness of nature broken only by our periodic chatter and the overwhelming insect noises.
We cheered every time the lights on the houses turns on and scrambled right away to get a decent shot, a good snap of tribal house replica and its inside as soon as we can because the light could go out in any minute. I am not sure if it’s really how it’s supposed to be with periodic lights out, or our visit was just ill-timed when the center faces electricity problem.
Walking into a tribe house is learning more about how that particular tribe in Borneo used to lived, their culture and spiritual beliefs. Each model tribal house is constructed exactly like, or as close as possible to the original from its design, layout and to the native construction materials used.
The friendly guides are also knowledgeable about each tribe so you will learn about family dynamics, sleeping quarter assignments, warfare strategies, special skills and crafts and such. The staff who manned each house also belongs to the tribe they represent; this is another facet to the richness of this cultural immersion for the visitors and tourist.
Dusun Tribe House
This tribe’s main livelihood is rice farming; hence the activity featured in this house is centered on this grain.
This tribe member presented us with a demo of how their rice wines were made and then we’re offered rice wine poured into these little bamboo tubes. I don’t drink alcohol except on very, very rare special circumstances like this one. The rice wine was surprisingly sweet and good! =)
Rice wines in bamboo tubes =)
In between the Dusun and Rungus house, there was this display of cookware full of spices and we were encourage to pick the spices we want to go on a local delicacy that will be cooked later-on on a bamboo tube. This was later served to us at dinner.
This part of the tour focused on the long house structure of the Rungus. And they really have a loooong house, and our guide shared that in the olden days extended families will live together under one roof, almost creating a community of its own. It’s done for shared protection and security as the other tribes in Borneo then were head-hunters.
Each family will occupy a designated sleeping quarters and adjacent to their quarter is their “living room”, it’s a really tight space but lives before were simpler so it worked. 🙂
On this junction, our guide also showed us to how to make fire from bamboo sticks.
#Fire making #Survival skills
The Lundayeh tribe are hunters and fishermen. After we exit the Lundayeh tribe we were led to this area where a tribe member showed us how to twist a tree bark fiber to make a rope. The guide also explained the process of creating a vest out of jackfruit tree’s bark.
The visit to the
Badjao Badjau house was by far my favorite; I am biased because the Badjaus were originally from our country, from Mindanao so I was very interested in them ESPECIALLY when I saw that the activity featured in this tribal house was the cooking of Kuih Jala!!!
We know this delicacy here in Cebu as Tagaktak, and I have been wanting to see how it is cook for the longest time and I got my wish in Mari Mari! You can imagine the grin I was wearing while I was munching their Kuih Jala =) I took more than one, one handed by the cooking lady, the other I took straight off the hot pan lol. Sarap! 🙂
We went up on the house saw this colorful display of a traditional wedding platform set-up of the Badjaus.
The last house belongs to the Murot, they are a head hunting tribe of yesteryears. There is a “set up”, a special ceremony wherein the leader of your group will be inspected and assessed by the Murot tribe leader if you and your group are worthy of entry to their house and if you should keep your head hehe. A traditional salutation happens and then you can explore this place. Worry not; they have put the head-hunting to rest now. =)
The fun part on this house was the trampoline – like jumping on their wooden floor. The staff can jump so high they touch the hanging thing on the ceiling, sorry I forgot what it’s called, but this is a ceremony to hail the returning warriors after a successful hunt or raid. All visitors are invited to jump, jump, jump! 🙂
Mari Mari Village Cultural Dance Show
There are 3 tour schedules every day, one at 10 AM, next is at 2PM and the last schedule is for 6 PM. The tour up to the cultural dance presentation will take about 2 hours.
You will again see the same staff you interacted with on the different houses, this time on the stage. They will perform traditional dances to the sound medley of drums, gongs, bamboo and traditional musical instruments.
On the last dance set, bamboo poles were laid out on the stage parallel to each other with a performer holding two bamboo’s end at opposite sides. When I saw this I exclaimed ‘Tinikling’! Lol, it was not the Philippines folkdance Tinikling but mayhap a close relative hehe. =)
These two dancers were really at it dancing with such fervor and quick movements, I had to strained my neck to see if their feet will betray them and end up lodge between two bamboo poles but nope despite the rising tempo and the amped up movements, they remain flawless in their moves matching each quickening beat with the timely stumping of their feet. By middle of their dance I was already on my feet and clapping. Galing! Nakabelieve!
Buffet Feast Awaits!
We finished the tour and the cultural show at around 8 PM. The experience gave us deeper appreciation for the Sabah tribes and their unique culture and heritage.
By this time also, my stomach was already growling so when I saw the buffet counter I rushed to it. Lol.
The dinner buffet consists of local food and fruits including fried dried fish! I love buwad so I got a good helping of their dried fish hehe.
The other food on the buffet menu of Mari Mari Village are fresh green salad choices, chicken, fish curry, veggies and I think a beef-based viand.
*The tour fee comes with the buffet; they serve lunch, tea and dinner.
Our guide brought out the freshly-cooked delicacy we have a hand in picking the ingredients for earlier, I again forgot the name ughhh.
This is a combination of different spices, tiny diced potatoes and ground meat. It smells so good so I took a spoonful, tasted it and liked it!
After the dinner, we bid adieu to Mari Mari, back on our van and back to our hotel. The day after was our fun white water rafting adventure in Kiulu River. =)
The pictures on this blog post do not do justice to the beauty of the place, the wonderful activities and the uniqueness of the tribal houses. If you are going to Kota Kinabalu and Mari Mari Cultural Village, I strongly recommend you visit early morning or early afternoon. Not at late afternoon like we did so you can fully appreciate the lush surroundings and be able take great pictures of the houses and activities under natural light. And once you do I hope you’ll get back on this post and share with us all the wonderful pictures you take of Mari Mari.
Hope that’s a deal! 🙂 Happy New Year! Cheers to more travels!
This trip was made possible by AirAsia Zest – The Right Way to fly and Sabah Tourism Board – Visit Malaysia 2014. AirAsia Zest now flies to Kota Kinabalu from Cebu Mactan International Airport. Visit www.airasia.com for flight schedules, promos and online flight reservation. Follow Air Asia Zest on Facebook and Twitter!