Gawai Special Package in Sarawak was launched on the 18h May 2012 for the locals and foreigners who wish to have this one of a kind experience. Before I begin, many may ask what is Gawai? Gawai is the local Harvest Festival which is celebrated throughout the entire month of June where the official Gawai Dayak Day starts on the 1st of June. Marked as the thanksgiving day for a good harvest where local Dayaks plan for the upcoming farming season. A Gawai is also a very merry occasion that is celebrated for days and weeks around various areas.
The Sarawak Cultural Village in Santubong, Kuching is now offering a unique experience for guest to learn, participate and experience in many of the cultural activities of the ethnic people of Sarawak here. Themed as the 'Gawai Special Package' guest have the option to stay overnight at the village to fully be hands-on on the daily life of the people. Please click on the pictures to see the full size photo.
The new Bidayuh Longhouse and Baruk
The Gawai Special Package starts on the day you arrive where you will participate and witness the setting up of the 'Pun Ranyal' or Tree of Fortune. Next a 'Miring' or welcoming ceremony will be conducted with a 'Lemambang' which is a poem chanter by the village headman. The concludes with a toast of 'Ai Pengayu' or long life toast with local rice wine at the Bidayuh Longhouse.
Miring Ceremony conducted by the village chief
Left - Iban warrior doing the Ngajat Lesong Dance, Right - Bidayuh woman in traditional costume
A Melanau girl doing the traditional dance at the Sarawak Cultural Village show
Once you have settled in to your room at the Bidayuh Longhouse, you will have a number of other activities which include a Penan Jungle Trek where it takes you around the foot of Mount Santubong. This is a basic trek which takes about an hour led by trained guides. At this trek you will most likely see flora and fauna related to the rainforest here. Pitcher plants, insects, birds and if you are lucky, some larger animals that reside around here.
Right after the trekking, you will proceed to the theater to catch the amazing cultural show where performers from four ethnic groups will showcase their culture via dances and performances. This is one of the shows that you should not miss at the Sarawak Cultural Village.
Traditional Iban and Bidayuh cooking
The first day ends with a series of hands-on cooking activity where you learn how to make ayam pansoh (Pansoh Chicken) and Midin (Fern Vegetable) where it is cooked in a bamboo over fire. A 'Makan Bergulai' or Iban style dinner is also experienced while it ends with a 'Ngiling Tikai' which is a ceremony where you roll the mat and call it a day.
Orang Ulu Longhouse
The following day, a traditional 'Mirup Lekadchang' breakfast is conducted at the traditional Orang Ulu Longhouse where you get to experience how these tribesmen had their morning meal before going out into the jungles. After breakfast, a general tour of the village is conducted where you will visit each of the tribe longhouses here.
Orang Ulu playing the Sape
Baruk house of the Bidayuh Warriors
Overall, this experience is available in three packages. The main package is a 2D/1N experience at RM399 per person. The package does not include air flight or transfers from the airport. Only the stay and all activities at the Sarawak Cultural Village. The itinerary will be:
01.00PM - Check in and briefing
01.30PM - Miring, Lemambang and Ngirup Ai Pengayu ceremonies
02.00PM - Jungle Trekking at foot of Mount Santubong
04.00PM - Cultural Show at SCV
05.00PM - Berapi Kitai - Cooking Iban Style
07.00PM - Makai Bergulai- Iban style dinner
08.00PM - Arts appreciation with music and dance lesson
10.00PM - Ngiling Tikai - End of Gawai
11.00PM - Supper
08.00AM - Mirup Lekadchang breakfast Orang Ulu style
09.00AM - Cultural Village Tour
11.00AM - Ngadu Penganan - Iban traditional cooking lesson
12.30PM - Ende Nenek Kayuh Na'an - Bidayuh style mother's cooking
01.00PM - Check Out of SCV
Sarawakian kids dressed in various tribe attire
Left - Bang Kedibang Bulem, Right - Gawai Special Package poster
One of the highlights that we experienced was to sing some traditional Bidayuh songs. A well known song called Bang Kedibang Bulem about a mother going for a harvest and asking her eldest daughter to look after her younger sister. The music was simple with usage of the traditional gongs and leather drums and done at the Rumah Baruk or Baruk House in the village.
Bidayuh Longohuse rooms
For my accommodation, it was fairly decent. After all, it was a longhouse style stay so there were multiple rooms where some units had air conditioning while other options were with a fan. The air condition rooms had an attached bathroom while the others had a common bathroom. They are clean and well maintained. The rooms are all located in the Bidayuh Longhouse which is built on a hill slope at the village. We had our dinner at the verandah of the longhouse on low tables with cushions as chairs.
The Sarawak Cultural Village in Kuching is spread over a 17-acre site and is the only 'Living Museum' in Southeast Asia and is also an award winning tourist attraction. Having been around since 1989, they combine history, tradition, architecture and lifestyle to give guest a full multicultural ethnic experience in one place. You can also read about my other articles on each of the ethnic tribes found around Sarawak namely the Iban People, Penan Tribe, Bidayuh People, Melanau people and the Orang Ulu People.
If you are visiting Kuching in Sarawak in the month of May and June and would like to experience this one-of-a-kind-stay, you can contact Sarawak Borneo Tours as they are the official website that handles the bookings for the Gawai Special Package in Sarawak.