Top 10 Cultural Activities in Sabah

The primary culture of Sabah consists in a motley of cultures, each of which has been brought in by the different groups of immigrants apart from its native culture. The total population of Sabah contains more than thirty different ethnicities and races and the number of languages and dialects goes over eighty. The most noteworthy thing is that all these groups live together and form a homogenous society, with each maintains its own culture, custom, tradition, art, and festivals. The indigenous group of Sabah includes Murut, Bajau, Kadazan Dusun, Bisaya, Kadayan, Orang Sungei, Brunei, Rungu, and other different subgroups.This is the list of top 10 cultural activities in Sabah.

1. Bajau Horsemen of Kota Belud

The Bajau race in Sabah have two different societies, each with their own language, and while those living on the east coast focus on fishing.The Bajau of Kota Belud has become agriculturalists and raise cows and horses. Nicknamed the “Cowboys of the East”, they are well known for their skills as horsemen, almost all the horsemen at the local races being Bajau. On festive events, such as at the Tamu Besar, Bajau men dress both themselves and their horses, making a fantastic display.

2. Markets


The tamu is a market where the district people meet to buy, sell and socialize. The weekly tamu are frequented by locals who bring their own home-grown or home-made produce, as well as seller from the towns, who come with their vans filled with shiny plastic, cheap clothing, kitchen utensils, knives, tools, and shoes. A visit to a tamu is a ideal opportunity to watch farmers and fishermen mingling, to see water buffalo being traded, to buy honey or hill rice or handicrafts. Some of the most popular tamu include the Sunday markets at Tuaran and Kota Belud, and the Gaya Street Fair.

3. Food and Eating Out


If you were invited to try a traditional meal in Borneo, you maybe feast upon juicy fern tips and bamboo shoots braised with fermented prawn paste, a leaf-wrapped packet of boiled hill rice, smoked river fish and also include wild boat pickled in a bamboo tube, washed down with “tapai” (rice wine) from an old Chinese ceramic jar. However, don’t expect to eat much traditional homegrown food while on a trip to Malaysian Borneo unless you find yourself up river, far into the ulu (forest).Eating out in Borneo is a delight and great experience.

4. Traditional Dances


Dance is an important part of nearly every social event at the village level. It symbolizes the traditional peacefulness that exists among its inhabitants across the years. It is performed during the wedding ceremony, engagement parties, harvest festivals, first birthday of children, animistic religious ceremonies and also other associated events of importance to the community. Each ethnic group has its own recognizable musical and dance forms although there are many similarities and some of the major instruments are common to all. Each piece of instrument is normally lovingly crafted, cut, shaped and tested. Distinction is always found in different combinations of instruments, varying dance styles, tempos, and tunings. There are also a few instruments found only within the limits of a solitary community and not shared with other communities.

5. Handicrafts


The people of Borneo have lived in and out the jungle for generations. Shelter and clothing came from the jungle. The food was hunted in the jungle and planted in clearings which reverted to the wild after a season. Skilled fingers fashioned jungle produce into each item of daily use, from the profane to sacred.Handicrafts in Borneo contain mostly of wood carvings, metalwork, basketry, beadwork, bamboo carvings, blowpipes, masks, textiles and floor mats. Many include the beliefs of tribal people and their way of life. The Iban pua kumbu (woven textile), wooden hornbill carvings used in rituals and silver jewelry are many looks for after items, as are the Penan and Murut blowpipes. The weekly tamu’s, village shops, and modern shopping malls have a lot of to offer the avid souvenir hunter of modern and antique handicrafts.

6. Festivals


With numerous racial groups practicing a variation of religions, there is a multitude of festivals celebrated throughout the year. The primary religious celebrations of Hari Raya (at the end of the Muslim fasting month), Christmas, and also Chinese New Year are celebrated extensively. During these celebrations, many people hold an open house,a Malaysian tradition where the house is open to visitors who are invited to partake in the festivities of the host family.

7. Harvest Festival


One of the most anticipated native celebrations is the harvest festival celebrated by farming society throughout Malaysian Borneo, and especially by the Kadazan-Dusun of Sabah. Traditional dances, music, and food are the order of the day as hundreds of people in each village meet to join in the festivities. In Kota Kinabalu, the Harvest Festival is a big event, celebrated in the region of Penampang at the Kadazan-Dusun Cultural Association center. Photograph opportunities are plentiful as celebrants in traditional costumes and musicians make their appearance to add color and pizzazz to the occasion.

8. Cultural Villages

The Sarawak Cultural Village and Sabah Museum’s Heritage Village are good examples of the magnificent workmanship of the variety native groups of Borneo in building their traditional houses. Each house display the culture of a particular ethnic group. Traditional costumes, crafts, and musical instruments illustrate their unique lifestyle and tradition.

9. Longhouses


The traditional longhouse is a notable feature of racial Borneo. They are built raised off the ground on stilts and are divided into a more or less public area along one side and a row of individual living quarters lined along the other side. This seems to have been the method of building best accustomed to life in the jungle in the past. The Iban and Bidayuh peoples of Sarawak and the Murut and Rungus peoples of Sabah are familiar for welcoming visitors into their longhouses, and their warm reception.

10. Water Villages and Fishermen

For many local peoples, the primary source of protein in the diet was and still is from fishing. Many racial groups traditionally live in water villages (Kampung Air), which are houses built on stilts extending into the estuaries or sheltered seas, thus facilitating access to fishing.

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