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Experience Bornean Tribal Culture At The Sarawak Cultural Village

Experience Bornean Tribal Culture At The Sarawak Cultural Village
Sarah J
Sarah J

The large Sarawak Cultural Village was conceived to both conserve the Malaysian state’s varied cultures and also to allow visitors to experience the tribal way of life. Close to the state’s main and capital city of Kuching, it is a great place for lovers of culture, heritage, and anthropology.

Various groups are represented in the village and it is fascinating to see how different people traditionally live. The diverse buildings, displays, and peoples have led to the attraction also being referred to as the Living Museum.

Here are a few reasons to visit to Sarawak Cultural Village:

Captivating and thrilling traditional performances

experience bornean tribal culture at the sarawak cultural village | captivating and thrilling traditional performances

Located close to the village’s main entrance, the Sarawak Cultural Village’s theatre hosts two engaging shows per day. Attending a show is included in the ticket price and a performance lasts for around 45 minutes. The shows start at 11.30 and 16.00. The relatively small theatre can seat around 300 people, meaning that anywhere you sit offers a great view.

Performers come from several different ethnic groups, such as the Iban and Orang Ulu, and are decked out in their brightly coloured and highly decorative traditional clothing to perform traditional dances to rhythmic music. The dancers twist and turn, swing and sway, elegantly moving to the beat, their bodies fluid and totally in harmony with the music. There is also a blowpipe demonstration, whereby a fearsome-looking warrior shows how to shoot darts with complete precision from a long wooden blowpipe.

Avoid disappointment and aim to get to the theatre around 20 minutes before the show start time; seating is on a first-come first-served basis. This is especially relevant to the 11.30 show as if you cannot attend you must wait around until later on in the day. Whilst you can use this time to wander around the site and look inside the different buildings, be aware that there will be fewer demonstrations around the village during the show time; it is largely the same people who appear in the show and greet people in the different buildings.

Fabulous buildings from various ethnic groups

experience bornean tribal culture at the sarawak cultural village | fabulous buildings from various ethnic groups

The Sarawak Cultural Village is home to a number of reconstructed buildings that represent the traditional dwellings of several groups. See huts where the notoriously shy Penan people live, explore the different levels of an impressive Melanau Tall House, and peek inside a conventional Malay home and a Chinese farm house. You can also appreciate the different architectural styles and methods of building as you wander through Iban, Orang Ulu, and Bidayuh long houses.

Access to most of the buildings is as it would be if they were located deep in the jungles and inhabited by large groups. You’ll find yourself climbing narrow carved steps and sweeping staircases, crossing over wooden bridges, and stepping over raised thresholds. Whilst this adds to the excitement, be aware that many of the buildings are not accessible for people with mobility restrictions.

The structures are spread throughout the beautiful site, surrounded by lush rainforest and an abundance of nature. Well sign-posted and connected by raised wooden walkways, you can also collect stamps in your village “passport” as you visit each new building. Given to each guest at the main entrance it is a really novel souvenir to take home after your fun day.

See traditional ways of life, costumes, cultures, and crafts

experience bornean tribal culture at the sarawak cultural village | see traditional ways of life, costumes, cultures, and crafts

As you make your way around the different buildings you will be greeted by people who traditionally live in such homes. Many are dressed in their customary attire and there are many different exhibits and demonstrations showing daily activities and ceremonial rituals.

You can watch cooking demonstrations and listen to the hypnotic beating of drums in the ornate Malay house (Rumah Melayu), see crafts and cooking In the Chinese home (Rumah Cina), watch as a scantily-clad tribesman whittles daggers in the Penan Hut, and admire crafts made from coconuts in the Bidayuh Long House.

Taste an array of delicacies, such as sago, and see ceramics, weaving, clothing, basket-making, swords, games, and more!

Other attractions within the Sarawak Cultural Village

experience bornean tribal culture at the sarawak cultural village | other attractions within the sarawak cultural village

Many of the buildings are situated around the edges of a large sparkling pond and the Penan Nature Trail offers a perfect opportunity to explore the fringes of the jungle and the creatures that call it home. Look out for squirrels, macaques, lizards, otters, and a bright assortment of twittering birds.

See where the famous World Rainforest Music Festival is held each year, admire a small waterfall, join craft and music workshops (extra charges apply), and dine on tasty dishes, such as rice with stir-fried vegetables, in the restaurant. There is also a souvenir and gift shop.

Practical information for visiting the Sarawak Cultural Village

Sarawak Cultural Village is located 32 kilometres (20 miles) from the heart of Kuching. No public transport operates to the attraction, but there are regular shuttle services throughout the day from outside several major hotels in Kuching city centre. These include the Grand Margherita Hotel and Riverside Majestic Hotel. You can also access the village by taxi or private vehicle.

You should plan to spend around three hours enjoying the village (including the 45 minute show).

Admission is 60 MYR (approximately 14 USD) for adults and 30 MYR (approximately 7 USD) for children between six and 12 years old. Entrance is free for children younger than six.

Learn more about the major ethnic groups of Borneo’s Sarawak at the educational and enchanting Sarawak Cultural Village.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Originally from the UK, Sarah has been mostly based in her second home of Thailand for the past five years. As well as exploring new places, learning about different cultures, and sampling lots of...Read more

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