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4 Reasons Why You Should NEVER Experience Kaamatan/Gawai Festival

BY Nisya Aziz

Updated 30 May 2023

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So you’re going (or planning) to visit East Malaysia, where as a Malaysian, you still need to go through immigration to get a social visit pass to enter Sabah or Sarawak. But, you don’t mind going through all that because you die-die want to experience the harvest festival named Tadau Kaamatan or Gawai Dayak. 

Having said that, you also don’t know what to expect, right? Well, thank goodness you found this article because we’re going to (or maybe not) change your mind about it. Read on to know if you can agree to these 6 reasons why you should never experience Kaamatan/Gawai Festival.

What's covered in this article?

1. Other people’s tradition and culture are not interesting enough for you

In Sabah, Tadau Kaamatan is celebrated as a sign of gratitude towards the spirit of rice also known as Bambarayon after harvesting the rice and to also commemorating the spirit of Huminodun's sacrifice to bring down rain during the dry season just to save the villagers from starvation.

Meanwhile, in Sarawak, what is known now as a celebration of unity, aspiration and hope, Gawai Dayak used to be a more religious celebration for the Dayak tribes. It's as a sign of thanks to their god known as "Petara" every time after harvest and before starting rice cultivation for the next season to ensure the community value the spirit of rice.

Sorry, we don't want to bore you with the details because they aren’t interesting enough for you - better off to stick to what you know at home.  


2. You hate eating delicious and adventurous food

The phrase “food is life” appals you. Well, guess what? You’re going to feel much more overwhelmed because of these two festivals will serve loads of delicious local delicacies - the pressure is real. 

One of the highlights in the menu of Kaamatan is Hinava which is basically raw fish marinated in lime and garnished with chillies and onions, alongside delicacy such as wild mango  (bambangan). The local will also lure you into eating the fat and nutritious sago grub (butod) because of the millennials’ mantra, YOLO.

As for the Gawai Festival, expect to have pansoh manok which is chicken and lemongrass cooked in a bamboo log over an open fire - Okay, we gonna stop here because what is better than having Nasi Kukus Ayam Berempah at Klasik Hijau every single day anyway, right?


3. Drinks made from rice? That’s weird

If you mix cooked glutinous rice, ragi (a traditional starter base that contains bacterial enzymes and yeast), water and sugar (which is optional), you’ll get a drink called tuak (also know as lihing in Sabah). Hate to break it to you but it’s a big part of the said festivals.

And in Sarawak, if you don’t have any religious restrictions, you’re expected to join this hip thing called “pub crawl” where you could visit different longhouses to drink tuak with the locals! Now, since this is not up to your ‘level’ and anything foreign scares you, it’s going to be an awkward situation if you said NO. You’d probably feel left out - just saying.


4. Watching cultural performances would fascinate you to death

Be very very careful because we can guarantee you that there will be many performances that will put you in awe and makes you forget how to breathe. Why would you want to experience this first hand? 

For example, during the Tadau Kaamatan, you’ll get the chance to see a Bamboo Dance known as Magunatip. We called it the survival of the fittest dance because the steps have got to do with jumping in between and over moving bamboo logs. Then it gets faster and faster and faster that it will leave you semput at the end of the performance. It’s very suspense, you know.

As for the Gawai Dayak, you’ll get to see something calmer like Ngajat dance. Those days, this dance was performed by the warriors on their return from battles. Although it consists of graceful movements of the body, hands and feet, you’d still feel the goosebumps running through arms and back because the dancers will occasionally shout battle cries in the midst of the dance. This is too much of fascination for a person to handle.

Or don’t listen to us and experience it yourself instead

... because a person’s experience is very subjective. Also, if you didn’t get the memo, we were just being sarcastic. With all the details about Tadau Kaamatan and Gawai Dayak, the title should be 4 Reasons Why You Should Experience Kaamatan/Gawai Festival. So, go there and have an eye-opening experience yourself - hopefully. 

SIDE NOTE: And if you’re travelling and haven’t get yourself travel insurance, please do so by clicking HERE. You just never know how your journey will actually twist and turn. 

*The above article is intended for informational purposes only. Loanstreet accepts no responsibility for loss that may arise from reliance on information contained in the article.
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About the Author

Nisya Aziz

A storyteller at Finology, who drinks coffee like its water, Nisya enjoy bringing valuable, educational and entertaining content to others. When not busy crafting content, you’ll find her in the boulder gym or on stage, performing theatre shows.


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