5 unusual traditions in Borneo and Malaysia

September 28 - October 2

Traditions in Borneo and Malaysia

The national culture of Malaysia – or kebudayaan Malaysia, in the national language – is an appealing mixture of Malay, Eurasian, Indian, and Chinese cultures with influences from the indigenous groups from north Borneo and the peninsula. We divide it into two distinct groups: of the mainly Chinese middle class and the Malay elite. With 23 million people and aiming to increase the national population to 70 million by the year 2100, no wonder that they have plenty of habits and customs. Discover 5 unusual traditions in Borneo and Malaysia.

Celebrations and habits in Borneo and Malaysia

Whether you arrive on the Peninsula of Gold during winter or summer, you will love their traditions. Their cultural disputes with the neighboring countries aren’t a mystery. Some would say that the national anthem has influences from the Indonesian culture. However, these are their most unusual traditions:

  • 1. They use music for storytelling, harvest, and when celebrating life-cycle events. Malaysians have more than 14 types of traditional drums that are made from natural materials. Back in their past, music was a form of long-distance communication. An interesting way to deliver the good news! Aruh Ganal Suku Dayak is a thanksgiving ceremony celebrated through a special Belian spiritual dance after harvesting. It’s only one occasion to play their traditional music.
  • 2. Gawai Dayak – is an annual festival that takes place on 31 May and 1 June. It is considered a Thanksgiving Day for the bountiful harvest and a symbol of unity. People from the interior of Borneo prepare for this holiday by tidying up, decorating the house, and making food. Their cakes – kui sepit, cuwan, sarang semut, and penganan iri – are savored at one or two glasses of the traditional drinks – tuak or arak tonok. It’s the time when they wear the traditional dress named ngepan.
  • 3. Borneo traditional tattooing. The thick black tribal work is executed with two sticks, and the designs may have various meanings. The primary focus is nature (leaves, flowers, animals, fruits, etc.). The first tattoo receive by the Iban individuals is the eggplant Borneo flower. Later in life, they can tattoo Bungai Terung to mark Bejalai – the Iban tradition for a journey of wisdom and knowledge. The dark sign is inked on the shoulder, to prepare the person to carry the weight of their own world.
  • 4. The Tidong people of Borneo don’t use the bathroom for 3 days after the wedding. They say it will protect the new couple from infertility, miscarriage, or a broken marriage. The good thing about it? It bonds the life partners as nothing else would. After these 3 days when they also have to consume a minimal amount of water and food, they can finally enjoy their honeymoon.
  • 5. Borneo International Kite Festival – Although not quite an unusual tradition, as many other states host various kite festivals, it is held in the seaside town of Bintulu and gathers over 400 kiters from 25 different countries. The consistent flying conditions are perfect for lifting the objects up in the air. No wonder how they earned numerous records of magnitude number of kites!

Impressive traditions you should know about

Many other unusual traditions in Borneo and Malaysia astound people from all over the world. The farmers still appeal to the spirit of the rice paddy! What we should learn from the Dayaks is their emphasis on not wasting animals or forest products. They minimize stress to the environment and ban the use of chemicals that could damage their hunting grounds. Whenever you arrive in Borneo, be certain that you get to know their culture and taste their delicious foods!