Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Cycling Sarawak Gawai 2015 Day 2 : Of Gawai Procession & Night Festivities

You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker / Cycling Malaysia / Cycling Sarawak Gawai 2015 /  Day 2 : Of Gawai Procession & Night Festivities     |     Go to Day 1 / Day 3 / Day 4 / Day 5
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Cycling Sarawak Gawai 2015 Day 2 : Of Gawai Procession & Night Festivities
Kampung Bunan Gega & Kampung Mongkos : 31st May 2015
Medium-sized Group Ride - Kampung Bunang Gega>Kampung Mongkos.
Cycling Distance Covered: 8.23km (Short ride after Gawai procession to our longhouse).
Time: 3:10pm to 3:35pm
Time Taken: 25 mins, 

Route Recommendations :
1. During the mid-year hot season, the weather can be hot. Start off cycling early and end early to avoid the heat. or do cover up accordingly. If going on longer rides re-hydrate frequently.
2. Sarawakian drivers are generally courteous to cyclists, but do still cycle with care.
3. At the rural areas, the traffic is light and trees provide some shade.
4. Interesting food:
    - Tuak (rice wine).
    - pepper is a product of Sarawak, and can be bought at cheaper prices in the rural areas.
5. Try to visit Sarawak during the Gawai festival; the experience of the procession and festivities together with the warmth of the locals will always be memorable.
6. Try to stay at a longhouse and experience life the local way.
7. Kampung Mongkos is very near to the Indonesian border which is un-patrolled and foreigners do come and go easily. To avoid untoward situations, try not to walk alone at night especially at the fringe of the village near the border.

The previous day we had flown in from Kuala Lumpur, unpacked our bikes and rode to our homestay in Kuching. In the evening we did a bit of cycling around Kuching city centre with a dinner at the Top Spot Seafood Centre.

With Joy at her place.
Today we had taken a bus from Kuching to Joy's place (Joy is Freda's friend) at the interior of Sarawak. The bus stopped about a kilometere away, we unloaded our bicycles and cycled there. Joy's place has a large compound with some nice ponds, we had a good time taking photos there (see top-most photo); it is also close to Kampung Bunan Gega, where a Gawai celebration will be held.

En route we stopped for breakfast at Nam Joon Cafe. Finally, here I did get to try Sarawak Laksa the Chinese style coming with prawns that were cooked in a way that they were just past being raw. This laksa was fairly good but I preferred the Malay-style Sarawak Laksa I had the day before.


Ride Route Kampung Bunang Gega>Kampung Mongkos.
 From Joy's place we walked to Kampung Bunan Gega to join in their Gawai procession. After the procession we cycled to Kampung Mongkos where we stayed for the night and join in the night Gawai festivities at a longhouse.

From Joy's place we took a short walk over to the entrance of Kampung Bunang Gega. When we reached there, we were in for a pleasant surprise. The place was crowded with locals, most of them garbed in traditional Bidayuh costumes, and all of them were happy, smiling and warm to us, welcoming us like long lost brothers and sisters to take part in their Gawai procession/celebrations.

Soon we were part of the celebration, strolling along with our new brothers & sisters along the quiet rustic village road....

... amidst the beating drums and gongs, we headed towards the mist covered hills. It was a slow yet lively procession, every once in a while the crowd will go into a cheer and shout "Yeeee.... Yi!".

Click on above to see YouTube video of the procession.

(Click here to see blog on Gawai Festival).

Soon we made our first stop at a make-shift shed at one section of the village. Here cakes, glutinous rice cake, drinks had been laid out for all to savour. These were made by individual households in this section and brought out to be shared; here we see a community at work, a community celebrating Gawai in a way that encourages good neighbourliness.

"Tuak" (rice wine, also made by the residents) were also shared around ...

We just took sips of the tuak, it was not much but the spirit did loosen our spirits and soon we were cheerfully dancing with the locals.
Kampung Bunang Gega is a fairly large village with six zones. The procession started at Zone Six and worked its way to Zone 1, stopping at each zone. So there was a good amount of eating, drinking and dancing; and at each zone were were warmly welcomed to mixed and celebrate with the locals. It was all very good revelry.

Click on above to see a YouTube video on the procession dancing.

The locals were very friendly indeed, encouraging us to try out their costumes and hats...

.. and even did some mock-up stances with us.
(Click here to see more Colours of Gawai).

At one of the zones, we followed the village headman who led us onto a wooden trestle bridge across a small stream. This is a significant part of the procession, it emulates the early settlers coming into these part of Sarawak. The bridge is made from the Gega wood, hence the village name Kampung Bunang Gega.

The procession ended at the Community Cultural Longhouse at Zone 1.
Here the headman made a speech, thanking all for a good year with a bountiful harvest. He also officially welcomed us, the cyclists from Kuala Lumpur.
Nash was appointed as our spokesman to give a speech of gratitude.

Here's our group photo with the village headman sitting with us in the longhouse.

The locals performed a native dance, though a slow dance with traditional music in the background the smooth motion of the dancers with the sporadic cheering did keep us engrossed.
(Click on above to view the YouTube video on this dance).

 With the the day festivities over, we took a slow walk back to Joy's place. Now without the jovial crowd, the village had returned to its normalcy and looked like any tropical village.
At Joy's, we collected our bikes, said our thanks to her and cycled about 10 km. to Kampung Mongkos. There we checked into a home stay it was quite a new one with air-conditioning but was located at an isolated fringe of the village. Kampung Mongkos is only two kilometre from the Indonesia border (Yup, Indonesia Kalimantan is just across a small hill and is approachable by some secondary track roads accessible by motrocycles). The locals did advise us to be careful though, as the border is not closely patrolled and foreigners can come over easily. To avoid unpleasant situations, we should not walk alone at night especially at the fringe of the village near the border.

At the longhouse accommodations.
Thought the home-stay was new, we were a bit disappointed as per our confirmation we were supposed to be staying at a longhouse. Fortunately Fenn managed to talk to the owner who happens to run a longhouse too and soon some of us shifted to the longhouse. Others decided to stay put at the new home-stay, wanting to enjoy the air-conditioning after a long hot day.

Although the longhouse was not air-conditioned, its design made it cooling to stay in. On top of that, staying there came with a special bonus of Gawai Day: in the evening the wide communal corridor right in front of our unit was the venue for more Gawai celebrations.
The celebrations by the locals were to start at 8:30pm but shortly before that the whole district was engulfed in darkness due to an electrical black-out. Nevertheless, the darkness did not dampen the spirit of the locals and they proceeded with the aid of torchlights and the like. First some children did their version of the Bidayuh dance, their skills coming close to those of the adults.

Then a lady did another slow but graceful dance, her slow but lithe movements enraptured us and except for the sounds of the accompanying gongs all of us were quietly watching her.

We were all encourage to take part in the celebration too, dancing with them after these performances. There was a bamboo dance too, one where dancers jump in between moving bamboo poles in rhythm to the music whilst trying not to have their legs caught in between.

While all the gaiety was going on, local ladies went around with baskets filled with local cakes and fruits for us to enjoy. Others went around serving tuak.
(... see more at the Gawai Festival Blog).

It had been a long day, on full of celebration and festivities but one fact shines out above all this: the locals' warmth in welcoming strangers to be with them in their happiness. The festivities had not ended yet, Gawai is celebrated over a few days, we will have more to look too the following day!

This blog comes in a several parts. To go to other parts click on the following link to return to the summary page:

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You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker / Cycling Malaysia / Cycling Sarawak Gawai 2015 /  Day 2 : Of Gawai Procession & Night Festivities     |     Go to Day 1 / Day 3 / Day 4 / Day 5
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  1. Welcome to my home state. I hope thwt you enjoyed your ride.

    1. Yes we did, especially as we were there during Gawai.