Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Cycling Sarawak Gawai 2015 Day 3 : Of Gawai Thanksgiving & Hearty Meals

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Cycling Sarawak Gawai 2015 Day 3 : Of Gawai Thanksgiving & Hearty Meals
Kampung Mongkos. & Kuching : 1st June 2015
Medium-sized Group Ride - Kampung Mongkos>St. Jude Bunan>Kampung Mentu Pondok>St. Jude Bunan.
Cycling Distance Covered: 16.36km.
Time: 11:00pm to 3:25pm
Time Taken: 4hrs 25 mins. (including a long stop for a Bidayuh Gawai Lunch). 

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.
    - If the opportunity arises, do try out the local Bidayuh home-cooking.
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.
6. 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.

A group picture at the community longhouse at Kampong Bunan Gega with the village headman.
The previous day a bus took us to Kampung Bunan Gega where we joined the Gawai procession amidst the warm colourful locals. We then cycled to Kampong Mongkos where we stayed for the night at a longhouse and in the evening there were more Gawai festivities. It was a day of revelry with a bit of cycling, but what a day it was, one that opened our eyes to the culture of Sarawak.


Kampung Mongkos>St. Jude Bunan>Kampung Mentu Pondok>St. Jude Bunan.
 Today, after participating in a thanksgiving festival at our longhouse in Kampung Mongkos, we cycled to Kampung Mentu Pondok for a good Bidayuh Gawai lunch. With happy stomachs we cycled back to St. Jude Bunan where a bus took us back to Kuching. At the vincinity of Siburan we had another Gawai feast before returning back to our homestay.

In the morning we woke up to a strange sight, local ladies were trooping to our longhouse in Kampong Mongkos, each of them carrying a basket filled with harvesting equipment. They placed the baskets at the centre of the longhouse common corridor. We were later to learn that these were in preparation of a thanksgiving procession.

The procession will start later, so we went for breakfast first. Then six of our buddies decided to cycled from Kampong Mongkos all the way back to Kuching, a distance of slightly more than a hundred kilometres. Under the hot tropical sun, this will be no easy task.  Freda was a sport and flagged them off.

The rest of us went round the village and mingled with the locals, looking at how life is lived here. The children were more curious of us then us of them, here's a nice photo of Sin with some of them.

A friendly local noticing our interest in his village approached us and enquired whether we were keen to view some other unique places. Since we are here, why not?
He took us on narrow lanes and then onto muddy tracks, heading out to the outskirts of the village. Oops.... let's hope he is not taking us over to Indonesia!

Phew..... he did not take us to Indonesia...
He took us to a couple of local natural monuments, one of which was this Crocodile Rock. Sin here "trying hard" to hold open the jaws of the crocodile. From the front view here, it doesn't look much like a crocodile doesn't it, but when viewed from the side and it looked like a large crocodile head.
The other rock was called the Bugis rock, it looked like the front bow of a old Bugis ship. Legend has it that this Bugis ship lost it's way and ended up here, and turned into a rock.

At the outskirts too can be seen several pepper plantation. Sarawak's pepper is renown in the world, the peppercorns are plucked and then sun-dried.
Tip: Buy peppercorns at villages like these, they are much cheaper than in the main towns and Kuching.

Back at the longhouse, more local ladies had gathered and seated themselves on both sides of a make-shift altar sitting at the centre of the common corridor. A priest will say prayers to bless them and their offerings.

This was followed by some traditional Bidayuh dancing by the village elders, again were were invited to dance with them. It's an offer that we could not resist, after all being just a spectator one does not feel the true spirit of the people. It is when dancing with them, that their smiles and their warmth becomes more meaningful and comes through even more.

With the formalities over, the ladies trooped out of the longhouse for a short procession around the village. Most of them carry a cloth satchel slung over their shoulders, inside of which were sea shells. During this procession, they will invite the spirits to come into the shells to bless them for another year of good harvest. These shells will then be placed at the home altars.
Beyond this point we were advised not to take photos lest we interrupt the spirit calling process.

Leaving the ladies behind and hoping the best for them in our hearts, we rode off from Kampong Mongkos. We were heading towards Kampong Mentu Pondok which is about twelve kilometres away. There we would be having lunch at Freda's auntie's house.

It was a short ride for us, but for Freda it must have felt like a long ride, one in anticipation of meeting her relatives and most of all her grannie. Her anticipation must have been more keen as we rode across this bridge, her auntie's house is just over on the other side.

Gawai is a harvest festival, it is also a time for family reunion. The first thing Freda did after greeting her auntie was to look for her grandmother. The old lady, hale and hearty, was at a back shed cooking some glutinous rice in bamboo. She was most happy to see Freda.... and it was hugging time then!

Lunch is served! After days of eating outside food, these home-cooked dishes were a most welcomed change; more importantly it was Bidayuh cooking style, something that most of us had never tried before.

Especially good was this pork stew.
The auntie's house stand on a large ground and at the rear are several pig sty, so these pork is from free-range pigs. From the organically fed pigs, the meat had a thick layer of fat... tempting fat with a soft layer of skin. Trying to be careful about my diet, I took some of it.... they were really good.... Oh... what the heck! Why waste the opportunity for such good food... I took more... after all we will be doing some more cycling that should burn off the "sinful" fat!

3:30pm - We had cycled back to the St. Jude Bunan School, while waiting for the bus which will come at four, some caught up with their phone messages while others took a quick siesta below the shady trees in front of the school.

The bus took us on a seventy kilometres trip via Serian to Siburan.
Here we paid a visit to Freda's cousin to join them in their Gawai feast, it was a reunion of the family and the some children came in Bidayuh costumes. It was great of them to welcome us to join this reunion.

The adults came in the traditional wear too, their costumes looking attractive with the bright colours on black.

It was another round of good food ending with the renown Sarawak Layered Cakes as desserts.

It was most kind of Freda, she had not only shown us how Gawai is celebrated, she had also warmly invited us in to join her extended family for some good Bidayuh food.

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

Related Blogs :

Cycling Sarawak Gawai 2015 Day 2 : Of Gawai Procession & Night Festivities 31st May 2015
A bit of cycling and then we went into full Gawai mode. We joined locals at one village for a cheerful procession round their "kampong". Then later at the longhouse we stayed in, it was another round of evening Gawai festivities.

Cycling Sarawak Gawai 2015 Day 1 : Getting To Know Sarawak 30th May 2015
Our introduction to cycling in Sarawak; to it's warm people and some of it's delicious food.

You May Also Like :

You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker / Cycling Malaysia / Cycling Sarawak Gawai 2015 /  Day 3 : Of Gawai Thanksgiving & Hearty Meals     |     Go to Day 1 / Day 2 / Day 4 / Day 5
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