Categories
Malaysia Travel Guide

Little Known Secrets of the Beads of Borneo

From the Zulu warriors in South Africa, to the ancient Egyptians of North Africa, to the pilgrims of the Middle East or South America, beads have a presence in many cultures but the one commonality is that they have always been more than an eye-catching accessory. The story of the beads of Borneo is no exception.

For many cultures, they were a currency, or perhaps a sign of faith, a symbol of wealth or a family heirloom to be treasured for future generations. Whatever the purpose, the one consistency is that they are always a way of expression.

Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo has a unique relationship with the beads of Borneo. Although there isn’t any definitive evidence of when exactly the beads came to the region, there is evidence to suggest beads were first used in Borneo by visiting sailors for bartering. Back then, beads were made out of shells, teeth, bones and stones that were perforated and worn as ornaments.

Some Sarawak tribes believe that the longer a bead lasts, the more powerful it becomes and the bearer can draw strength from the bead. However, to do so, the bearer must have a strong soul.

Source: Sarawak Tourism Board

There are over 30 tribes in Sarawak and each tribe has its own way of adorning themselves with beads. Some of them use them as necklaces, others as beaded head caps or beaded skirts, others as bracelets or even rings. Beads would also be used as decorations during festivals or other big gatherings.

The baby carriers used by Orang Ulu women to carry their infants are adorned with beadwork and finishes made out of wild boar or leopard teeth. Apart from indicating status, the tingling of the Hawk’s bells and large beads attached to the upper rim of the carrier would soothe the toddler on long journeys through the rain forest.

Many of the antique beads of Borneo are hard to find now. There are a number of reasons for this. Historically, the beads were sometimes buried with their owners as part of their grave clothes, or as “grave gifts”, for the deceased to use in their long journey to the underworld.

As mentioned, beads were also used as currency, often traded with visiting sailors or lost in the sometimes devastating longhouse fires that could rip through 100 doors in less than an hour.

As beads were increasingly hard to come by and time became a precious commodity, modern day beads are mostly imported from Indonesia and China, according to Heidi Munan, Sarawak Museum’s curator of beads. However they are still influenced by the original beads of Borneo.

So while these new beads are still traded, they are no longer the currency of trade. And despite being mass produced, they are increasingly expensive yet have little of the character of the original beads. At the same time, the number of communities still making the beads of Borneo in the traditional manner is slowly diminishing.

Preserving the traditionality of beadmaking

However, the Lun Bawang community in Long Tuma village, Lawas, northern Sarawak continues to make ceramic beads the way they’ve always been made. Partly to generate income for the community but also because they want to keep the tradition alive and let everyone have the opportunity to wear the beads during traditional festivities.

The process begins with a group of five women wading almost nonchalantly into the crocodile infested waters of Pa’ Lawas river to find and dig up the smooth fine clay, which they call “tanah salit”.

The clay is taken to the village by hand, pounded and kneaded to the right consistency and shaped into tiny beads, roughly the size of a pea. The beads are then sun-dried, and strung up on wire loops and fired in a backyard bonfire.

Patricia Busak, daughter of Litad Muluk, who manages the ceramic beads centre, was interviewed by the Star newspaper some time ago and talked through the process, “It takes at least three pairs of hands to make just one bead: one to gather and process the river clay before shaping it into beads; another to paint the underglaze pattern; and a third to paint the glaze and arrange the beads in an electric kiln at the community-owned workshop in the village.”

She went on to say, “It’s very specialised; for instance, only three women in our group are skilled at rolling the beads. I can’t roll, but I’m good at painting the pattern.”

The Long Tuma women are the only beadmakers in Sarawak. Even though their business is thriving, the most important thing for the Lun Bawang community, is the opportunity to preserve their heritage.

“The kind of beads we have, how we string and wear them, give us our sense of identity as a Lun Bawang,” concludes Patricia in the interview.

Beads of Borneo - Painting a bead

Source: Borneo Talk, “The Glistening Beads Of Kampung Long Tuma”

Because beads have been used for so long and came from various parts of the world, the types of beads found in Sarawak vary. Here are a few examples of the types of beads you should look out for during your time in Sarawak and especially if you go to a festival.

Lukut Sekala

The Lukut Sekala beads are worn almost exclusively by members of the Kayan tribe. These beads serve as a symbol of longevity to the community. This is because the beads last for so long that they have become heirlooms, passed down through multiple generations.

Source: @taytayxanadu on Carousell

There are also the Lukut Bela Laba, which are considered male or female depending on whether the shape of the bead was long or flat. The beads are considered extremely valuable. These beads are often of great value to the Kayan.

According to legend, a trader who wanted to travel by river to the interior of Sarawak bought a second-hand outboard engine with just one Lukut Sekala bead.

Beads of Borneo - bead designs

Source: Rustic Borneo Travel, “Borneo Beads – Beautiful Status Symbols”

Ba’o Rawir

The Ba’o Rawir, or the drinking straw beads are created by Kelabit ladies. The Kelabit tribe originates from the Bario Highlands located in the northernmost part of Sarawak. The Kelabit people have a close association with the Lun Bawang tribe as they are geographically close to one another.

The Ba’o Rawir beads are used to create intricate designs on the Peta, a hat worn by Kelabit ladies. It is a status symbol which had the equivalent value of one buffalo in the old days when owning a buffalo was considered a sign of wealth. Today, an antique Peta hat made out of Ba’o Rawir can fetch up to RM 30,000 (US$ 7,150).

Beads of Borneo - Kelabit woman head gear

Source: Kelabit Wiki, “Peta”

Experience bead making yourself

Located in the north of Sarawak, the Long Tuma village is close to the Brunei border. The Ceramic Bead Centre holds workshops where you can learn how to make the beads and create your own piece. The Beads centre is currently managed by Litad Muluk and her daughter Patricia who is quoted above.

These women work the fields during the day and use the bead centre as an extra income stream while keeping the tradition alive. You can even see how this group of dedicated women put together beautiful pieces of jewellery.

And if you like what you see, you can support their efforts by purchasing beads from the souvenir shop.

Here is where it’s located:
Pusat Kraftangan Manik Seramik
Kampung Long Tuma, 98850 Lawas, Sarawak
Tel: +6013 565 6951

If you’re interested to learn more about the beading culture of Borneo, Heidi Munan’s book on Bornean beads is a highly recommended read. In it, she explains the historic significance of beads and how they transcend its mere aesthetic appeal.

You can also order beads online and support the Lawas bead community at the same time. These 3 online stores offer authentic products sourced from Sarawak:

  1. Gerai OA
  2. Gaya Borneo
  3. Bonita and the Beads
Share

Bizarre wildlife found in the jungles of exotic Borneo

Cycling for Charity in Sarawak

Seeing Green in Bario

Fine tradition of longevity noodle making kept alive

Bario: Her Food Festival 2014 and more...

New for Rainforest World Music Festival 2014

Article source: http://sarawaktourism.com/blog/feed/

Categories
Malaysia Travel Guide

10 Things To Do in Kuching

1. Meet The People

Visit the well-preserved Bidayuh Longhouses at Kampung Annah Rais, Kampung Benuk, Kampung Mongkos or Kampung Pueh; perfect for photo ops and an insight into Bidayuh (Land Dayak) culture.

Trek above the clouds to kampung Semban, a very traditional Bidayuh community where older women still wear brass arm, leg and neck rings.

Visit Iban Longhouses on the Lemanak River or around Batan Ai Hyro Lake.  Sample home brewed rice wine (tuak), enjoy fresh jungle produce ans try your hand at blowpipe shooting.  Ornately tattooed elders will entertain you with tales of their headhunter ancestors and show off their traditional dancing skills.

annah rais

Two-elderly-Ibans-at-their-longhouse-batang-ai

Batang Ai National Park, Sarawak, Malaysia

2. Go For A Walk

Discover Kuching’s Historic City Centre, by yourself or through a guided walk or bicycle tour.  Climb Mount Santubong, for a birds-eye view of the city and the coastline, or take to the trails of Kubah National Park to discover rare and fascinating plant species and idyllic jungle waterfalls.  Visit Gunung Gading National Park for a close-up view of the Rafflesia, the world’s largest flower, amindst stunning rainforest scenery.

Visit Tanjung Datu National Park, at the remote southern tip of Sarawak, to trek through rugged, jungle terrain to deserted white sand beaches.  Or explore the beautiful upriver scenery of Batang Ai, staying overnight in Iban Longhouses and jungle camps.

Sarawak-Kuching-Kubah-National-Park

Quiet Beach in Malaysia Tanjung National Park Sarawak

3. Wildlife Encounters

Visit Matang Wildlife Centre to encounter young orphaned orangutans and sun bears and learn about the wildlife rehabilitation process.  Then check out Semenggoh Nature Reserve and its thriving population of semi-wild orangutans, or go for frog-spotting in Kubah National Park, home of Asia’s smallest frog species.  Take a boat to Bako National Park to view the rare proboscis monkey, as well as long-tailed macaque monkeys, Bornean bearded pigs, colugos and many colourful bird and reptile species.

Head upriver to Batang Ai National Park to follow the Red Ape Trail.  This area has possibly the world’s highest population density of wild orangutans and encounters are quite frequent.

BAKO NATIONAL PARK, Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

Frog Kubah

orangutan batang ai

4. Take To The Water

Take a Sarawak River cruise to discover Kuching from the water, and watch the sunset reflected in the water as the sun sinks over Mount Serapi.  Or hire one of the local tambang ferries to explore the riverside at your own pace.

Go Irrawaddy dolphin spotting and crocodile watching in Kuching Wetlands National Park, or visit Satang Island to see the marine turtle hatchery and enjoy snorkelling with the green turtles.  If you prefer to paddle you own canoe, try rainforest kayaking or rafting along the Upper Sarawak River, sea kayaking aroung the Santubong Rover and the Bako-Buntal Bay.

talang satang

wildlife cruise kuching wetlands santubong fisherman and dolphin

5. Underground Sarawak

Take part in a caving adventure int the limestone hills around Bau or Serian.  Beginner, intermediate and advanced level activities are offered and equipment is supplied.  Less adventurous visitors will enjoy the easily accessible caves area Bau, a short drive from Kuching.  The Wind Cave, is long and narrow with beautiful rock formations and a cooling breeze, while the Fairy Cave is more imposing, with extensive cave vegetation and a Chinese shrine at the cave mouth.

Bau Cave

sarawak borneo kuching bau wind cave

5-sarawak borneo playground Bau Wind Cave opening

6. Underwater Sarawak

The best wreck dives (including a WWII Japanese Destroyer) require at least an Advanced Open Water, but there are great muck dive and snorkeling sites around the turtle sanctuary islands offshore from Kuching.  You can dive in search of marine turtles in the morning and learn about their conservation in the afternoon.

sarawak borneo playground kuching wreck diving

sarawak borneo playground kuching wreck diving (6)

7. Food Drink

Kuching is famous for its celebrated noodle dishes, spicy Sarawak Laksa and savoury Kolo Mee, as well as a wide selection of Chinese, Malay and Indian cuisine, exotic rainforest fruits, crispy jungle ferns and wonderful fresh seafood.  Dining options range from humble hawker stalls, through waterside seafood restaurants at Kampung Buntal and traditional Chinese delicacies at Siniawan Night Market to opulent fine dining outlets in 5-star hotels, and you can even learn to cook Sarawak-style.  Kuching’s most famous drink is teh-c-peng, a multi layered tea and palm sugar concoction worth of a brochure b y itself.  In the villages and longhouses you can try native cuisine such as manok pansuh (chicken steamed in bamboo tubes) and fresh jungle produce, accompanied by a glass of tuak.

Laksa Sarawak

Laksa Sarawak

kolokmee

Sarawak-Kuching-Adventure-Ikan-Pansuh

8. Culture Heritage

Follow in the footsteps of the White Rajahs around Kuching’s old city centre and the waterfront, taking in the Sarawak Museum, Islamic Museum, Old Courthouse, India Street Mosque, Textile Museum and many other unique heritage sites.  The cross the Sarawak River (by bridge or boat) to visit Fort Margherita, the Brooke Gallery and the exquisite Orchid Garden.  The surrounding Malay Kampungs have some fine examples of traditional and modern Malay architecture.

Learn about Sarawak’s traditional cultures at the award-winning Sarawak Cultural Village, stopping by en route to visit the world’s first Cat Museum, a prehistoric human figure and the tomb of Sarawak’s first and only Sultan.

Kuching Heritage Fort Margherita, Sarawak, Malaysia

sarawak-borneo-entertainment-rwmf-2012-day-2-afternoon

9. Shopping

Main Bazaar and Carpenter Street, the two oldest streets in Kuching, are packed with handicraft shops, art dealers and families practicing their traditional crafts, ranging from tinsmithing to coffin-making!  Nearby India Street is a pedestrian precinct with a fine selection of traditional clothing and textile outlets, and the adjacent Gambier Street is the place to buy spices ad utensils if you want to cook Sarawak-style.

In the Malay Kampungs across river, small family bakeries sell kek lapis (Sarawak layer cake), probably the state’s most popular souvenir.  Also across river, the colourful Satok Weekend Market iis renowned for the Bidayuh ladies selling handicrafts, forest produce, orchids and a whole range of local snacks and delicacies.

The potteries on Jalan Penrissen produce fine ceramics in a unique Teochew-Sarawak fusion style, and the potters are happy to be photographed at work.

The busy weekend market at the border village of Serikin, where Indonesian traders come to sell their wares, is a great place to buy cheap textiles, clothing, fresh fruits, jungle produce and handicrafts.  Heading north, the bustling and colourful Serian Market is a must-visit for fruit, vegetables, forest produce and amazing photo opportunities.

Seeing Kuching City on Foot

Visiting Sarawak As A Japanese Intern | All Time Favorites Local Food

Serikin Town Border Market

 

10. Festivals Celebrations

Rainforest World Music Festival: Every July, Sarawak Cultural Village.  The most exciting musical event in the region, and ranked among the top-25 world music festivals globally.

Kuching Festival: July and early August.  A month-long festival of musci, drama, arts, exhibitions and food, glorious food.

Sarawak Regatta:  Every November, Kuching Waterfront.  Dating from 1872, this is the biggest and best river regatta in Southeast Asia.  There’s even a category for visitors to join in.

Multi-Cultural Mooncake Festival: Mid-September Carpenter St.  Kuching’s Chinese community share the mid-autumn festival with everyone at a 4-day street party.

Pesta Benak (Tidal Bore Festival): November, Sri Aman.  Celebrates the Lupar River’s famous tidal bore.  Surfing and wave-riding competitions, water sports and nightly entertainment.

RWMF

sarawak-malaysia-borneo-sri-aman-colas-rathbone-surfing-tidal-bore-benak

Share

Article source: http://sarawaktourism.com/blog/feed/

Categories
Malaysia Travel Guide

Electric bus debuts on Friday, passengers ride for free for 3 months

Electric bus debuts on Friday, passengers ride for free for 3 months

KUCHING: Sarawak’s first electric bus will hit the roads this Friday (March 1) enabling locals and visitors here to travel around the city centre with ease.

Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said the CRRC electric bus will go on a three-month trial run covering 26 stations that include the Open Air Market, Kuching Waterfront, iCom Square and Sarawak Museum, among others.

“The free electric bus will provide commuters with the convenience to travel around the city centre, especially for those who are from outside Kuching.

“This bus will operate for three months which will be a good gauge for us to assess the suitability of electric buses as a form of public transport,” he said when officiating the CRRC Electric City Bus flag-off ceremony at the Old Courthouse here today.

Read full article at Borneo Post

Share

Article source: http://sarawaktourism.com/blog/feed/

Categories
Malaysia Travel Guide

Electric bus debuts on Friday, passengers ride for free for 3 months

Electric bus debuts on Friday, passengers ride for free for 3 months

KUCHING: Sarawak’s first electric bus will hit the roads this Friday (March 1) enabling locals and visitors here to travel around the city centre with ease.

Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said the CRRC electric bus will go on a three-month trial run covering 26 stations that include the Open Air Market, Kuching Waterfront, iCom Square and Sarawak Museum, among others.

“The free electric bus will provide commuters with the convenience to travel around the city centre, especially for those who are from outside Kuching.

“This bus will operate for three months which will be a good gauge for us to assess the suitability of electric buses as a form of public transport,” he said when officiating the CRRC Electric City Bus flag-off ceremony at the Old Courthouse here today.

Read full article at Borneo Post

Share

Article source: http://sarawaktourism.com/blog/feed/

Categories
Malaysia Travel Guide

Museums and Galleries in Kuching

Museums and Galleries in Kuching

1) Sarawak Museum

The museum houses an exceptional ethnographic collection, some good natural history displays and a section on the oil industry in Sarawak.

2) Urang Sarawak Gallery

With displays ranging from art to artifacts, this gallery covers the different aspects of life of the Sarawak people, including religion, cosmology and cultural arts.

3) Chinese Museum

The Chinese History Museum is situated on the Waterfront opposite the Tua Pek Kong temple and traces the history of the Chinese community in Sarawak.

4) Tun Jugah Pua Kumbu Museum

A gallery for those interested in everything that goes into the production of the traditional Iban fabric called Pua Kumbu, as well as other Iban traditional arts.

5) Textile Museum

The Textile Museum showcases authentic textiles made by the main ethnic communities of Sarawak.

6) Treasures from Nusantara Gallery

30 Bornean historic artifacts are currently on display in the “Treasures from Nusantara” Exhibition, located in the Textile Museum building.

7) Islamic Heritage Museum

The Islamic Heritage Museum presents a clear picture of the rich historical heritage and special culture of the Muslim community in Sarawak and throughout the Malay-Indonesian archipelago.

8) Cat Museum, Kuching

Cat lovers will find a range of exhibits, photos, feline art and cat souvenirs; over 4,000 of them!

9) Ranee Museum

This museum centres on the life, legend and legacy of Margaret de Windt, wife of the second Rajah Brooke, Queen of Sarawak.

10) Brooke Gallery

The Brooke Gallery houses irreplaceable historical artefacts from the age of Sarawak’s White Rajahs, the Brookes.

11) Timber Museum (Petra Jaya)

Anyone with an interest in forestry, traditional wooden crafts, forest products and the development of the timber industry of Sarawak, should head to this museum.

12) Sarawak Women’s Museum

Sarawak Women Museum focus on the contributions and achievements of women since 1963 when Sarawak with the Federation of Malaya to form Malaysia.

Share

Article source: http://sarawaktourism.com/blog/feed/