Friday, June 12, 2015

Mari Mari Cultural Village - Well Worth The Visit @ Kota Kinabalu [Sabah, East Malaysia]

I would be honest here. 

Among all the Sabah tour packages listed on RiverBug Asia, i was least keen on the cultural village; indicated as the location where one can "savor the soul of Sabah". Trust me, i have been to quite a few such places which eventually turned out to be tourist traps.

However, it was my last full day in Kota Kinabalu, the attraction was ranked rather highly on TripAdvisor and i had zero knowledge of the traditional way of living for the tribes in Borneo despite already spending five days on the island! 

So, we did the "tourist" thing by signing up for the Mari Mari Cultural Village tour. I didn't have much expectation in the first place and i guess compared to the railway package, the lower pricing would justify for a smaller disappointment, if it turns out that way.

With three designated sessions (morning, afternoon and evening), we reached fifteen minutes ahead of time and were told to sit on brown plastic chairs while waiting for other travelers to make up a group to begin the tour. 

Sitting is an impossibility for my sharp butt and i walked around taking photos and photos; above was the close-up view of one of the two totem poles greeting us when the tour van entered the village. 

Smoking area - i am actual a casual smoke when i was younger but chose to quit it when i started working as a dental assistant in army; too many cases of bad oral hygiene as a result of smoking and the halitosis can be revolting! 

Gigantic moths in the washroom! 

Adorable village cat - i have always wanted to keep a cat like it as it reminded me of the Garfield; albeit a much skinnier one.

Before we start the tour, take a look at the sky. If it is overcast and look likely to rain, rent an umbrella (RM 2) or buy a raincoat (RM 5) from the counter if you don't have one. 

Let the session begin via a short walk across a river that has really shallow water! To be fair, it had not been raining in the few days we were in KK and the tour we really wanted, water rafting, was a no-go given the low level of water. 

Acrophobics, beware!

I shall not share the picture of a fellow tour mate who was extremely apprehensive in crossing the bridge; shall spare him the humiliation. :P

Five traditional houses from various tribes were showcased and i have an individual blog posting for each of them! Do refer the listing as follows and click the link to read more:

House of the Dusun
Side activities included sampling the rice wine and food cooked using bamboo, which was in abundance in the region.

Rungus Tribe Longhouse
Learn how to start a fire and had a taste of raw, natural honey from the stingless bees!

Lundayeh (Lun Bawang) Dwelling
Information about making clothes from tree barks! Now we know what to do if we ever get our clothes stolen in the wilderness! The lundayeh also has a custom of storing their dead (mind you, whole body) in urns! 

Abode of the Colourful Bajau People
Prettiest house we have seen in our tour, as far as interior is concerned. And i absolutely enjoyed the tasting of kueh jala and aromatic pandan juice!

Longhouse of the Headhunters (Murut)
Among all the tribes in Sabah, the Murut sends shivers down the spines of many given their love for severing the heads of their enemies! Aside from the entertaining Lasaran, you could partake in henna tattooing and hone your blowpipe skill! 

Cultural show - a common finale for such attraction. Remember my thought at the beginning of this post? I wasn't disappointed; in fact, i highly recommend the cultural village to everyone who is visiting KK! The guide was chirpy and informative, the activities were interactive and fun and i absolutely love the incorporation of food sampling! 

Start of the performance - i am not really into performing arts, especially dance and for a highly strung individual, i do get bored planting my ass to the seat.

Out of politeness, i would stay put but my eyes would be looking at other things; like the kitten playing with its mother at the side of the stage etc, 

Anyway, some pictures for your viewing pleasure.

A Borneo village visitation is never complete without an activity that involves bamboo poles; bamboo dance! Given that Singaporeans often use the same kind of pole to hang their laundry. we should set up a group to partake in the activity which seemed really easy.

Until you try it for yourself! Alex gamely volunteered himself and although he didn't embarrass himself, the tempo was extremely slow compared to ones that the locals danced to!

Check out the video above; scroll to 1.03 for the failed attempt and then to 2.03 for the real thing! 

Concluding the cultural show with the bamboo dance. From the start (hanging bridge) to the end, the tour was only about two hours. Having said that, i must said it was indeed an enriching experience well worth the admission fee! 

Taking the customary photos with the performers. This young Korean boy was so cute; the parents kept volunteering him to participate in activities that they were too shy to do! Haha. 

Strolling under the hot sun to our next destination; hint, it was coming to 12 noon and our tummies were growling.

Brought to the dining hall for lunch! Meals (lunch, hi-tea, dinner) were covered in all the sessions and included as part of your admission. 

Buffet style.

Local Malaysian cuisine via the nasi padang way. Nothing too fanciful and i thought it has that trace of authenticity that were rather fitting for its cultural village status.

For me, it has to be the lean fried chicken and fried banana that appealed to my palate. Not the best i had when it comes to goreng pisang and fried chicken but they were better than the rest,

There was a souvenir shop within the dining hall that had good quality and unique mementos! Too bad i had already purchased too many from the Sunday Market. :( 


Map of the Village
As above.

How To Get to Mari Mari Cultural Village
Aside from the numerous travel agencies which offered combos with white water rafting, visits to offshore island etc, you can also buy direct from the village's website


What to Expect from the Package
As above.

For the summarised itinerary of my 7 days, 6 nights Kota Kinabalu (Sabah) trip, please click here.


  1. Hi Calvin, nice write up you have. May i know where do u book those tours in Sabah? Was it booked beforehand online?

  2. Hallo! Thanks for the compliment. I purchased the tours online through :)