Borneo Day 5 – 07/09 – Mari-Mari Cultural Village and Surprise Dinner

With thanks to Caroline for journalling the activities for Day 4, it falls to me to tell you what happened on Day 5. Today, we were back on the coach to visit a Cultural Village. More about that later.

IMG_20140909_092727We started the day nice and early with breakfast at Coast at about 0730. I had the Grilled Sour Dough. It’s basically a piece of sour dough toast, with mushrooms and melted mozzarella, and topped with an egg sunny-side-up. It looked divine and tasted better! Caroline had the waffles, which she had to queue up for half a day to get as they made it for her on demand whilst she waited. And waited. And waited. Etc.

Then it was back to the apartment to get sunblocked and repulsive, to then go a grab a coach before 0900. The Mari-Mari Cultural Village, which was about a 45 mile drive away, was one of the key events that I was looking forward to on this trip, as it would give me an opportunity to see the real tribes of Borneo in their native settings, and discover exactly how they live.

DSCN0026Well, it’s kinda like that but totally not what I expected. I was expecting to see a living tribal village, what I ended up seeing was a (very well put-together) tourist attraction which showcased how the 5 native tribes of Borneo used to live. Including their cooking, weaponry, attitudes, territorialism, culture, music, and building techniques. As was to be expected with an attraction of this type, there were a fair few anachronisms in place: green garden chairs, a tattoo on a “warrior” with the name “Clare” on it, etc… but the performance of the tribespeople was really good. IMG_20140907_105828_1We saw two different types of rice wine being made (see Caroline’s reaction on the left), rice cookies being cooked, ropes being made, meals being cooked in short pieces of bamboo, fire being made with bamboo, and so much more. We also (well, I) elected Caroline as our tribal leader to meet the head of the headhunter Murut tribe – who, incidentally, scared the living crap out of the lass stood behind me when he jumped out of the bushes with a warrior cry! – and Caroline had to greet the tribal leader and convince to him that we (as a tribe) posed no threat to their tribe. IMG_20140907_114452The Murut tribespeople then started sniffing around us (no, literally) and making questioning noises about things we were carrying – umbrellas, video cameras, bags, etc – and generally being suspicious of us… which you would, of course, expect from the leader of a tribe who is duty-bound to protect his people.

See a video of the “welcoming” ritual below

Whilst we were in the Murut village, we had another opportunity to try out a blowdart. Building on my blowdarting success from Day 3, it was only natural that I had to show off once more. Sadly, my first attempt was off the mark, but by adjusting from the errors I made the first time, I tried again – this time my dart hit the coconut square on, but then bounced off. I took that as a hit and did my own little tribal victory dance… which I hope no-one saw,

DSCN0166After we met all of the tribes, we saw a performance from some of the tribespeople. Some of the people made miraculous transformations – e.g. the dude with the “Clare” tattoo who was one of the people cooking in bamboo tubes was now a tribal dancer, and the vicious headhunter warrior leader from the Murut tribe was now a musician – but the performance was really engaging and entertaining.

DSCN0157I, being totally jealous of Caroline getting a henna tattoo on Day 3, got a henna tattoo of my own! (Blurry photo!)

So then, after the music and dance performance, it was lunch time… so we headed to the Village buffet for some food. Finally, after a brief spell in the souvenir shop (Caroline’s greatest weakness, incidentally), we headed back to the main entrance to catch our coach back to the hotel just after 1400.

In the afternoon, we basically did nothing, choosing instead to take a well-earned break from the busy schedules of the last few days. I wrote and posted Day 3, whilst Caroline alternated between watching a film and dozing.

The evening was billed as a “Surprise Dinner” for our party. Pre-dinner drinks were on the terrace on the beach-side of Coast. I believe (or might have overheard) that it was a daiquiri of some description, although it contained gin. I don’t care what was in it or what it was called… at least I didn’t care after two of them in fairly quick succession anyway.

Suddenly there was some whooping and hollering from the beach area, and we were then treated to our second tribal music and dance performance of the day. These tribespeople were very inquisitive. Oh, and very noisy. They shouted tribal obscenities at us for a while, and then ushered us (all the while screeching and shouting and drawing a lot of attention to us from the other resort guests!) into the main hotel lobby for the official Elite 2014 group photoshoot. Then, we were ushered once again down the stairs into the hotels main function room which had been totally transformed into a jungle setting for our surprise dinner. It was very well done, and it was clear that a lot of effort had gone into recreating the jungle setting for our benefit.

DSCN0179There was more music and dancing from the tribespeople, which included a blowdart display where one of the warriors shot a dart which popped a balloon being held in the mouth of one of the other warriors. I wasn’t watching the balloon, I was watching the blowgun… and there was definitely a real dart involved… very impressive display.

IMG_20140907_200519Then Pete, one of our corporate hosts, gave a good speech about why we were there, and once again recognised the partners and supporters of the winners.

IMG_20140907_203403The food was great – although Caroline’s main course (her being one of those awkward vegetarian types) didn’t arrive until most of us had finished theirs. Whilst the starters and mains were appreciated by most, the dessert – which was a random offering of either melon or a kinda of coconut blancmange – wasn’t. Shame really, I enjoyed mine!

IMG_20140907_210604The drinks were flowing fairly freely and, even after the complementary time had expired, there were clearly still some bottles of wine left over, ‘cos there was some magic fairy keeping all of the glasses topped up for us. After the plates had been cleared away, we had a cover band live on stage playing some popular numbers. IMG_20140907_235453The musicians were spot on, and the vocalists also, but the mic balance between the three vocalists was off, so it didn’t sound as great as it could have done. No-one appeared to mind as the dance floor was soon utterly crammed with people. Even I got up and danced for a while, and that’s not usually my thing. Caroline was up there shaking her booty well after I’d wussed out.

We had to stop for a while as we had to videocall our kids, so we combined the two events and gave them a live telecasted performance of what was happening in the function room. The video feed from their side was a little blocky, but you could definitely make out their heads bopping back and forth with the beat!

After some really good (and at times very geeky) conversation Bryan and his wife – more about that in a bit – the music changed back to the tribal stuff again… but this time with a dance beat behind it. Now we all thought that it was a backing track to which the instrumentalists were playing along to. Whilst that was true to a point, I noticed this dude in front of a touch panel tapping away whilst the music was playing. I quickly realised that, aside from the basic boom-tish-boom-tish beat, everything else in the percussion session was being played by him using this touch panel. I was utterly blown away by this chap’s ability. I nudged James sat next to me and pointed out what this chap was doing, and his jaw hit the floor as he realised that most of what we were listening to was Touch Panel Man!

So, long story almost over, we headed back to our apartment at about 0030. We knew we didn’t have to get up too early on Day 7 as we didn’t have any activities booked for the early morning, so we set the alarm for 0845 and collapsed into bed.

Anyway, a quick bit about some of the people we’re on this trip with. There are essentially two groups of people on this trip – Sales Elite and Heart Elite, I’ll call them. As far as I can tell, most of the Sales Elite know each other, or at least of each other. However, I’m one of the Heart Elite people, and when we first got here there was definitely a feeling that we didn’t fit into some of the cliques that had formed naturally due to the normal social gelling of the people who were here. This worried me a lot. I had met some of the other Heart Elite, but only as part of the Heart Elite programme, and not through normal working channels. However, during the course of this trip, we’ve been forced together (and I mean that in a nice way) by events and activities that have been arranged for us, and the teams that we’ve been placed in for them. Let me tell you, I can relate so much better to people in a group of 6 or 12 that I can in a gathering of 100 or so. There are certain couples on this trip who have really made a difference for us on this trip, as they’ve taken the time to talk to us and be friendly. To those people, we are both really grateful.

Headhunter Tribe Warrior Ambush

Rungus tribesman creates fire using only bamboo

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