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Weekend in Mukah for Pesta Kaul

Pesta Kaul is Mukah’s famed “cleansing” festival of the Melanau community, which makes up the vast majority of the people living in this quaint coastal town located some 157 kilometres from Sibu (about 2 hrs 35 mins drive). Although no longer largely practised according to the old ways, the festival is still held every year as a symbolic representation of their unique culture and traditions. That being said, here’s how you can make the most of your weekend in Mukah while you’re here for Pesta Kaul.

Unique architecture

Regardless of whether you are into buildings and cityscapes or not, checking out the town’s unique architectureis definitely worth while.You might say that the buildings look like any other structures elsewhere, but look closely and you willnotice the distinctive roof on many of their buildings.Modelled after the traditional sunhat worn by the Melanau known as ‘terendak’, these roofs lend a unique characteristic to the buildings in Mukah town, such as the Mukah State Administrative Centre, Medan Setia Raja grandstand, Setia Raja Mosque, St. Peter & Paul Catholic Church, the new Mukah bus terminal and even their schools, offices and commercial centres.

Umai, anyone?

If you haven’t heard, Mukah is also nicknamed Umai Town. The reason is pretty clear – Umai is a staple here.For the uninitiated, Umai is a dish of thinly sliced fresh fish marinated in lime juice,onion, ginger and chilli among others.The acidity in the lime juice cooks the fish while the rest of the ingredients lend a balance of flavours to the dish.Find it in restaurants all over Mukah or buy some from the local fish market. For the brave, sago grubs are a must-try.They can be eaten alive but are just as delicious grilled or stir-fried. Ambuyat and tebaloi (sago crackers) are also recommended.

Sago Factory Chimney

Standing tall at 20 metres high, the chimney is all that’s left of the sago factory set up at the height of the sago processing industry in the 19th Century. Sago was a major source of income for the local community, who harvested the pith of sago palms that thrived along the Rajang Delta to be processed into sago flour. The factory helped streamline sago-processing activities and the local chieftains grew in wealth as a result. Unfortunately, the early 20th Century saw a sharp fall in the price of sago flour, forcing the factory to close its doors for good. While the factory itself is long gone, the chimney still stands today as a reminder of the glory days of Mukah’s sago industry.

Pasar tamu

A short walk from the chimney is the ever-bustling Pasar Tamu – a market simply filled with interesting things to see and buy. Fishmongers call out to passers-by, offering their best prices for stingrays, shrimps, mackerels and other fresh catches. Jungle produce,farmed vegetables, herbs and spices areas fresh as they can get at the market.So are the meat, poultry and eggs. If you’re looking to buy some snacks as souvenirs, Pasar Tamu is the perfect place for it. Sago pearls, tebaloi and other munchies are both cheap and tasty.

Experience local lifestyle

To best experience the local lifestyle, you need to stay, mix and mingle with the local residents. Lamin Dana Cultural Boutique Lodge, opened on Feb 14, 1999, is the ideal place for such purpose. The lodge is modelled after the traditional Melanau house, which is what Lamin Dana means in ancient Melanau language. Located at Kampung Seri Tellian, 96400 Mukah, it showcases Melanau heritage, history and cultural intelligence. Besides the opportunity to stay in a traditional Melanau house, you’ll get to savour local dishes, tour the village via boat, see how sago is processed and partake in various other activities, depending on what package you choose. Prior arrangements can be made by emailing [email protected].

Hidden wonderland

This gem of a place is a boat-ride away from Mukah town, off the beaten path. The name of the place is Taman Tanjung Pedada or Tanjung Pedada Park, located at Seberang Mukah. It’s a small fishing village located near the Mukah jetty. It’s not an official tourist spot so you will need to find a local guide that will take you there. The wooden walk paths with handrails covered in moss will take you through a forest canopy of sorts. It’s a stunning setting that makes for great photographs – with an enchanted forest theme perhaps?

Sapan Puloh Melanau Museum

Less than 10 minutes drive away from Mukah town centre via Mukah-Balingian Road is Sapan Puloh Melanau Museum. Established by Tommy Black Mark to showcase his family’s heirlooms, the museum exhibits ancient Melanau artefacts, including a complete set up for a traditional Melanau wedding as well as remedial items used in the olden days. The museum is open daily from 9pm to 5pm. If you don’t fancy going there by car, walking from town via Boyan Road will get you there in about 40 minutes.

Enjoy the Kaul

The main point of your trip to Mukah for Pesta Kaul is of course the festival itself, which this year happens from Apr 20 to 28. Make the most of the festival by heading to Tapak Pesta Kaul on time so you won’t miss a thing! The drive from Mukah town centre to Tapak Kaul takes a mere six minutes or 1.3 miles via Kala Dana Road. Browse through the exhibition booths and food stalls, check out the cultural activities going on throughout the festival, see the unique food offering basket called Seraheng and don’t forget to see and maybe try the Tibow, a death-defying dive from a bamboo scaffolding to catch a swinging rope dangling from a 20-foot high wooden swing.These are just some of the things to do on your weekend trip to Mukah to experience Pesta Kaul. Enjoy Mukah and certainly enjoy the festival!

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