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Mari Mari Cultural Village

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Mari Mari Cultural Village is a little bit amusement park, a little bit museum and completely manufactured tourist attraction. Yes, it’s every bit as cheesy as it sounds, but despite ourselves, we found it interesting and fun.

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The village showcases historical cultural traditions of five indigenous ethnic groups of Borneo: the rice-farming Kadazan-Dusun, Sabah’s largest ethnic group; the longhouse-dwelling Rungus; the Lundayeh, farmers of the interior; the Bajau, famously sea gypsies and cowboys; and the once feared headhunters, the Murut. Most modern day indigenous Sabahans live in contemporary houses and dress in Western clothes; Mari Mari Cultural Village aims to preserve their ancestors’ culture and provide employment for people.

Purely for tourism, but still interesting. Photo taken in or around Mari Mari Cultural Village, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia by Sally Arnold.

Purely for tourism, but still interesting. Photo: Sally Arnold

Rather than just turn up and look around, Mari Mari Cultural Village is more like an interactive show, and must be pre-booked. There are three daily start times, 10:00, 14:00 and 18:00, and each three-hour session includes a meal. The village is about 40 minutes out of Kota Kinabalu (one hour at peak hour) and the village itself and many tour operators offer packages that include transport.

Upon arrival you are met by a fact-filled guide (with a group maximum of 20 people), and led “mari mari” (“come on” in Malay) over a suspension bridge to the traditional houses. The forest setting adds to the authenticity, but paths can be slippery and there are a few mozzies about. Wear sturdy footwear and bring mozzie repellent. If you go to the evening session, you may want a torch as it’s not that well lit.

A traditional trampoline. Photo taken in or around Mari Mari Cultural Village, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia by Sally Arnold.

A traditional trampoline. Photo: Sally Arnold

As well as seeing the beautifully crafted traditional houses, staff dressed in traditional costume, offer drinks, snacks and activities. There’s rice wine (lihing), a local distilled spirit, honey, cakes and pandan tea among others. Demonstrations include traditional fire-making, bark clothing and rope making, and you get to have a go at shooting a blowpipe, and bounce on a (very fun) traditional trampoline (the lansaran of the ... Travelfish members only (Around 400 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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How to get there
There is no public transport to Mari Mari Cultural Village. A taxi from Kota Kinabalu city centre will cost approximately 40 ringgit one way. You will need to arrange a pickup for the return journey, which may cost more.

Mari Mari Cultural Village
Kionsom, Inanam, Kota Kinabalu (30 minutes outside downtown Kota Kinabalu)
T: (016) 821 5689
Admission: Including transport: Adult 165 ringgit, child 145 ringgit. Excluding transport: Adult 84.80 ringgit, child 74.40 ringgit. 20 ringgit less for Malaysian citizens. If booking directly note that it’s cash only.

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