Before you leave the Kota Kinabulu area, we have a couple recommendations for you to soak in some of the North Borneo culture — because there’s not too many places on the planet where headhunting days are still within living memory!
First up: Sabah State Museum
There’s a fairly extensive grounds full of traditional village dwellings from various tribes, plus an Islamic museum and a hiistorical/cultural/natural history museum well worth your time. Particularly the parts on that headhunting we mentioned:
Allegedly those are, in fact, actually headhunted skulls “donated” to the museum. Won’t swear to that … but yes, they are real skulls, so we don’t overly doubt it, either.
If even that looks a little stuffy for you, then out of town a little ways a good place to visit is with some actual tribespeople, at
Mari Mari Cultural Village tour is located deep in the countryside away from the modern and developing Kota Kinabalu city. The village operates as a museum that preserves Borneo ethnic culture. It aims to share the knowledge, history, culture, and tradition of Borneo with you so that it is not forgotten.f
The tour offers you the opportunity to see and experience the culture and lifestyle of how the indigenous ethnic groups of Borneo used to live in the olden days when electricity had not yet been introduced in their land.
The village features 5 different ethnic tribes in one village. They are the rice farmer Kadazan-Dusun, the longhouse resident Rungus, the hunters and fisherman Lundayeh, the cowboy and sea gypsey Bajau, and the famously feared headhunting tribe Murut.
It’s a bit of a touristy show sure, but it’s an authentically touristy show, the various cultural practices are performed by actual tribe members, and good fun all around. Besides trying the local tobacco and getting a facial henna tatoo as you see above, there’s blowgunning
trying out various foods and alcohols, like the bamboo cooking here
and lots of opportunity to selfie with the locals of course, who are remarkably photogenic:
So yep, if you’ve got some time around Kota Kinabulu, there’s a couple good ways to spend it!