The Tadau Ka'amatan also known as the Harvest Festival or Pork Festival was a new experience for us. It's a month long celebration and is arguably the party of the year, drawing thousands of people both locals and visitors. Hosted by the Kadazandusun Cultural Association it usually takes place in late May of each year.
It's a chance to sample the hospitality, food and cultural celebrations of the Sabahans. Cultural activities, lots of singing and dancing along with the traditional and not-so-traditional alcoholic beverages and of course the local food are the highlights of the festival. One of the star attractions is the crowning of the Unduk Ngadau (Harvest Beaty Queen).
So we decided to check it out.
We had arranged to meet some friends there around 2pm. We caught a Grab which seemed be an endless drive through windy and somewhat questionable roads. We knew we were getting closer by the amount of cars that were parked along the roadside. Arriving at the gate we made our way inside. It brought back memories of going to the local "show" as a child in Australia with the noise and the crowds. Making our way through the maze of bbq's sizzling with rolls of pork, satays and everything "pork" in-between we eventually met up with our friends. We sat for a while under a make shift tent and enjoyed a cold beer. We weren't there long before the heavens opened and the roof of the tent was buckling in places under the pressure of the water gathering on the top of it. It was time to move, so we headed off to explore what the festival had to offer. It was 33 degrees, the rain was easing and it was hot, humid and crowded. All the ingredients to make you ask 'what are we doing here?' There were lots of displays of local handicrafts and traditional performances happening. We headed to where the loud music was coming from for a further inspection. Upstairs there were many small stalls with big ceramic pots. At times it's a great thing to be a foreigner in another country when you attend their festivals. As soon as they saw us they were enticing us to try their wares. "What is it" we asked? "Wine" was the answer in their best English. Locally brewed wine, but not by breweries I'm sure. Wow, was the reaction after the first sip. Wine or racing fuel, I asked my Husband. "OMG that's so strong" I said. "More, more" was the reply from several standing around these massive pots. Laughter, wine and music, well its not hard to know what comes next! All of a sudden I felt someone grab my arm and wanted to dance. "Oh, no" I thought, it's the last thing I want to do at this moment. But there was no relenting, he wasn't letting go. Oh well! When in Rome. Not making any judgements but it was easy to see that most of the people had been here for many hours. We stayed for a while then decided that its probably in our best interests if we quit while we were ahead. Next we made our way to the food area. Captured by the wafting smell of pork cooking we tried several different dishes, then stopped for some pork wontons of course, even though we were struggling to find the space where to put them. It was a great day seeing the many different ethnic groups in their tribal costumes. After about 6 hours we headed home feeling exhausted from the heat, the crowds, and of course eating too much food but mostly from the "wine" I think.
And, if you order a bucket of beer, that's exactly what you will get!