CU4 : Tour Commentary Delivery


Work Activities :

  1. Gather Information on relevant topics
  2. Prepare storyline for commentary delivery
  3. Conduct tour commentary on the topics
  4. Handle questions and answer



Tour commentary delivery shall be performed in a precise manner following the norms using pre-set procedures in accordance to the Tourist Guides’ Code of Ethics, so that the tourist are fully and accurately informed. The Tourist Guide who is competent in tour commentary delivery shall be able to gather information on the relevant topics, prepare storyline for commentary delivery, conduct tour commentary on the topics and handle question and answer.

Once guests have all be seated in a coach, opening information dissemination is best carried out as follows :

  1. Welcoming speech – welcome the guests on board, introduce yourself, brief information about Malaysia and the destination they are currently at, time difference, exchange rates, weather etc
  2. Brief information about whole itinerary – from start till completion of the stay.
  3. Explain about accommodation – general information about the accommodation, popularity, interesting facilities etc.
  4. Briefing information about meals arrangement – all meal arrangements including breakfast, lunch and dinner
  5. Brief information about places of visit – highlight all top destinations arranged for them during their stay.

Prior arrival to a visiting place, a tourist guide firstly need to recognize 4 different strength of places of visit which will influence the style of information dissemination. The strengths are :

  1. History – if a place is strong in history element such as Porta de Santiago, then the guide needs to tell more stories about the history
  2. Culture – if a place strong in culture, then the cultural information shall dominate the information delivery
  3. Place of Interest – if a place does not have a prominent cultural or historical values, then the strength of information dissemination shall be about the interesting things the guests can do or expected.
  4. Travel Trade – food, drinks and any other tourism products which cannot be categorized by no 1-3 above, such as Cendol, Gamat, Ais kacang, Gula Melaka etc

NOTE 1 : Some places may have the combination of history, culture, place of interest and travel trade. In this case, the tourist guide need to arrange all 4 areas of information in such a way that would create interest among the listeners.

NOTE 2 : There is no specific rules and regulations that a tourist guide must abide to follow, however a successful tourist guides are those who are able to create interest in what he is talking about. It is a personal skill which may differ from one guide to another.


Depending on the destination of the tour, a responsible Tour Guide should make his/her own research and gather as much information about a place as much as possible such as :

  • Its history
  • Its specialties
  • Its surrounding
  • Entrance prices
  • Facilities
  • Latest development etc


Once all information has been gathered, a Tour Guide needs to summarize information in an such a way that he/she will be able to deliver the information correctly and systematically.

Use 5W and 1H method in order to prepare the storyline.

What – what is the name of the place, what is the distance, what is the specialty etc..

Where – where is the location, where to enter, where to get down from the bus etc

Why – why the guests need to go there, what is so special etc

When – when was it first opened?, when will we arrive there etc

Who – who built it, who discovered it etc

How – how can we enjoy the place, how to go about etc

Often, the question what will lead to where, why, who, how etc..


The basic rule when delivering information is :

  1. Opening – introduce the place in details
  2. Content – the storyline which the guide has prepared
  3. Safety & health – brief on safety all the time, such as do’s and dont’s, bus number, danger of feeding animals or danger of touching something etc
  4. Closing – end the topic as the place is nearing to arrival


Interpreter work does not only mean translating a language to another language. It also means interpreting or delivering clearer information to the guests. The guests hope for a tour guide to explain if not all, as much information as he/she can. A successful guide would do a lot of reading and be prepared with a lot of updated information. He/she is like a walking dictionary to the guests. A guide must first equip himself/herself with knowledge about places that he/she will be taking the guests to. If any information cannot be immediately delivered, a guide needs to request excuse, verify the information and get back to the guests.

Advise Security Measures

Remind safety measures to be taken at a place of accommodation :

  1. Valuables must be kept in safety deposit (if available)
  2. Door (entrance) must always be locked
  3. Do not leave handbags or luggage all over the place
  4. Keep room key at a safe place
  5. Study the location of emergency doors

Safety measures to be taken at a shopping center :

  1. Be careful when wearing jewelry and holding cameras
  2. Handbags must be carried at the side or infront position
  3. Do not count money in an open area
  4. Do not leave handbags unattended
  5. Walk in groups
  6. Be alert in public areas
  7. Ensure all goods are taken when leaving restaurants etc..

Safety measures at eatery outlets :

  1. Be careful when wearing jewelry
  2. Keep camera in a safe place
  3. Keep handbags at safe place
  4. Ensure the place is clean
  5. Do not stay in a place if there is a doubt on cleanliness and health

Information Dissemination – LANGKAWI

Langkawi, and some if its smaller islands, has a legendary reputation, with many places where myth and natural beauty seem to coincide. Many of its legends are all the more real, simply because its people are convinced of their authenticity.

Langkawi certainly has its own share of geological uniqueness, as the very landscape from which these legends are derived. The island’s oldest geological formation, Gunung Matchincang, was the first part of South-East Asia to rise from the seabed in the Cambrian period more than half a billion years ago. You can literally see Langkawi’s history in the oldest part of the formation from Teluk Datai at the north-west of the island, where the exposed outcrop consists of mainly sandstone (quartzite) in the upper parts and shale and mudstone in the lower parts of the sequence. This piece of history in the form of the rugged topography makes a stunning backdrop to the culture and myths around the island.

The history behind this whole area is fascinating, and it will have been the older civilizations that fostered many of the famous legends. Langkawi is part of the State of Kedah, and as you will see from its very ancient connections, that many of those involved will have past these islands from time immemorial. It may only have been in the last few centuries that Langkawi was settled but fisherman and pirates have been here long before.

Archaeological evidence suggests that Kedah is the site of Peninsular Malaysia’s oldest civilization.

When Malacca fell to the Portuguese, the influence of its Sultanate over Kedah weakened. However, other powers soon asserted themselves in Kedah, including both the Portuguese and the rising Achenese, and by the end of the 18th century the Thai threat arose once more.
Fearing renewed domination by its northern neighbours, Kedah appealed to the British for assistance. As inducements to a commitment, Kedah ceded first Penang (1796) and then the adjoining strip of coastal land (1800) to the British. Nonetheless, Kedah fell to the Thais in 1821. Thailand transferred their sovereignty to the British in 1909.


And what makes Langkawi so alluring are the many legends that surround it, in their natural setting.

Some of the legends have some basis in truth and historical events. Others have made the natural landscape come alive with fantastic beings. But wherever you go on the island, it will be the haunting beauty of the scenery and the charm of the people that will convince you of Langkawi’s mythic status. Some of the places where you can still find these natural legends include:

One of the most significant sites on the island that have been preserved for posterity is Makam Mahsuri (Mahsuri’s Mausoleum), about 12 kilometers from Kuah.
This shrine was erected in honor of Mahsuri, a beautiful maiden who was unjustly accused of adultery and put to death some time in the 18th Century. According to legend, white blood flowed at her execution, proving her innocence as with her dying breath she laid a curse on the island that it would remain barren for seven generations. The subsequent invasion by the Siamese began the decline, signs of which can also be seen at Beras Terbakar (The Field of Burnt Rice) with blackened grains still on the ground).

After many years languishing as a backwater, one of the first people to begin re-introducing Langkawi to the world was the late Tunku Abdul Rahman, the first Prime Minister of Malaysia.

Having heard the legend as a young District Officer in Kedah, the Tunku was able to find Mahsuri’s grave to pay his respects and set up a tomb to honour her memory.

His fortune, and that of those who had helped him pay respect, improved not long after, and so the legend of Mahsuri began. The legend is now firmly established in the Malaysian psyche, with many plays, movies and school textbooks.

For Malaysians, the legend of Mahsuri shows that truth and goodness shall prevail. Langkawi’s development and prosperity improved not long after the supposed end of the curse in the 1980’s, and Mahsuri’s descendants have also been located in Southern Thailand.

Telaga Tujuh
Telaga Tujuh (Seven Wells) is a geological marvel located in the south-western corner of the main island. The waterfall used to be buried deep in the jungle and its beauty was rarely seen.
Its name is derived from the series of seven natural pools forming the waterfall’s dramatic cascade down a steep 90 metre high rock face. Although now easily accessible by road, the lush green forest that surrounds the waterfall still adds a mystical touch to the natural splendor with trails leading up to nearby Gunung Matchincang. Legend has it that fairies used to come down to the waterfall to bathe and frolic, though only the most skilled or lucky would ever be able to glimpse their unearthly beauty.

Air Hangat
The legend with this hot spring arose from a wedding feast that went wrong. After a perceived insult, a fight between two families of giants began with smashed banquet items being hurled miles away, giving rise to the island’s main features. The spilled hot water became the springs at Air Hangat (hot water), while the broken pots turned into Belanga Perak and the liquids lost into the ground became Kisap. As a result of all the furor, a witch known as the gedembai turned the two patriachs, Mat and Raya, into two of the island’s major mountains, Gunung Raya and Gunung Matchincang to punish them for the mayhem and to this day they still remain locked in stone watching over the island. Air Hangat Village has tourist and bathing facilities in the hot springs.

Pulau Dayang Bunting
Pulau Dayang Bunting south of Pulau Langkawi has the largest freshwater lake in the group of Langkawi islands. The hilly landscape on one side of the lake indeed resembles the shape of a pregnant maiden lying on her back. However, the name of both the island and lake, the Pregnant Maiden, is attributed to the legend of a lovely fairy princess who blessed the lake’s waters so that any childless woman who bathed in the lake would conceive thereafter.

Nearby on the same island is a cave known as Gua Langsiar which is so deep and dark that local people traditionally would never set foot there. They are convinced the cave is home to a giant female vampire called the langsiar, which lured men to her lair to feed on their blood. The eerie sounds coming from the depths of the cave were said to be the cries of the banshee, though it is now known that the cave is home to thousands of bats. Pulau Dayang Bunting is accessible by boat, group trips and charters can be easily arranged with major hotels and tour operators.


Communication Skills and Guiding Techniques – The Art of Guiding.

The identification and consideration of visitors’ expectations and needs requirespsychological insight, flexibility and appropriate selection from a wide range of knowledge. Specific communication skills are essential to enable tourist guides to present the knowledge they have chosen for the particular audience in a dynamic and pleasing way.

Tourist guiding techniques optimise the use of voice, gestures, positioning and group management. These skills and techniques can only be taught in a practical way. They are not area-specific but nevertheless it is imperative to teach and assess them in the areas and sites where they will be applied, as they have to be adapted to local conditions.



Clarify Time Differences

Guests who are from abroad may feel a little confused with the time difference. A tour guide needs to inform the local time during his/her tour briefing. He should study the origin of the guests and be ready to inform or clarify the time difference. Be specific so that the guests understand it. Eg : “Good Morning, It is 9.00am in Malaysia right now, and that makes it 1.00am in London and 11.00am in Sydney and Japan.” Certain countries apply day-light saving system, meaning the time is forwarded by one hour in winter and reversed one hour in summer. A tour guide needs to double check the right time before making any announcement to the guests.

Deliver Weather Information

Weather is a hope for everybody each day. Most guests would prefer a sunny day to go for outing. Check the local weather forecast every morning repeatedly before making announcement to the guests. Even though Malaysia has an equatorial climate, there are still dry and wet seasons.

Here is an example of Langkawi weather information :

Langkawi has one of the more stable climates for an island in Malaysia. Located on the northwestern coast of Peninsular Malaysia in the Malacca Straits, it is shielded from major winds and storms by the mainland on one side and Sumatra on the other.

Deliver Money Changing Information

Every morning, before a tour guide meets the guests, he/she should make a practice of checking the foreign exchange rate of USD, Euro, Pound Sterling, Japanese Yen and other major rates to Ringgit Malaysia, because if a guest ask this question, at least he/she has already acquired information to deliver. Other than money changers, foreign currency can also be changed at any banks in Malaysia. Brief them the locations of banks around their place of stay.

Ringgit is the official currency in Malaysia, but some resorts and establishments do accept other notes or offer foreign exchange. The current exchange rate is around RM3.30 to USD 1.00 – but, consult banks for the latest exchange rates prior to your trip. Kuah town and the airport is where you will find most of the banks and money-changers. Banks open daily from 09:00 to 4:30pm Monday to Friday

Deliver Accommodation Information

Remind the tourists about the common hours of check-in and check-out, to double check with their accommodation place whether an accommodation includes breakfast in its price or not, and its logistic position(s), ie whether it is near town area and public amenities, or is it in a secluded area.

Inform Tourist on Shopping Facilities

A tour guide needs to inform the tourist about local shopping centers and also the national shopping centers/areas. Describe the shopping centers to the guests, and what sort of purchases are popular at particular shopping centers. Also, explain what other facilities are available at the shopping centers such as cinema, restaurants, taxis, ATM machine etc.. If a guest would like to get or buy local products or souvenirs, make suggestions to which shopping center they could go.

For example, if the tourists are in Langkawi, they can do shopping at the following leading and largest venues :

  1. Langkawi Parade – facilities available : hotel, cinema, food court, supermarket
  2. Langkawi Fair – facilities available : various restaurants, Mc Donald, clothes shops
  3. Langkawi Mall – facilities : fabrics, clinic, stationary outlets, restaurants, banks
  4. Kuah Town – facilities : banks, fabrics, electrical goods, various restaurants etc..
  5. Jetty Point complex – facilities : bowling center, handicrafts outlets, restaurants etc..

Inform Tourist of Food Outlets

Explain to them about the night market and what are available there. Explain the whereabouts of Malay food outlets, Chinese food outlets, Indian food outlets, Western food outlets etc.. Explain to the them the price range of the outlets and recommend which one would give value for money.


Malay Food
The most highly appreciated Malay dish in Malaysia is, without a doubt, satay. This consists of delicious bite-sized pieces of chicken, mutton or beef, skewered, and then grilled over a charcoal fire. A spicy peanut sauce accompanies this dish. Other Malay dishes worth trying include tahu goreng (fried soybean curd stuffed with bean sprouts, topped with a peanut sauce), ikan bilis (tiny anchovies fried till crisp), ikan assam (fried fish in a sour tamarind curry) sambal udang (fiery curry prawns) and rendang (spicy meat curry prepared with coconut milk). A popular breakfast dish is nasi lemak which is rice cooked in coconut milk and served with sambal ikan bilis, squid sambal, egg, cucumber slices and peanuts. Sambal is a very spicy chilli paste, popular with all Malaysians. Nasi dagang is commonly found in Kelantan and Trengganu. It consists of glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk and served with fish curry, sambal and cucumber pickle. Indonesian food is best represented in Malaysia in the form of gado gado, a salad with a peanut sauce dressing. Another firm favourite is nasi padang, where you can select as many dishes as you want from the window display and share the food amongst yourselves.

Indian Food
In Indian food everywhere, you will encounter the myriad spices or masala, the lentil soup known as dhal, the yoghurt drink known as lassi and the condiments known as chutney.

Other vegetarian dishes include the popular masala thosai, a thin slightly sourish pancake which is rolled around the masala (spiced vegetables) with some rasam (spicy soup) on the side, provides about the cheapest light meal you could ask for.

Chinese Food
As compared to Kuala Lumpur and surrounds, the type of Chinese food found in the northern state of Penang and the southern state of Johor is Hokkien, Hakka or Hainanese style.

Nyonya cooking is a unique and extremely tasty blend of Chinese and Malay food. Chinese ingredients are used with local spices like chillies and coconut cream/milk. The popular Laksa lemak is a spicy coconut milk-based noodle soup, with beancurd, beansprouts and prawns in it.

Western Cuisine / Fast-food Joints
Good Western food can easily be found in the bigger cities but don’t expect too much in the smaller villages. In any case staple fast-food joints such as McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken are present throughout the country and have become household names.


Here’s a quick run-down:

Rambutans are the size of a large walnut or small tangerine and they’re covered in soft red spines. You remove the skin to reveal the cool flesh around the pit/seed.

Mangosteen is about the size of a small orange or apple. The soft purple outer skin breaks open to reveal pure white segments shaped like orange segments but with a sweet-sour flavour.

Jackfruit is better known as nangka in Malaysia. This is an enormous watermelon-sized fruit which hangs from trees and when opened, breaks up into a large number of bright orange-yellow segments with a slightly rubbery texture. From fruit-stalls, you can often buy several nangka segments skewered on a stick.

Starfruit gets its name from its cross-sectional star shape. A translucent green-yellow in colour, starfruit has a crisp, cool, watery taste. That’s not to forget a host of other fruits, including coconuts, lychees, jambus, dukus, cikus, mangos and pomelos. Last but not least, the king of fruits – the controversial durian.

Duriansis a large oval fruit covered with stiff and sharp spines. Simply opening it requires some skill. When the shell is cracked open, pale yellow segments are revealed with a taste as distinctive as their smell. The nearest approximation would perhaps be onion-flavoured ice-cream. Its nutritional qualities are high: protein, calories, fiber and vitamins A and C. It is also thought by some to be a powerful aphrodisiac, so that villagers say that it is the only fruit which a tiger craves

Drinks and Desserts
ABC (Air Batu Campur)
A literal translation would be something like “Mixed Ice Cubes” but it’s definitely much more than that – nuts, sweetcorn, agar-agar, red beans, shaved ice, syrup and evaporated milk – are combined to make this refreshing dessert.

Cendol Ais
Little strands of green-coloured dough called ‘cendol’ are mixed with coconut milk, palm syrup and shaved ice, not to be missed.

Teh Tarik
The most popular local beverage, this is strong tea with sugar and sweetened condensed milk… a Malaysian speciality!

A seaweed jelly which makes a delicious and creamy dessert with coconut milk.

Bubur Chacha
A thick, sweet concoction of yam, sweet potato, sago, sugar and coconut milk.

Soya Bean milk
Made from (what else?) soya beans, nothing can beat a cold glass of this from a roadside stall on a hot day. The taste is similar to sweetened milk but the taste is quite distinctive. Tau foo fah is a curdled version of soya bean milk and is flavoured with syrup.


Malaysia is a country in Southeast Asia that consists of thirteen states and three Federal Territories, with a total landmass of 329,845 square kilometres (127,354 sq mi).The capital city is Kuala Lumpur, while Putrajaya is the seat of the federal government. The population stands at over 28 million inhabitants. The country is separated into two regions, Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo, by the South China Sea. Malaysia borders Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei. The country is located near the equator and experiences a tropical climate. Malaysia’s head of state is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, an elected monarch, and the head of government is the Prime Minister. The government is closely modeled after the Westminster parliamentary system.

Malaysia as a unified state did not exist until 1963. Previously, the United Kingdom had established influence in colonies in the territory from the late 18th century. The western half of modern Malaysia was composed of several separate kingdoms. This group of colonies was known as British Malaya until its dissolution in 1946, when it was reorganized as the Malayan Union. Due to widespread opposition, it was reorganized again as the Federation of Malaya in 1948 and later gained independence on 31 August 1957. Singapore, Sarawak, British North Borneo and the Federation of Malaya merged to form Malaysia on 16 September 1963. Tensions in the early years of the new union sparked an armed conflict with Indonesia, and the expulsion of Singapore on 9 August 1965.

During the late 20th century, this Southeast Asian nation experienced an economic boom and underwent rapid development. Bordering the Strait of Malacca, an important international shipping crossroad, international trade is integral to Malaysia’s economy. Manufacturing makes up a major sector of the country’s economy. Malaysia has a biodiverse range of flora and fauna, and is also considered one of the 17 megadiverse countries.


Having had an interesting past and being a part of the international spice route many hundreds of years ago, Malaysia has turned into a mosaic of cultures. Everything from its people to its architecture reflect a colourful heritage and an amalgamated culture. To understand Malaysian culture, you must first get to know its people.

Malays, Chinese, Indians and many other ethnic groups have lived together in Malaysia for generations. All these cultures have influenced each other, creating a truly Malaysian culture. The largest ethnic groups in Malaysia are the Malays, Chinese and Indians. In Sabah and Sarawak, there are a myriad of indigenous ethnic groups with their own unique culture and heritage.

Malaysian Culture

Malaysia is one of the colorful countries of South Asia, which is renowned for its diverse culture and is fast becoming one of the hottest tourist destinations of South Asia. The country comprises of thirteen states and two geographical regions that is separated by the South China Sea.

Apart from the indigenous people of Malaysia, the country also boasts of citizens, of Indian and Chinese origin. Thus the culture of the country was considerably influenced by the Indian and Chinese culture. The Malaysian culture was further influenced by European, Arab and Persian culture.

The multiculturalism of the country is also the result of the fact that the Malaysia was a part of the British Empire. The colonial hangover still continues in the country and English is the favored language of the middle class and upper class. Overall the Culture of Malaysia can be best described as an assorted culture that is rich in variety and truly global.


Today, the Malays, Malaysia’s largest ethnic group, make up more than 50% of the population. In Malaysia, the term Malay refers to a person who practices Islam and Malay traditions, speaks the Malay language and whose ancestors are Malays. Their conversion to Islam from Hinduism and Theravada Buddhism began in the 1400s, largely influenced by the decision of the royal court of Melaka. The Malays are known for their gentle mannerisms and rich arts heritage.

Malay Culture

Malays are the ethnic majority in Malaysia and compose a large population that reside in the outskirts and areas just outside the city. They are constitutionally Muslims and were traditionally farmers and fishermen originating from Palembang in Sumatra. They speak the national language which is Bahasa Malaysia, a form of Malay language which is similar to Indonesia.

Malays have a rich heritage in weaving fabrics and wooden handicrafts, much evident in Malay-centric states such as Terengganu and Kelantan. Malays also form the bulk of Parliament and dominate the political scene in Malaysia.


The second largest ethnic group, the Malaysian Chinese form about 25% of the population. Mostly descendants of Chinese immigrants during the 19th century, the Chinese are known for their diligence and keen business sense. The three sub-groups who speak a different dialect of the Chinese language are the Hokkien who live predominantly on the northern island of Penang; the Cantonese who live predominantly in the capital city Kuala Lumpur; and the Mandarin-speaking group who live predominantly in the southern state of Johor.

Chinese Culture

The Chinese have set foot in Malaysian soil since the 15th Century, but it was only in the late 18th Century that they came en masse to Malaysia from Fujian and Guangdong in China to work the booming tin industry. Many of them settled in Kuala Lumpur and were an integral element for making the city as prosperous it is today. Within the Chinese community, you will find many different dialects but the majority in Kuala Lumpur are of Cantonese descent, followed by the Hokkiens.

The Chinese are the economic power of Malaysia, and in Kuala Lumpur, this is evident by the large number of Chinese inhabiting the urban and city areas. Besides being the second largest race in Malaysia, the Chinese are known for their colourful customs and traditions especially during the Chinese New Year. During this time, they put up fantastic displays of ‘Lion’ Dancing beside providing ‘Ang Pows’ – red packets in money to children, a practice that has carried over to the Malays and Indians of Malaysia.

Today, many Chinese in Kuala Lumpur are English-educated, speaking primarily English with some Chinese dialects in between. The Chinese also pride themselves on good education, and to bridge the divide between local dialects, use Mandarin as the medium of communication and teaching. An overwhelming majority of Chinese are involved with the corporate and commercial business sector of Malaysia.


The smallest of three main ethnic groups, the Malaysian Indians form about 10% of the population. Most are descendants of Tamil-speaking South Indian immigrants who came to the country during the British colonial rule. Lured by the prospect of breaking out of the Indian caste system, they came to Malaysia to build a better life. Predominantly Hindus, they brought with them their colourful culture such as ornate temples, spicy cuisine and exquisite sarees.

Indian Culture

The Indians in Malaysia are the third largest race, and a sizeable number of them are located in Kuala Lumpur. Originating from Southern India, most Indians practise Hinduism and speak Tamil or Hindi. Most of their customs and traditions are intricately tied with their religion. Hence, during the Hindu festivals such as Deepavali, Indians will perform colourful rites and visit temples. They were traditionally estate workers for tapping rubber when they first set foot in Malaysia. Today, many Indians are involved in the business sector, especially in restaurants.


Orang Asli

Orang Asli is a general term used for any indigenous groups that are found in Peninsular Malaysia. They are divided into three main tribal groups: Negrito, Senoi and Proto-Malay. The Negrito usually live in the north, the Senoi in the middle and the Proto-Malay in the south. Each group or sub-group has its own language and culture. Some are fishermen, some farmers and some are semi-nomadic.

The largest of Sarawak’s ethnic groups, the Ibans form 30% of the state’s population. Sometimes erroneously referred to as the Sea Dayaks because of their skill with boats, they are actually an upriver tribe from the heart of Kalimantan. In the past, they were a fearsome warrior race renowned for headhunting and piracy. Traditionally, they worship a triumvirate of gods under the authority of Singalang Burung, the bird-god of war. Although now mostly Christians, many traditional customs are still practised.


Peace-loving and easy-going, the gentle Bidayuh of Sarawak are famous for their hospitality and tuak or rice wine. Making their homes in Sarawak’s mountainous regions, they are mostly farmers and hunters. In their past headhunting days, their prized skulls were stored in a ‘baruk’ a roundhouse that rises about 1.5 metres above the ground. Originally animists, now most of them have converted to Christianity.

Orang Ulu

Also known as upriver tribes of Sarawak. Forming roughly 5.5% of Sarawak’s population, there are over 100,000 different Orang Ulu tribes. Arguably Borneo’s most artistic people, their large longhouses are ornately decorated with murals and superb woodcarvings; their utensils are embellished with intricate beadwork; and aristocratic ladies cover their bodies with finely detailed tattoos.

Kadazan Dusun

The largest ethnic group of Sabah, the Kadazan Dusuns form about 30% of the state’s population. Actually consisting of two tribes; the Kadazan and the Dusun, they were grouped together as they both share the same language and culture. However, the Kadazan are mainly inhabitants of flat valley deltas, which are conducive to paddy field farming, while the Dusun traditionally lived in the hilly and mountainous regions of interior Sabah.


The second largest ethnic group in Sabah, the Bajaus make up about 15% of the state’s population. Historically a nomadic sea-faring people that worshipped the Omboh Dilaut or God of the Sea, they are sometimes referred to as the Sea Gypsies. Those who chose to leave their sea-faring ways became farmers and cattle-breeders. These land Bajaus are nicknamed ‘Cowboys of the East’ in tribute to their impressive equestrian skills, which are publicly displayed in the annual Tamu Besar festival at Kota Belud.


The third largest ethnic group in Sabah the Muruts make up about 3% of the state’s population. Traditionally inhabiting the northern inland regions of Borneo, they were the last of Sabah’s ethnic groups to renounce headhunting. Now, they are mostly shifting cultivators of hill paddy and tapioca, supplementing their diet with blowpipe hunting and fishing. Like most indigenous tribes in Sabah, their traditional clothing is decorated with distinctive beadwork.

Eurasian Community

The word Eurasian refers to people of mixed Asian and European ancestry. It was originally coined in 19th century British India to refer to Anglo-Indians of mixed British and Indian descent. The term has seen some use in anthropological literature from the 1960s.

Many Eurasian ethnic groups arose during the Mongol invasion of Europe and the colonial occupation of Asian regions by European states and private corporations, that started with the great wave of European naval expansion and exploration in the 16th century and continues to the present. The main European colonial powers were Spain and Portugal in the 16th century, followed by the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and France from the 17th century onwards.

Baba and Nyonya Community

The Baba Nyonya or ‘Peranakan’ are terms used for the descendents of the early Chinese immigrants of Melaka on the Malay Peninsula. The word Peranakan is also used to describe Indonesian Chinese. In both Malay and Bahasa Indonesia Peranakan means ‘descendants’. Babas refer to the male descendants and the Nyonyas the female. Most Peranakan are of Hokkien ancestry, with a few of Teochew or Cantonese descent.

Whether there was ever any intermarriage with the indigenous Malay people is a matter for debate. Written records from the 19th and early 20th centuries show that Peranakan men usually took brides from within the local Peranakan community. Peranakan families also commonly imported brides from China and sent their daughters to China to find husbands. If a Chinese man took a Malay bride, he usually became assimilated into the Malay community and converted to Islam, rather than his bride remaining within the Peranakan community.

By the middle of the 20th century, most Peranakan were English educated, as a result of the British colonisation of Malaya, and the natural propensity of these people to embrace new cultures. Because the Peranakans readily embraced English culture and education, administrative and civil service posts were often filled by prominent Straits Chinese. The Peranakan community thereby became very influential in Melaka and Singapore and were known also as the King’s Chinese. Common vocations were as merchants, traders, and general intermediaries between China and the West.

The women (Nyonyas) have taken to wearing the baju kebaya (a Malay dress, seen most notably as the uniform of Malaysia Airlines’ female flight attendants). However, most of the Peranakans eschewed Islam, preferring the ancestral worship of the Chinese, although some have now converted to Christianity. The wedding ceremony of the Peranakan is mostly Chinese, and is one of the most fascinating wedding ceremonies in Malaysia.Their language, Baba Malay, is a dialect of the Malay language, which contains many Hokkien words. It is a dying language and tends to be used only by members of the older generation still use it in daily life.

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