Borneo's sunshine, vivid rainforests, and a laid-back attitude are the perfect ingredients for outdoor festivals. The friendly people certainly know how to throw a party; festivals in Borneo are usually vibrant events with food, music, and good times for both locals and visitors!
You can find festivals in Borneo practically any time of year, with a vibe that completely diverges from that of festivals in the rest of Malaysia. With such a mix of indigenous cultures and religions, there is always something to celebrate.
The Rainforest World Music Festival is one of the largest music festivals in Southeast Asia. Held every year just outside of Kuching, the three-day concert features bands from nearly every continent. Musicians from all over the world showcase their traditional instruments in workshops throughout the day before the headlining bands take to the two main stages in the evening.
The Rainforest Music Festival takes place annually in July. The festival draws thousands to dance in the mud — make plans to attend early. Tickets can be purchased in Kuching or at the gate.
For 2020, the Rainforest World Music Festival takes place from July 10 to 12.
Every July, thousands of jazz enthusiasts flock to the city of Miri in northern Sarawak for two nights of world-class jazz performances. Well-known musicians from the US, Europe, and Asia get the crowd dancing rain or shine!
The entrance ticket is a small price to pay for a great night of fun. Only a limited number of tickets are available at the gate, however, tickets can be purchased online in advance.
For 2020, the Borneo Jazz Festival takes place from July 17 to 19.
The Borneo International Kite Festival began in 2005 as a small, local celebration and has quickly grown into one of the most pleasant festivals in Borneo. Hundreds of people gather in late September or early October to fly colorful and intriguing kites. Some kites are complex enough to require handling teams!
The festival is held annually at the Old Bintulu Airport in Bintulu, Sarawak; entrance is free. A week-long trade expo adds to the excitement.
Gawai Dayak — also known as the Harvest Festival — is one of the most important celebrations for the Iban and other indigenous cultures in Sarawak. Traditional costumes, ritual music, a chicken sacrifice, and lots of locally-brewed rice wine make this event one of the most educational and entertaining in Sarawak.
Gawai Dayak is celebrated across Sarawak annually, beginning at sundown on May 31. The Sarawak Cultural Village outside of Kuching — the same venue as the Rainforest Music Festival — is just one of many places to witness the celebration of a good harvest. Sampling some of the traditional food in Kuching is half the fun.
Every July the small city of Sibu in Sarawak comes alive for 10 days of traditional music, celebrations, contests, and even a beauty pageant. Three stages spread around Sibu's green town square stay busy: Dayak drums and gongs bang on one stage, singing performances fill the Chinese stage, while a choir occupies the Malay stage.
A trade show, art contest, and lots of food draw around 20,000 people every year. The Borneo Cultural Festival is a great place to learn about Sarawak's indigenous music and culture.
The Borneo Arts Festival is spread over seven days on the island of Labuan — a popular stopover between Sabah and Brunei. Traditional and progressive music, dance performances, tattoo shows, and even a fire-eating performance make this festival a worthy diversion!
The Borneo Arts Festival is the perfect place to pick up authentic handicrafts and original artwork in Borneo. The festival usually takes place in August — check the official website for tentative dates.
Malaysia gained independence from British rule on August 31, 1957. Sarawak and Sabah did not get independence until August 31, 1963. Celebrations for Malaysia's Independence Day usually start a week in advance, with a finale of fireworks and parades on August 31.
Before planning your trip, get more dates for festivals and events in Malaysia.