Gawai: Dayak harvest festival

  • Hornbills
  • One of the activities at Gawai festival
  • Dances at the Gawai celebrations
  • Crowd and artists at the Gawai celebrations
  • Yun from Central Borneo Guide at the Chinese themple
  • A sunken in Pontianak
  • Houses on stilts in Pontianak
  • Buddhist Chinese temple at Pontianak
  • Gawai dances
  • Gawai dances
  • Gawai dances
  • Tattoo art at Gawai festival
  • Local Dayak woman produces beads art
  • One of the activities at Gawai festival

Crowd and artists at the Gawai celebrations

The harvest time has finally reached West Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia, where the Dayak people celebrate together the so-called Gawai festival (or harvest festival).

Borneo is a land full of biodiversity, and it is famous for the animals icons of this island: the orangutan and the hornbill. The Dayak people are the inhabitants of this special place. These people are highly tolerant of other beings and are blessed with a unique culture characterized by a special togetherness, as well as being well-known for the magic science employed by their ancestors.

Buddhist Chinese temple at Pontianak

West Kalimantan is populated by 3 main tribes being the Chinese, the Malay and the Dayak. Each of these tribes has its own festivals, and Gawai, an event held every year in the West Kalimantan provincial capital Pontianak, is one of the biggest festivals in the province.

During Gawai festival in West Kalimantan, various kinds of competitions are held, and participations to these are also open to Dayak people not originally from West Kalimantan Province tribes. Dayak participants that gather in Pontianak are from all over the place, in particular from Sarawak, Brunei Darussalam, Central Kalimantan and East Kalimantan.

One of the activities at Gawai festival

Competitions held at the Gawai festival include regional dances, playing blow pipe, tattoo making, pig catching, beads competitions, crafts-making, traditional spinning top, traditional singing, story-telling and more. No wonder thousands of tourists come to visit over and over every year, and their number is soaring.

In addition, Gawai festival-goers can try popular west Borneo dishes such as Bir Pletok, Choi Pan and Aloe vera on ice, as well as visiting tourist sites such as the equator monument, monasteries, palaces and a Dayak house.


How to get there: You can fly to Pontianak from several locations after your international flight, including the nearby Bali or Jakarta.

Join a Central Borneo Guide tour, browse

Central Borneo Guide is a tourism guide service that was set up by Yun Pratiwi, a local Dayaknese woman from Central Borneo. The main idea of their service is to help local and international tourists to visit and to explore the Indonesian Borneo.

Yun from Central Borneo Guide at the Chinese themple

They specialize on culture, nature and on the local Dayak ethnic people. Tourists can get full advantage of Central Borneo Guide experience and knowledge of local culture, which provides them a memorable experience not easy to match.

Credit photos by Apriyadi (from Spirit of the Hornbill dance academy)

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About the author

Thomas has a university background in the UK and in Latin America, with studies in Languages and Humanities, Culture, Literature and Economics. He started his Asian experience as a publisher in Krabi in 2005. Thomas has been editing local newspapers and magazines in England, Spain and Thailand for more than fifteen years. He is currently working on several projects in Thailand and abroad. Apart from Thailand, Thomas has lived in Italy, England, Venezuela, Cuba, Spain and Bali. He spends most of his time in Asia. During the years Thomas has developed a great understanding of several Asian cultures and people. He is also working freelance, writing short travel stories and articles for travel magazines. Follow Thomas on

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