Lun Bawang Festival in Sabah – Borneo

  • The car struggled to climb the muddy track
Lun Bawang Festival Map area

Map pf Sarawak

Lun Bawang Festival is a tradition of the Lun Bawang, one of the ethnic groups that can be found in the central-northern region of Sarawak called Lawas. Lun Bawang are categorized in Sarawak as Orang Ulu; apart from Sarawak, this ethnic groups can be found in other locations of Borneo such as Brunei, Sabah and West Kalimantan, Indonesia. It is for this reason they tend to get different names: Lun Dayeh or Lun Daye, Lun Lod, Lun Baa’ or Lun Tana Luun.

During ancient times, this ethnic group practices traditional agriculture, and their animal husbandry includes rearing poultry, pigs and buffaloes. Lun Bawang people are also well respected hunters and fisherman.

Dancing celebrations

Dancing celebrations

This ethnic group is connected to the Lun Bawang Festival, also known as ‘Irau Aco Lun Bawang’, a festival that was traditionally a celebration of rice harvesting. Modern times have nevertheless modified the festival, and nowadays celebrations include a showcase of a variety of Lun Bawang culture and events.

Irau Aco Lun Bawang is held at Buduk Nur, Ba Kelalan, Lawas. According to Ipoi Datan, President of Sarawak Lun Bawang Association, the festival is an annual event celebrated by the Lun Bawang and conducted to gather family members and relatives. Ipoi Datan, who is also the Director of the Sarawak Museum, said the festival is held to introduce the Lun Bawang culture to the local community as well as abroad.


Celebrations during Lun Bawang

This event used to be held at Lawas Town; however, this year Ba Kelalan has been chosen to host such event as the place offers a rich culture and beautifully preserved flora and fauna, a special place for those who love adventure. Ba Kelalan is known for the production of green apples, rice, for its salt processing and cold weather. It is 180 kilometers from Lawas Town and can only be reached via air transportation, MasWing light planes or four wheels cars.

The 21 home-stays present at Buduk Nur cost around 70 Ringgit per night. Those adventurous enough to sleep in a tent can take advantage of the camping grounds, though you have to bring your own tent as well as sleeping bags since temperature in Ba Kelalan can drop considerably at night.


Official gathering at the start of the activities

During the three days of the event there will be various activities including ‘Ruran Ulung’, or beauty pageant contest, ‘Nguip Suling’ or bamboo musical instrument band, handicraft exhibitions, a traditional food festivals, cultural nights, tours and sports. Several Lun Bawang from Brunei, Sabah and also Kalimantan are expected to join the festival.

Villager in Sabah during Lun Bawang

Villager in Sabah during Lun Bawang

Reading this article is a good start but it is not enough to be close to the Lun Bawang community, so please visit if you can. Pack your warm clothes and come to Lun Bawang land, where you can really feel the locals’ lifestyle.  I highly guarantee that you will enjoy the trip and the tour.


To get there by land, first you have to get to Kota Kinabalu, in Sabah (Malaysian Borneo). After that, take the Kota Kinabalu to Lawas Town bus, which should get you there in about 3 hours. Once in Lawas Town, contract a four wheels car (the ride should cost you around 70 Ringgit per way). For those who prefer flying, MasWing airline ( has regular flights there from Miri. For more information on transportation, you can call Miss Evelyn and Mr. Daud at (+60) 85262019. For more information on Lun Bawang people, browse

Read Asian Itinerary news on the Lun Bawan annual beauty pageant and warrior contest on

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About the author

Cato is a young woman, passionate writer, and a loving mother from Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo. Cato gained a Master's Degree with honours in Social Science majoring in Communication Studies at the University Malaysia Sarawak - UNIMAS. After a long spell as a full-time reporter writing for TV and Radio news in Borneo and beyond, she is currently a Senior Marketing in a private firm practicing writing, public relations as well as marketing. She is also a regular and passionate contributor at Asian Itinerary. Cato is a dynamic woman with several interests and hobbies such as travelling, listening to music, playing guitar, reading, hiking, kayaking and surfing the Internet. She is a young promise in the travel-writing world, and one of the main exponents of Asian Itinerary.

View all articles by Catohrinner Joyce Guri