Culture

Culture

Visit a Malaysian “Open House”

Open HouseHari Raya Open House in Kota Kinabalu

The two things you should keep in mind while planning a holiday in Malaysia are the food and the festivals. These two things truly define Malaysian culture in the best way possible. A melting pot of different religions and cultures, the Malaysians hold a lot of festivals to celebrate all year round. Irrespective of which festival, the interaction among the local Malaysians makes way for a special brew of culture. Also, along with the hospitable warmth that the country remains known for, giving birth to the concept of “open house”.

Aidilfitri Open House
Aidilfitri Open House

What is an “Open House”?

If you happen to stay in Malaysia during any festival, make sure to attend an “open house” or Rumah Terbuka(as locals call it). Common during Eid, Diwali, Chinese New Year and Christmas, it forms a perfect example of unity in diversity. This also goes to show how the diverse communities in Malaysia intermingle. Open house means that the host’s house is open to receive all well-wishers and guests. Everyone is invited to attend, regardless of their cultural or religious background. A practice unique to Malaysia, it is more than just a welcome to someone’s house. It is a way of life here where every race is mutually accepted and respected by all.

Hari Raya Open House
Hari Raya Open House

True to their hospitable self during “open house”, Malaysians welcome even tourist inside their homes. They give them a sneak peek along with giving them a chance to be a part of the festivities. Seen as the perfect practice to foster goodwill and renew social ties, the government too follows it. During major festivals, the government houses are open to the public for food and drinks. A local guide from Locaguide can help you experience the festivities. The guide will suggest the best open house options and share the dos and don’ts you need to keep in mind. You can also mingle and interact with the locals and other guests with the guide’s help.

Get a chance to sample the most authentic local homemade delicacies. Meanwhile, watch performances and cultural dances by the local artists and orchestras in a unique setting. At the Rumah Terbuka get yourself to experience a completely new culture.

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CultureLocale

The Mystical Borobudur Temple of Yogyakarta

Buddha statueStatue of Buddha at Borobudur Temple

Built amidst a medley of green paddies and swaying palms, Borobudur Temple is a mammoth Buddhist monument. It survived through the volcanic eruptions, bombs and earthquakes to remain as alluring as during the 9th century. An impressive temple as it stands, one must not miss a visit to the Borobudur Temple during the Indonesia tour.

A view of the Borobudur Temple
A view of the Borobudur Temple

With an aerial view that resembles the lotus, a sacred flower in Indonesian culture, the temple is not an experience to be missed. Made up of two million slabs of lava rock, reaching a height of 115ft and housing close to 1,500 carved story panels and 504 statues of the Buddha, the Borobudur temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Designed in the shape of a mandala, the layout of the temple symbolizes the cosmetology of the universe according to Buddhist teachings. The temple is built is three levels — the world of lust and desire (Kamadhatu), the world of form (Rupadhatu) and the formless world (Arupadhatu). It also consists of six terraces, three circular platforms and 504 Buddha statues. Moreover, each terrace possesses a different posture of Buddha’s statue. The postures depict contact with earth, giving and helping, meditation, fearlessness, teaching and learning, and turning the wheel of dharma. 

Apart from being the single most popular attraction, Borobudur Temple continues as an important place of worship for Indonesian Buddhists. Make certain to ask your local guide from Locaguide to show you around the temple complex. Also, ask him to help you join the locals during their daily prayers if you wish.

Architecture of Borobudur Temple

When to visit The Borobudur temple

If you are planning a visit to the Borobudur temple, the best time to be there is at sunrise. The views of the sun lighting up the structure and the mist creeping down the monument formed a magical combination. Therefore, transporting you to an era in the past when the temple was truly at its mystical best!

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CultureEvents

The Annual Thaipusam Celebrations in Kuala Lumpur

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Thaipusam is believed to be the day goddess Parvathi gave her son Lord Murugan a powerful weapon to fight demons. Marked in the Hindu calendar as the full moon of the Tamil month of ‘Thai”, Thaipusam is an annual celebration, with colourful festivities taking place primarily in the Batu Caves near Kuala Lumpur.

This festival is famous mainly because of the rituals the devotees follow to please and praise the Lord. Celebrated not only by the Indian community but also the locals and tourists who throng to Malaysia during the time, watching the Thaipusam celebration is an experience in itself. Many tourists plan their trip to Kuala Lumpur keeping the festival dates in mind.

Thaipusam rituals

As part of the celebration, devotees pierce their bodies with metal spears and climb up the 272 stairs to the top of the limestone hills to reach the Batu Caves. Inside the caves, numerous carvings depict tales of Hindu mythology, including a calming statue of Prithvi and a gigantic statue of Lord Hanuman.

The Festivities

The festivities take place over three days in Kuala Lumpur and start out in the early morning with a succession starting from the city’s oldest Hindu temple. A golden chariot carrying the statue of Lord Subramanian is escorted by thousands of worshippers till Batu Caves.

At the base of the hill, the devotees prepare themselves to offer thanks or pay penance to the Lord. Other than piercing themselves with spears, the devotees carry huge “kavadis” with offerings of milk and flowers. At the top of the hill, they offer their prayers and complete the rituals that follow. After the three days of festivities, the procession returns to the temple with the devotees walking along, singing and beating drums to keep the morale up.

If you are planning a visit to Kuala Lumpur and if it happens to be at the time of Thaipusam, your local guide from Locaguide will be able to help you witness this grand celebration and even participate if you wish to offer your prayers to the Lord.0

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The Mystical Batu Caves Temple in Kuala Lumpur

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Ancient limestone caves housing Hindu temples that hold murals of stories from Hindu mythology, the Batu Caves are an unmissable day trip from Kuala Lumpur. Watched over by a golden statue of the spear-bearing Hindu deity Lord Murugan, the caves are said to be a national treasure of Malaysian Tourism and are the central point of  Thaipusam, a Hindu festival in Malaysia.

Formed in the limestone hills, located just on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, the temples get their name from the Stone River that flows past the hills.

The vel-shaped entrance of the main cave is what inspired an Indian trader to dedicate a temple to Lord Murugan inside the limestone caves, making it one of the most popular Hindu Shrines outside of India. Another reason why it’s thronged by tourist is because of a 140 feet tall statue of Lord Murugan, the tallest in the world.

The Architecture and History

The temple site consists of three main caves and a couple of smaller ones. The Cathedral Cave, as the largest cave is known, has a very high ceiling and houses opulent Hindu shrines. The shrines reflect the tales of Lord Murugan’s victories over the demon Soorapadman. To get the blessings of the lord, you have to climb 272 steps up a steep flight, while troops of monkeys keep you entertained with their antics on your way up!

Walking past a 50 feet tall statue of Lord Hanuman and a temple dedicated to the devotee and aid of Lord Ram, you will reach the Ramayana Cave.  This cave tells the tales of Lord Rama in narrative carvings etched along the uneven walls of the cave. An audio guide is available to help you decipher the carvings, but a local guide would be better able to explain the myths and stories surrounding the Batu Cave Temple. During your Kuala Lumpur city tour with your guide from Locaguide, do include a visit to this holy shrine in your itinerary. Explore the fascinating caves for a unique experience in Kuala Lumpur and also get blessed by the lord while you’re at it.3

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Bali, The Island of Gods

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A trip to Bali would be incomplete visiting a few of the famous temples and witnessing the rituals, ceremonies and festivals that take place. Also known as the island of Gods, Bali with it majoritarian Hindu population has hundreds of temples also known as Pura, many of which being centuries old. Lets get familiar with some of the must visit temples.

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Balinese Culture at Tenganan Pegringsingan Village

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With Bali becoming more and more mainstream as a tourist destination, did you ever wonder what an original Balinese village experience was like in the past? If you wish to see it yourself, then pack your bags and pay a visit to one of the most conservative, original & authentic Balinese village — Tenganan Pegringsingan. It is a walled village in the regency of Karangasem and was once considered to be one of the most secluded societies of Indonesia.

If you are looking to dig deeper into the cultural and historical traditions of Bali, Tenganan Pegringsingan village has everything to satisfy you.

The experience of an authentic Balinese tradition is not something that you get every day. Following a local folklore about a 14th-century king, the villagers still observe the concepts of cleanliness and purity as the most important virtues in their lives. The Tenganan village has kept its culture, tradition, and rituals intact even through the modern era. If you’re a traveller who has little understanding of the Balinese traditions, travelling with a local guide could give you more insights into the cultural significance of this small heritage village.

Tenganan Pegringsingan Village
Tenganan Pegringsingan Village

The village looks really old and secluded from the rest of the Bali island. Even though agriculture and weaving are the primary occupations of the villagers, you can see some souvenir shops around that sell traditional clothes and handicraft items, such as paintings and writings on palm leaves. One of the best souvenirs you can collect from Tenganan is the Geringsing cloth, or the double ikat as they’re known here.

To sum everything up, the Tenganan village is a great getaway destination in Bali where you can delve deeper into the life, culture, and tradition of the islanders. Planning your trip with Locaguide can greatly enhance your travel experience in the most hassle-free way possible. Your personal tour guide will ensure that you get enough information about this place and its history, and come back richer in knowledge.0

Culture

Nyepi – Celebrating The Balinese Day of Silence

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The thought of a New Year’s celebration brings to mind fireworks, resolutions, and merrymaking in general. However, in Bali, New Year’s celebration is a day of solemnity and silence. Nyepi, also known as ‘day of silence’ is a festival of silence celebrated by Indonesian Hindus. It happens every Isakawarsa of the Indonesian Saka calendar when the island shuts down for 24-hours. The celebration takes place over six days when shops, banks, and streets close early.

Nyepi - Celebrating The Balinese Day of Silence
Nyepi – Celebrating The Balinese Day of Silence

Balinese Hindus believe that on Nyepi, evil spirits surround the island. To avoid disturbing these spirits and trick them into thinking that there is no life on the island, the silence remains maintained. Every single day of the festival holds a different significance with unique rituals performed all across Bali. 

Day 1 of Nyepi

3-4 days before Nyepi, the Melasti ritual is performed in Balinese Temples located near the sea to purify sacred objects from temples in the holy waters of the sea. Villagers in Bali form processions carrying idols from shrines, bathing them in the sea and then returning them back to their respective shrines.

Nyepi - Celebrating The Balinese Day of Silence
Nyepi – Celebrating The Balinese Day of Silence

Day 2

Performed the day before Nyepi, the sea Ritual denotes to dispel negative energies and create a good balance in the environment. Balinese devotees create ‘ogoh-ogoh’, demonic effigies made of bamboo and paper and parade them around the island. 

Nyepi - Celebrating The Balinese Day of Silence
Nyepi – Celebrating The Balinese Day of Silence

Day 3

On Nyepi, the Balinese observe a day of silence, fasting, and prayer. They follow four main restrictions on this day:

  • There is no lighting of fires or using electricity
  • No one is to work
  • There is no entertainment
  • No travelling

All Bali Hindus and non-Hindus as well follow these restrictions. If you visit Bali during this time, make sure you abide as well, although you can do what you want within your hotel. Everything remains shut for the day, including the airport, ATMs, and stores. You can only be allowed to travel in the case of an emergency. Your local travel guide from Locaguide will tell you more about this and help you understand how to make most of this day in Bali.

Day 4

A fascinating practice takes place on this day called ‘Omed-Omedan’ (literally translated into pull-pull) or ‘the Kissing Ritual’. Unmarried youths aged 17 to 30 years take part in this festival, where male participants pull in female participants and kiss them, while villagers pour buckets of water on them. 

Day 5

On this day, the locals of Bali visit friends and family in order to ask for forgiveness. With this ritual, they hope they can start the new year afresh and welcome new days for more prosperity.

Day 6

Upon completion of all the Nyepi rituals, they perform a Dharma Shanti ceremony. It implies a closing ceremony after which the festivities end and life goes back to normal in Bali.

Nyepi - Celebrating The Balinese Day of Silence
Nyepi – Celebrating The Balinese Day of Silence

Though Bali is a gorgeous place to visit all year round, it occurs spectacularly unique to visit during Nyepi and definitely calls for a visit to experience it first hand.

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The Royal Maimoon Palace of Medan

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Along with the raw natural beauty of the islands, Indonesia also holds a complex history and culture. If Indonesian history is what eagers you then the Maimoon palace in Medan is a great place to feed your curiosity.

The magnificent palace exudes the aura of one of Indonesia’s most spectacular architectural specimen and is a treasure trove of stories from the past.

Where is it located ?

Maimoon Palace is located at Jalan Brigadier General Katamso, Sukaraja village in downtown Medan. You can hire a cab and get to the palace. But if you want to get adventurous, you can also experience the local pedicab service.

Built in the 1890s by the Sultan Makmun Al-Rasyid Perkasa Alamsyah, the Maimoon Palace serves as an ‘Istana’ or a royal house for the Sultanate of Deli. Its unique architecture and interior designs are influenced by Mughal, Malay, and Italian styles. This palace is believed to be designed by an unknown Italian architect commissioned by the Sultan. Hence, unlike the other monuments, the Italian attributes, fused with the traditional Mughal and Malay designs, make the monument one of the most incredible places in Indonesia.

Maimoon Palace
Maimoon Palace

Though only the main room of the palace is open for tourists, the lavish inauguration throne and the lush green gardens are definitely worth visiting. Take a look at the amazing collection of the ceremonial kerises (the unique Indonesian daggers) and get to know more about the kingdom through the photo gallery in the main room. A local guide who understands the Indonesian culture and history could explain the importance of everything that is displayed in this palace. If you want, you could even dress up in the traditional Malay costume as a king or a queen and get pictures clicked in those attires.

Since Deli Sultanate continues to be the only kingdom in Medan, the heritage and the aura of the kingdom is priceless. Occasionally, traditional music performances also take place in the palace vicinity. So, a complete guided tour around the palace with Locaguide will give you a good look at the past and present of traditional Indonesian culture.0

CultureEvents

The Iconic Kite Festival of Bali

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The Bali Kite Festival embodies everything the island remains known for – culture, beauty and unadulterated fun. This annual festival takes place between the months of July and August (sometimes in October) during the dry season. This in order to leverage the wind that allows the kites to soar high. It’s rare to see Bali’s bright blue sky free of colourful kites at this time. The air remains filled with Gamelan orchestra music, giving the whole experience a more exciting feel.

Historically celebrated to thank Hindu deities for a bountiful harvest. Today, it is easily one of the most spectacular kite festivals in the world. 

 

Kite Festival of Bali
Kites flown during the Festival of Bali

History of the kite festival celebration

Kites in Bali come in different symbolical forms, with fish (Bebean), bird (Jaggan), and leaf (Pecukan) shapes being the most popular. These traditional kites are handmade and denote a real joy to watch them in the making. For instance, you can watch the Jaggan kites fitted with a guwungan. Guwungan is a tightly stretched ribbon that vibrates in the breeze to create a soothing humming sound. Create a personalized trip itinerary with help from a local travel guide from Locaguide. This will make you include a behind-the-scenes tour of kite making workshops.

Kite Festival of Bali
People at the kite Festival of Bali

If you want to fly a kite yourself or participate in the kite flying competition, then the eastern coast of the Padang Galak is the best place. The largest event, the International Kite Festival held at the Sanur beach attracts contestants from all over the world. Best to keep in check if any changes occur in the festival dates due to weather conditions. Once the dates remain frozen, connect with Locaguide and request for a local tour guide for an amazing experience in Bali!

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CultureEvents

The traditional Legong dance of Bali

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The spirit of Bali has always been in its ancient Hindu traditions, beautifully infused into its art and culture. The music and the dance-dramas of this mystic place derive their storyline and characters from the ancient Hindu scriptures, prominently the Ramayana, often entwined with various elements from the Balinese historic kingdoms. The traditional Legong is one such dance form.

The Legong dance, which has become a Balinese cultural emblem to the outside world, is one of the most popular among a list of cultural dance performances native to this magical island.

 

Historical significance


The dance, which developed during Bali’s feudal era, is usually performed by three young girl dancers. One of them acts as a maid, who dances the opening act and the other two dancers perform the main part. Beautifully dressed in colourful attires, the dancers look as traditional as you’d imagine — with gold brocade costumes, intricately-designed gold ornaments, and headdresses decorated with frangipani flowers.

Legong dance
Legong dancers

Traditionally a long ceremonial dance performance, the Legong, when performed for guests, is abridged to a 90-minute version. There are various versions of the Legong dance, and the most popular among them is the Legong Keraton, which developed in the 1920s.

The dance can be seen throughout Bali during festive seasons, but in Ubud and Sukawati, it is performed round the year for tourists. A local guide can be booked with Locaguide, who can take you to the best Legong performance available for your convenient date and time.

Legong dance
Legong dancers performing

With the help of the local guide, you can ensure that you get a legit ticket to one of these dance performances without getting duped by children who try selling these ticket along the way to the show. Usually, the ticket also functions as a brochure explaining the performance, so that you get the essence of what is being enacted. Each slight finger movement, facial expression, footwork, and gesture of the Legong dance has a meaning attached to it, and your guide could also help you understand the various nuances during the show.

A holistic Balinese experience is impossible without witnessing one of these traditional dance-drama forms of Bali, such as the Legong dance. Arrive early at the place your local guide recommends, get a front-centred seat, and enjoy the performance to its fullest!0