The Mah Meri

An amazing day today.  Today we visited the Mah Meri (people of the jungle) tribe out on Carey Island, on the east coast of Malaysia.  Mr. Rashid Esa is working hard to preserve the customs of these indigenous Malay people.  The tribal area is a curious mix of ancient and modern, with spirit houses and satellite dishes.  We learned a great deal about the way of life of these fascinating people.  Thanks to Rashid for hosting us.

This is our welcome to the tribe: Flower petals, a crown of palm leaf, and a ceremonial foot washing.

Meeting the Mask Man of Malaysia.

The Mah Meri are renowned for their wood carvings.



The wedding party in traditional outfits.  Nothing says comfort like an outfit made of palm bark.


Ritual combat before the ceremony.  Why?  I have no idea.


The mask man unmasked.  This is my fourth visit to the tribe, and this is the first time I’ve seen his face.  He has decided to show his face to the world in order to draw attention to his people, but he has drawn a lot of criticism from the tribe for this move and may be driven out.


The band.  Traditional drums, gong, and of all things, a fiddle.  As I said, it’s a strange mix of old and new.


Weddings always make me cry….


…when it’s a million freaking degrees outside.  It was hot.  So. Hot.


Connor was required to pass an intelligence test (a wood and string puzzle) before the wedding could proceed.  It was touch and go for a while but he managed to pull it off.


The dance troupe.

In one last test, Connor was tasked with picking Sam’s hand out of a crowd to show that he knew her well enough to find the right woman.  If the woman truly does not wish to get married, she can simply pull in her hand.  That would be awkward.

The mask man blesses the couple by shaking things at them, smearing them with some kind of white goop, and then throwing flower petals at them.  All while dancing.

Then Troy, James, and some random Australian woman got a chance to get their groove on and bless the happy, goopy, flowery couple.

Then the entire group got to join the dance troupe in a type of circle dance.  It was frightening.


Rashid’s son Rias (not sure about spelling) was eager to get in on the act.  I think the guy wearing the mask is Jarek.  Not sure why he’s in there but I don’t ask questions.

As you probably anticipated, the next thing we did was practice using the blowgun. The local wildlife is not in any danger.


The mask man invited us to his workshop.


He was happy to demonstrate his mask carving.  The wood is a type of mahogany.  If they cut down a tree, they plant a tree.


He has carved all these masks.

What better way to end the day than with a little palm leaf origami?


Saying goodbye to the Mah Meri


After dinner we scored some Durian Puffs.  On sale!  There’s almost no downside!  As you can see, they were a hit.

That’s it for today!  Tomorrow we leave KL and head for Penang.  The adventure continues!


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