Malaysia is undeniably well known for the fact that it is a country that is rich with cultural diversity. But each time ‘Malaysians’ is mentioned, more often than not, only the 3 major ethnicity, which is Malay, Chinese and Indians will be duly noted in general. This is quite sad as Malaysia is made up from far beyond that and each of other existing ethnics are equally beautiful and they too contributes to the nation building as well. The country’s demographic is made of much more than just Malay, Chinese and Indians. There are the aborigines, and then there are plenty of different ethnics whose home residence is in Sabah and Sarawak.
During my most recent trip with friends from Tourism Malaysia Selangor a couple of weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to get to know the people from the Mandailing ethnicity. They are running a homestay known as Bagasta Bougainvillea Homestay, located in Kampung Sungai Kertas, Selangor. The homestay that they are running is certainly a unique one as they are offering guests and visitors a glimpse of the Mandailing culture and by staying there, you’ll get to experience how it is like to live in a Mandailing community first hand.
So what exactly is Mandailing? If you are a Malaysian, I’m sure you are familiar with the three major ethnicities in Malaysia but I bet the term Mandailing is pretty much foreign. Well, allow me to elaborate a little bit.
Mandailing is a traditional cultural group in Southeast Asia. They are found mainly in the northern section of the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. They came under the influence of Kaum Padri who ruled the Minangkabau of Tanah Datar. As a result, the Mandailing were influenced by Muslim culture and converted to Islam.There are also a group of Mandailing in Malaysia, especially in the states of Selangor and Perak.They converted to Islam and intermarried with Minangkabau and the Malays. Mandailing society is patriarchal, employing family names, or marga,. The well-known marga(s) in Mandailing clan are: Lubis, Nasution, Siregar, Hasibuan, Harahap, Dalimunthe (originally from Munthe), Matondang, Rangkuti, Parinduri, Pulungan, Rambe, Daulae(y), Pohan, Batubara Barus and Hutajulu.
Bagasta Bougainvillae Homestay, Kg Sungai Kertas.
Bagasta Bouganvillae Homestay is located strategically between the forests of Ulu Yam and the well famed Batu Caves limestone temple.
Bagasta Bouganvillae Homestay is particularly unique in it’s offering as they aim to allow guests experience their culture first hand. We were really fortunate as we get to experience what they have to offer that day. Truly a fascinating thing.
Upon arrival at the homestay, we were welcomed with Sambutan Ulos, a cultural ceremony by the Mandailing to people with higher status in a community.
Intricately woven shawl is draped on the shoulder of the guests of honour.
And then we were beckoned towards them while they sing and chant in Mandailing language. I couldn’t understand what the singing and chanting is all about, but the whole thing certainly have a good vibe and I really like it.
Upbeat drum performance were ongoing throughout this Sambutan Ulos process.
After the elaborated welcoming ceremony, we were told that part of the activities in this homestay is
hands on experience in making sambal tempe. Sambal tempe is a traditional spicy Javanese dish found in almost every Malay food stalls in Malaysia.
The ingredients needed to make Sambal Tempe; Tempe, peanuts, anchovies, chilli paste and shallot paste.
Tempe being sliced accordingly
Trying our hands at tempe frying
The tempe, peanuts and anchovies, all fried up. Not too shabby for first timers like us, I must say. 😉
The final product. The Sambal Tempe. Great to be paired with plain rice or even flavoured rice dish like Nasi Lemak as a side dish. Yes. We get to bring this home and so can you if you decided to stay at the homestay. 😉
Apart from trying our hands at making Sambal Tempe, we were also introduced to Nasi Upah, a popular Mandailing rice dish similar to Nasi Ambeng. (Also known as Nasi Upah-Upah or simply Upah-Upah)
Mandailing ladies in traditional Mandailing dress, with Nasi Upah hidden beneath the intricately woven shawl.
Uncovering the Nasi Upah. Like the famous Javanese Nasi Ambeng, the rice dish is also plated in a huge tray with various side dishes topped on it.
Here is a close up look of the Nasi Upah. The hard boiled eggs in Nasi Upah symbolises unity among the community. Fish brings the meaning of plunge into the hearts of the society while the prawn means pride.
Communal eating with fingers is also emphasized.
But here’s a bit of interesting tidbit about Nasi Upah. Nasi Upah is regarded as a magical rice dish that has healing and rejuvenating properties.
Apart from being served during special occasions like birthdays and weddings, it is also served to people who are recovering from sickness. The Mandailings believes that strength is diminished while one gets sick and the healing spirit is no longer in the body. Hence, they feed the sick person with Nasi Upah while chanting a mantra to summon back the spirit so that they could have a speedy recovery.
The Upah-Upah ritual where a mantra to summon the healing spirit is done.
We had a really interesting and interactive experience in
Bagasta Bougainvillae Homestay during our visit, and I definitely would recommend you and your family to experience this too. The hosts was really friendly and accommodating and my son and I had loads of fun learning about the Mandailing and their culture that day. It is not something you could experience in a luxury hotel, definitely. Package price for the homestay per person is RM120++, inclusive of room, meals and planned activities.
For more information or booking on Bagasta Bougainvillae Homestay, please refer below
Bagasta Bougainvillae Homestay
No 78, Jln KSK 4,
Kg Sungai Kertas,
68100 Batu Caves.
Contact: Tn Hj Ruslan bin Ahmad 016-3920439/ 03-61885515
Email: [email protected]