Bourdain’s Field Notes

I was brokenhearted and at a crossroads in my life when I first went up the Skrang River in Sarawak, Borneo.

The people I met there, 10 years ago, hosted me and my crew in their longhouse, fed us, looked after us and treated me with great kindness. When the chiefs invited me back for their yearly harvest festival, Gawai Dayak, I said I would come.

It took me a while, but in the end I did return.

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Travel like Bourdain

“In this part of the world, you live or die by the rice harvest.”


Wok hei: A Cantonese term for the flavor the wok gives dishes when used with great skill.
Gawai: The Iban people’s annual rice-harvest festival.
Ouroboros: In many cultures an ancient symbol of a snake eating its own tail; Bourdain’s first tattoo, marking a voyage to Borneo.
Kampong: A regional term for traditional villages.
Nyamai: The Iban word for “delicious.”
Tuak: Traditional rice wine.
Langkau: A traditional Borneo spirit.

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