You can read Part I of Cap Go Meh here.
His eyes rolled back in his head and he shut his eyelids tight. Tentatively and shaking slightly, he fumbled along the wooden planks of his blade-throne and made his way down onto the ground. His eyes still closed and his arms spread out wide before him as if he were wading through a jungle, he started to walk along the road amidst the madness of the parade. Stumbling and swaying as though he were heavily intoxicated, not unlike a zombie he wobbled closer to us, groaning under his breath. Froth spumed at his mouth and drool dangled off his lips. Spooked out of my wits I edged back, every limb in my body whispering to me to get away from the man. What was he possible of doing? Could he cast some curse upon me? Luckily a man from the procession came to his aid, took his arm, and guided the man along the street.
Fifteen days after Chinese New Year, the city of Singkawang in Kalimantan (Indonesian owned Borneo) is full to the brim with Tatungs – people who are supposedly possessed by the gods and show off their incredible deity strength to intimidate the evil spirits – most notably through a form of self-mutilation where surprisingly no blood is shed.
It was as if we had been hurtled into another helter-skelter dimension. The menacing, slow beat of the drum had overcome everyone present – even Jack, Lily, Pucuk and I were subconsciously swaying its sinister rhythm. The dazed and enraptured faces of the Tatungs besieged us; pierced noses, mouths, ears, arms and glazed eyes were all around us. The air was thick with a sweet, dizzying incense. Plumes and ash of the incense surrounded the Tatungs, some of whom were chanting, some using knives to cut at their arms, and others drinking chicken blood from the dead carcass. And the colours; flags and flashes of crimson, emerald and gold swished and danced through the streets. And top of all this? It was hot. Equator hot. We had arrived from the site of the equator the day before. This was the land where the sun incessantly blared and blazed through the clear sky everyday. It was a sensory overload in every way imaginable.
Time for an ice cream sandwich, I think.
*Tune in next time for more spirits and pierced faces as the Cap Go Meh celebrations come to a close…
Go Go Go!
Where: Singkawang, West Kalimantan (Borneo), Indonesia.
Why: The ancient old Chinese tradition of Cap Go Meh, one of the biggest Chinese festivals in the world.
How: How: From Jakarta, a 1-2 hour flight to Pontianak and then a 4 hour drive on to Singkawang. Flights can be booked with most airlines, such as Air Asia, Lion Air and Garuda. We flew with Sri Wijaya, a return flight costing us around 2million Rp/approx £100 (flights around this time can increase drastically due to the Cap Go Meh festival that occurs in February.) Accommodation is available, but if going for Cap Go Meh, book well in advance.
You’ll hear differing times as to when the procession starts, but the earlier you wake up (around 6am-7am), the better chance of having a good view of everything.
If you’re of a squeamish disposition, I recommend thinking carefully before coming to the festival – saying this, it is one of the most intense and awesome (in the true sense of the word) things I have ever witnessed.