Monsopiad Cultural Village

Just 25 minutes drive from Kota Kinabalu city centre is the Monsopiad Cultural Village . This is an excursion that may take about 2 to 3hours of your time but is well worth the time just to delve into a little of the kadazandusun tradition and history.

Monsopiad - Hero or Rogue?

Some 300+ years ago, Penampang district was sectioned into a number of Kadazan villages. At one particular village called Kuai lived a couple, Kizabon and her husband Dunggou. Kizabon was with child when the 'Bugang' bird (a sacred animal for the Kadazans), made a nest on the roof of their home. The bird nested the entire length of her pregnancy. On the day Monsopiad was born, so were the sacred bird's hatchlings were hatched from her clutch of eggs.

Monsopiad's parents believed this to be an omen, believing that their son had inherited the superpowers. The family took great care to develop and hone his skills and at a young age, he soon became an excellent fighter.

Monsopiad's maternal grandfather was the village head at the time of his youth. He witnessed many raids and plundering from robbers. The village people fled their homes for safety in the jungle whilst the robbers ransacked their homes of freshly harvested produce and rice. The Kuai village, unlike other surrounding villages was sorely lacking in warriors to defend it from such raids and this became a common affair.

The young warrior vowed to rid the village of these unpleasant intrusions and set off to hunt down the robbers. On leaving, he promised to bring back the heads of the robbers as trophies. Monsopiad came back victorious. He however, did not expect the reception upon returning to the village. Everyone was ecstatic and truly grateful for the deed done. The victorious young man, perhaps heady over the hero's welcome he was given, he again vowed to the people that he would be the village's protector from all who claimed to harm them.

Monsopiad soon gained reputation as a fearless warrior and began his obsession with protecting the village from all robbers and foreign aggressors and at the same time, seemed to relish in collecting more trophies. He continued to assert his aggression even when there was no one left to challenge. Soon he began challenging others to duels. Although Monsopiad was highly revered and respected, the village people had no other choice but to make a crucial decision. They had to rid the village of their most respected resident. One evening, as Monsopiad was resting at home, the village's braves were sent to kill him. It was believed that the extraordinary power and strength that the sacred bird had bestowed on Monsopiad were rescinded when he abused use of his gift. He fought back as much as he could but was overwhelmed by numbers.

The village was saddened by what they had to do. In return for his dedication, they erected a monument and renamed the village in his name

The House of Skulls or Siou Do Mohoing

The house is located just across the lane from the Cultural Village . A non-descript looking wooden house with a rather steep set of steps that leads to a patio and the main door. Above the door is a plaque with a warning to all that enter the house to be true in mind and intentions. Guides who lead visitors in have strange tales to tell. A few visitors were purportedly denied entry by the guardians of the house. A feeling of whoosiness or faint came over them each time they took a step up to the house. Eventually they backed away and all was fine with them.

In the house, are the collections of 42 skulls, a leg bone and a 3-foot long sword, believed to have been used in battles.After a battle, Monsopiad took the fresh skulls into the jungle and left them hanging off trees to dry out before being displayed at his house. Among the artifacts displayed in glass cases are jewellery, headgear etc. Pictures and some documentation of the Bobohizans hang on walls around the room. The bobohizans are priestesses who perform healing ceremonies (amongst other rituals) through consultation with the good spirits. As the kadazans are slowly being drawn to other religions such as Christianity and Islam, the younger generations have turned away from their paganistic traditions. The Bobohizan will cease to exist within the current generation as the last of the priestesses passes on.

The Bobohizan

The bobohizan or bobolian used to represent the village doctor. When someone had taken ill, the bobohizan is called on. The bobohizan then summons the help of the 'susukuon' or the good spirits on how best to heal the sick. With the results of the consultation, she would then know if a chicken, pig, or buffalo was required for a sacrifice or just a simple prayer or 'rinait' sufficed.

Much of the cause for illnesses were believed to be caused by beings of the spiritual context ie searching for a stray 'Kunduduwo' or spirit of the sick person, disturbances from evil spirits, black magic, or to pry the sick person from the grip of dead spirits and lost souls.

The Cultural Village

Just across the road from the House of Skulls is the entrance to the cultural village. Visitors will have to pay a fee upon entry, which will provide access to a guided tour, a welcome drink, a cultural performance, any current exhibition that is normally housed at the traditional kadazan house known as the "Hamin Tinandai".

If you as a visitor to Borneo have not yet savoured the deliciously wicked welcome drink, this is the place to get in touch with native hospitality. All adults are served with a pack of the village wine served in a bamboo cup and more appropriately - chilled. Great in keeping the afternoon Borneon heat checked. It's generally made from pulut or glutinous rice. Visitors will get to taste the 'lihing' (Kadazan-Penampang word for rice wine) which has 10% alcohol content. For higher alcoholic content, visitors can also choose to try a clear spirit with a pretty sound kick! Then everyone can try clambering across the narrow suspension pedestrian bridge to the other side of the river and back without falling over and into the croc infested, murky river below. (well, maybe not the crocs, they're pretty difficult to find out in the wild nowadays). Those wishing to buy a few bottles for the flight home, they're up for sale at the visitors' lounge. For more on the wine processing, click to . But you know, somehow Lihing never seems to taste as good as when celebrating and drinking with the natives. It's a bit like smoking a local cheroot. It's never better tasting then when you're having a few puffs of a self rolled cheroot or a cigarette, squatting by a dirt road with a group of cackling, gossipy lovely elderly ladies waiting for the country road bus to arrive..the only bus of the day.

If you want a momento for yourself or a souvenir for those back at home, the guides at the village also make beaded bangles with your name imprinted on it etc. you can make an order before the show and the personalised momentoes will be available for collection after the 40min show. (for RM5 a piece)

If you have never seen a monolith, there is a large one standing in the open grounds called the 'Gintutun' and as usual, there will be a story behind this structure and we'll leave the story telling to the guides. What's the fun in it if we were to divulge everything in this article? The guides are all young and eager to show you their cultures and traditions although not all of them are from around the Penampang district. A few ladies come from as far away as Kudat in the north, from the Rungus tribe.

The Cultural performance is held at a small theatre towards the back of the village. This is interesting show of various dances from different tribes in Sabah for example, the Sumazau dance from Penampang, Mongiogol Sumandai from Kudat in the North and the Anggalang Magunatip from Tenom in the South.

Apart from the usual, visitors who are very interested in the Kadazandusun culture can also book a guided tour to the Monsopiad Burial Ground which is about 1/2hr trek through rice fields and bits of jungle to Monsopiad's family burial ground. In the old days, the dead were placed in a crouched position and into a large earthern jar. There are reported to be a few of such ancient burial sites dotted around the Penampang district but the locals are keeping mum about the whereabouts as there have been some degree of vandalism in the past.


Sabah was known to have more than 30 sub ethnic or dialectal groups, at one time making up about 30% of Sabah 's population. Amongst them the Kadazans, Dusuns, Muruts, Rungus, Bajau and Suluks. How the various tribes were grouped under the Kadazans or Dusuns were originally believed to be due to their geographical preferences. The Kadazans mainly inhabit the flat valley deltas suitable for paddy field farming, while Dusuns are traditionally inhabitants of the hilly and mountainous regions common to the interior of Sabah .

There are many theories on the origins of the word 'kadazan' but the most sensible (personal opinion) is the believe to mean 'people'. As in a paper written by Richard F. Tunggolou titled, ' The Origins and Meanings of The Terms "Kadazan' and "Dusun", he states -

'The Bobolian or Bobohizan (priestesses) say that the meaning of 'Kadazan' is 'tulun' or 'tuhun'-'people. This is not surprising as native peoples of the world seem to refer to themselves as 'the people' when calling themselves by name. For instance, the people living in Greenland and northern Canada are often referred to by outsiders as Eskimos. But these indigenous peoples, according to Priit J. Vesilind in his article, "Hunters Of The Lost Spirit" published in the National Geographic, vol. 163, No. 2, February 1983, pp.151-196--depending on where they lived and what ethnic group they belong to--call themselves 'the people'.'

The word 'Dusun" on the other hand was believed to have been coined by the 'Mohemmedan Invaders' as Owen Rutter, author of, "The Pagans of North Borneo" explained in his book published in 1929. Owen Rutter worked as a District Officer for 5 years and left at the beginning of WW1 and being in his position, he had much interaction with the various tribes in North Borneo. He wrote that the pagans or tribes were normally divided into 2 main tribes. The names were never used by the tribes themselves but were given by the newcomers. The word 'Murut' is derived from Bajau people - meaning belud (hill) and 'Dusun' were given to tribes who worked their land, their orchards or gardens. In Malay 'Dusun' means orchard. Hence there were the Orchard people and the Hill people.

So apparently, when the Europeans arrived, they were given the impression by the coastal villagers, namely the Bajaus that natives in the Penampang and Papar area was called 'Dusun'. Hence, the name has stuck since.

Then came politics. In the early 1960's there was conflict amongst the Kadazans and Dusuns which was resulting in an identity crisis that had impeded their development in various aspects from social cultural, economical and even political issues. So came the time when politicians stepped in and fused the 2 etchinc groups under one .. The Kadazandusuns.

If you're interested in the kadazandusuns, have a look at the website on

The village is open everyday from 9.00am to 5.00pm (the last admission which includes cultural performance is at 4.00pm)

Tour & Show Schedule

Guided Tour

10.00am, 12.00noon, 3.00pm, 5.00pm

Cultural Show

10.00am, 12.00pm, 2.00pm and 4.00pm daily


(Inclusive of cultural show and guided tour)


Malaysia: RM45

Non-Malaysia: RM55

CHILDREN (7yrs - 12yrs)

Non-Malaysia: RM25


(Inclusive of cultural show OR guided tour)


Malaysia: RM35

Non-Malaysia: RM45

CHILDREN (7yrs - 12yrs)

Non-Malaysia: RM20


Malaysia: RM20

Non-Malaysia: RM30

CHILDREN (7yrs - 12yrs)

Non-Malaysia: RM15

This entrance fee includes:

* a welcome drink, * cultural show, * tour * entrance into the house of skulls, * other inhouse exhibitions

Kampung Kuai Kandazon
Penampang, Sabah
P.O. Box 153, 89458 Kota Kinabalu
Sabah, Malaysia.



Getting to Monsopiad Heritage Village

By Bus

Take the No.13 bus to Donggongon town in Penampang from the bus stations in front of City Hall or Wawasan Plaza in KK City. Fare is RM1.50. At Donggongon, board a minibus bound for Terawi and inform your stop to the driver. Fare is RM1.00.

By Taxi

You can also use any taxi to get there for RM35.00 per taxi per way or alternatively, you can call monsopiad village and they will be able to arrange a transfer for you