While I was at the smelly town of Rotorua, I paid a visit to a Maori cultural village called Mitai.
The Maoris are the indigenous natives of New Zealand. According to legend, they came to New Zealand hundreds of years ago in large canoes, in a time before the European settlers arrived.
These days, although they are in the minority, much respect has been given to the Maori tradition and culture in modern New Zealand. They are to New Zealand what the Red Indians are to USA, the Malays are to Peninsular Malaysia, the Ibans are to Sarawak.
Entrance to the village costs NZD 68 / RM 167. When we arrived, we're given a preview of dinner for later that night.
The "hangi" is the Maori's version of a barbeque. Stuff like chicken, lamb, potatoes are put on top of a pit filled with heated rocks and then cooked for several hours.
Tribal food normally tasted like somewhere between crap and dog poo, but this was the best meal I had in the long time. Maybe I was starving, but when I finally laid my hands on the meal, I gobbled everything down like a fat kid at Pizza Hut. The hangi produced a flavour so succulent, it's unlike anything else I've tasted before.
Before dinner, we bushwalked through the forest to the stage where we were treated to the traditional Maori cultural performances.
It was a fascinating experience for me, because from learning about their tribal way of life, I realised much of the Maori cultural draws parallel to the tribal Iban culture I know of back home. Just like the Ibans, the Maoris place a lot of spiritual importance on their weapons, clothing and tattoos.
Without a doubt, the best part of the cultural performance is the traditional Maori Haka Dance.
It's the same dance used by the All Blacks before the start of their rugby match to boost team morale and scare away their opponents. The dance involves synchronised slapping of the thigh and chest, bulging of the eyes, sticking out of the tongues, all the while shouting in a foreign language few people understand.
Some people joke about the Haka Dance, saying that its the equivalent of a Maori wondering "where the f**k I put my car keys!?" But trust me, as much as I wanna laugh at a bunch of grown men dancing around in G-strings, I gotta admit it was terrifying just watching it.
Sitting there in the audience I was thinking if they wanted to eat me for dinner or something.
Please note that it is spelt as the HAKA dance, with one "k". Not HAKKA, which is a Chinese dialect.
If you want to see a Hakka dance, just go to a night club in Malaysia playing Ah Beng techno music and you'll see this familiar sight.
Don't have to fly all the way to New Zealand.