The Stranger’s connect : At the Rainforest Music Festival… and beyond

It’s been a while since I wrote on the blog. Ironically, though the last post spoke of ‘a full circle’, it has worked as anything but closure. Not that I didn’t mean to write anymore, but if I had come across that post on another blog, I would’ve assumed that to be ‘the last of sorts’. Quite contrarily, that post ( weeks later) continues to bring me conversations with strangers.

In one such recent mail from Geneva, (if you are reading this, thanks once again for writing :-)), my ‘stranger’ wrote to me about soul to soul connect. And the last few years of my life flashed right in front of me! My most cherished memories, some of the best conversations in the last years have been with strangers, some of whom I have lost along the way and some, have gone on to become my soul mates (I believe you have many in one lifetime!).

One thing these experiences have made me, is a HUGE advocator of solo travel and open mind – so far it’s been the greatest potent combination I’ve seen, to make special connections. 🙂

Recently, I was at the Rainforest Music Festival in Sarawak, Kuching. I wasn’t traveling solo, and sure enough, when I am not, I don’t make very many strangers’ connections (that perhaps explains the deadly combination observation earlier on).

But something said this trip was going to be different – and I’m glad it was :-). There was music, a cultural village, meeting a few locals, world musicians, many a travelers and a strong strangers’ connect!

A little about the Festival…

RWMF 2013

RWMF 2013

The annual 3 day fest this year, saw musicians from Indonesia, Korea, Australia, Iran, Colombia, and the list went on! Day times were filled with music workshops, jamming sessions and craft bazaar while the performances take center-stage come evening! And if the line up and the workshops are not enough to take your breath away, there is the setting – Sarawak Cultural Village, nestled at the base of Mount Santubong, an hour drive from Malaysia’s charming city-town, Kuching.

The groovy music made you sway, swing and spin for hours until you COULDN’T STAND ANYMORE! And everything that usually spells trouble at a fest like this (crowd, long queue to get food/drinks, food itself) was all in perfect sync with the mood! And yes, it did rain, and the dirt tracks at the venue gave people ample opportunity to smear themselves in kichhad (muddy water, in Hindi), which few of them seemed to have thought to be a necessary experience of being at the fest! 🙂

A quick taste of some of the bands which performed this year (Not really the favorites, can’t pick that!):

Indonesian Band, RAFLY WA SAJA

Formed in early July 2010, Rafly features as the lead singer and builds up great energy, which he lives up to, all along in the performance.  This ethnic with a taste of jazz gives you a perfect dose of ‘world music’! Listen to some of their music here.


Super high energy, hugely popular and based on what is apparently Colombia’s most popular musical rhythm called ~ Vellenato. Wikipedia tells me the music originated from farmers in Colombia who were trying to keep alive tradition of the Spanish music, mixed with Western African! Some music here.

The Colombian Band at RWMF 2013, showing you how it's done!

The Colombian Band at RWMF 2013, showing you how it’s done!

French Band, CHET NUNETA

Eclectic music, expressed in an unrecognized language, apparently soon to be extinct! Smells exotic all the way, ha! Sample it here.

Coming back to the Strangers’ Connect…

We stayed at The Village House, run by the lovely couple Donald and Mariana, passionate travelers from Kuching, who also have a charming hostel, Singgahasana Lodge in Kuching. Over a long conversation and a few glasses of wine, Donald told me, their idea was to create a home like space for travelers and boy have they got it right down to the last T!

The setting is beautiful – Discreet looking Village house from the outside (the main entrance really does not prepare you for what is in store once you walk in!) which leads you into the courtyard where log houses (built on a stilt) surround the swimming pool. The wooden elevated structures add ample charm and leave enough room for the pool chairs and hammocks below them!

At midnight on the first night, when we got back from the festival, exhilarated and exhausted in equal measure, yet not ready to call it a night, we didn’t know, we would be welcome by strangers, sounds of karaoke (with them playing their own instruments, no less!) asking us to join in! ‘The party has just begun’ was our first thought! 🙂

Couple of hours and a few single malts later, the evening settled down more into a conversation, that veered from how Bombay is different from Mumbai (an epilogue in itself, which ill save for another day), to love marriages, from marrying lawyers (few of us on the table!), to the classic ‘its not what you say but how you say it’ battle.

The following night, we came back to the chatter again. The days were no different (only Wine had taken Malt’s place!)! Lovely food would pour in all day that we couldn’t stop gushing about! (The chef even made vegetarian 4 course meals JUST for me EVERYDAY!). The two-minute walk from the beach took us to a stunning sunset one evening, with a postcard setting of the sea on one side, mountain on the other. Amidst the chatter and banter, we made plans of going back there, each one of us, next year! ‘SETTLED’, we decided, on Sunday night! 🙂

Monday morning, leaving that place felt like leaving old friends back. Old Friends, we’d met only 2 days back.

Some old friends, we made in 2 days at RWMF

The Strangers’ Connect at RWMF

Now for why I wrote this piece and why I classified it under ‘aLive’.

The weekend, the emails, the music, the travel and the conversations reminded me why I started writing this journal. A personal account of special memories at ordinary life experiences everyone has!

My love for strangers and strange connections, late night conversations, music, food, – and astonishment about people who didn’t know me but cared enough to read about it.

Music – a friend once told me on a late night drive after a concert, ‘if music becomes a part of everyone life, the world would have no room for negativity. Everything would fit in with everything else perfectly then’. I believe him. It’s romanticism, I know, but what’s life without a few crazy optimistic dreams.

Lastly – as the writer of this blog, meant to celebrate all things art and the interplay of art and life, I was facing a sort of ‘writer’s block’. Ironically only art could’ve pulled me out or that, and no matter how long it took, it did. 

p.s. I have tried to weave into the story all the mundane things you probably want to know about the rainforest fest, getting there, where to stay, what kind of music is it, ‘does it rain’? 😉 etc. If there’s anything I have missed that you want to know, feel free give me a shout. Always up for a conversation 🙂


12 thoughts on “The Stranger’s connect : At the Rainforest Music Festival… and beyond

  1. Something else happened I read your article – “co-incidentally” my encounter with a stranger in the park spurred into a beautiful story. I will post it tomorrow. Read it if you can. 🙂

  2. The first time I read this post, it reminded me of Before Midnight. Or after midnight in your case. 🙂 you really have a knack of finding unique stuff and writing beautifully about it. One question on how you research all this fun stuff. I’m not able to find too many things to do here. 😦

    • Thanks Namrata 🙂
      This fest has been on my bucket list for years and I finally got to go this year. It was so worth the wait! For music, I follow the Songlines mag.
      You’re still new there, don’t worry things will start coming to you soon 🙂

  3. I think the important thing for a solo traveller is not where u go, but what options are available.

    I *really* recommend going on a trip with Exodus or Explore or one of those adventure companies. They are excellent and a great way to meet other people.

    However, I have also gone *full-solo*, so to speak. If u decide to do that my main tips would be…

    1. Stay in hostels, they are THE BEST place to meet other travelers.

    2. If there are no hostels, go on 1 or 2 day activity outings, e.g. diving, climbing, canyoning, etc. They are another great way to meet people.

    3. Carry your smartphone with you and join websites like or AirBnB to help meet other people (like me 🙂 None of them are perfect, but they are useful.

    4. Go on a backpacker-type bus tour. They are brilliant also and a great way to hook w guys:)

  4. Hi,

    My name is KC Owens; I’m a college student who loves to travel! While cruising the Internet, I found your site and really enjoyed reading your posts. Personally, I think traveling is a necessary part of life as you’re exposed to all sorts of new cultures and experiences. While enjoying time abroad, I’ve found it’s crucial to fully understand the dangers that you might encounter along the way. These mishaps are part of life and certainly part of travel but it’s always a great idea to take preventive measures to help ensure your safety while abroad.

    I was hoping that you would allow me to write a post for your site to share my travel safety tips with your readers? I put a lot of time and passion into my traveling and I would love to help others by offering safety advice as a result of the mistakes and triumphs I’ve had. I look forward to hearing from you!


    KC Owens

    • Hi KC Owens,
      Thanks for stopping by and reading the blog.
      And I couldn’t agree more on the safety aspect of solo travel – have had quite a few (mis) adventures!
      A post on that would be more relevant on a travel blog though. Travel is merely incidental in my posts.
      Better still, i’d say start a blog about all your travel adventures 🙂 And give me a nudge if you do, i’d love to stop by.


  5. Pingback: There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven't yet met - globalhelpswap - Responsible Travel Blog

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