Kampung Sapit: How love and bravery created this “sempit” village between Sarawak and Kalimantan

Houses sit near to each other in Kampung Sapit.

By Karen Bong

KAMPUNG Sapit’s name is derived from the word “sempit”, which means “narrow” in Malay. This is because the village is located in a narrow strip of land sandwiched between Sarawak and Kalimantan, Indonesia.

Despite being a small Bidayuh village in the heart of Padawan, Kampung Sapit’s origin story is one of love and bravery and dates back to 1878.

According to Kampung Sapit Village Development and Security Committee (JKKK) secretary Jessing Awos, the village was founded by a warrior named Nagoh who hailed from Kampung Karu.

At that time, his mission was to hunt down the heads of his enemies, but fate had other plans for him.

Jessing Awos

Nagoh embarked on a journey to Kampung Tu-an in Indonesia to behead the village chief. However, his plans changed when he saw a beautiful lady bathing by the riverbank. He immediately fell in love with her and found out that she was the daughter of the village chief.

He aborted his mission to behead the village chief who would eventually become his father-in-law.

Nagoh then proposed to marry her, and the village chief agreed, but with a condition. He must stay back in Kampung Tu-an if he wanted to marry his daughter, to prevent any future conflicts.

Nagoh and the fair lady got married in Kampung Tu-an and lived there afterwards.

As the population of the village grew, it became crowded and narrow. The couple eventually decided to leave the village and find a new place as their home with farms and land.

Before he was allowed to leave, Nagoh had to undergo a shooting test. He was only allowed to leave to find new land to build a new village if he passed the test. Nagoh was a sharp shooter and managed to kill a bird in one shot, thus gaining the village chief’s approval to leave and find a new place to settle.

And that’s how Nagoh and his wife discovered the area that would become Kampung Sapit.

A view of part of Kampung Sapit from higher elevation.
Traditional farming is still being practised in Kampung Sapit.

Back in those days, Kampung Sapit was really narrow with houses made using bamboo and roofs constructed using rumbia (palm leaves) which were present during the Indonesia confrontation period in the 70s.

However, Kampung Sapit has grown and expanded over the years, with villagers purchasing land from neighbouring villages like Kampung Kidding.

Today, Kampung Sapit is a thriving village with a rich history and unique culture, known for its friendly people and strong sense of community.

Located about 1,000 metres above sea level, Kampung Sapit is one of the few villages that sits above the clouds in Padawan. For that, it has become a popular destination for camping, offering stunning views of the sea of clouds, and breathtaking sunrises and sunsets amidst lush forests and towering mountain peaks.

Kampung Sapit is one of the featured attractions under Sarawak Tourism Board’s (STB) Sarawak Product Experience programme. — DayakDaily

Kampung Sapit is known as a village above the clouds in Padawan.
The magnificent view of dusk at Kampung Sapit from Kiyau Campsite.