Does the man of the hour truly require an introduction? Henry Golding first set the Malaysian media landscape ablaze when he scored the lead (and his first acting) role as Nick Young in the upcoming Hollywood film Crazy Rich Asians. With his acting career on the ascent, Golding made a splash across headlines once again – this time for securing a role alongside Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick in the Paul Feig-directed A Simple Favour. But what was kept under wraps even more securely than his movements amongst the Hollywood elite was this: before he stepped foot on the Walk of Fame, he’d actually turned back to trace his footsteps on a two-month journey of self-discovery in Sarawak, the land of his birth.
Born to an Iban mother and British father, Golding embarked on a traditional Iban rite of passage called bejalai to seek knowldege and experience. “The bejalai is a journey of self-discovery that’s undertaken as boys venture into manhood. You know, it’s the pivotal journey that witnesses boys transforming into men – who you’re going to be for the rest of your life,” he says. “It can take a toll on you because it’s a mental and physical challenge.”
The journey begins in his Iban homeland of Betong and proceeds to the mountainous region of Bario (home to the Kelabit tribe), before finally diving into the deepest interiors of Sarawak to seek out the mysterious Penans – Borneo’s last remaining nomadic tribe. “I’ve done a few sort of adventurey shows but nothing to this extent, where I actually do a good sort of 70% of all the filming,” Golding says. “So when I’m out in the jungles with the representatives of the Iban tribe or the Penan, it’s just me and them. I’m the one who films the majority of it. In that sense, it’s a very stripped down version of a show.”
Was it tough to film? “I think it was one of the most challenging experiences that I’ve ever had,” Henry admits. “The journey ends with my wedding (Golding married Liv Lo last year) in Kuching. That was the spark that ignited everything for me. To go on the journey before getting married and starting this new chapter of my life.”
Watch Golding sleep with scorpions and hike for hours through the jungle in a Surviving Borneo clip here:
Follow Henry Golding’s journey documented in the six-part TV series “Surviving Borneo,” which premieres on Discovery Channel on 10 September 2017, at 9pm, on Discovery Channel (Astro Channel 551).