Sarawak is also known as 'The land of many rivers'. The rivers provide natural means of transportation and communication. The 590 kilometres long Sungei Rejang is the longest river in the country. The rivers together with the wide spread trunk roads and well connected domestic air links make travelling to interior destinations easily accessible.
Once ruled by the three White Rajahs for about 100 years from 1841-1941, there are many a romantic past told about the wars and glimpses of the bygone era of the Brookes. The battles between the pirates and the Brooke forces, the rebellions by Dayaks, Malays and Chinese gold miners had filled Sarawak past with mystery and excitement. The famous Sarawak Museum with its huge collection of native heritage and artefacts, also houses the best collection of its rich history. Today, despite her rapid urbanisation, many historical remains of the Brookes can still be found at Kuching and other parts of Sarawak.
Damai Beach Resort, about 35 kilometres away from Kuching is a popular retreat, an ideal place for relaxing and lazing in the sun and by the sea in an international class resort hotel. Facilities for recreation and sports, both land and sea, are available there.
Just a stone's throw away from the resort is the well-known Sarawak Cultural Village. Many who have been there described it as a living museum. A must for visitors who may not have the time to cover the vast Sarawak. It is here where one can sample the rich cultural diversities, the authentic Sarawakian way of life, the customs and the architecture of 7 representative ethnic groups all in one single place.
Camp Permai is just next door to the Sarawak Cultural Village. The Camp provides comfortable accommodation with a choice of log cabins or tree houses. The Camp offers outdoor activities which include leadership training and seasports such as kayaking, wind surfing, sailing and raft expedition.
Buntal Village Resort is an interesting place for those who want to experience a typical Malay fishing village setting. The Resort is 25 kilometres away from Kuching.
Santin Resort is another popular place for locals and tourists about 28 kilometres from Kuching. It has a long unspoilt sandy beach, fringed by enchanting casuarinas and coconut palms.
Kuching is also the gateway to many Borneo adventures. Tours can be arranged by experienced local tour agencies. A river safari can take you to the longhouses of Skrang, Lemanak, Batang Ai, Rejang and Baram, where visitors can experience the warm hospitality, customs, music and dances of friendly Ibans and Orang Ulu.
The Sarawak Museum, reputed to be the best in the region should not be missed by visitors to the City. The vast collection housed in the Museum reveals Sarawak's efforts in the preservation and conservation of the cultural heritage and natural history of Borneo.
The idea of creating a museum to hold Sarawak's relics was first mooted by Charles Brooke, the second White Rajah of Sarawak. Later the man who influenced him to build a permanent museum was Alfred Russel Wallace, a naturalist who was in Sarawak for two years conducting a research on the evolution of man based on the Orang Utan of Borneo.
The first Museum designed along the lines of a Normandy town hall was opened in 1891 and extended to its present form in 1911.
The Museum opens daily from 0900 to 1800 hour except Friday.
Sarawak Islamic Museum
The huge collection of artefacts from ASEAN countries and other islamic nations provides a source of rich information to those who wish to trace the development of Islam in the Malay Archipelago and its connection with the development of Islam in other countries, such as India, China, Persia and the Arab state.
Sarawak Cultural Village
Do not leave Kuching without visiting the Living Museum
Popularly known as the Living Museum, The Sarawak Cultural Village is a showcase for Sarawak's rich cultural diversity. Visitors to the Village can sample instant Sarawak all in one single place. The Cultural Village built on a six hectares site at the foothill of the legendary Mt Santubong is 35 kilometres from Kuching City and is a stone's throw away from Damai Holiday Inn, a beach resort.
The Cultural Village is tastefully landscaped with a manmade lake at the centre surrounded by 7 authentic replicas of ethnic houses the Bidayuh centre house and longhouse, the Iban longhouse, the Penan hut, the Orang Ulu longhouse, the Melanau Rumah Tinggi, the Malay house and the Chinese farmhouse. Displayed in each house are many artefacts made by the individual dwellers. Demonstration of arts and crafts like beadworks, wood and bamboo carvings, pua weaving, straw weaving can be seen while touring the Village.
The rich cultural heritage in the form of dances and music presented by various ethnic groups is one of the highlights of the visit The grand cultural show which lasts about one hour is performed in the Village air- con theatrette.
The Sunday Market also known as "Pasar Minggu" is ideally located within the City near the well-known Satok Suspension Bridge. The popular Sunday Market in fact starts its activities as early as Saturday afternoon.
Jungle produce of all kinds find their way to the market through the hard working Bidayuh women folks from the outskirt longhouses.
A stroll along the Sunday Market is like browsing through a Borneo supermarket. Here you can find an array of tropical fruits and a variety of jungle vegetables seldom seen at any wet market. Sago worms, also find their way to the Sunday Market. It is a specialty for some locals who believe in eating them raw for good health and vitality. Also can be found at the Sunday Market is another rare jungle produce called Miding. Miding is the Malay name of a fern found only in moist bush areas along stream banks and near the fringe of jungle. The stalk of the young leaves and the leaves are soft and sweet if fried with prawn paste and chilly.
The Historic Niah Cave
The Niah National Park is world famous for the oldest human remains in South East Asia found in its Great Caves dating back some 40,000 years. The Archeologists also found fragments of pottery, stone tools, ornaments and a splendid set of wall-painting of red-haematite depicting activities of stick-like men with hunting weapons and boats. The work of the unknown artist, estimated to be 1000 years old still beckon travellers from around the world.
The Niah Cave is accessible by road from Miri or Bintulu. It takes two hours from Miri and three hours from Bintulu to the Park Headquarters at Pangkalan Batu. This is followed by a 45-minute walk along a plankwalk of 3 kilometres long to reach the entrance of the Great Caves without getting your feet wet when strolling through the dense tropical vegetation.
Millions of bats and swiftlets made the dark recesses of the Niah Caves their home. Along the way, a common scene is meeting workers collecting guano, the accumulation of bird and bat faeces for use as fertilizer. The caves are also known as a site where edible birds' nests could be gathered. Birds' nests made out of the glutinous saliva of millions of swiftlets are also collected by labourers who risk their life to reach the ceiling of the caves at a height of some 50 metres or higher.
For those who have the time and energy, challenging Pinnacles, sitting on Gunung Api (Fire Mountain) is another exciting destination within the Park. It is accessible to anyone who is reasonably fit.
The journey begins with a two hour motorised-longboat ride to Kuala Berar, followed by a five-kilometre walk through virgin jungle to Camp 5 for an overnight stay. The spectacular Pinnacles, scupltured and grooved by the rain over millions of years rise above the tree tops to a height of 45 metres. It can be reached from Camp 5 after a 3 hour climb. The climb is challenging, filled with fun and excitement. Vegetations vary following the changes of altitudes. The varieties of wild orchids and pitcher plants scarcely seen elsewhere can be spotted along the trek before reaching the Pinnades.
The Skrang River Safari
In the old days, moving along the coast of Borneo was unsafe because it was infested by pirates who caused a total blockade for trading and travelling.
James Brooke, the first White Rajah of Sarawak, in his private journal gave a vivid description of his encounter with pirates. He met some 2500 Dayak pirates from the Skrang River face to face when they were plying along the Sarawak River on their war boats. Rajah James Brooke together with Captain Henry Keppel twice attacked the pirates' stronghold on the Skrang and Saribas Rivers in 1843 and 1844 respectively.
Spend the night at a longhouse to experience the traditons and customs of the Dayak Ibans. The highlight of the Skrang River Safari is an evening entertainment by the longhouse residents, featuring traditional dances and music. Tuak, a specially brewed rice wine will be served during the evening entertainment
A jungle walk on the following day is equally interesting It is an exciting experience to stroll through the dense tropical rainforest.
The Lemanak River Safari
Lemanak is a tributary of the main Batang Lupar River. Many traditional longhouses can be found situated along the river.
About 220 kilometres away from Kuching, Lemanak can be reached in about 5 hours by road. The journey passes through the scenic countryside, rubber and pepper plantations, padi fields, sago plams and followed by an hour motorised longboat ride penetrating the enveloped tropical rainforest through meandering stream.
Like Skrang, the Lemanak River is another exciting destination within easy reach from Kuching.
An overnight stay gives you an opportunity to peep at and experience the lifestyle of the longhouse and its people. An evening entertainment by the longhouse folks is most interesting and educational. Traditional dances and music served with locally brewed rice wine called ' Tuak ' are the highlight of the evening entertainment.
Cock- fighting and jungle trekking on the following day are other highlights of the Lemanak River Safari.
Bako National Park
Bako National Park, 37 kilometres from Kuching, can be reached by 30-minute drive to Kampung Bako and then followed by a 25-minute boat ride.
The constant erosion over millions of years, had turned Bako into a picturesque coastline of steep cliffs, rocky head-lands and many stretches of sandy bays. The erosion caused by constant waves at the base of cliffs had carved and created many of the rocks into sea arches and sea stacks. Beautiful sandstone formation featuring pink and iron patterns on cliff faces can be seen along most of the coastline.
Many, who have visited the Park commented that Bako National Park is a treasure chest of fauna and flora. Naturalists will be thrilled to find a wide range of vegetations including the varieties of pitcher plants and wild orchids. The varieties of vegetation found in Borneo can also be seen in the Park's mangrove forest, mixed dipterocarp forest, peat swamp forest and kerangas forest.
Trekking through any of its 16 well maintained jungle trails is an interesting experience. Within the Park, it is not uncommon to see troops of long-tailed Macaques and silvered-leaf monkeys along with giant monitor lizards, plantain squirrels, wild boars and mouse deers. The most significant animal in the Park is the bizzare long nosed proboscis monkeys found only in Borneo island.
Swimming, beach combing at low tide and sunset watching are popular activities along the sandy bays of the Park. Bako National Park is truly an ideal place for nature lovers and eco-minded adventurers.
Sarawak's Arts, Crafts
and Potted Culture
Sarawak is well-known for its rich diversity of traditional handicrafts. Ethnic wood-carvings, beadworks, textile-weaving and bamboo and rattan baskets are of intricate indigenous designs and motifs and are distinguished by their fine craftsmanship and often, vibrant colours. Among these are the 'pua kumbu' (handwoven Iban textile), the 'kain songket' (handwoven cloth inlaid with gold by the Malays), the 'terindak' hats by the Melanaus, the Penan 'ajat' baskets and sleeping mats, the Kenyah Sa'ong sunhats, the Iban 'parang ilang' (long sword) and a host of other handicrafts.
Sarawak's indigenous artefacts and handicrafts are available at many of the souvenir and antique and curio shops to be found in Kuching and in the major urban centres.
Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre
Unlike in a zoo, the Orang Utan at Semenggoh Rehabiltation Centre are set free in a 140-hectare forest reserve. Here, the Orang Utan are being taught to adapt themselves to the jungle life. The Centre, 32 kilometres south of the, Capital is one of many outdoor attractions of Kuching.
A 30-minute leisurely stroll on the specially built plankwalk from the entrance to the Rehabiltation Centre provides an opportunity to view various species of trees from the rain forest and some tropical fruit trees.
The Centre opens daily from 0835 to 1545 hours including Sundays and Public Holidays. A visit to the Centre is recommended at or before the feeding times for the Orang Utan. The feeding times are 0830-0900 and 1145-1200 in the morning and 1500-1515 in the afternoon.
It is quite common to find in the interior longhouses decorative jars and dishes which are highly prized and treasured by their owners.
These objects made in the very early days in China found their way to Borneo through the barter trade. The Sarawak Museum has a good collection of many old jars dating back to the Tang and Sung dynasties.
In Sarawak, the art of pottery-making was introduced by early migrants from the provinces of Southern China. Today pottery-making is fast becoming a flourishing industry in Kuching, Sibu and Miri. The combination of traditional skills and the traditional decorative patterns of the indigenous people of Sarawak have given Sarawak pottery a distinctive look. It is unique and attractive.
Most pottery factories are located near the city. Arrangements can be made through tour agents to visit and see the process of pottery making.