Sarawak is well connected domestically and internationally so it’s not difficult to get here. The largest gateway is Kuching, the state capital, which is 1 hour and 30 minutes from Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu. It is also accessible via direct international flights from Indonesia (Pontianak), Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei and Singapore.
Kuala Lumpur and Singapore are the two more popular transit area to get to Kuching.
Sarawak, the largest state in Malaysia, is home to 27 ethnic groups. With 45 different dialects, each group has their own unique stories, beliefs, traditions and cultures.
You can meet people from the Iban tribe, known for their legendary headhunting customs from days of old. They have long since ceased headhunting, but they still maintain their rich customs, art, practices and language.
The Orang Ulu, or ‘people from upriver,’ comprise of different tribes such as the Kayan, Kenyah, Lun Bawang and Kelabit. Their exotic art and music had spread internationally, as seen in the growing popularity of the boat lute or sape.
The sape has become the symbol of the Rainforest World Music Festival, one Malaysia’s largest music festival.
Entrenched in Sarawak’s history are the remnants of the reign of the White Rajahs, the Brooke family monarchy that ruled the Kingdom of Sarawak from 1841 to 1946. Traces of the Brookes can be found throughout the state, from physical reminders such as colonial buildings, preserved relics that populate today’s museums, and events such as the Sarawak Regatta, to the more intangible traces within the law and culture of the people.
Sarawak’s ever-expanding world-class museums, authentic hospitality, and a diverse religious and cultural trade, all form part of the cultural attraction.
No other city in Malaysia has such a romantic and unlikely history, nor displays its charms with such an easy grace. The residents of Kuching (pop. 680,000 approx.) enjoy living here, and take great pride in their fascinating city, which is reflected in their attitude to visitors. Kuching welcomes visitors warmly, but it does not put on an act for them. Instead, it goes about its own business in a relaxed manner that hasn’t changed in 160 years.
To make the most of your visit you must put on your walking shoes, take to the streets (and the water), and join in. Kuching’s city centre is well preserved and very compact; virtually everything that is worth seeing can be reached on foot or by sampan.
The narrow, bustling streets are crammed with shops selling all manner of goods, from the mundane to the exotic. There are ornate Chinese temples, many fine examples of colonial-style architecture, a beautiful waterfront and a number of interesting museums, including the historic Sarawak Museum.
There is an excellent range of accommodation, from luxury via boutique to budget, good restaurants, and nightlife to suit most tastes and pockets. You can try local delicacies such as deer meat and jungle fern, drink a glass or two of tuak (local rice wine), or feast on a vast array of seafood dishes Kuching has an unusual name – the word means “cat” in Malay.
There are a number of stories as to how this name came about, but it is unlikely that it has anything to do with cats. The two more likely explanations are that it derives from the Chinese word kochin, meaning “harbour,” or that it is named after the mata kuching or “cat’s eye” fruit, a close relative of the lychee that grows widely here.
Kuching has a tropical rainforest climate. The city is hot all year round and receives quite a lot of rainfall. Humidity is high and there is little temperature variation across the year, although occasional strong winds can lower the temperature somewhat.
The driest time of the year in Kuching is between May and August. This is the most popular time for tourists to visit, and therefore the most expensive time of year too. Expect average daily highs of 32°C and not much of a drop in temperatures overnight – lows are about 24°C which can make it difficult to sleep if you’re not used to such temperatures. This is the time of year with the lowest humidity, however, which helps. It’s the perfect season to visit the orang-utan sanctuaries which are nearby, or to stroll Kuching’s waterfront area, shopping in bazaars and soaking up the local culture.
Between September and April, Kuching gets its heaviest rainfalls. The rain is at its peak in November, December and January, with January receiving over 26 inches of rain. Kuching is the wettest populated area in Malaysia, so there’s no escaping the rain if you visit at this time.
Nevertheless, the rainforest comes to life at this time of year, and many tourists take advantage of the cheaper prices to visit Borneo in the rains. Take waterproof footwear and perhaps a head umbrella, but don’t bother with waterproof clothing; it will be much too hot for that. You’ll want to change regularly as it feels to sticky, however, so do take plenty of lightweight clothing options.
Sarawak’s national parks are undoubtedly among the state’s main draws. There are thirty in all, spanning teeming jungles, dramatic mountain ranges, and gorgeous beaches – all home to some of Malaysia’s most diverse and unusual wildlife. Click here and head over to the list of national parks in Sarawak!
Carpenter Street is a famous street that is located parallel to the well-known Main Bazaar in Kuching. Previously, this street was called “Attap Street” by the local residents as there was a time when all the shop houses here were covered with “thatched roofs”; mostly covered with palm leaves. These houses used to be the dwellings of the local carpenters in the 19th-century, who made furniture to earn their livelihood. The area also used to be known for the usage of opium and gambling in the old days.
A visit to the city will remain incomplete if you do not visit the famous Kuching Waterfront, which is a favorite hotspot for the locals as well as for the visitors. This is the same site where James Brooke landed in Sarawak for the first time. A big amount of money was spent by the government of Sarawak to reconstruct this waterfront and reclaim certain areas of the riverside, which was a docking site for the local residents previously, who used small boats to cross the river. The Waterfront is now a scintillating landscaped esplanade by the Sarawak River and has some entertainment areas and eateries. You can also visit an observation tower and a few historical buildings that enjoy proximity to the site.
What is the best thing about night markets? It’s your one-stop for everything – food, locals, souvenirs, and sightseeing! Located about 21 km from the city, Siniawan night market is no exception. Best time to go is late afternoon until nighttime so you can see the glowing lanterns and lights transform amidst the small shops which highlight this town’s old feels from the 1970s and 1980s. Instead of the typical night spent drinking at bars in the city, why not try this out for a change? Eat local food, try to communicate with the locals, buy small souvenirs, and you’re all good for that fantastic night out!
Also, make sure that you arrange your transportation ahead of time. Taxi prices are not very high, so it’s best to ask for your driver to wait for you to avoid any hassle. Travel time will be around 50 minutes and the stalls start opening at 5 pm so make sure you have ample time before and after your visit!
Located at Medan Niaga Satok, the market stalls offer a huge variety of local produce from snacks, local delicacies, fruits, vegetables, fresh meat, fresh fish, eggs, plants, pets, jungle produce to clothing, accessories, newspapers, toys, fashion items, local craft items, and souvenirs.
Home of Proboscis Monkey, it was gazetted as a protected area in 1957. Bako is Sarawak’s oldest national park, covering an area of 2,742 hectares. It is one of the smallest national parks in Sarawak, yet one of the most interesting, as it contains almost every type of vegetation found in Borneo. A well-maintained network of trails – from easy forest strolls to full-day jungle treks – allows visitors to get the most out of this unique environment.
Experience to encounter one of the Borneo’s endangered species – Orangutans. It is home to a colony of semi-wild orangutans who are trained and used to human encounters. Visitors will gain the golden opportunity to interact with the orangutans as they will swing down from trees for free fruits!
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun including public holidays: 8.00 am – 4.00 pm
ORANGUTAN FEEDING TIME
9.00 am – 10.00 am
3.00 pm – 4.00 pm
“See Sarawak in Half a Day” is the claim made by Sarawak Cultural Village, a unique award-winning living museum offering an excellent introduction to local cultures and lifestyles. There are nine authentic replica buildings in the village which represent every major ethnic group in Sarawak; Bidayuh, Iban and Orang Ulu longhouses, a Penan jungle settlement, a Melanau tall-house, a Malay town house, a Chinese farmhouse and pagoda, each is staffed with members of their respective ethnic groups, in traditional costume, carrying out traditional activities. Every house has a “storyteller” who is an expert in describing and interpreting traditional cultures and lifestyles.
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun including public holidays: 9.00 am – 5.00 pm
Housed in a Fort named after James Brooke’s wife, Rani Margherita, the gallery’s irreplaceable historical documents, artefacts and arts from the White Rajah’s era, wrapped in steep history and preserved in time. This gallery was a joint project of the Sarawak Museum Department, Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture as well as Mr. Jason Brooke, the grandson of the last Rajah Muda and the Director of The Brooke Trust.
Opening Hours: Mon – Fri: 9.00 am – 4.45 pm
Sat, Sun & Public Holidays: 10.00 am – 4.00 pm
Be it a leisurely sunset cruise, a starlight cruise party, a romantic wedding, a corporate function, or just a special evening with friends, a cruise along the majestic Sarawak River on board the Sarawak River Cruise promises to be a memorable experience.
The Kuching’s Cat Museum is the first museum of its kind in the world. It is managed by Kuching North City Hall and has collection of Cat artefacts acquired from the National Museum which displayed them in one of its galleries in Kuala Lumpur. The collections were officially handed over to Kuching North City Hall on the completion of the building in 1992, in which the museum is situated.
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun: 9.00 am – 5.00 pm
The farm provides a perfect sanctuary for the reptiles, saving the species from extinction. There are huge and deep concrete ponds and natural breeding grounds for the crocodiles to mate and multiply. Apart from crocodiles there are also numerous rare species of birds and animals found only in the Borneo Island. There are also monkeys, leopard-cats, sunbears, bearcats, pheasants, civets, barking deers, sambar deers, turtles, fruit bats, monitor lizards, pythons and even hornbills.
Opening Hour: Mon – Sun: 9.00 am – 5.00 pm
CROCODILE FEEDING TIME
11.00 am & 3.00 pm
Sarawakian cuisine is a regional cuisine of Malaysia. Like the rest of Malaysian cuisine, Sarawak food is based on staples such as rice but there is a great variety of other ingredients and food preparations due to the influence of the state’s varied geography and indigenous cultures quite distinct from the regional cuisines of the Peninsular Malaysia.
Sarawak is famous for its multi-ethnic population. As the homeland of many unique communities, Sarawak has a variety of cuisines rarely found elsewhere in Malaysia.
The uniqueness of Sarawak well depends on its ethnic groups. Every native group in Sarawak has their own lifestyle, traditions, cultures and also foods. Sarawak cuisine is less spicy and has a subtle in taste. It uses fresh seafood and natural herbs like turmeric, lemongrass, ginger, lime and tapioca leaves.
These ingredients are not only easily available, but also add a hint of aroma, texture and freshness to the delicacies. Food is one of the most cultural identities for native group in Sarawak with each ethnic has their own delicacies.
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