Sarawak is the largest state in Malaysia, dotted by many natural attractions that make it impossible to visit it only once. Virgin rainforests, national parks and animal conservation centres flourish over most of the land, a paradise for anyone with a love for nature.
There are some 26 different ethnic groups in Sarawak, including the Bidayuh, Iban and Orang Ulu. They typically live in longhouses and have different traditions. In Sarawak, you can find isolated aboriginal villages that reward adventurous souls with unique cultural scenes you won’t see elsewhere.
Of course, Sarawak has its share of city life, albeit more laidback than that in West Malaysia. It is worth going during the festivals, when the state bursts into life and attracting tons of visitors from across the world.
Most visitors in Sarawak would begin their journey at Kuching. The capital city feels incredibly different from its West Malaysian counterparts. The Sarawak River snakes through it: one side of the river is bustling with life thanks to the scenic Kuching Waterfront, bazaars, heritage buildings, and eateries; the other side is quieter with the likes of Kampong Gersik, Fort Margheria and the Astana. To get a local’s take on the city, join a food and bike tour in Kuching.
Take a day trip to Bako National Park for a chance to see the bizarre proboscis monkey, a pot-bellied creature only found in Borneo. Bako is home to a spectacular range of biodiversity, such as bearded pigs and over 190 bird species, along with interesting landscapes spanning diptecocarp forests, fields and sandy beahes.
Located in Miri, Niah National Park is well known for its prehistoric caves, ancitent burial sites and cave paintings. Penan tribesmen make their living by climbing hundreds of feet to the cave ceiling and collecting birds’ nests, prized as a delicacy among the Chinese. The national park is also a natural habitat for a myriad of wildlife and plants.
Sarawakian craft is integral in the local community. If the thought of simply buying them doesn’t quite cut it, learning how it is done from local artists probably will. In Kuching, some of the hands-on activities you can do include weaving songket, weaving indigenous jewellery or crafts, as well as playing the traditional sape under the guidance of a famous sape player.
What makes Sibu Central Market one of the most interesting markets in Sarawak is the incredible array of items you can find here. From jungle produce to exotic foods, local fruits, handicrafts and spices, paying the market a visit is a great way to watch the daily lives of locals unfold.
Locals know little town of Bentong as a foodie destination. From tofu puffs to homemade ice cream, wan tan mee to Guang Xi dishes, there is no end to how much you can eat in a day. Durian orchards are abundant in Bentong and its neighbouring towns of Raub and Karak. During the durian season, Bentong welcomes visitors from around the world to indulge in a hearty durian buffet or go straight into the orchard for a bite.
The Bidayuh is one of the many indigenous groups found in Sarawak, known for their distinct cultural heritage and warm hospitality. Most people visit the Annah Rais Longhouse on a day tour. Those who want the complete experience have other options. They can live with the Bidayuh villagers at Kampung Kiding, Kampung Sadir, or at a local villagestay.
The Sarawak Cultural Village isn’t your typical museum. Located close to Kuching, the award-winning living museum puts the spotlight on Sarawak’s local tribes, such as the Bidayuh, Iban, Penan, Melanau, Orang Ulu and more. Here you can observe how sago is made, watch cultural performances and take part in cultural activities. In August, it turns into the venue for the annual and much anticipated Rainforest World Music Festival.
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