information and travel guide
Sarawak - Land of the Hornbills
the largest state in Malaysia, is located on the southwestern
corner of Borneo. It is a land of vast primeval rainforests,
majestic mountains, caves, unique flora and fauna and diverse
ethnic communities.Sarawak's history is one of heroic adventure
and romance, piracy and rebellion. The state came under the
rule of the White Rajahs when the Sultan of Brunei made James
Brooke, an English adventurer, the ruler of Sarawak in 1841
for his help in quelling a rebellion.
Administratively, Sarawak is divided into nine divisions.
Kuching, the state capital which incidentally is also located
in Kuching division sits on the banks of the Sarawak River,
32 km from the sea. The influence of the British is reflected
in the architecture of some of its public buildings. A fine
example is the Sarawak Museum, one of Asia's best, housing
a fascinating collection of Borneon ethnological and archaelogical
artefacts. The Cat Museum, Islamic Museum, Chinese Museum,
Timber Museum and Police Museum also offer interesting insights
into Sarawak. Other notable attractions in the city include
the Fort Margherita, named after the wife of Charles Brooke,
the second White Rajah and the Astana, presently, the residence
of the Governor of Sarawak. The Sunday Market or Pasar Minggu,
where local produce is sold, is the best place to mingle with
the local folk. The Sarawak Cultural Village at the foothills
of the legendary Mt. Santubong, 35 km from Kuching, is a major
tourist attraction. Popularly known as the living Museum,
the village is a showcase of the state's rich cultural diversity.
Sarawak's magnificent caves is truly one of nature's greatest
gifts. The Niah National Park is an area of major archeological
significance as the oldest human remains in Southeast Asia,
dating back 40,000 years, were found in its world renowned
Niah Caves. The caves is home to millions of bats and swiftlets
and witnessing the collection of guano for use as fertiliser
and the hazardous task of harvesting birds' nests can be an
Equally awe-inspiring are the Mulu Caves located in the
Mulu National Park. These enormous caverns contain Southeast
Asia's largest cave system and other major caves which can
only be described in superlatives. The spectacular Sarawak
Chamber, the largest cave in the world is claimed to be able
to accommodate 40 Boeing-747 aircraft. The Clear Water Cave
and the Deer Cave are no less intriguing for cave explorers.
Another highlight of a holiday in Sarawak is to go on a safari
up its mighty rivers like the Skrang, Lemanak and Batang Ai.
Make it a point too to experience life in a longhouse, once
the home of notorious headhunters. Sarawak's traditional cottage
industries and agricultural activities possess a charm of
their own and their products make memorable souvenirs. The
handicrafts of fine craftsmanship include woodcarvings, beadworks,
'pua kumbu' (handwoven Iban textile), the 'ajat' baskets and
sleeping mats of the Penans and sunhats of some communities.
Sarawak's fine art of pottery-making has today flourished
into a popular indigenous industry especially in Kuching,
Miri and Sibu. Pepper growing is also a significant economic
activity in Sarawak which is noted for its high-grade black
and white pepper.
The Iban and Chinese each make up a third of the population.
The Malays are third in number followed by the Bidayuh, Melanau
and Orang Ulu. The Iban traditionally depend on fishing, hunting
and farming for a living.
The Malays are mostly farmers and fisher folk, and live in
the coastal areas. The Bidayuh were coastal settlers who had
been driven inland by sea pirates.
Considered the original settlers of Sarawak, the Melanau
are fisher folk. Many of these ethnic groups dwell along the
great rivers. They live in longhouses, where the entire population
of a village lives under one roof. They are very hospitable
to travelers and many visitors stay overnight in a longhouse
during their visit.