In terms of area, Sarawak is the largest state in Malaysia. It is a region of natural resources. Pepper, cocoa, oil palms, wood and much more grow here. Petroleum is also one of the treasures of Sarawak.
Sarawak’s story is as exciting as a bestseller, brimming with wild adventures and romantic stories. When the British adventurer James Brooke came here in 1839, there was a rebellion against the Sultan of Brunei, because the country was under his suzerainty. James Brooke sided with the Sultan and helped him stifle this rebellion. In return, the sultan made him the rajah of Sarawak in 1841. Then his nephew Charles succeeded him in 1868 on the throne of the so-called “White Rajas of Sarawak”, then his eldest son Charles Vyner in 1917 as the last of his tribe.
During the Second World War, Sarawak was also occupied by the Japanese, but was immediately ceded to the British and became their crown colony. It only joined the Malaysia Federation in 1963 and is now a normal federal state with the usual democratic rules and laws. Sarawak is 124,450 square kilometers and offers an almost unbelievable variety within its limits: Untouched impenetrable jungle, the largest cave in the world, a unique flora and a more than fascinating fauna. It has deserted islands and wide beaches. It also has a population of over 1.5 million, which is just as diverse as the whole of Sarawak – and all of this together is probably the most exciting destination you can imagine.
In such a large country with such extensive areas of impenetrable rainforest, regional transport is often only possible with helicopters. But you can get there first class with Malaysia Airlines, which flies to Sarawak’s capital Kuching as well as Miri regularly from Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru, Kota Kinabalu and Singapore.
Boats mostly take care of inland traffic, as all of Sarawak is crossed by jungle rivers that are easily navigable. The most important places are also connected by good country roads and are served by regular bus routes.
The capital of Sarawak is Kuching, which is a strange name because it means “cat” in Malay. However, there are no more cats here than in other cities.
Kuching is 32 km from the sea on the high banks of the Sarawak River. The western influence is obvious, as the city was the residence of the “White Rajas of Sarawak” for a long time.
Tourist Attractions in Sarawak
The Sarawak Museum
This museum is one of the leading in Asia. It has a comprehensive collection on the ethnology and archeology of Borneo, which is said to be unique. Then you can see a model of the great Niah Cave with the human bones from the Neolithic that were found there. The museum is located in the Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg close to the city and is open every day with the exception of Fridays and public holidays.
The Fort Margherita
This small fortress was only built in 1879 by Charles Brooke as a protection against the still dangerous attacks of the pirates from the sea side. The namesake was his wife Margaret. Today the fort is a police museum and is filled with ancient and modern weapons including the one cannon that was once cast in Sarawak.
This is the name given to the residence of the last two “White Rajas of Sarawak”. It was built in 1874 using a mixture of Western and Asian construction methods and is not far from the fort. Today the Astana is the official seat of the head of Sarawak.
Kuching Old Courthouse
The seat of the High Court is one of Kuching’s most distinctive buildings. It was built in 1874 using local elements of style, particularly on the wooden components of the house. The “Court House” was the seat of government during the reign of the Brookes. The bell tower was added to the complex in 1883 and the obelisk in the forecourt is a monument to Charles Brooke from 1924.
The Tua Pek Kong Temple
Kuching’s oldest Chinese temple dates back to 1876. It is located at the confluence of Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman with Main Bazar, the city’s main market. A ceremony worth seeing here in the Tua Pek Kong Temple takes place on the occasion of the Wang Wang Festival, at which the spirits of the dead are called.
The Hong San Si Temple
The Hong San Si Temple was built in 1895 in honor of the god Kuek Seng. The Chinese believe that a man named Kuek Seng became a deity a thousand years ago. This God is said to fulfill all the wishes of those who pray to him.
The Sarawak State Mosque
It is clearly located in the middle of Kuching and was built in 1968 on the square where an old wooden mosque stood. The gilded domes of the State Mosque are one of Kuching’s landmarks.
Skrang River Safari By Boat
The safaris on the Skrang River are also a certain tourist duty for visitors to Sarawak, because they lead to the villages of the Iban, the most important and largest tribe in Sarawak. In addition, such a boat trip on a river surrounded by the jungle with many, not very dangerous rapids is a lasting experience.
The Pepper Plantations
Sarawak is the land of pepper and the reason Malaysia is one of the largest pepper exporters around. On the road from Kuching to Serian you can see some extensive plantations and you can also get your fresh pepper needs directly from the producer.
The Sarawak Cultural Village & Heritage Center
This is a real live museum! It was built into a magical region on the coast near the village of Santubong. It shows the many facets in the culture and folk customs of the Iban, Bidayuh and Melanau ethnic groups living here. The Heritage Center is an integrated part of the village and gives a broad overview of the traditional art of the tribes living here.
It is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., the folklore show takes place from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Gunung Mulu National Park
Nature has left her best creations here. The Mulu National Park covers an area of about 544 square kilometers and in its center lies the Gunung Mulu, at 2376 meters the second highest mountain in Sarawak.
In its massif is one of the most exciting and longest cave systems in the world with more than 26 large caves, including what is known as the “Sarawak Chamber”, probably the largest cave in the world. There are over 1500 species of flowering plants in Mulu National Park, 170 species of orchids alone. There are also 67 species of mammals and 262 species of birds, 47 species of fish and over 281 species of butterflies.
The Niah National Park
The real attraction of the approximately 3,103 hectare national park are the Niah Caves. The “Great Cave” is one of the most powerful caves known in the world.
The traces of people who lived 40,000 years ago have also been found here. The skull remains of an early Homo Sapiens were discovered, tools made of stone and bones as well as cave drawings are also among the finds. The artifacts from other epochs have shown that the Niah caves were inhabited around the 14th century.
The best time to visit Niah National Park is from April to September; the other months are often rough seas and monsoons.
The Bako National Park
This small national park is very close to Kuching to the east at the mouth of the river of the same name. Its flora and fauna are diverse and rich in species. All eight types of vegetation so characteristic of Sarawak can be found here: Mangrove forest, riparian forest, the distinctive cliff plants, then also the alluvial flora and moor vegetation, lowland diptero-carpien such as Kerangas forest, a type of forest typical for all of Sarawak.
All paths are well marked and provided with information. There are small bays by the sea to rest, which are framed by the step-shaped cliffs.
The Santubong Fishing Village
The small coastal town has fine beaches. There is also a nice beach resort there. It has even left traces in history that meanwhile it is of some interest to archaeologists.
Clear evidence has been found that Chinese and Indians were once very active in trade and culture in this area. The “Golden Era” of Santubong lasted from the 7th to the 13th century. It was the time of gold discoveries that made the town a small, yet important and well-known trading center.