by Andy Khong
Sarawak is an enchanting world of natural wonders, rich cultural heritage, and thrilling adventures which awaits you. Nestled on the mystical island of Borneo, Sarawak captivates travellers with its breathtaking landscapes, fascinating history, and warm hospitality.
Sarawak covers an area of approximately 124,450 square kilometres (48,050 square miles), making it the largest state in Malaysia. Borneo itself is the third-largest island in the world, shared by three countries: Malaysia (Sarawak and Sabah), Indonesia (Kalimantan), and Brunei. Sarawak has a diverse population of over 2.9 million people (as of 2021). The state is known for its rich ethnic diversity, with various indigenous groups such as the Iban, Bidayuh, and Orang Ulu (Aborigines), as well as Chinese, Malay, and other communities.
Sarawak’s history dates back millennia, with its early tribal communities inhabiting these lush lands long before the arrival of external forces. The 16th century saw the influence of the Bruneian Sultanate shaping the region’s culture and trade networks. In the 19th century, James Brooke, an English adventurer, arrived in Sarawak, marking the beginning of the Brooke era. Sarawak became known as the “Land of the White Rajahs” as the Brooke family ruled for over a century, leaving a lasting legacy of infrastructure development, preservation of local customs, and advancement in governance.
During the colonial era, Sarawak was often referred to as “Borneo” due to its location on the island. However, in 1963, when Sarawak joined the Federation of Malaysia, it officially changed its name to Sarawak. This marked a significant turning point in the state’s history as it became an integral part of a new nation while still preserving its unique identity and cultural heritage.
Geographically, Sarawak’s lush landscapes are a haven for nature enthusiasts. Embark on a journey to explore the mystical rainforests of Borneo, where you’ll encounter fascinating flora and fauna, including the iconic orang utans, playful proboscis monkeys, and rare hornbills.
Gunung Mulu National Park:
One of Sarawak’s crown jewels is the Gunung Mulu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Named after Mount Mulu, the park is a treasure trove of natural wonders, encompassing vast cave systems, limestone pinnacles, and lush rainforests. It is one of the most awe-inspiring and biodiverse national parks in the world, drawing adventurers and nature lovers from all corners of the globe.
The mesmerizing Mulu Caves within the park are a wonder to behold. Among them, the Sarawak Chamber holds the title of being the world’s largest cave chamber, capable of accommodating several jumbo jets. The Deer Cave, with its massive entrance and resident bat population, is a sight to behold as the bats fill the skies at sunset in a breathtaking exodus.
In addition to its stunning caves and pinnacles, the park’s verdant rainforests harbor a diverse range of plant and animal species. From unique orchids and carnivorous pitcher plants to rare birds and mammals, Gunung Mulu National Park is a sanctuary for bio-diversity.
Gunung Mulu National Park. Named after Mount Mulu, the 2nd highest mountain in Sarawak.
Clearwater Cave, Gunung Mulu National Park.
The charming capital city of Sarawak, Kuching, is a delightful fusion of old-world charm and modernity. Explore the lively waterfront, immerse yourself in bustling markets, and visit the iconic Cat Museum. Kuching is the Malay word for ‘cat’; hence the significance of a Cat Museum in the city of Kuching!
Old Town, Kuching.
Meow! Entrance to Cat Museum.
Bako National Park:
This pristine coastal reserve offers a perfect blend of rainforest and sea. Witness the majestic proboscis monkeys and trek through scenic trails to secluded beaches.
Bako National Park.
Semenggoh Nature Reserve:
Experience heart-warming encounters with orang utans in this renowned rehabilitation centre, where the conservation efforts for these magnificent creatures are commendable.
Semenggoh Nature Reserve.
Sarawak Cultural Village:
Immerse yourself in the heritage of Sarawak’s indigenous tribes, witnessing traditional longhouses, music, dance, and crafts.
Longhouse in Sarawak Cultural Village.
Gunung Gading National Park:
Home to the world’s largest flower, the Rafflesia, this park is a must-visit for nature enthusiasts seeking rare and unique flora.
Rafflesia, World’s Largest Flower, Gunung Gading National Park.
Explore the vibrant city of Miri and its surrounding attractions, including the Lambir Hills National Park.
Lambir Hills National Park.
Rising majestically from the coast, Mount Santubong offers thrilling trekking opportunities and rewarding panoramic views of the surrounding landscape and the South China Sea.
Mount Santubong National Park.
Venture into the ancient Niah Caves, where evidence of human existence dating back 40,000 years has been discovered. The caves are of great archaeological significance and a fascinating journey through time.
Embark on an unforgettable journey to Sarawak, where history and cultural heritage merge with breathtaking landscapes and thrilling escapades. Experience the warm hospitality of the locals, savour traditional cuisines, and uncover the mysteries of this captivating state.
Sarawak is a gastronomic paradise, and its local cuisines are a delightful fusion of flavours influenced by various ethnic communities. Some of the famous local dishes that you must try when visiting Sarawak are:
- Sarawak Laksa: A must-try dish, Sarawak Laksa is a flavourful noodle soup made with a base of spicy and aromatic prawn broth, topped with shredded chicken, prawns, bean sprouts, and boiled egg. The distinctive taste comes from the use of sambal belacan, a fiery shrimp paste chili sauce.
- Kolo Mee: A popular Sarawakian noodle dish, Kolo Mee features springy egg noodles tossed in a fragrant mixture of shallot oil and soy sauce, then topped with slices of barbecued pork (char siu), minced pork, and crispy shallots.
- Manok Pansoh: This traditional Iban dish consists of chicken marinated with herbs and spices, then cooked in bamboo over an open fire. The bamboo imparts a unique smoky flavour, making it a must-try for food enthusiasts.
- Umai: Umai is a refreshing and tangy traditional Melanau dish made from raw fish marinated with lime juice, onions, chilies, and salt. The combination of flavours creates a zesty and appetizing treat.
- Midin: This jungle fern is a popular Sarawakian vegetable dish often stir-fried with garlic, chili, and belacan (shrimp paste). Midin is a unique and flavourful addition to any meal.
- Dabai: Also known as black olives or Sarawakian olives, dabai is a seasonal fruit enjoyed by locals. These small, dark fruits have a unique taste and are usually eaten with a sprinkle of salt.
- Kampua Noodles: Similar to Kolo Mee, Kampua Noodles are a favourite among locals and feature springy noodles tossed in a shallot and soy sauce mixture, but without the char siu (barbecue pork) or minced pork.
- Sago Worms: For the adventurous foodies, trying sago worms is an experience not to be missed. These fat and juicy larvae are typically fried or grilled, offering a crunchy and protein-rich snack.
Sarawak’s diverse culinary offerings reflect its vibrant cultural heritage, and sampling these local delicacies is a delicious way to immerse yourself in the flavours of this remarkable destination. From spicy laksa to savoury kolo mee, Sarawak’s cuisine promises a memorable dining experience that will leave your taste buds craving for more.
Manok Pansoh (Bamboo Chicken).
Umai – raw fish.
Midin – stir friend jungle fern.
Dabai – Sarawak Olives.
Meatball Kampua Noodles.
Let Sarawak’s rich history and diverse landscapes enchant you as you create memories that will last a lifetime. Be embraced by the magic of Sarawak – a truly remarkable paradise that beckons you to explore its wonders. So, pack your bags and get ready to experience the best of nature, culture, and adventure in Sarawak, the heart of Borneo. A world of enchantment and exploration awaits you!
Other places in Malaysia that might interest you…
Haunted Kellie’s Castle: https://www.youngpioneertours.com/kellies-castle-where-ghosts-linger/
Ipoh, a hidden gem: https://www.youngpioneertours.com/ipoh-hidden-gem-of-malaysia/
Cameron Highlands, “Malaysia’s Little England”: https://www.youngpioneertours.com/cameron-highlands-discover-natures-serenity/
Malacca, a city steeped in history: https://www.youngpioneertours.com/malacca-city-steeped-in-history/
Brunei, a country next to Sarawak: https://www.youngpioneertours.com/brunei-tranquil-abode/