RICH in cultural and natural wonders, Sarawak is the place for the perfect escapade.
The land of the legendary white rajahs, the hornbill and the orang utan, Sarawak is the largest state in Malaysia and by far the most fascinating.
It is home to 27 ethnic groups – including the Ibans, Bidayuhs, Melanaus and Orang Ulus – each weaving its own unique customs and traditions into the fabric of life.
Those who love the outdoors can explore Sarawak's amazing caves, go jungle trekking or enjoy its national parks and their bewildering variety of flora and fauna.
You could also visit a longhouse, learn a word or two in a mother tongue and be enchanted by stories of head hunters and explorers. The natives of Sarawak are known for their warmth and hospitality.
Attractions in Cat City
Kuching city, with 330,000 residents, has sprawling parks and recreation areas, including the popular waterfront promenade and a main bazaar. Among its charming landmarks is a giant plaster cat.
A visit to the Sarawak Museum, said to be the best in the region, is a must. Opened in 1891, it's a magnificent showcase of Sarawak's efforts to conserve the cultural heritage and natural history of Borneo.
Another museum – the Cat Museum atop Bukit Siol – is one of its kind in the world. There are about 2,000 exhibits to amuse cat lovers, including teapot cats, cats in love, napping cats, and even rat-chasing china cats. Kitty stamps are displayed for philatelists, and cat funerals are described for the morbid.
Situated on the northern banks of the Sarawak River is the majestic istana (palace) built in 1870 by Rajah Charles Brooke, the second white rajah, as a bridal gift for his wife, Ranee Margaret. It is now the official residence of Sarawak’s head of state and a venue for numerous state functions.
Other interesting structures are the Courthouse and the century-old Tua Pek Kong Chinese temple, the oldest of its kind in Kuching. The latter is well-known for the Wang Kang celebration which commemorates the souls of the dead.
Built in 1878, Fort Margherita along the Sarawak River was completed just in the time to defend Kuching against pirate attacks. The fort now serves as a police museum.
In the heart of town is Square Tower – once a fortress and dance hall at the same time, now a tourist information centre.
Other places of interest in Kuching are the General Post Office, the Pavilion and the Round Tower.
Mulu National Park
The Mulu National Park is one of Sarawak's greatest attractions. Mulu is famous for its spectacular limestone caves. The caves of Mulu command a long list of superlatives, including the world's largest cave passage (Deer Cave), the world's largest natural rock chamber (Sarawak Chamber) and the Clearwater Cave, the longest cave system in South-East Asia.
Imagine if you can – the Sarawak Chamber accommodating up to 40 Boeing 747 aircraft.
The park is also a paradise for naturalists and adventurers who love jungle-trekking and mountain climbing. It has 1,500 species of flowering plants, including 170 species of wild orchids and 10 types of pitcher plants. There are 67 species of mammals and 262 types of birds, including all eight species of hornbills.
Niah National Park
The Niah National Park is famous for the oldest human remains in South-East Asia found in its Great Caves dating back some 40,000 years. Archaeologists have also found fragments of pottery, stone tools, ornaments and intriguing wall paintings.
The Niah caves’ dark recesses are home to millions of bats and creepy crawlies. Workers can be seen collecting guano for use as fertiliser. The caves are also known for the highly valued bird’s nest delicacy and labourers risk their lives to collect the nests in the ceiling of the massive caves.
Bako National Park
About 40km from Kuching, the Bako National Park is ideal for a day trip. The proboscis monkey, found only in Borneo, may be the star attraction here but has a supporting cast of long tailed macaque monkeys, silvered leaf monkeys, monitor lizards and squirrels.
Exploring the park is easy – a system of 16 colour-coded walking trails allows for anything from full day jungle hikes to slow walks.
Small bays, steep cliffs and sandy beaches make Bako's coastline a delight. Along the sandy footpaths you will find the insect-eating pitcher plants.
Batang Ai National Park
Iban longhouses and orang utans are among the many attractions of this park. You can travel by boat up the rivers that flow into the lake or go trekking. Do consider staying at an Iban longhouse and sampling their way of life.
Similajau National Park
With its long sandy beaches, geological formations and rainforest treks, Similajau offers a host of activities, from trekking to bird watching and coastal and river cruises. Guides will show you where the huge estuarine or saltwater crocodiles bask in the sun or where green turtles come ashore to lay their eggs.
The park's wide-open spaces are ideal for bird-watching – 185 species live there, among them hornbills and sea eagles. Lots of animals, including wild boars and macaques, can be seen foraging for food along the beaches.
Other wildlife national parks are at: Gunung Gading, Kubah, Lambir Hills, Loagan Bunut, Tanjung Datu, and Matang.
Semenggok Rehabilitation Centre
This animal sanctuary cares for endangered species, which have either been found injured in the forest, or have been kept as illegal pets. You'll find hornbills, honey bears, gibbons, porcupines, and the ever-popular orang utans.
The best time to visit Semenggok is at feeding time (approximately 8.30am to 9am and 2.30pm to 3pm) when there is a good chance of seeing the semi-wild apes that live in the surrounding forest return to the feeding area.
Sarawak Cultural Village
Nestled in the foothills of legendary Mount Santubong, 35km from Kuching, is the award-winning Sarawak Cultural Village.
This “living museum” showcases the heritage and lifestyles of the major racial groups in Sarawak.
You’ll also find a variety of handicraft Sarawak is well known for, including the kain songket, pua kumbu, Orang Ulu wood carvings and Chinese ceramics.
Don’t miss the 45-minute cultural performance, held daily at 11.30am and 4.30pm.
Sarawak Handicraft Week
Sarawak Handicraft Week will be held in Kuching from Dec 12 to 14. Art producers, retailers and enthusiasts will gather in Kuching to promote local arts and crafts.
Watch how handicraft – the much-prized hand-woven pua kumbu blankets, woodcarving, beadwork, baskets, pottery etc – are produced, as craftsmen and women display their skill and dexterity.
Bau International Raft Race
Not for the faint-hearted, this event on Dec 15 is one of the most popular raft safaris held in Sarawak, partly because the course is within easy reach of Kuching City.
Local and international rafters can look forward to enjoying the scenic 50km course that starts at Babel Bridge on Sungei Pedid and finishes at Wind Cave.
Kuching Cat Festival
Cat lovers can take part in this exciting event, also known as Pesta Meow, at the Cat Museum.
This month-long festival in December even draws overseas cat lovers to its cat exhibition, cat competition, cat adoption programme, cat drawing and other feline activities.
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