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Traveller's Tips
traveler's tips

 

SARAWAK

Climate / Weather

On the whole, Sarawak has an equatorial climate. The temperature is relatively uniform within the range of 23°C to 32°C throughout the year. During the months of March to September, the weather is generally dry and warm.

Humidity is consistently high on the lowlands ranging from 85 per cent to 95 per cent per annum. The average rainfall per year is between 3,300 mm and 4,600 mm, depending on locality, and the wettest months are from November to February.

KUCHING

Kuching, the capital of Sarawak, is simply unique. No other city in Malaysia has such a romantic and unlikely history, nor displays its charms with such an easy grace. The residents of Kuching (pop. 650,000 approx.) enjoy living here, and take great pride in their fascinating city, which is reflected in their attitude to visitors. Kuching welcomes visitors warmly, but it does not put on an act for them. Instead it goes about its own business in a relaxed manner that hasn’t changed in 160 years. It is impossible to really enjoy Kuching from the air conditioned comfort of a tour bus. To make the most of your visit you must put on your walking shoes, take to the streets (and the water), and join in.

Like all towns and cities in Borneo, the focal point of Kuching and the reason for its existence is the river. Hiring a sampan to meander slowly up and down the Sarawak River is the best way to get your first impression of Kuching. From the river you will see picturesque Malay villages (kampungs), a golden-domed mosque, a Victorian fort, a whole street of 19th century Chinese shophouses and an imposing wooden-roofed palace, all set against a background of distant mountains.

Kuching’s city centre is well preserved and very compact; virtually everything that is worth seeing can be reached on foot or by sampan. The narrow, bustling streets are crammed with shops selling all manner of goods, from the mundane to the exotic. There are ornate Chinese temples, many fine examples of colonial-style architecture, a beautiful waterfront and a number of interesting museums, including the historic Sarawak Museum. There is an excellent range of accommodation, from luxury via boutique to budget, good restaurants, and nightlife to suit most tastes and pockets. You can try local delicacies such as deer meat and jungle fern, drink a glass or two of tuak (local rice wine), or feast on a vast array of seafood dishes Kuching has an unusual name – the word means “cat” in Malay. There are a number of stories as to how this name came about, but it is unlikely that it has anything to do with cats. The two more likely explanations are that it derives from the Chinese word kochin, meaning “harbour,” or that it is named after the mata kuching or “cat’s eye” fruit, a close relative of the lychee that grows widely here.

Sarawak is a unique and enjoyable tourism destination, and Kuching is the ideal base from which to go exploring. The nearby national parks include the famous Bako, home of the rare proboscis monkey, Gunung Gading, where giant rafflesia flowers bloom, Kuching Wetlands, which protects a fascinating mangrove ecosystem, Kubah, with its rare palms and orchids, and Semenggoh and Matang Wildlife Centres with their resident orangutans. Literally hundreds of Iban and Bidayuh longhouses are within easy travelling distance. Damai, on the nearby Santubong Peninsula is Sarawak’s main resort area, allowing you to explore Kuching, go on a longhouse trip, visit Bako and the rainforest and then relax on the beach after the rigours of jungle trekking.

Kuching is also the ideal base for visiting longhouses. Local travel agents have a variety of tours.

SIBU

Sibu is the largest port and commercial centre in the Rejang Basin and the gateway to Central Sarawak. Located at the confluence of the Rejang and Igan Rivers, approximately 130 km from the South China Sea, Sibu is a thriving modern town with a vibrant centre and a bustling, crowded waterfront.

To visitors, Sibu feels more down-the-earth than relaxed Kuching. There is still something pioneer style about the town, and its people are direct, plain-speaking and assertively friendly. Of course, their smiles may be partly due to the belief that Sibu has more millionaires per capita than any other city in Borneo.

The mighty Rejang, almost a mile (1,600km) wide, is the dominant feature of the town, and a room with a river view is highly recommended for vibrant impressions of the waterfront life. The river is a source of constant activity, with ocean-going vessels manoeuvring delicately between speeding express boats, battered river launches and tiny sampans. Rejang sunsets can be truly spectacular.

Sibu is not only fascinating in its own right; with its excellent road, air and river transport links it is also the ideal jumping-off point for exploring the whole Rejang Basin, from the coastal town of Mukah to the furthest reaches of the Upper Rejang, over 600km upriver.

MIRI

Miri is the second largest city in the Malaysian state of Sarawak on Borneo. The discovery of oil 100 years ago transformed Miri from a quiet fishing village into a wealthy city of around 300,000 people. The close proximity to Brunei makes Miri extremely popular with expats working for the oil companies. In recent years, Miri has become a major tourism gateway and the jumping-point for some of the Sarawak’s world-famous National Park, including Niah Caves, Gunung Mulu, Loagan Bunut, and Lambir Hills. Other interesting possibilities include the remote Bario Highlands and the mighty Baram River, as well as a number of excellent offshore dive locations.

Miri’s original population was primarily Melanau, but since the development of the oil industry people have flocked here from all over the states and Miri’s 300,000 inhabitants reflects Sarawak’s diverse ethnic make-up. Chinese, Ibans, Malays, Melanaus, Bisayas, Orang ulus,  Bidayuhs, Indians and Eurasians all make their home here, along with West Malaysians and a sizeable expatriate community.

The city is fast becoming an important tourism destination in its own right, in line with its official designation; "Miri  - Resort City". The city has an excellent range of hotels in all price categories and a wide selection of food outlets.

Combine this with vibrant night-life, bustling native markets, a number of popular beaches nearby and even a top class marina, and Miri makes a ideal base for exploring the National Parks, the offshore reefs and the other natural and cultural attractions of Northeast Sarawak. It is also a great place to relax for a few days after the rigours of jungle trekking.

ACTIVITIES

Sarawak is great for trekking, caving, mountain climbing, kayaking, biking, rafting and diving. 

The tropical waters of both Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo offer some of the world's best scuba diving. You can dive with whale sharks, hover around immense coral gardens and walls, or dive on ominous and hulking WWII shipwrecks. As there are hundreds of islands, the diving options are also limitless. 

A visit to the rain forest is on the priority list in the itineraries of all visitors of Malaysia. Malaysian rain forests are unique in the world and also the oldest on the planet. Plan a guided jungle trek (both day and night) to one of the famous national parks and experience the unique flora and fauna that will entice you in its beauty. 

Nature has been almost as generous to Malaysia regarding its caves as it has with the rain forest. Both the world's largest single cave chamber and the longest cave passage in Southeast Asia can be found in Sarawak's extraordinary Gunung Mulu National Park. In fact, almost every national park in Malaysia has a significant limestone cave system, and many of them offer guided tours, with varying levels of penetration.

FOOD

Malaysian food can be very spicy, likes fish head curry. If you like hot food, you will be completely delighted by what Kuching has to offer. Dishes are mostly based on rice or noodles and served in small bowls, along with a soup. For some dishes you take a small spoon (in your left hand) and chop-sticks (in your right hand). Typical dishes include: Kolo Mee, Nasi Lemak, Laksa (Laksa Sarawak/ Sarawak Laksa), Kopa Ayam (Chicken Wings, "ayam" being "chicken"), Chicken Rice, and Roti Canai. You can also enjoy unique longhouse-styled dishes - manok pansoh (chicken steamed in bamboo).