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Travel Guide Asia Malaysia Malaysian Borneo Sarawak

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Introduction

Sarawak is one of the two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo (Sabah being the other state). This territory has a certain level of autonomy in administration, immigration, and judiciary which differentiates it from the Malaysian Peninsula states. Sarawak is situated in northwest Borneo, bordering the state of Sabah to the northeast, Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of Borneo, to the south, and surrounding the independent state of Brunei. The capital city, Kuching, is the economic centre of the state and the seat of the Sarawak state government. Other cities and towns in Sarawak include Miri, Sibu, and Bintulu. As of the 2015 census in Malaysia, the state's population is 2,636,000. Sarawak has an equatorial climate with tropical rainforests and abundant animal and plant species. The state has several prominent cave systems at Gunung Mulu National Park. Rajang River is the longest river in Malaysia; Bakun Dam, one of the largest dams in Southeast Asia, is located on one of its tributaries. Mount Murud is the highest point in Sarawak.

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Geography

The total land area of Sarawak is nearly 124,450 square kilometres, and lies between the northern latitudes 0° 50′ and 5° and eastern longitudes 109° 36′ and 115° 40′ E. Sarawak makes up 37.5% of the total area of Malaysia. It contains large tracts of tropical rainforest with abundant plant and animal species.

The state of Sarawak has 750 kilometres of coastline, interrupted in the north by about 150 kilometres of Bruneian coast. Sarawak is separated from Kalimantan Borneo by ranges of high hills and mountains that are part of the central mountain range of Borneo. These become loftier to the north, and are highest near the source of the Baram River at the steep Mount Batu Lawi and Mount Mulu. Mount Murud is the highest point in Sarawak. Lambir Hills National Park is known for its various waterfalls. The world's largest underground chamber, the Sarawak Chamber, is located inside the Gunung Mulu National Park. Other attractions in the park include the Deer Cave (the largest cave passage in the world) and the Clearwater Cave (the longest cave system in Southeast Asia). The national park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Sarawak is generally divided into three ecoregions. The coastal region is rather low-lying and flat with large areas of swamp and other wet environments. Beaches in Sarawak include: Pasir Panjang and Damai beaches in Kuching, Tanjung Batu beach in Bintulu, and Tanjung Lobang and Hawaii beaches in Miri. The hill region accounts for most of the inhabited land and are where most of the cities and towns are found. The ports of Kuching and Sibu are built some distance from the coast on rivers. Bintulu and Miri are close to the coastline where the hills stretch right to the South China Sea. The third region is the mountainous region along the Kalimantan–Borneo border and with the Kelabit (Bario), Murut (Ba'kelalan) and Kenyah (Usun Apau Plieran) highlands in the north.

The major rivers in Sarawak are: the Sarawak River, Lupar River, Saribas River, and Rajang River. The Sarawak River is the main river flowing through Kuching. The Rajang River is the longest river in Malaysia, measuring 563 kilometres including Balleh River, its tributary. To the north, the Baram River, Limbang River, and Trusan River drain into the Brunei Bay.

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Cities

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Sights and Activities

  • Mulu Caves - Among these limestone caves in the Gunung Mulu National Park is Sarawak chamber, the world's largest known underground chamber.
  • Sarawak Cultural Village - Located 35 kilometres from Kuching on the foothill of Mount Santubong, it is a showcase of Sarawak's fascinating culture.
  • Niah National Park
  • Bako National Park - Proboscis monkeys and great coastal walks
  • Batang Ai National Park
  • Kelabit Highlands
  • Bukit Lambir National Park
  • Loagan Bunut National Park - including the largest freshwater lake in East Malaysia.
  • Gunung Gading National Park - good place to spot the Rafflesia, the world's largest flower
  • Kubah National Park
  • Tanjung Datu National Park
  • Talang-Satang National Park - including Sarawak’s marine turtle population
  • Similajau National Park

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Weather

Sarawak has a tropical geography with an equatorial climate. It experiences two monsoon seasons: a northeast monsoon and a southwest monsoon. The northeast monsoon occurs between November and February, causing heavy rainfall; the southwest monsoon sees less rainfall. The climate is stable throughout the year except for the two monsoons. The average daily temperature varies from 23 °C in the morning to 32 °C in the afternoon, with Miri having the lowest average temperatures in comparison to other major towns in Sarawak. Miri additionally has the most hours of sunshine (more than six hours a day), while other areas receive sunshine for five to six hours a day. Humidity is usually high, exceeding 68 percent. The annual rainfall varies between 330 centimetres and 460 centimetres, spanning 220 days a year. Lothosols and lithosols make up 60 percent of the land, while podsols accounts for 12% of the Sarawak land area. Alluvium is found in the coastal and riverine regions while 12% of the Sarawak land area is covered with peat swamp forest.

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Getting There

By Plane

Most travellers arriving by plane, arrive at the Kuching International Airport (airport code: KCH). Air Asia is a budget airline that serves Kuching, as well as other airport in Sarawak, including Bintulu, Sibu and Miri. There are connections from Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu (Sabah) and Johor Bahru to most of them. Kuching has many more international flights as well, for example from Macau, Jakarta and Singapore, as well as direct flights from Penang in Malaysia.
Malaysia Airlines has an extensive network of flights as well.

By Car

Sarawak has land borders with Brunei, Indonesia and the Malaysian state of Sabah.

There are several land crossings between Sarawak and Brunei. They are at Sungei Tujuh (on the road between Miri and Bandar Seri Begawan, Tedungan (on the road between Limbang and Bandar Seri Begawan), Pandaruan (a ferry crossing on the route between Limbang and Brunei's Temburong district) and Labu (along the route from Temburong district to Lawas).

The main crossing between Sarawak and Indonesia is the Tebedu-Entikong checkpoint which lies along the Kuching-Pontianak road. There are many other crossings between the two countries although the legality of these crossings are questionable and are mostly used by locals living in those areas. It is also possible to legally cross the border in the Kelabit Highlands between Bario and Long Bawan.

As Sarawak controls its own immigration matters, there are checkpoints at border between Sarawak and Sabah at Merapok (Sindumin on the Sabah side) near Lawas.

By Bus

There are direct international buses from Pontianak, Indonesia to Kuching, a direct express bus service between Lawas in northeastern Sarawak and Kota Kinabalu, Sabah as well as bus connections between Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei and Miri.

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Getting Around

By Plane

Malaysia Airlines and budget airlines AirAsia provide frequent flights between Kuching, Sibu, Bintulu and Miri.

The rural air service is operated by MASWings. Flights use Fokkers and Twin Otter aircraft. Fokkers flight cover Kuching, Sibu, Miri, Limbang and Mulu National Park while Twin Otter planes link Kuching, Sibu, Miri and Lawas with rural towns and longhouses like Mukah, Marudi and various settlements in the Kelabit Highlands like Bario, Bakelalan, Long Seridan, Long Lellang, Long Banga and Long Akah.

By Car

Sarawak is big and, by otherwise high Malaysian standards, its roads are poor, making planes the most convenient way of getting around.

By Bus

Most cities in Sarawak are now linked by express buses although travelling times can be long because of the distance. Companies include Vital Focus Transportations Sdn. Bhd. , which operates Suria Bas, PB and Borneo Highway express buses, and Biaramas.

By Boat

Express boats run from the coast inland along Borneo's larger rivers. They are generally faster than buses and cheaper than planes. Popular routes include Kuching-Sibu (4 hours) and Sibu-Kapit (3 hours).

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Eat

  • Manok Pansoh - Manok Pansoh is the most common dish among the Iban. It is a chicken dish which normally be eaten with white rice. Chicken pieces are cut and stuffed into the bamboo together with other ingredients like mushrooms, lemongrass, tapioca leaves etc and cooked over an open fire - similar to the way lemang is cooked. This natural way of cooking seals in the flavours and produces astonishingly tender chicken with a gravy perfumed with lemongrass and bamboo. Manok Pansoh cannot be found easily in all restaurants and coffee shops. Some restaurants require advanced booking of Manok Pansoh dish prior to your arrival.
  • Umai - Umai is a raw fish salad popular among various ethnic groups of Sarawak, especially the Melanaus. In fact, umai is a traditional working lunch for the Melanau fishermen. Umai is prepared raw from freshly caught fish, iced but not frozen. Main species used include Mackerel, Bawal Hitam and Umpirang. It is made mainly of thin slivers of raw fish, thinly sliced onions, chilli, salt and the juice of sour fruits like lime or assam. It is usually accompanied by a bowl of toasted sago pearls instead of rice. Its simplicity makes it a cinch for fishermen to prepare it aboard their boats. Umai Jeb, a raw fish salad without other additional spices, is famous among Bintulu Melanaus. However, it is rarely prepared in Kuching. You can try umai when you eat 'Nasi Campur' during lunch hours in Kuching. Most coffee shops, especially Malay or Bumiputera-owned ones, serve umai daily for 'Nasi Campur'.
  • Midin - The locals greatly indulge in jungle fern such as the midin (quite similar to pucuk paku that is popular in the Peninsula). Midin is much sought after for its crisp texture and great taste. Midin is usually served in two equally delicious ways - fried with either garlic or belacan. You can try Midin when you eat 'Nasi Campur' during lunch hours in Kuching. Most coffee shops, served Midin daily for 'Nasi Campur'.
  • Bubur Pedas - Bubur Pedas is cooked with a specially prepared paste. It is quite spicy thanks to its ingredients, which include spices, turmeric, lemon grass, galangal, chillies, ginger, coconut and shallots. Like the famous Bubur Lambuk of Kuala Lumpur, Bubur Pedas is prepared only during the month of Ramadan and served for Iftar (the meal to break the fast).
  • Nasik Aruk (originated from Sarawak) - Nasik Aruk is a traditional Sarawakian Malay fried rice. Unlike Nasi Goreng, Nasik Aruk does not use any oil to fry the rice. The ingredients are garlic, onion and anchovies, fried to perfection with very little oil and then the cook will put the rice in. The rice must be fried for longer time (compared to frying rice for Nasi Goreng) for the smokey/slightly-burnt taste to absorb into the rice. It is a common to see Nasik Aruk in the food menu list at Malay and Mamak coffee shops and stalls.
  • Linut/Ambuyat (originated from Brunei, but widely consumed in Sabah and Sarawak) - Linut (in Sarawak) and Ambuyat (in Sabah) is a sticky porridge-like type of food, made from sagu flour. It can be eaten raw, or dipped into spicy sambal belacan. Normally, linut or ambuyat is eaten during high tea or night supper.

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Drink

The local firewater, served up in prodigious quantities if you stay in a longhouse, is known as tuak and is distilled from rice, sago or any other convenient source of fermentable sugar. For those who want a stronger dose, langkau or Iban whisky can be sourced from longhouses in the interior. You can buy commercial tuak (The Royalist) at most supermarkets in Kuching, and is a good souvenir. The commercial rice wine/tuak is rather pleasant to drink, and with none of that home-brewed murkiness.

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Sleep

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
J K view LodgeKelabit Highlands Bariohostel-

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Contributors

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This is version 28. Last edited at 7:17 on Aug 19, 16 by Utrecht. 25 articles link to this page.

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