Sarawak, The Land Of The Hornbills
Sarawak is Malaysia's largest state. It lies in East Malaysia and shares the island of Borneo with the eastern state of Sabah, the country of Brunei and the Indonesian provinces of Kalimantan. Even by Malaysian standards, Sarawak has an extraordinary mix of peoples: the largest ethnic group is neither Chinese (26%) nor Malay (21%), but the Iban (29%), who gained worldwide notoriety as the fiercest headhunters on Borneo.
Back in the bad old days, an Iban lad couldn't hope for the hand of a fair maiden without the shrunken head of an enemy to call his own, and bunches of totemic skulls still decorate the eaves of many jungle longhouses. Fortunately for visitors to the region, headhunting hasn't been practiced for decades, due to modernization of the local tribe. Most Ibans have moved to the city, to take on modern lifestyles nowadays. Other tribes of note include the Bidayuh (8%) and the Melanau (5%), as well as a smattering of Kenyah, Kayan and a group of tiny tribes in the deep heartland known collectively as the Orang Ulu (Malay for "upriver people").
Most visitors arrive in Sarawak by plane. The largest gateway is Kuching the state capital, which is about 1.5 hours away from Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu. Regular Malaysia Airlines flights connect Kuching with Johor Bahru, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Miri and Sibu. Malaysia’s budget airline, AirAsia operates frequent flights to Kuching from Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru, Kota Kinabalu, Penang, Miri, Bintulu and Sibu. MAS Wings operates the Rural Air Service, flying Twin Otters (baggage allowance 10kg) & Fokker 50s to 40 destinations across East Malaysia. Connections to other destinations are via Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, or Singapore.
Due to its mass land size, there are a few areas that should be highlighted and consider a must go. If you’re coming to Kuching, one must visit the Sarawak Cultural Village, some 45 minutes' drive from Kuching. It is a living museum of different tribes and architecture spread over a lovely green area at the foot of Mount Santubong. You will be able to see how Iban, Melanau, Bidayuh, etc. tribes live, work and cook in the longhouses, each with its own identity.
It is also best to visit this place during the annual Rainforest World Music Festival which happens each July. The festival is held on the grounds of the Sarawak Cultural Village. Rainforest World Music Festival has been around since 1997 and its popularity is growing from year to year.
Accommodation around the festival grounds are snapped up as soon as bookings open so be quick. The three-day world music festival brings together some of the best world musicians for workshops and nightly live concerts.
Among the few national parks in this fascinating State, Bako National Park, Niah National Park and Mulu National Park are the three sought after natural sanctuary. Bako is by the coastal area, and known to be the home ground of the bizarre, obscene-nosed proboscis monkey.
On the other hand, Niah is one of Sarawak’s better known national parks, important for its archaeological remains such as a 40,000 year old human skull, prehistoric cave paintings, and the birds nest industry. The caves are home to large colonies of bats and swiftlets.
Lastly, Mulu offers visitors a truly fantastic “Jurassic Park” like natural environment that it captured the attention of National Geographic, Discovery Channel and scientists alike. It is also one of the World Heritage Site as sanctioned by UNESCO in Malaysia. With the mighty Mount Mulu, the pinnacles and some of the world's largest cave system, it is not surprising that visitors from around the world come here to marvel at the remarkable sights year in and out.