Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Sarawak - Land of the Hornbills

Sarawak, the largest state in Malaysia, is located on the southwestern corner of Borneo. It is a land of vast primeval rainforests, majestic mountains, caves, unique flora and fauna and diverse ethnic communities.Sarawak's history is one of heroic adventure and romance, piracy and rebellion. The state came under the rule of the White Rajahs when the Sultan of Brunei made James Brooke, an English adventurer, the ruler of Sarawak in 1841 for his help in quelling a rebellion.
Administratively, Sarawak is divided into nine divisions. Kuching, the state capital which incidentally is also located in Kuching division sits on the banks of the Sarawak River, 32 km from the sea. The influence of the British is reflected in the architecture of some of its public buildings. A fine example is the Sarawak Museum, one of Asia's best, housing a fascinating collection of Borneon ethnological and archaelogical artefacts. The Cat Museum, Islamic Museum, Chinese Museum, Timber Museum and Police Museum also offer interesting insights into Sarawak. Other notable attractions in the city include the Fort Margherita, named after the wife of Charles Brooke, the second White Rajah and the Astana, presently, the residence of the Governor of Sarawak. The Sunday Market or Pasar Minggu, where local produce is sold, is the best place to mingle with the local folk. The Sarawak Cultural Village at the foothills of the legendary Mt. Santubong, 35 km from Kuching, is a major tourist attraction. Popularly known as the living Museum, the village is a showcase of the state's rich cultural diversity. Sarawak's magnificent caves is truly one of nature's greatest gifts. The Niah National Park is an area of major archeological significance as the oldest human remains in Southeast Asia, dating back 40,000 years, were found in its world renowned Niah Caves. The caves is home to millions of bats and swiftlets and witnessing the collection of guano for use as fertiliser and the hazardous task of harvesting birds' nests can be an absorbing experience.

Equally awe-inspiring are the Mulu Caves located in the Mulu National Park. These enormous caverns contain Southeast Asia's largest cave system and other major caves which can only be described in superlatives. The spectacular Sarawak Chamber, the largest cave in the world is claimed to be able to accommodate 40 Boeing-747 aircraft. The Clear Water Cave and the Deer Cave are no less intriguing for cave explorers.

Another highlight of a holiday in Sarawak is to go on a safari up its mighty rivers like the Skrang, Lemanak and Batang Ai. Make it a point too to experience life in a longhouse, once the home of notorious headhunters. Sarawak's traditional cottage industries and agricultural activities possess a charm of their own and their products make memorable souvenirs. The handicrafts of fine craftsmanship include woodcarvings, beadworks, 'pua kumbu' (handwoven Iban textile), the 'ajat' baskets and sleeping mats of the Penans and sunhats of some communities. Sarawak's fine art of pottery-making has today flourished into a popular indigenous industry especially in Kuching, Miri and Sibu. Pepper growing is also a significant economic activity in Sarawak which is noted for its high-grade black and white pepper.

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