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Sarawak State

History

The history of modern Sarawak is closely related to the adventures of an Englishman, James Brooke after his advent to Sarawak in 1839. With a boundary extending from Tanjung Datu to Batang Samarahan, Sarawak then was one of Brunei’s territories and was ruled by its Governor, Pengiran Mahkota. Politically, the country was in a state of turmoil with the natives constantly in rebellion against Brunie’s authority. To restore order, the Raja Muda of Brunei was sent but failed in his mission until Brooke returned the following year and offered his assistance. As a reward for his success in pacifying the revolts, Brooke was installed as first Rajah if Sarawak in 1841. Thus began the reign of the White Rajahs under the the Brooke family which was to last more than a century.
During the first few decades of his first rule, Brooke’s hold over the century was greatly challenged not only by problems like piracy, but also by the armed resistance by his subjects, particularly the natives. Some measure of law and order was achieved and administrative changes were introduced. By 1861, Sarawak has been further enlarged with the Sultan’s cession of all the rivers and lands from Sadong River to Kidurong Point. By 1864, it has been recognized as an independent State by both the United States and Britain. Further cession of territory occurred in 1868 with the reign of the second Rajah, Charles Brooke, so that by 1885 Sarawak’s frontier extended to the valley of the Trusan River. In 1890, the Limbang region was added and in 1905, the Lawas River area was purchased from the British North Borneo Company.

Foreign protection was sought as early as the reign if the first Rajah to ensure Sarawak’s political and economic survival and independence but it was only in 1880 that Sarawak was accorded British protection. With the decline in piracy and in a situation of relative political stability economic development gained momentum, This continued during the reign of the third Rajah, Charles Vyner Brooke, who succeeded Charles Brooke in 1917.

In 1941, a new constitution was granted by the Rajah which paved the way for self-governance by the people. Among others, the constitution specified the composition of the Supreme Council and Council Negeri. Before the enactment could be effected, however, the Japanese invaded and occupied Borneo. When Sarawak was liberated in 1946, the third Rajah declared his intention to cede Sarawak to Great Britain, a decision which was opposed by many especially the natives who formed what was known as the Anti-Cession Movement. However, the Council Negeri voted 19 to 16 in favour of cession and Sarawak became a British Crown Colony on July the 1st, 1946. Dissatisfaction mounted, resulting in mass resignation of the of 388 Malay civil servants and the assassination of the Second British Governor of the colony of Sarawak in 1949. The British reaction to this attack was swift and the protest movement virtually died by 1950. A number of the anti-cessionists continued their involvement in politics and won for the State its "second independence" by supporting the formation of Malaysia mooted by Tunku Abdul Rahman, the then Chief Minister of Independent Malaya. In 1963, Sarawak achieved its independence within Malaysia.

Physical Geography

The state of Sarawak is situated near to the state of Sabah and Kalimantan, Indonesia. The width of this state is 124,000 sq. km. Sarawak is divided into 6 divisions that are Kuching, Samarahan, Sibu, Bintulu, Sri Aman and Kapit. The population in this state is about 1.7 million. The temperature in the state of Sarawak is about 23° Celsius till 32° Celsius.


Introduction
Sarawakians call her Bumi Kenyalang (Land of the Hornbill), others romanticise her as land of the White Rajahs or Land of the Headhunters. By any name, Sarawak is a fascinating state. As these names indicate, Sarawak has a rich heritage and a variety of attractions to suit the discerning tourist. Some even call her the land of superlatives. It is the largest state in Malaysia, the earliest remains of man in Southeast Asia is found here. Sarawak has the world’s largest flower, the Rafflesia and the world’s largest cave entrance and natural chamber at the Mulu National Park and one of the country’s oldest museums.


Economy

Sarawak economic base is built on three major products, namely oil, timber and natural gas. Major exports from Sarawak are petroleum and petroleum products, forestry and agricultural products. Petroleum accounts for 54% of the total export earnings for the state while timber accounts for 27% of export earnings, followed by pepper as the third largest export earner. With increased diversification in the agricultural base, other crops such as rubber, sago and coconut have emerged as new additions to the list of exportable items.


Getting to Sarawak

International tourist comes into Sarawak via Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru, Singapore and Kota Kinabalu. Malaysia Airlines, Singapore International Airlines and Royal Brunei Airlines currently serve Sarawak with a total of 76 weekly flight from Kuala Lumpur, 23 weekly flights from Singapore and 44 from Kota Kinabalu. One can also reach Kuching by the north-south road linking Miri in the north to Kuching in the south. Many visitors from Brunei cross by road or boat to Limbang, Sarawak. Others drive along the Pan Borneo Highway through Sindumin and Merapuk to Lawas. Visitors from nearby Labuan Island have a choice of either boat or air. Travellers from Pontianak cam fly in by Merpati Airlines. Kuching is also accessible by road from Pontianak. There are two international airports, one in Kuching and another in Miri. There are also airport and airstrips at Sibu, Bintulu, Kapit, Belaga, Marudi, Limbang, Lawas, Bario, Long Seridan, Ba Kelalan, Long Semado and Long Lellang, and rural air service. One can also charter light aircraft and helicopters by contacting Hornbill Skyways at 082-455737.


Culture

More than 30 ethnic groups live together harmoniously in Sarawak, including 21 native ethnic groups Malay and Chinese. Even with such diversity, individual groups have retained their cultural identity, observing traditional customs and rituals on a day-to-day basis. For an informative and entertaining insight into the lives and cultures of some of the major ethnic groups in Sarawak, a visit to the living museum-The Sarawak Cultural Village- is a must. Located in Damai, the village sprawls over 17-landscaped area with an artifice lake at the centre. This is surrounded by seven authentic replicas of ethnic houses-Iban, Bidayuh, Penan, Orang Ulu, Melanau, Malay and Chinese-displaying artefacts made by the house residents and demonstrating arts and crafts and fascinating tribal music and dancing. Open seven days a week, this is an easy day or half-day trip from either Kuching or the Damai resort area.


Places Of Interest

Kuching

White Rajahs heritage 1870
Many of Sarawak’s attractions may be found in its capital, Kuching. Located on the banks of the Sarawak River, approximately 32km from the sea, the city reflects the influence of the west, as it was for years the home of the Brooke Dynasty or the ‘White Rajahs’. Rich in heritage, Cushing’s prominence can best be viewed along the river. Among its numerous points of interest is the Sarawak Museum with its collection of Borneo ethnological and archaeological artefacts. Other attractions include Fort Margherita, the Astana, Court House, Islamic Museum, Timber Museum, Chinese History Museum and cat Museum.

Kuching North

The north side of Kuching has a number of attractions that a traveller should not miss. These are the Exhibition Centre, the Lapau, the Bangunan Tunku Abdul Rahman, the Astana, the Fort Margherita, the New State Mosque and the recently opened Kuching City Garden. Just cross the Sarawak River by road or by tambang and you find them in the vicinity of Jalan Istana. Some of the more notable places of interest are described below.

The Istana

This stately place is situated on the banks of the Sarawak River and built by the second Rajah, Charles Brooke in 1870. Its white washed walls, tall roofs and battlements strike an imposing picture as does its romantic private jetty on the banks of the river. It is now the official residence of the Governor.

Fort Margherita 

Located on a hillock near the Sarawak River, not far from the Palace is fort Margherita. Built by Charles Brooke and named after his wife. Since 1971, this three storey Fort has been converted into a police Museum. Beside the fort is a graveyard of the family of John Brooke, the nephew of James Brooke.

The Kuching City Garden

Open in early December 1992, the Kuching City Garden is a scenic recreational garden situated at Pangkalan Sapi, a popular jetty for Kuching distinctive tambang. The garden is surrounded by the relics of Sarawak history, with the Istana and Fort Margherita only a stone a throw away. Covering some two acres, the garden features distinctive structures and artefacts to portray the various ethnic communities in the state, cascading waterfalls, viewing tower and curio shops. The garden also features a walkway of mist to create a mystic ambience.

The State Mosque

The new state mosque is located in Petra Jaya, replacing the former mosque, which was built in 1876. Designed by world renowned Sami Mousawi, architect of some of the most beautiful mosques in Rome, London, and Kuwait, the new state mosque stands on 100 acres of land with a main prayer hall for 8,000 worshippers and a library of 250,000 books a conference hall, a lecture hall and a banquet hall.

Kuching South

Kuching South, being the older part of the city has the lion share of attractions. Many of the attractions are located almost directly opposite the Istana and Fort Margherita. With the beautification of the Waterfront of the Sarawak River being undertaken by Tourism and Leisure sector of the State Economic Development Corporation, it is hoped that in future the tourism activities will be more developed. From Jalan Bazaar, which joins up with Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman and Jalan Padungan, the visitor will find three of the pride of Kuching hotels, the Holiday Inn, the Kuching Hilton and recently opened Riverside Majestic. All three hotels are located on the waterfront with a commanding view of the Sarawak River. Within this enclave are also sited China Town, shopping complexes, banks, a movie theatre and the Tua Pek Kong Temple. There is also a shuttle bus service along this route for the convenience of the tourist. West of this area around Jalan Bazaar, Jalan Mesjid and Jalan McDoughall are other places of interest such as the Square Tower, the Round Tower, the Court House, the General Post Office the war Memorial and the State Mosque. Further south along Jalan Tahan and Jalan P. Ramlee, there is the Kuching Municipal Library, the Sarawak Museum and its new wing. Along Jalan Budaya is the beautiful Civic Centre. Some of the attractions are described below.

The Square Tower

Resembling the late Renaissance towers of England, this tower was originally built as a detention centre for prisoners. During the Brooke Era, it doubled as a fortress and a dance hall.

The Tua Pek Kong

Built in 1843, it is the oldest Chinese temple. The temple has undergone several innovations to its impressive state today with its unmistakable dragon wall outside.

The Court House

Built in 1874, the Court House has an impressive edifice displaying architecture reminiscent of the Romantic period. Yet the doors and window grilles and roof panels are decorated with intricate local art patterns, which makes it one of the most outstanding buildings in Sarawak. This building was the seat of government during the Brooke period. A clock tower was added in 1883 and an obelisk memorial dedicated to Charles Brooke was built in 1924.

The Round Tower

Except for the date when the building was built, which was in 1886 during the Brooke period no one is clear as to the purpose of this building. A unique structure, it is believed that the Rajah wanted this to be another fort in town.

The Pavillion

Opposite the Post Office is the Pavillion, believed to be the first building in town to be constructed of reinforced concrete frames. Today, it houses the government offices.

The General Post Office

The Kuching General Post Office is unique with impressive Corinthian column in its fa├žade.

The Sarawak Museum

The Sarawak Museum is regarded as one of the oldest and one of the best in Southeast Asia, housing an excellent collection of Borneo an ethnological and archaeological artefacts. The old wing of the museum was built during the time of Rajah Charles Brooke in 1891 to display native arts and craft. One may see replicas of longhouses with actual skulls on the rafters. There are beautiful primitive woodcarvings depicting legendary figures and other artefacts of native handicrafts, which should not be missed. The museum also houses many interesting documents, such as diary entries of the Brookes, which provide an insight into the administrative and legal aspects of the reign of the white rajahs. The new wing is located on the hill next to the old wing and is accessible by an overhead bridge. From time to time special exhibitions are held to provide the visitor an insight into the rich historical and cultural diversity and archaeological significance of this region.

The Old State Mosque

This beautiful mosque with its gilt dome was built in 1968 on the same site as the former mosque, which was an old wooden structure, built in 1852. Situated in the centre of Caching City, with the Sarawak River as background, it is one of the most magnificent buildings in the city.

The Civic Centre

Located just five minutes from major hotels, the Kuching Civic Centre is set in an exclusive area surrounded by a beautiful garden. The unique shaped multi-purpose hall which houses up to 1000 participants makes it one of the most sought after halls for exhibitions, conferences and formal evening functions. The centre offers a range of complementary facilities such as restaurants, cafeterias and a lounge. A unique features the Sultan Iskandar planetarium, the only one in Malaysia.

The Sarawak Cultural Village

Nestled in the foothills of the legendary Mount Santubung is the Sarawak Cultural Village, which holds a potpourri of the rich cultural diversity of Sarawak. Situated just 25 km from Kuching, a 40 minutes drive away, the museum presents a showcase of the seven major ethnic houses found in Sarawak. Upon entry, the visitor is presented with a passport, which allows him or her to have a glimpse of community life in the Bidayuh longhouse, the Penan Hut, the Orang Ulu longhouse, the Melanau Rumah Tinggi, the Malay house and the Chinese farmhouse. The tour begins with a visit to the Bidayuh longhouse, followed by the Iban longhouse, complete with their welcome drink of tuak, women weaving their pua kumbu and skulls hanging on the rafters. At the simple Penan hut, one sees how blowpipes are made while the Orang Ulu house displays the most artistic people at work with their beadwork, carvings and paintings.

Semenggoh Orang Utan Pottery Factory

The Rehabilitation centre is home to orang utans honey bears, hornbills, porcupines, storks, eagles, barking deers and monkeys, rescued from the wild and rehabilitated in their natural surroundings. On return journey, we can stop at the pottery factory.

Annah Rais Longhouse

Depart for an hour’s drive to Annah Rais, a Bidayuh Longhouse with about 120 families. It is straddled in an isolated village guarded by four mountains, a strategic position in the past to ward off headhunters. View the relics of “Cannon of Peace” and “Baruk”, the head house that stores 100 years old human skulls. Return to Kuching.

Crocodile Farm & Pottery Shop 

Proceed for 30 minutes scenic coastal ride along Miri and Kuala Baram road before reaching the crocodile farm. The 22 acres lanscape with natural breeding enclosures and man-made sanctuary ponds, houses more than 1000 salt and fresh water crocodiles. On the way back, stop at the pottery shop for ethnic, modern and contemporary design souvenirs.
Natural Attractions

Gua Niah (Niah cave)




Niah is one of Sarawak’s smaller national parks, but it is certainly one of the most important, and has some of the most unusual visitor attractions. The park’s main claim to fame is its role as one of the birthplaces of civilisation. The oldest modern human remains discovered in Southeast Asia were found at Niah, making the park one of the most important archaeological sites in the world. Yet there is much more to Niah than archaeology. A vast cave swarming with bats and swiftlets; the thriving local economy based on birds-nests and guano; ancient cave paintings; a majestic rainforest criss-crossed with walking trails; abundant plant and animal life - all these and more make up the geological, historical and environmental kaleidoscope that is Niah. 

Niah’s importance was first realised in 1957. The curator of the Sarawak Museum, Tom Harrisson, led an archaeological dig at the West Mouth of the Great Cave. The excavations revealed plenty of evidence of human settlements in the area; tools, cooking utensils and ornaments, made of bone, stone or clay. The types of items found suggested a long period of settlement reaching back into the Palaeolithic era (the earliest part of the stone age). In 1958, a discovery was made which confirmed Niah as a site of major archaeological significance. Harrisson and his team unearthed a skull which was estimated to be 40,000 years old. The find was at first ridiculed by the scientific community, for it was the skull of a modern human (homo sapiens sapiens), and it was widely believed that Borneo was settled much later. However, as dating techniques improved, and as more evidence of the settlement of Southeast Asia and Australasia came to light, Harrisson was proved right.

What is most interesting about Niah, however, is the continued human presence over tens of thousands of years, and the sophistication of the societies that gradually developed there. A large burial site further into the mouth of the cave had clearly been used from Palaeolithic times right up to the modern era, as late as 1400 AD. The earliest graves, found in the deepest levels, were simple shallow graves without adornment. Yet moving up through the layers, coffins and urns appeared, along with grave goods such as pottery, textiles and ornaments, and even glass and metal items, which came comparatively late to Borneo. The Great Cave is not the only important archaeological site. The Painted Cave, as its name suggests, houses detailed wall-paintings depicting the boat journey of the dead into the afterlife. The meaning of the paintings was explained by the discovery of a number of “death-ships” on the cave floor - boat-shaped coffins containing the remains of the deceased and a selection of grave-goods considered useful in the afterlife, such as Chinese ceramics, ornaments and glass beads. The death-ships have been dated as ranging between 1 AD and 780 AD, although local Penan folklore tells of the use of death-ship burials as late as the 19th century.

Niah National Park is located on the Sungai (River) Niah, about 3 km from the small town of Batu Niah, 110 km south-west of Miri. The park was first gazetted as a National Historic Monument in 1958, and in 1974 some 3,100 hectares of surrounding rainforest and limestone hills were included, to form Niah National Park. The park has a visitor centre and good accommodation, and is very easy to get around, thanks to an extensive network of plankwalks to and throughout the caves. A torch (flashlight) and good walking shoes are absolutely essential - the caves are unlit, and the plankwalk can become slippery from the constant dripping of water from the ceiling of the cave. A wide-brimmed hat is desirable, for obvious reasons.

Gunung Mulu National Park

The majestic Gunung Mulu, rising over a mass of sandstone and shale, 2376 metres above sea level, dominates the Gunung Mulu National Park in the Miri and Limbang Divisions. The Park covers 52,866 hectares of shale and sandstone flanked by limestone outcrops with virgin tropical forests at the lower slope giving way to montane vegetation in the upper regions. It was gazetted as a National Park in 1974. The mix of natural habitats in all its diversity amidst such wild and rugged scenery makes it one of Sarawak’s most popular destinations. Foremost among its attractions are the spectacular pinnacle rock formations tucked in the valley of gunung Api and its cave complex which can only be described in superlatives. Despite its ruggedness, the park is easily accessible and there is a range of activities to keep everyone busy and happy.

Loagan Bunut National Park

Tucked away on the upper reaches of the Sungai Bunut in the Miri Division, is a huge lake, the largest natural lake in Sarawak. The local Berawan Fishermen call it Loagan Bunut. In 1991 an area of about 10,736 hectares encompassing the 650-hectare lake was gazetted as a National Park as part of the on going effort to preserve the unique habitats, rare and valuable plants and wildlife indigenous to the region. The lake is utterly dependent on the Sungai Bunut, Sungai Tinjar and Sungai Baram whose water levels are subject to seasonal fluctuations and this accounts for the fluctuating levels of the water in Logan Bunut. During spells of extreme dryness, usually lasting between 2 to 3 weeks, the lake is converted to vast expanses of dry cracked mud.


Beaches

Santubong 

Approximately 35km from the capital of Kuching lay the picturesque fishing village of Santubong boasting some of the finest beaches in Sarawak. Lapped by aquamarine waters of the South China Sea and surrounded by a backdrop of forested hills, Santubong has a number of excellent resort beaches to choose from. One of these is Damai Beach. Set against Mt. Santubong, this picturesque beach offers three popular retreats for its guests. This include the Holiday Inn Damai Beach Resort, all of which provide a wide range of facilities for both land and sea activities.

Teluk Bandung

Another beach of equal beauty in Santubong is Teluk Bandung. A sandy cove fronting the Holiday Inn Damai Beach Resort, it offers a host of recreational facilities to fill your days with fun and excitement. There are the thrills and spills of water skiing, windsurfing and canoeing in the waters of a cool cave. Other leisurely pursuits include snorkelling, catamaran sailing and fishing.

Pulau Satang 

Within proximity to Santubong is Pulau Satang. An uninhabited island with white sandy beaches, lush forests and crystal waters, it makes the perfect hideaway for those seeking privacy. A sanctuary to many species of wildlife, the island offers an intimate glimpse into the mysteries of nature. The coral reefs of the island are so close to the shore, you can stand on the beach and see neon-hued fish weaving through castles of coral. Besides underwater attractions, the island is also a popular nesting place for sea turtles and a fishing haven for anglers.

Pantai Siar

An uncrowned retreat to head for is Pantai Siar, 90 km from Kuching. A secluded beach with shimmering white sand, sea-chiselled crags and aquamarine waters, Pantai Siar is a private enclave worth resorting to surrender to its quiet charm and beautiful memories will long remain.

Pantai Sematan

Nearby is Pantai Sematan a popular weekend retreat with sandy white beaches and sparkling blue water.

Pantai Penyok and Pantai Bandung

Further to the west, 115 km from Kuching lay the beaches of Pantai Penyok and Pantai Bandung. Each is a perfect place for swimming, snorkelling and other water activities.


Shopping

The visitor to Sarawak should take home more than just a tee shirt that says Sarawak. Look for handicrafts such as hats, mats and baskets fashioned from the climbing rattan, the leaves of the nipah, the pandanus and the bemban. Almost all the tribes have a handicraft that is uniquely their own as seen from the types of patterns, motifs and weaving techniques. For instance, there is the Penan ajat basket, the Melanau terendak hats, and the Punan mats. Another popular handicraft is the Pua Kumbu, which is hand-woven on handlooms. Pua Kumbu can be bought as a piece or one can get a purse or handbag that is made from the cloth that is woven in cotton and dyed using the tied (ikat) method. Woodcarvings range from small statuettes to shields and masks. Traditional Kenyah carvings of figurines have bulging eyes, while the Iban enjoy carving hornbills. Sarawak is famous for her intricate beadwork. There are necklaces, bangles, earrings of a variety of designs and colours to choose from. In the old days, beads used to be a symbol of social status and wealth. Along the side of the road heading towards the airport are a number of factories, now with show rooms, that sell pottery items ranging from small vases and ashtrays to large jars, cooking pots and flower vases. These items can be sought in the city, particularly facing the waterfront, along Main Bazaar, Wayang Street and Temple Street. One could also get them at the Sunday tamu along Jalan Satok and also at Sarakraf, a semi-government agency, which runs souvenir shops at Kuching Airport, Miri Airport, the Holiday Inn Kuching and the Sarawak Cultural Village.


Golf Club

There are 18 holes golfing at the Damai Golf and Country Club.

Hotels


Crowne Plaza Riverside
Tel: 082-247777
Fax: 082-425858

Holiday Inn Kuching
Tel: 082-423111
Fax: 082-426169

Grand Continental
Tel: 082-230399
Fax: 082-230339

Holiday Inn
Tel: 085-422679
Fax: 085-419999

Kingwood Inn Kuching
Tel: 082-330888
Fax: 082-332888

Hilton Kuching
Tel: 082-248200
Fax: 082-428984

Merdeka Palace
Tel: 082-258000
Fax: 082-425400

Royal Mulu Resort
Tel: 085-790100
Fax: 085-790101

Hilton Batang Ai
Tel: 083-584388
Fax: 083-584399
Regalis Court
Tel: 082-412211
Fax: 082-413211

Telang Usan
Tel: 082-415588
Fax: 082-425316

Rihga Royal
Tel: 085-421121
Fax: 085-421099

Holiday Inn Damai Beach
Tel: 082-846999
Fax: 082-846777

Holiday Inn Damai Lagoon
Tel: 082-846900
Fax: 082-846901

Santubong Resort
Tel: 082-846888
Fax: 082-846666

Harbour View
Tel: 082-274666
Fax: 082-274777

Sarawak Tourism Information Centre

Sarawak Tourism Information Centre
Jalan Main Bazaar, Kuching
Tel: 082-410942

Sarawak TDC
Tingkat 2, Bukit Mata Kuching
Jalan song Thian Cheok,
93100 Kuching
Tel: 082-246575 / 246775


Sarawak Cultural Village
Pantai Damai Santubong
P.O.Box 2632, 93752 Kuching, Sarawak
Tel: 082-422411
Fax: 082-428988


Travel Bureaus

Amibo Travel Service
Tel: 085—755150

Bel-Air Travel & Tours
Tel: 082-414419

Bintulu Deluxe Travel Service
Tel: 086-335311

Borneo Esteem Star Tours
Tel: 085-432908

Borneo Interland Travel
Tel: 082-413595

Borneo Jungle Safari
Tel: 085-436566

Borneo Tours
Tel: 082-248537

Borneo Transverse Tours & Travel
Tel: 082-257882

CPH Travel Agency
Tel: 082-426025

East West Agencies & Holidays
Tel: 082-428193

Equatorial Tours & Travel Centre
Tel: 084-331599

Golden Horse Travel & Tours
Tel: 084-324625

Hapyholiday Travel
Tel: 084-339039

Harrisons Travel
Tel: 085-410339

Hong Tai Travel Agency
Tel: 082-241257

Hunda Travel
Tel: 086-331339

IK Chin Travel Service
Tel: 082-411325

Inter-Continental Travel
Tel: 082-256155

Interworld Travel Service
Tel: 082-252544

Journey Travel Agengy
Tel: 082-421603

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