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Malaysia Travel Guide

Why Kuching should be on the radar of every digital nomad

As a digital nomad in Southeast Asia, there’s a good chance you’re used to doing things the unconventional way. If that’s the case, you ought to read on and learn about the place dubbed the next Chiang Mai.

We’re talking about Kuching, Sarawak. 

Source: appc2019.ifm.org.my

Located in the Malaysian part of Borneo, Kuching is the capital city of Sarawak, a founding partner in the nation of Malaysia. Modern yet laid back, Kuching has outstanding infrastructure yet remains very much in touch with nature. 

Modern Kuching can be traced back to 1841, when James Brooke, the son of an English judge in the East India Company who happened to be sailing the Malay Archipelago, helped the King of Brunei crush a rebellion in southern Borneo.

Source: Culture Trip

As a reward, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II of Brunei gave him Sarawak, a swampy and mostly jungle-covered land inhabited by notorious and very dangerous headhunting indigenous tribes.

And that’s how James Brooke became the first White Rajah and the Kingdom of Sarawak was born. With the exception of the second world war period from 1941 – 1945 when it was occupied by the Japanese, Sarawak was a standalone kingdom under the White Rajahs until 1946.

At the end of the occupation of Sarawak, on 11 September 1945, the British military took over Sarawak for 7 months before handing it back to Rajah Charles Vyner Brooke. 

Seeing the damage done by the Japanese, Rajah Brooke realised he no longer had the resources to develop Sarawak. He hoped that with the cession of Sarawak as a British crown colony, the British would be able to rebuild Sarawak’s infrastructure and develop its postwar economy.

So Sarawak became a British colony from 1946-1963 before becoming equal partners along with Peninsular Malaya, Sabah and Singapore to form Malaysia. (Singapore later withdrew itself and became an independent nation in 1965).

Source: blogspot.com

The White Rajahs played an important role in uniting the multiple races in Sarawak. With multiple ethnicities such as Malay, Iban, Bidayuh, Chinese and Indians residing harmoniously, Kuching has become a true melting pot of cultures and is seen by many as a role model for cultural and religious harmony. 

Kuching is called ‘The City of Cats’. You will find cat murals and statues everywhere in the town centre. The city’s obsession really stems from its name. The word ‘Kucing’ means cat in the Malay language. 

How Kuching got its name is a mystery. Some say that when the first Rajah of Sarawak, James Brooke, arrived around 1839, he pointed to the settlement and asked a local what it was called. The local, mistakenly thought he was pointing at a passing cat and said ‘Kucing’ (pronounced Coo-ching). 

A descendant of the passing cat that James Brooke mistakenly pointed at. Or so we like to think. 😉 Source: Aish Mann

Others claim the city was named after trees that once grew throughout the area, bearing small fruit called mata kucing, or ‘cat’s eye fruit’, which is similar to lychee. The last theory is that the name was chosen when residents discovered short-tailed cats living along the banks of the mighty Sarawak River which flows through the city.   

As you walk around the streets of Kuching, you’ll feel the soul of the city in its historic buildings, vibrant street art, and warm, friendly people. 

‘The Early Mercers’ at India Street. Source: Aish Mann

With lush rainforests and the South China Sea in close proximity, a chilled authentic vibe with all the luxuries of a modern city, Kuching is the perfect haven for digital nomads who want an idyllic environment in which to work.

So, why should digital nomads base themselves in Kuching?

We asked a few who have made the move to Kuching and here’s what one said: 

After visiting a lot of tourist places, I found a peaceful and quiet place in Kuching to focus on my work. iCube is very comfortable and convenient. I can find everything I need in the nearby mall Icom Square with lots of food places and a gym. People here are very calm, kind and respectful. Everyone speaks English, so it’s easy to connect with locals. It’s not the case everywhere in Asia and this is a very appreciable point for me.” –Virginie Sarachman, France.

The sky puts on a spectacular show almost every day at Waterfront, Kuching. 

We also spoke to Melvin Liew the ‘go to’ guy for digital nomads in Kuching. Here’s what he had to say about the gradually growing digital nomad community in Kuching. 

We saw the trend (of digital nomad arrivals) increasing when the tourism sector in Sarawak started to grow. It is essential to have a solid community and the constant improvement of infrastructure for Digital Nomads in Sarawak.” – Melvin Liew, Director, iCube Innovation

Another reason for digital nomads to live in Kuching 

If you’re from Europe or North America, you get a 90-day visa on arrival, compared to a 30-day visa for Indonesia and a 2-week visa for Thailand.

Source: tour-borneo-malaysia.com

That means you have plenty of time to get settled in and every time you leave the country, you get a 3-month visa on your return.

Now, it may seem like Kuching is in some faraway, inaccessible land, but the truth is, you could be sipping a cold beer in the hustle and bustle of Orchard Road, Singapore in a mere 3 hours. 

Singapore too sterile for you? Then you can be in downtown Kuala Lumpur in 3 hours too. The beautiful beaches of Kota Kinabalu are just 2 hours away.

Fancy something laidback? Then the city of Bandar Seri Begawan would be up your alley with direct flights from Kuching that will get you there in less than 2 hours. And the cherry on the cake is that flights to all these destinations start from just US$20! 

Now, where should you stay in Kuching?

Kuching has accommodation for all budgets. Airbnb works pretty well here and you have an array of apartments/condominiums to choose from. 

James from locationindependent.co.uk suggests placing yourself as close to the Waterfront area as possible. He says there really isn’t an expat neighborhood but Waterfront is the most central part of Kuching and almost all the main spots are walkable from there. 

Another main area is Padungan Street. It’s a bit further away from the town centre but it is a lively street with some of the best food options. 

If you prefer a short-term rental, we suggest you come and stay in a hotel to personally view places before renting, just to be on the safe side. 

How do you move around town?

Kuching is the most pedestrian-friendly city in Malaysia, especially if you live around the town centre.

Carpenter Street. 

Car or motorbike rentals are available but we recommend Grab (equivalent of Uber) and Maxim. Both apps work flawlessly around Kuching and each ride costs between US$2 – 4 if you’re in the town area.

Where to stuff your face 

Now that you’re mobile, it’s time to get some delicious food into that hungry tummy!

Lucky for you, Kuching is full of gastronomical marvels. 

With numerous influences from indigenous tribes as well as Chinese, Malay and Indian cultures, you’ll never run out of new things to appease your hunger. 

One of the most famous dishes you absolutely have to try is Sarawak Laksa. This typical Sarawakian breakfast dish is made of a special prawn-based broth thickened with coconut milk.

A perfect, mouth-watering bowl of Sarawak laksa. 

Served with a generous portion of omelette strips, crunchy bean sprouts, chicken shreds, and plump prawns as well as a squeeze of calamansi lime for extra zest and thick sambal paste on the side. 

The late Anthony Bourdain called Sarawak Laksa, ‘The breakfast of the Gods’. 

#Laksa #Kuching Breakfast of the Gods

A post shared by anthonybourdain (@anthonybourdain) on May 28, 2015 at 6:57pm PDT

 

One of the best places to find a fiiine bowl of Laksa is at Chong Choon Cafe. Remember, Sarawak laksa is a breakfast dish, so it sells out by around 10 am.

Other must-try dishes in Kuching include Kolo Mee at Annie Kolo Mee or Oriental Park Cafe and authentic Sarawakian tribal food at Tribal Stove the Dyak

A beautiful bowl of Kolo Mee. 

One meal with a drink in a traditional Kuching restaurant or coffee shop should cost you no more than US$2-5. Here’s a more comprehensive food guide with tips on where to find cheap eats in Kuching.

How do you pay for stuff?

You can’t use US dollars to pay like in Cambodia. The currency used in Kuching is Ringgit Malaysia (RM). Although some places only accept cash, most places accept credit cards or E-Wallets. 

Some of the E-Wallets you can use are GrabPay, SarawakPay, FavePay, and Boost E-wallet

What’s the internet like?

Ah yes, internet: the lifeline of a digital nomad. 

Connectivity issues can be quite scary if your livelihood depends on the internet. And the Bornean rainforest doesn’t exactly sound like the kind of place you can do seamless Video calls. Buut…

Don’t worry, Kuching has all-around 4G coverage and you can find wifi at almost every cafe. 

The 3 main service providers in Sarawak with solid coverage are Celcom, Maxis and Digi. 

You can pick up a sim card at the airport for as low as US$8 and this will last you a whole month with constant coverage!

Here’s a price comparison between the service providers. 

Where the magic happens… 

Now that you’re settled in and well connected, it’s time to look for a place to work. 

There are a number of co-working spaces available but the main curator of the digital nomad community is iCube Innovation

Source: coworker.imgix.net

They have the most up-to-date facilities if all you want to do is put your head down and get some work done. 

Their packages start from as low as US$36 per month for a hot desk which is substantially lower than co-working spaces in Bali and Chiang Mai where average monthly packages cost US$100 and US$120. 

Other than iCube, other interesting co-working spaces are MaGIC Sarawak and The 381 Hub

If you’d rather work from a new location every day, we’ve got you covered! There are plenty of cafes around town where you can set up shop. Here’s a list of some of the most aesthetically pleasing and work-friendly cafes in and around the city centre: 

  1. Tease by Jase’s Tea House
  2. Commons at The Old Courthouse
  3. The Coffee Clinic
  4. Kai Joo Cafe 
  5. Coffee Obsession

After-work shenanigans

We’re going to give it to you straight. If you’re a party animal, Kuching isn’t for you. [Pro tip: You can always head to Kuala Lumpur and paint the town red there!] 

Drinks and Art. What better way to relax after a long day of work? Source: Aish Mann

However, if you like to unwind and chill with a cold beer and good ambiance, there are a number of places you can try. Note, a bucket of four beers in Kuching usually costs around US$8. 

  1. Bear Garden
  2. Drunk Monkey Old Street Bar
  3. The Wayang
  4. Monkee Bar Bistro
  5. Borneo Rednecks  

A stay in Sarawak isn’t complete without Tuak. Tuak is a Sarawakian rice wine. You can usually find it at bars around Kuching. Try it, but be careful…

What else is there to do?

After working diligently and finishing a few months’ work in a few days, you’re bound to want to do some touring. 

Other than a promising, laid back, and focused environment, there are plenty of activities to help you get close to nature. 

When you’re looking to get out of the city, you can head to sites around Kuching. Check out our articles on the magnificent caves and peculiar wildlife found in Sarawak. You can be soaking in a natural hot spring or exploring millennia-old caves in a matter of hours!

Miri is an interesting destination, more lively than Kuching, it also has the best dive sites in Malaysia. Subscribe to our newsletter to get content like this sent straight into your inbox! 

All in all, Kuching is a perfect destination for digital nomads because of how gentle it is. If you’re a digital nomad looking for an affordable, tranquil place to get some work done, Kuching should definitely be on your radar. 

 

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Malaysia Travel Guide

10 Things To Do In and Around Miri

These are some of the top things to do in Miri. The city is Sarawak’s second largest city and the gateway to the state’s fascinating northeast region.

1.Meet The People

A short flight from Miri brings you to Bario, gateway to the Kelabit Highlands, home to the Kelabit people and their large, well preserved longhouses.  Miri is also connected by Twin Otter service to Ba’kelalan, a cluster of seven Lun Bawang villages famous for their orchards and organic vegetables.

things to do miri

Lun Bawang Festival (Irau Aco)

sarawak-borneo-people-lun-bawang-bamboo-band

2. Go For A Walk

Stroll through Miri Old Town, crammed with shops selling all manner of fascinating goods, taking in the Fish Market and the Tua Pek Kong Temple.  Visit Lambir Hills National Park, probably the world’s most complex and diverse forest ecosystem, for a selection of jungle trekking trails to suit every ability.

Gunung Mulu National Park, famous for its extensive cave systems also offers some spectacular trekking trails, including the demanding yet incredibly rewarding Summit Trek and Pinnacles Trail and the historic Headhunters Trail.

The remote Kelabit Highlands has a wide selection of trails, from half-day strolls in and around Bario to week-long expeditions, staying in remote longhouses, passing by ancient megaliths, camping out in the rainforest and ascending the rugged peaks of Pulong Tau National Park.

Sarawak Borneo Miri Lambir Hills National Park

Mulu Clear water cave

visit-2Bsarawak-2Bmalaysia-2Bborneo-2Bbario-2Bfood-2Bfestival-2B2014-2Bmisc-2BmikhaiLLU-2B-10-

3. Wildlife Encounters

Visit the caves of Niah National Park to view remarkable cave fauna, watch an amazing bat exodus and find your way back by the light of luminous mushrooms.  Head for Kuala Sibuti for an evening of crocodile spotting and firefly watching.

The Bat Observatory at Gunung Mulu National Park provides a grandstand view of one of nature’s natural wonders, while the world’s longest canopy walkway showcases the birds and plants of the rainforest canopy walkway showcases the birds and plants of the rainforest canopy.  Spend a night at Loagan Bunut National Park, with its incredible shrinking lake ecosystem and a resident population of Bornean gibbons, as well as hundreds of bird, reptile and small mammal species.

Niah National Park

a-u-bagly_hipposideros-diadema-with-pup_cave-roost-mulu-bat

mulu-frog

4. Take To The Water

Charter an express boat from Kuala Baram brings you to the upriver town of Marudi, gateway to Ulu Baram.  If you have the time, and weather conditions permitting, you can travel from Marudi by express boat and longboat to some of the remotest villages and longhouses in Sarawak, home to various Orang Ulu communities including Kayans, Kenyahs, and even nomadic Penans.

Things to do miri

The Panoramic view of Sela’an Kayan village, Ulu Baram

5. Underground Sarawak

Visit the caves of Niah National Park, settled by modern humans for over 40,000 years and one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia.  The Great Cave has one of the world’s largest cave mouths, a fascinating cave ecosystem and you can watch the birds nest collectors at work.  The Padang, where a shaft of light pierces the rear of the cave, is perfect for photo ops.  The Adjacent Painted Cave is the site of Niah’s famous cave paintings.  Leave the Great Cave around sunset, to see the nightly “changing of the guard”.  Two great living clouds intermingle in the sky as hundreds of thousand of swiftlets return to their nests, whilst a similar number of bats fly out to forage in the forest.

Gunung Mulu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is most famous for its limestone cave systems, including the world’s largest chamber, the world’s largest cave passsage and the longest cave in Southeast Asia.

Niah National Park

Mulu Sarawak | A World Heritage Site

DekatJe Mulu Puncak Borneo

6. Underwater Sarawak

Miri is fast becoming a popular dive destination, due to the 22 pristine patch reefs that make up the Miri-Sibuti Reef Marine Park, lying at depths from 7 to 30 metres.  The best time to dive is March to September, with average visibility around 30 metres, but you can expect at least 10 metres visibility all year round.  Hard and soft corals cover the entire reefs, with abundant gorgonians, sea-whips,  anemones, sponges and crinoids.  There are also some interesting wreck dives in quite shallow water, perfect for a first wreck diving experience.

Most of the best dive sites are at depths between 18 and 30 metres, so EANx Nitrox Diver and PADI advanced Open Water ratings are highly recommended.  Bonus activities include whale shark spotting (in season).

7. Food and Drink

Miri has similar culinary selection to Kuching, although with its seafront location the seafood is possibly even fresher.  Inland, be tempted by the fresh jungle produce and organically grown fruits and vegetables prepared by the Kelabit and Lun Bawang people of the northern highlands, served with the unique fine-grained Bario rice, In the upriver Orang Ulu longhouses, enjoy tasty wild boar, free range chicken and exotic river fish served with glass of borak (Orang Ulu rice wine)

visit-2Bsarawak-2Bmalaysia-2Bborneo-2Bbario-2Bfood-2Bfestival-2B2014-2B-2832-29

8. Culture Heritage

Canada Hill not only offers excellent views of Miri and the surrounding area, it is also home to Oil Well No. 1, known as the “grand old lady,”  the first well to strike oil in Sarawak in 1910.  The adjacent Petroleum Museum traces the history and development of the oil and gas industries in Malaysia.  Back in town, visit the impressive and atmospheric San Ching Tian Temple, the largest Taoist temple in Southeast Asia.  If you are heading for Niah National Park, make sure to visit the fascinating Niah Archaeological Museum, tracing 40,000 years of human settlement at Niah.

Canada Hill, Miri, Sarawak

Niah National Park

9. Shopping

Miri Handicraft Centre showcases the ethnic arts and crafts of northern Sarawak.  Stalls are run by the producers, and craftspeople can often be viewed at work here.  items on sale include Penan mats and basketry.  Orang Ulu beadwork and woodcravings.  Miri’s Tamu Muhibbah is a colourful native market selling exotic fruits and vegetables, handicrafts and produce from upriver areas, including fragrant Bario rice, and great photo opportunities.

Exhibitionhandicraft Miri

Exhibitionhandicraft Miri

sarawak-malaysia-borneo-limbang-Bisaya-Babulang-festival-handicraft-exhibition

10. Festivals Celebrations

Borneo Jazz: One of the top jazz festivals in the region, attracting top jazz and blues performers from around the world.

Pesta Nukenen Bario (Bario Food Festival): The world’s most exclusive food festival celebrates the unique food, farming, forest and cultural heritage of the Kelabut Highlands.

Exuberance festival goers posing for the photographer

visit sarawak malaysia borneo miri borneo jazz 2014 andy kho

 

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Malaysia Travel Guide

Bizarre wildlife found in the jungles of exotic Borneo

Ask any Malaysian what is the first thing that comes to mind when they think of Sarawak and we bet most of them would give you the same answer: Magnificent mountains, wildlife, age-old rainforests, beautiful beaches and colossal caves.

This natural landscape allows for extraordinary biodiversity to exist while nurturing some of the world’s best-kept secrets… Or should we say, creatures? Most people have heard stories about the ubiquitous Hornbill that’s emblemetic to Sarawak but what’s out there that maybe you haven’t heard about?

Read on and learn about some of the most exotic and adorable, (OK sometimes!) animals that call our beautiful jungle home. We’ll even tell you where you can find them so you can play your own fun game of “Where’s Waldo?” Malaysian Wildlife edition! Believe us, there is #MoreSarawak than you know!

Horsfield’s Tarsier

These adorable little critters look eerily similar to a particular character from Star Wars. If you’re guessing Yoda, you’re right! Except that they don’t talk in riddles or read your minds – their superpower lies in their excellent leaping and climbing skills.

They are nocturnal, but thankfully, their big eyes to help them manoeuvre in the dark. Interesting fact, the size of one eyeball of the Horsfield’s Tarsier is the same as their brain. This makes them the largest-eyed mammal in the world relative to their body size!

Tarsier clinging to a branch

Photo by Christine Wehrmeier on Unsplash

Don’t be fooled by their cute demeanour, though! They are the only living carnivorous primate species. They feed on insects and small invertebrates, using their sharp sense of hearing and their nifty hands to detect and ensnare their prey.

Where to find them: Mulu National Park

Sun Bear

Even though they’re small, they can be very aggressive so if you see one, don’t mistake it for a cuddly teddy bear! The sun bear is arboreal, so you’ll need to keep your eyes on the trees if you want to see one and you can only see them in our rain forests in Southeast Asia.

They are essential to our ecosystem because they help disperse seeds while also keeping pesky termites in check, which means there is less destruction of our tropical trees which in turn means our atmosphere is clean enough for us to live healthily.

When they do come down from the trees, they also dig for invertebrates in the soil, enhancing the forest’s nutrient cycle through the mixing of rich and poor soil. Unfortunately, their global population has declined 30% over the last few years, making them the second rarest bear species next to the Giant Panda.

wildlife in Borneo - sun bear

iStock: wrangel

Their tongues are up to 25 cm long and help them to satiate their voracious appetite for honey. Because of this, they are also sometimes known as “honey bears”. You can tell the Sun Bear apart from other bear species from the horseshoe marks on their chest. Fun fact: No two markings are the same!

Where to see them: Matang Wildlife Centre

Microhyla Nepenthicola

If that’s too much of a mouthful, you can call it the “Matang narrow-mouthed frog”. That’s only the easy part. Spotting one of these rare creatures in the wild is, well rare! This newly discovered species is the second smallest frog in the world, around the size of a pea, and they make their homes around pitcher plants. They can only be found near Mount Serapi which is located in Kubah National Park.

wildlife in Borneo - second smallest frog in the world

Source: Reuters

They were discovered after scientists tracked the unique and powerful croaks of the males. Talk about a little body with a big voice! Because they were only discovered recently, not much is known about them. However, if you are lucky enough to spot one, make sure you are wearing ear plugs!

Where to find them: Kubah National Park

Sambar Deer

Did you know that the heaviest recorded Sambar Deer weighed an eye watering 550kg?! That’s slightly more than half a ton! So if you do go looking for the Sambar deer, make sure you are wearing running shoes!

sambar deer at matang wildlife center

Source: Matang Widlife Center

Despite their relatively large stature, these animals are pretty elusive; They are only really active at dusk and at night. When disturbed, their first instinct is to freeze before responding to predators with loud barks and foot stomping.

If that isn’t enough to frighten anyone or anything, their mane will rise in a confrontational manner! Imagine this half-a-ton of muscle and jungle survivor towering over you! Like I said, make sure you are wearing running shoes.

Where to find them: Mulu National Park and Matang Wildlife Center

Lesser Mouse Deer

Don’t be fooled by its name! Even though they look like a combination of a mouse and a cute deer, the mouse deer is neither a mouse nor a deer! Confusing I know but you can’t blame us for its name!

These shy, mysterious little critters are less than 50cm long and can be found on forest floors feeding on leaves, shoots, fruits and sometimes even fungi. With round bodies and spindly legs, they look almost like plush toys!

lesser mouse deer

Source: critterfacts.com

But while they may look like toys, peek inside a Mouse Deer’s mouth (we don’t recommend you do so), and you’ll find long fangs that give Dracula a run for his money!

Despite being land mammals, they can also hold their breath for up to four minutes and to escape prey, they’ll often leap into water and actually scurry across river beds to avoid getting caught! Yes, they can even hold their breath for 4 minutes underwater!

Due to their small size, they are commonly preyed upon by other animals, so they have to live quiet and secluded lives. However, a male will angrily beat his hooves when agitated or to ward off predators and warn other Mouse Deer of danger.

Where to find them: Lambir Hills National Park

Hornbill

There are so many things to be said about our state mascot. Sporting majestic beaks, Hornbills have impressive neck muscles (to support the weight of their regal bills) and are incredibly loyal to their families. They mate for life and will bond to defend each other against predators!

These beautiful feathered creatures also have their own ‘language’ – They speak to each other in a sort of morse code! It’s been said that the noise resembles that of a steam engine. This form of ‘communication’ is especially important and it’s how a male Hornbill sends messages to his mate through the barricade she makes during her nesting period.

rhinocerous hornbill

Source: Casper1774 Studio/Shutterstock

Hornbills have a great significance in Dayak culture. For them, Hornbills signify the spirit of God, and they have to be treated with respect. It is said that if a Hornbill is sighted flying over their residences, good luck will be granted to the whole community!

Altogether there are 54 species of Hornbills in the world, 8 of which are found in Sarawak! No wonder Sarawak is known as the “Land of the Hornbills”.

Where to find them: Piasau Nature Reserve, Mulu National Park, Tanjung Datu National Park and Batang Ai National Park

Slow Loris

Tiny, cute, big eyes… But not cuddly! Although they look adorable, these nocturnal creatures are one of the few venomous mammals in the world.

slow lorris clinging to tree branch

Source: wordatlas.com

Surf the internet long enough and you might recall watching a video of a Slow Loris getting tickled. What many people don’t know is that the pose of the Slow Loris of its arms raised is a defensive pose and not one of enjoyment.

Unfortunately, not many people knew this, and when this video gained traction, many people wanted to own Slow Lorises as pets because of how ‘cute’ it looked.

As slow lorises are venomous with a potentially deadly bite, their sharp pointed teeth are often clipped with nail cutters without anaesthesia for the pet trade.

This makes the pet trade one of the greatest threats to the survival of this species, which places them as vulnerable on the IUCN red list. Here in Sarawak we’re protecting all our Slow Loris as best we can. Have fun looking for them but don’t try and tickle them!

Where to find them: Bako National Park

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Categories
Malaysia Travel Guide

10 Things To Do In Miri

Miri  is Sarawak’s second largest city and the gateway to the state’s fascinating northeast region.

1.Meet The People

A short flight from Miri brings you to Bario, gateway to the Kelabit Highlands, home to the Kelabit people and their large, well preserved longhouses.  Miri is also connected by Twin Otter service to Ba’kelalan, a cluster of seven Lun Bawang villages famous for their orchards and organic vegetables.

Lun Bawang Festival (Irau Aco)

sarawak-borneo-people-lun-bawang-bamboo-band

2. Go For A Walk

Stroll through Miri Old Town, crammed with shops selling all manner of fascinating goods, taking in the Fish Market and the Tua Pek Kong Temple.  Visit Lambir Hills National Park, probably the world’s most complex and diverse forest ecosystem, for a selection of jungle trekking trails to suit every ability.

Gunung Mulu National Park, famous for its extensive cave systems also offers some spectacular trekking trails, including the demanding yet incredibly rewarding Summit Trek and Pinnacles Trail and the historic Headhunters Trail.

The remote Kelabit Highlands has a wide selection of trails, from half-day strolls in and around Bario to week-long expeditions, staying in remote longhouses, passing by ancient megaliths, camping out in the rainforest and ascending the rugged peaks of Pulong Tau National Park.

Sarawak Borneo Miri Lambir Hills National Park

Mulu Clear water cave

visit-2Bsarawak-2Bmalaysia-2Bborneo-2Bbario-2Bfood-2Bfestival-2B2014-2Bmisc-2BmikhaiLLU-2B-10-

3. Wildlife Encounters

Visit the caves of Niah National Park to view remarkable cave fauna, watch an amazing bat exodus and find your way back by the light of luminous mushrooms.  Head for Kuala Sibuti for an evening of crocodile spotting and firefly watching.

The Bat Observatory at Gunung Mulu National Park provides a grandstand view of one of nature’s natural wonders, while the world’s longest canopy walkway showcases the birds and plants of the rainforest canopy walkway showcases the birds and plants of the rainforest canopy.  Spend a night at Loagan Bunut National Park, with its incredible shrinking lake ecosystem and a resident population of Bornean gibbons, as well as hundreds of bird, reptile and small mammal species.

Niah National Park

a-u-bagly_hipposideros-diadema-with-pup_cave-roost-mulu-bat

mulu-frog

4. Take To The Water

Charter an express boat from Kuala Baram brings you to the upriver town of Marudi, gateway to Ulu Baram.  If you have the time, and weather conditions permitting, you can travel from Marudi by express boat and longboat to some of the remotest villages and longhouses in Sarawak, home to various Orang Ulu communities including Kayans, Kenyahs, and even nomadic Penans.

The Panoramic view of Sela'an Kayan village, Ulu Baram

5. Underground Sarawak

Visit the caves of Niah National Park, settled by modern humans for over 40,000 years and one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia.  The Great Cave has one of the world’s largest cave mouths, a fascinating cave ecosystem and you can watch the birds nest collectors at work.  The Padang, where a shaft of light pierces the rear of the cave, is perfect for photo ops.  The Adjacent Painted Cave is the site of Niah’s famous cave paintings.  Leave the Great Cave around sunset, to see the nightly “changing of the guard”.  Two great living clouds intermingle in the sky as hundreds of thousand of swiftlets return to their nests, whilst a similar number of bats fly out to forage in the forest.

Gunung Mulu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is most famous for its limestone cave systems, including the world’s largest chamber, the world’s largest cave passsage and the longest cave in Southeast Asia.

Niah National Park

Mulu Sarawak | A World Heritage Site

DekatJe Mulu Puncak Borneo

6. Underwater Sarawak

Miri is fast becoming a popular dive destination, due to the 22 pristine patch reefs that make up the Miri-Sibuti Reef Marine Park, lying at depths from 7 to 30 metres.  The best time to dive is March to September, with average visibility around 30 metres, but you can expect at least 10 metres visibility all year round.  Hard and soft corals cover the entire reefs, with abundant gorgonians, sea-whips,  anemones, sponges and crinoids.  There are also some interesting wreck dives in quite shallow water, perfect for a first wreck diving experience.

Most of the best dive sites are at depths between 18 and 30 metres, so EANx Nitrox Diver and PADI advanced Open Water ratings are highly recommended.  Bonus activities include whale shark spotting (in season).

7. Food and Drink

Miri has similar culinary selection to Kuching, although with its seafront location the seafood is possibly even fresher.  Inland, be tempted by the fresh jungle produce and organically grown fruits and vegetables prepared by the Kelabit and Lun Bawang people of the northern highlands, served with the unique fine-grained Bario rice, In the upriver Orang Ulu longhouses, enjoy tasty wild boar, free range chicken and exotic river fish served with glass of borak (Orang Ulu rice wine)

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8. Culture Heritage

Canada Hill not only offers excellent views of Miri and the surrounding area, it is also home to Oil Well No. 1, known as the “grand old lady,”  the first well to strike oil in Sarawak in 1910.  The adjacent Petroleum Museum traces the history and development of the oil and gas industries in Malaysia.  Back in town, visit the impressive and atmospheric San Ching Tian Temple, the largest Taoist temple in Southeast Asia.  If you are heading for Niah National Park, make sure to visit the fascinating Niah Archaeological Museum, tracing 40,000 years of human settlement at Niah.

Canada Hill, Miri, Sarawak

Niah National Park

9. Shopping

Miri Handicraft Centre showcases the ethnic arts and crafts of northern Sarawak.  Stalls are run by the producers, and craftspeople can often be viewed at work here.  items on sale include Penan mats and basketry.  Orang Ulu beadwork and woodcravings.  Miri’s Tamu Muhibbah is a colourful native market selling exotic fruits and vegetables, handicrafts and produce from upriver areas, including fragrant Bario rice, and great photo opportunities.

Exhibitionhandicraft Miri

Exhibitionhandicraft Miri

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10. Festivals Celebrations

Borneo Jazz: One of the top jazz festivals in the region, attracting top jazz and blues performers from around the world.

Pesta Nukenen Bario (Bario Food Festival): The world’s most exclusive food festival celebrates the unique food, farming, forest and cultural heritage of the Kelabut Highlands.

Exuberance festival goers posing for the photographer

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10 Things To Do in Kuching

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Malaysia Travel Guide

10 Things To Do in Kuching

1. Meet The People

Visit the well-preserved Bidayuh Longhouses at Kampung Annah Rais, Kampung Benuk, Kampung Mongkos or Kampung Pueh; perfect for photo ops and an insight into Bidayuh (Land Dayak) culture.

Trek above the clouds to kampung Semban, a very traditional Bidayuh community where older women still wear brass arm, leg and neck rings.

Visit Iban Longhouses on the Lemanak River or around Batan Ai Hyro Lake.  Sample home brewed rice wine (tuak), enjoy fresh jungle produce ans try your hand at blowpipe shooting.  Ornately tattooed elders will entertain you with tales of their headhunter ancestors and show off their traditional dancing skills.

annah rais

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Batang Ai National Park, Sarawak, Malaysia

2. Go For A Walk

Discover Kuching’s Historic City Centre, by yourself or through a guided walk or bicycle tour.  Climb Mount Santubong, for a birds-eye view of the city and the coastline, or take to the trails of Kubah National Park to discover rare and fascinating plant species and idyllic jungle waterfalls.  Visit Gunung Gading National Park for a close-up view of the Rafflesia, the world’s largest flower, amindst stunning rainforest scenery.

Visit Tanjung Datu National Park, at the remote southern tip of Sarawak, to trek through rugged, jungle terrain to deserted white sand beaches.  Or explore the beautiful upriver scenery of Batang Ai, staying overnight in Iban Longhouses and jungle camps.

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Quiet Beach in Malaysia Tanjung National Park Sarawak

3. Wildlife Encounters

Visit Matang Wildlife Centre to encounter young orphaned orangutans and sun bears and learn about the wildlife rehabilitation process.  Then check out Semenggoh Nature Reserve and its thriving population of semi-wild orangutans, or go for frog-spotting in Kubah National Park, home of Asia’s smallest frog species.  Take a boat to Bako National Park to view the rare proboscis monkey, as well as long-tailed macaque monkeys, Bornean bearded pigs, colugos and many colourful bird and reptile species.

Head upriver to Batang Ai National Park to follow the Red Ape Trail.  This area has possibly the world’s highest population density of wild orangutans and encounters are quite frequent.

BAKO NATIONAL PARK, Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

Frog Kubah

orangutan batang ai

4. Take To The Water

Take a Sarawak River cruise to discover Kuching from the water, and watch the sunset reflected in the water as the sun sinks over Mount Serapi.  Or hire one of the local tambang ferries to explore the riverside at your own pace.

Go Irrawaddy dolphin spotting and crocodile watching in Kuching Wetlands National Park, or visit Satang Island to see the marine turtle hatchery and enjoy snorkelling with the green turtles.  If you prefer to paddle you own canoe, try rainforest kayaking or rafting along the Upper Sarawak River, sea kayaking aroung the Santubong Rover and the Bako-Buntal Bay.

talang satang

wildlife cruise kuching wetlands santubong fisherman and dolphin

5. Underground Sarawak

Take part in a caving adventure int the limestone hills around Bau or Serian.  Beginner, intermediate and advanced level activities are offered and equipment is supplied.  Less adventurous visitors will enjoy the easily accessible caves area Bau, a short drive from Kuching.  The Wind Cave, is long and narrow with beautiful rock formations and a cooling breeze, while the Fairy Cave is more imposing, with extensive cave vegetation and a Chinese shrine at the cave mouth.

Bau Cave

sarawak borneo kuching bau wind cave

5-sarawak borneo playground Bau Wind Cave opening

6. Underwater Sarawak

The best wreck dives (including a WWII Japanese Destroyer) require at least an Advanced Open Water, but there are great muck dive and snorkeling sites around the turtle sanctuary islands offshore from Kuching.  You can dive in search of marine turtles in the morning and learn about their conservation in the afternoon.

sarawak borneo playground kuching wreck diving

sarawak borneo playground kuching wreck diving (6)

7. Food Drink

Kuching is famous for its celebrated noodle dishes, spicy Sarawak Laksa and savoury Kolo Mee, as well as a wide selection of Chinese, Malay and Indian cuisine, exotic rainforest fruits, crispy jungle ferns and wonderful fresh seafood.  Dining options range from humble hawker stalls, through waterside seafood restaurants at Kampung Buntal and traditional Chinese delicacies at Siniawan Night Market to opulent fine dining outlets in 5-star hotels, and you can even learn to cook Sarawak-style.  Kuching’s most famous drink is teh-c-peng, a multi layered tea and palm sugar concoction worth of a brochure b y itself.  In the villages and longhouses you can try native cuisine such as manok pansuh (chicken steamed in bamboo tubes) and fresh jungle produce, accompanied by a glass of tuak.

Laksa Sarawak

Laksa Sarawak

kolokmee

Sarawak-Kuching-Adventure-Ikan-Pansuh

8. Culture Heritage

Follow in the footsteps of the White Rajahs around Kuching’s old city centre and the waterfront, taking in the Sarawak Museum, Islamic Museum, Old Courthouse, India Street Mosque, Textile Museum and many other unique heritage sites.  The cross the Sarawak River (by bridge or boat) to visit Fort Margherita, the Brooke Gallery and the exquisite Orchid Garden.  The surrounding Malay Kampungs have some fine examples of traditional and modern Malay architecture.

Learn about Sarawak’s traditional cultures at the award-winning Sarawak Cultural Village, stopping by en route to visit the world’s first Cat Museum, a prehistoric human figure and the tomb of Sarawak’s first and only Sultan.

Kuching Heritage Fort Margherita, Sarawak, Malaysia

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9. Shopping

Main Bazaar and Carpenter Street, the two oldest streets in Kuching, are packed with handicraft shops, art dealers and families practicing their traditional crafts, ranging from tinsmithing to coffin-making!  Nearby India Street is a pedestrian precinct with a fine selection of traditional clothing and textile outlets, and the adjacent Gambier Street is the place to buy spices ad utensils if you want to cook Sarawak-style.

In the Malay Kampungs across river, small family bakeries sell kek lapis (Sarawak layer cake), probably the state’s most popular souvenir.  Also across river, the colourful Satok Weekend Market iis renowned for the Bidayuh ladies selling handicrafts, forest produce, orchids and a whole range of local snacks and delicacies.

The potteries on Jalan Penrissen produce fine ceramics in a unique Teochew-Sarawak fusion style, and the potters are happy to be photographed at work.

The busy weekend market at the border village of Serikin, where Indonesian traders come to sell their wares, is a great place to buy cheap textiles, clothing, fresh fruits, jungle produce and handicrafts.  Heading north, the bustling and colourful Serian Market is a must-visit for fruit, vegetables, forest produce and amazing photo opportunities.

Seeing Kuching City on Foot

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Serikin Town Border Market

 

10. Festivals Celebrations

Rainforest World Music Festival: Every July, Sarawak Cultural Village.  The most exciting musical event in the region, and ranked among the top-25 world music festivals globally.

Kuching Festival: July and early August.  A month-long festival of musci, drama, arts, exhibitions and food, glorious food.

Sarawak Regatta:  Every November, Kuching Waterfront.  Dating from 1872, this is the biggest and best river regatta in Southeast Asia.  There’s even a category for visitors to join in.

Multi-Cultural Mooncake Festival: Mid-September Carpenter St.  Kuching’s Chinese community share the mid-autumn festival with everyone at a 4-day street party.

Pesta Benak (Tidal Bore Festival): November, Sri Aman.  Celebrates the Lupar River’s famous tidal bore.  Surfing and wave-riding competitions, water sports and nightly entertainment.

RWMF

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