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Ooaj Travel Guide, tourism, hotel reservation, residence, plane, cheap pension for you holidays in sarawak
Free Travel guide Ooaj.com A free travel guide for holidays. Hotels in sarawak, Bed and Breakfast!
Sarawak is Malaysia's largest state. It lies in East Malaysia and shares the island of Borneo with the eastern state of Sabah, the separate country of Brunei and the Indonesian provinces of Kalimantan.
Sarawak is the largest and, certainly in terms of visitors per square kilometer, least touristed state of Malaysia. Nearly as large as peninsular Malaysia, the interior is covered in a thicket of impenetrable jungle and mountains and the great majority of the population lives near the coast or along rivers leading to the sea.
One of the stranger episodes in Malaysian history began in 1841 when James Brooke, an English adventurer armed only with a single ship and diplomatic skills, was made Rajah of Sarawak by the Sultan of Brunei. James and his nephew and successor Charles expanded their private colony to cover much of the state. The third Rajah, Vyner, continued to develop the colony but fled from the invading Japanese in 1941, ending the Brooke dynasty after precisely 100 years. After the end of the Japanese occupation, Vyner returned to Sarawak in April 1946, but ceded the colony to the British in July of the same year. Sarawak joined Malaysia on its formation in 1963.
Even by Malaysian standards Sarawak has an extraordinary mix of peoples: the majority group is neither Chinese (26%) nor Malay (23%), 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 a jungle longhouse. Fortunately for visitors, headhunting hasn't been practiced for a while, although some of the skulls date from as late as World War II when, with British support, Iban mercenaries fought against the occupying Japanese. 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").
As elsewhere in Malaysia, Malay is the official language, but English and various Chinese dialects are widely spoken. The Iban language is the largest linguistic group, with many local variations. THe majority of Sarawakians are multi-lingual, a necessity in such a multicultural society, and Malay or English will stand you in good stead in most places. Knowing some phrases in Iban, Chinese or other local dialects however will greatly impress your hosts wherever you go.
Alone among Malaysia's states, Sarawak maintains separate immigration control, mostly so mainlanders cannot freely immigrate and swamp the thinly populated state. Even if coming in from elsewhere in Malaysia, Malaysians need to bring along their ID and other foreigners need to fill out a second immigration from. Still, for most travellers this is just a formality and an interesting extra stamp in their passport, as anybody who does not need a visa for Malaysia can get a free 90-day visit permit on arrival. If you do need an advance visa for Malaysia, you'll need one specifically for Sarawak, so be sure to state this when applying at the Malaysian embassy.
Most visitors arrive in Sarawak by plane. The largest gateway is Kuching, about 1.5 hours away from both Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu, which also has a few direct international flights to Hong Kong and Perth. Other airports with domestic connections to peninsular Malaysia on both Malaysian Airlines and Air Asia include Miri, Sibu and Bintulu.
Sarawak is big and, by otherwise high Malaysian standards, its roads are poor, making planes the most convenient way of getting around. For example, it's about 1 hour from Kuching to Miri by plane (full fare RM164), but a butt-numbing 14 hours by bus (RM70).
There are frequent flights between Kuching, Sibu, Bintulu and Miri, as well as turboprop jungle hoppers run by MAS Rural Service into remote longhouses and other settlements in the jungle.
Sarawak Transport Company (STC) runs bus services between the major coastal settlements. This is the slowest but also the cheapest form of travel.
Express boats run from the coast inland along Borneo's larger rivers. They are generally faster than buses and cheaper than planes, but more dangerous than both (especially in the dry season when the water is low) as captains are suicidal maniacs and the boats hit sunken or floating debris with depressing regularity. Popular routes include Kuching-Sibu (4 hours) and Sibu-Kapit (3 hours).
Sarawak's highlights include the caves of Gunung Mulu National Park, reckoned by some to be the largest in the world, and the orangutans of Semengoh.
Various tribal handicrafts are the most popular souvenirs from Sarawak. Particularly notable are pua kumbu, double-weaved fabrics woven by Iban women and illustrated with hypnotic, surreal patterns, wood carvings by the Kayan and the Kenyah tribes, and Bidayuh baskets woven from rattan. Black pepper from Sarawak — far more potent than the bland stuff sold in the average supermarket — is also a worthwhile buy.
While Malaysian staples are widely available, Sarawak cuisine offers several local delights.
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.