From exciting man-made attractions to breathtaking natural wonders, Sarawak holds many surprises. Once a hidden paradise unknown to the rest of the world, it now attracts holidaymakers from different parts of the globe with an insatiable appetite for adventure.
Nicknamed Land of the Hornbills, Sarawak is the largest of 13 states in Malaysia and is almost as big as all of West Malaysia combined. Because it is so vast, you would need to spend two weeks at the very least to be able to have but a little taste of what it has to offer.
In the lead-up to Visit Sarawak Year happening in 2019, we thought we’d share with you a little bit on how you can make the most of your short trip to Sarawak.
Begin at the Capital
We reckon the best way to experience Sarawak is to drive around in a rented car, and the ideal place to start from is its capital city Kuching. There are plenty of car rental services to choose from. You might want to do a search on the Internet for one that best suits your budget. Otherwise, you can always look for a car rental company on arrival at Kuching International Airport (KIA). It’s whatever floats your boat. Getting around is almost effortless these days, thanks to phone driving apps like ‘Waze’.
Kuching has plenty of accommodation options that suit all taste and budget. From Airbnbs and backpackers’ lodges to star-rated hotels, resorts and boutique accommodations, the city has it all! Online booking is advised if you wish to avoid wasting precious time looking for an accommodation. Phone apps like Trivago can prove useful for the purpose.
The bustling capital of Sarawak is famous for many things, including the big cat statues downtown. As far as attractions go, it really is an all-rounder with offerings of nature, culture, food, entertainment and leisure all at once.
Explore the city’s historic district, where buildings from the Colonial era still stand strong to this day. Built as early as the 1800s, many of these buildings have been repurposed as museums, tourism centres and even cafés and restaurants. Fort Margherita, Old CourtHouse, Ethnology Museum and the old post office are just some of the historic buildings you can visit. Famous stretches like Carpenter’s Street & Ewe Hai Street (a.k.a Chinatown), India Street, Padungan Street and the Main Bazaar are also dotted with decades-old buildings.
The modern side of Kuching is just as impressive. The Kuching Waterfront, for example, presents you with a view of some of Kuching’s modern icons such as the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) building and Kuching’s latest attraction, the “S” shaped Darul Hana Bridge that was launched on Nov 11, 2017.
To experience local culture, head to the Sarawak Cultural Village in Santubong or Anah Rais Bidayuh longhouse. If nature is what you’re looking to experience, head to the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre or Kubah National Park. A hike up Mount Gading rewards you with beautiful views of its waterfalls and, if you’re lucky, the Rafflesia – the largest flower in the world. Jangkar Waterfall in Lundu is a majestic cascade that can be seen from the roadside and is a must visit.
Hungry? Grab a bite to eat from one of many F&B outlets here in Kuching. Note that here as it is elsewhere in Malaysia, noodles are called “mee” or “mi”.
Head out for more adventure
Now that you’ve experienced Kuching, it’s time to drive out of the capital city and head towards Miri over 800 kilometres (about 11 hrs 25 mins drive) away. Make stops for some much-needed rest and even discover interesting places along the way.
A little more than an hour’s drive from Kuching (about 58 kilometres) via the KuchingSerian Road and you’ll arrive in the town of Serian. This predominantly Bidayuh area is an ideal place for a quick bite. Visit the Serian Market for some interesting finds like jungle produce and river snails. Stop by Taman Rekreasi Ranchan Serian for a picnic and a quick dip in its cooling waters before you continue your drive.
Next up is Sri Aman, a town well known for its annual Pesta Benak (Tidal Bore Festival). Located about 198 kilometres away (3 hrs 4 mins drive) from Kuching, this quaint riverine town formerly known as Simanggang has its own set of attractions such as Fort Alice, which was constructed in 1864 following the victory of Rajah Charles Brooke over Rentap. Taman Panorama Benak, located opposite the Resident Office, is a newer attraction from which the public can witness the tidal bore phenomenon during Pesta Benak.
Gateway to Central region
After some sightseeing in Sri Aman Town and maybe a plate of their famous Mee Satay, it’s time to hit the road again. The next big stop is Sibu, also known to the locals as Swan City. A journey from Sri Aman to Sibu takes about 3 hours and 25 mins, over a distance of approximately 229.6 km. It’s quite a long drive, so a stop at Jakar Town in Sarikei might be a good idea. There is a restaurant there called Peking Restaurant that is famous for its Prawn Mee, a dish of yellow egg noodles in a rich broth and served with giant freshwater prawn or “udang galah”.
Full and well rested, it’s time to head to Sibu, a short 1 hr 10 mins drive away (63.9km). Sibu is the biggest town along the Rajang River, with a population of roughly 200,000. From here, one can make their way to one of many Iban longhouses and experience the daily life of the Ibans, eat their traditional food, try your hands at weaving the Pua Kumbu or harvesting jungle produce. A night or two nights stay would be ideal for the experience.
In Sibu Town itself, the attractions are plenty. The roads leading to them can be tricky, so always keep your “Waze” app turned on. The town centre itself is a joy to visit. Discover old shophouses where businesses are still run traditionally and offerings of fragrant local coffee, freshly baked kompia (bagellike bread Sibu is famous for) and simple groceries give you that feeling of nostalgia. Satisfy your curiosity for local cuisine by sampling Sibu delicacies like Kampua, Dian Bian Hu at Jalan Blacksmith, Mee Sua and Red Wine Chicken.
Before leaving Sibu, make it a point to visit Wisma Sanyan if you haven’t already visited it. It is, to date, the tallest building in Sarawak and overlooks the Rajang River as well as Sibu Town Square. Also take a stroll along the Rajang Esplanade, from where you can view the giant Swan statue – the emblem of Sibu.
Miri is another 424.1 km away and the journey takes about 6 hrs 32 mins in total if there is no stopping in between, which is highly unlikely the case. Therefore, a final stop in Bintulu should help you reenergise.
Located 215.6 km away (3 hrs 18 mins drive) from Sibu, Bintulu is a well-planned industrial town of over 12,000 square kilometres. A two-night stay in Bintulu gives you a chance to experience Kampung Jepak, a Melanau fishing village where you can see how the famed Bintulu “belacan” (fermented shrimp paste), “cincalok” (salted shrimp) and sago are made.
Similajau National Park, located about 30 mins away from Bintulu, features a lush rainforest, raging rapids and beautiful beaches that face the South China Sea. The national park is 89.96 square kilometres in size and is home to wide varieties of flora and fauna including crocodiles. Jungle trekking, picnicking, snorkelling and bird watching are among many activities to be had.
After Similajau National Park, it’s time to hit the road once again. Two hours and 35 mins of driving along the MiriBintulu Coastal Road (186.9 km) and you’re finally in Miri, also dubbed Resort City. This being the last destination on your trip in Sarawak, we reckon it’s best that you make full use of your time here.
Miri is a very relaxing city, with plenty of attractions. It’s a good idea to grab some food before you check in to your hotel. Taman Selera on Brighton Beach is well known for s fresh seafood, which you can enjoy as you watch the sun go down. North Yu Seng Road is dotted with restaurants and cafés as far as your eyes can see. Everything from local fare to Western cuisine can be found here.
Some of Miri’s world-renowned attractions are Mulu and Niah national parks as well as Bario in the Kelabit Highlands. But they are far and there’s no telling if a twoweek trip is enough for you to slot them in your itinerary. Luckily, Miri also has many other attractions not so far from the city centre.
Tusan Beach is just half an hour from the city and is THE beach to see a free light show courtesy of Mother Nature.
The bioluminescent phytoplankton on the edge of the water glow blue at night, creating a scene like that of a science fiction movie. Another special feature is a cliff shaped like the head of a horse.
Kuala Baram Wetlands is also half an hour away from the city. The vast 600-hectare marshland is a hotspot for more than 130 species migratory birds such as eagles, herons and the extraordinary Crested Chinese Tern.
Chill at one Miri’s newest leisure hotspot Coco Cabana, located next to the Seahorse Lighthouse at the Marina Bay. Cabana Café, Food Walk by the sea and Miri Uptown Market are among its attractions, besides the beautiful architecture of its event hall.
Don’t forget to visit Miri City Fan, Petroleum Museum & Grand Old Lady on Canada Hill, Miri Crocodile Farm and Tamu Muhibbah, among others. Nightlife in Miri is fantastic, with bars, clubs and lounges to suit every taste. So you’re pretty much covered.
Now that you’ve experienced Sarawak, it’s time to head back home. You don’t have to drive all the way back to Kuching for that. Simply make arrangements to drop off your rental car at Miri Airport and board a flight straight back to Kuala Lumpur, and on to your country of origin.
That being said, we can’t wait to see you here. Have fun in Sarawak!