Betong might not be the usual tourist stopover for those visiting Sarawak, but a day or two of exploration may have you falling in love with the place. There are several historical spots check out, decent accommodation options and pristine nature to be explored. But before we get into the list of things to do in Betong, it’s time to learn a little bit about the place itself.
Betong division has rich history tied to the Brooke’s administration. Known as the stronghold of Iban culture and historic resistance centre to the Brooke Rule, the population of this place is dominated by a majority of the Iban and Malay, with some Chinese communities.
Over time, Betong has transformed into a division that largely focusses on agricultural activities like timber, oil palm, hill rice, pepper, rubber and fishery.
The main town Betong takes after the division’s moniker, while smaller townships in Betong division include Spaoh, Kabong, Maludam, Pusa, Saratok and Roban.
Now that you’ve learned a bit about Betong, let’s look at what visitors can do there.
Hike at Bukit Sadok
If you are a history buff, a hike up Bukit Sadok should be on your Betong’s #RaonRaonSarawak bucket list.
by Harry Lai
Why? Because this hill situated 3,000 feet above sea level is regarded as Rentap’s fort, and was also the very spot where three major battles between Rentap and Brooke’s administration took place between 1857 and 1861.
For those who are unfamiliar with Rentap, he was a formidable Iban warrior feared by the White Rajah Sir James Brooke.
A sacred place to the Iban, the hill presents a rather steep climb up. It will take about three hours to hike up, traversing through a dense forest. At the summit, a panoramic view of the vast Iban hinterland, the Saribas plains and the South China Sea, as well as the Bujang Timpang Berang cannon replica await.
For more information, contact Betong Resident Office at +60 83 471 814.
Live like the Iban at Matop Longhouse, Sg Paku
We are all familiar with the phrase “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. And what better way to live as the locals in Betong if not by staying with the Iban in their longhouses?
Located 30km from Betong, along the Paku River, Matop Longhouse is a 28-door abode built on huge belian (Bornean Ironwood) pillars. What’s unique about this longhouse is its eerie antu pala (skulls of previous fallen enemies) hanging from the ceiling!
Be sure to have a sip of the Iban’s famed tuak (rice wine) when you visit.
Overnight stays (RM50/night) can be booked via Betong’s Resident Office at +60 83 471 577.
Check out Fort Lily
Fort Lily is another important landmark in Betong town. Built in 1885, this Belian-structured fort was erected to commemorate the surrender of Sultan Brunei and handing over of Betong to the second Rajah, Charles Brooke.
Later, it was used as a fortress to defend against potential attacks from the Iban headhunters from Sadok. The Malay folks who resided at Kampung Muara Padeh also needed the fortress for protection from enemies. Besides that, for many years Fort Lily was used as a government office.
Currently, Fort Lily is undergoing a facelift by the Sarawak Museum Department that will transform it into a mini museum for the Betong community. Look out for the future opening of this building by staying up-to-date with the museum’s official Instagram.
See wildlife at Maludam National Park
If you love being in the wild, a trip to Maludam National Park is a must for you when you visit Betong!
Situated 3km away from Kampung Maludam, this national park sprawls over an area of 432 sq km, making it the second largest in Sarawak. The large and remote location of this park makes it one that is less visited compared to popular parks such as Mulu or Bako. But that doesn’t make this park any less exciting than the rest!
Consisting entirely of flat peat swamp forest, Maludam National Park is home to a diverse wildlife species such as the Proboscis Monkey, Red Banded Langur, Silver Langur, Long Tailed Macaque, Black Hornbill and Oriental Pied Hornbill.
To get there, drive 170km from Sri Aman, bypassing Pusa, crossing Batang Saribas on a ferry, and then continuing on towards Kampung Maludam.
Visitors can consider staying at Kampung Maludam Homestay (+60 13 562 3078).
Operation hours: 8am-5pm daily, including public holidays.
Relax at Tanjung Kembang Beach, Kabong
There’s no beach nearby Betong town. But there is one that is worth the 90km drive from town, which is Tanjung Kembang Beach in Kabong.
This beach is a popular that it is a favourite chillaxing spot among the locals of Betong and Saratok when it comes to the weekend. On the weekend, the beach becomes lively with an array of street food sold and just local folks chilling, playing in the sands at the beachfront.
Visitors looking for overnight stays can consider one of the colourful chalets at Kabong Beach Resort (RM150/night).
Experience Kabong Kite Festival
Attracting kite-flying enthusiasts from all over Sarawak, this kite festival is a pride of the Kabong folk. It is usually held in March at Tanjung Kembang beachfront.
So if you plan to visit Tanjung Kembang beach, the best time is when this event takes place.
Connect with us on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube for future updates on Kabong Kite Festival.
Sample local favourites
Betong town has a fair number of local coffee shops (kopitiam) and restaurants that serve delicacies catering to the local palates.
One famous delicacy is the puffer fish (ikan buntal as it is called in Malay) from Batang Saribas. Mainly found in Spaoh, the locals usually cook this fish in spicy tamarind sauce or curry. Despite its deadly reputation, the locals here have mastered the techniques to remove thorns and toxins from the puffer fish, so you can enjoy this fish with little worry.
Besides that, you can also sample the pipus (grilled minced fish wrapped in banana leaf) and kuih berangin (a dessert made of glutinous rice flour and coconut), normally sold in restaurants or roadside stalls in Betong.
For souvenir, look no further than gula apong (palm sugar) locally produced in Pusa.
Now that you have a list on what to do in Betong, what is next in your #RaonRaonSarawak plans?