Natalya Pak, Sales Manager for Russia & East Europe of Diethelm Travel Malaysia, shares her best tips for what to do in Sarawak.
My first visit to Sarawak, Borneo was six years after I moved to Malaysia and I remember feeling like I was in an overseas country – the people, culture, food and even local slang are so different from the Peninsula. There are so many nice and beautiful places to visit in Sarawak – Kuching, Batang Ai, Sibu, Bintulu, Gunung Mulu National Park, Miri – and a wide range of excursions featuring everything from adventure and culture, to leisure and even diving!
Kuching, the capital city of Sarawak which means the ‘City of Cats’ in direct translation from Malay, is a very compact and clean city. With approximately 650,000 inhabitants, the locals clearly enjoy living there and take great pride in their fascinating city, which is reflected in their attitude toward visitors.
A stay at the Grand Margherita & Riverside Hotel allows you to walk to shopping malls, museums, restaurants, a waterfall and many other points of interest with no taxi needed.
One of the main areas that makes the city so beautiful and charming is the waterfront – the most popular meeting place in town with wooden benches, food stalls, restaurants and entertainment facilities. It’s nice walking there during the hot day and trying ice kacang, Malaysian ice cream, while walking during the evening is incredibly romantic.
A holiday won’t be successful without delicious food – don’t you agree?
Sarawak is a multinational state where a mix of cultures have blended to create famous dishes known throughout Malaysia such as: sarawak laksa, kolo mee, ayam pansuh, ikan terubuk masin, umai and many more.
I will not explain each and every dish, but would like to call attention to a unique plant, medin – a kind of fern that only grows and can be tried in Sarawak. I love its crisp texture!
Top Spot Restaurant is a nice local food court offering a wide variety of fresh seafood with very reasonable prices. You’ll see both foreigners and locals having dinner here and everyday the restaurant is full, indicating the high quality of delicious food.
Overall, the food in Sarawak is very tasty and cheap compared to Kuala Lumpur, which is an additional attraction for food lovers!
Sarawak Cultural Village – The Sarawak Cultural Village is home to seven different kinds of traditional homes representing the region’s most common ethnic groups: Bidayuh, Iban and Orang Ulu longhouses, a Penan jungle settlement, a Melanau tall-house, a Malay townhouse, a Chinese farmhouse and a Chinese pagoda.
Each house offers you a stamp for your official SCV passport upon entry and allows visitors to see how the locals live without actually going to a traditional longhouse. People living here demonstrate traditional daily activities from Sarawak’s diverse tribes, such as the processing of sago and the making of handicrafts.
Bako National Park – Bako National Park contains a wide range of vegetation – swamp forests, scrub-like padang vegetation, mangrove forests, dipterocarp forests, delicate cliff vegetation and more. In fact, it is possible to see almost every type of vegetation found in Borneo at Bako. Bako also contains a rich variety of wildlife and a coastline covered with small bays, coves and beaches.
I’ve visited several national parks in Borneo and would say that Bako National Park is one of the most interesting! (Note that you may visit this park during dry season only.)
Sea Stack – On the way back from the park, a boat will take you to see the iconic Sea Stack – a beautiful rock formation that’s one of Sarawak’s geological treasures.
According to our guide, the Sea Stack is getting shorter every year and one day may disappear. Of course, I have photo evidence for my great grandkids to show that Sea Stack really existed. If it still exists generations on down the line, they’ll still be impressed with how young I look! 😉
Semenggoh Nature Reserve – Of course, you can’t go to Kuching and not visit Semenggoh Nature Reserve! This rehabilitation centre is located in Kuching itself allowing you to easily see orangutans. Considered the “Man of the Forest” – they are one of the world’s largest primates and have 95% same DNA as humans! – orangutans are found in the rainforests of Malaysian Borneo (Sarawak and Sabah), Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan) and North Sumatra.
Being in the travel industry for more than eight years and focusing on Malaysia as a destination, I always recommend visiting Sarawak as the most unique and fascinating place in Malaysia for travellers and visitors. My love goes to Malaysia – Truly Asia!