Souvenirs From Across the World – Sarawak

souvenirs-from-across-the-world3

Souvenirs from across the World is a feature hosted by Marie @ Drizzle and Hurricane Books. (Check out her awesome blog!) It’s a feature where bloggers talk about their hometowns and share it with each other. I thought it would be fun to tell you guys about where I come from.

And then I started fretting about what to talk about. The history? The culture? The people? The food? The landmarks? Nature? There’s just so much to say. And then there’s also the question whether I should talk about the town I was born in or the city I grew up in? Or maybe the state? The country? Or the island?

Anyway, after thinking for a few weeks, I decided to talk about my home state – Sarawak, Land of the Hornbills! Here’s a short introduction to Sarawak.

Introduction

Sarawak

The red one is Sarawak.

Sarawak is one of the thirteen states in Malaysia. It’s at the north western part of Borneo. Unlike most states, Sarawak has more control over its state affairs, such as immigration where West Malaysian can only stay here for 90 days, and have to apply for work permits to work here. Lots of historical stuff there that I won’t get into. A brief history, the Sultan of Brunei gave Sarawak to a British adventurer called James Brooke, leading to a series of White Rajahs. The Japanese occupied Sarawak during World War 2, and being unable to rebuild the state, Vyner Brooke signed it over to the British Crown. Sarawak achieved independence soon after, and then later joined the Malaysian Federation.

Sarawak is one of the least developed state in Malaysia, there’s even a running joke where West Malaysians assume we live on trees. And in recent years, there’s talks of secession, but I doubt it would happen. Now that I think about it, Sarawak is kind of like the Scotland of Malaysia.

Sarawak has over 40 different ethnic groups, with the largest being the Iban (the Sea Dayak) people. And the largest religion in Sarawak is, surprise, surprise, Christianity. There’s twice as many Christians as Muslims in Sarawak. Pretty weird in a predominantly Muslim country. That also means many public holidays for all the different cultural celebrations, like Chinese New Year, Gawai (the Dayak festival), Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Christmas. We also have three different days of “independence” celebration. The day that Malaya achieved independence, the day Sarawak became independent and the day Malaysia was formed. Basically, we find every excuse not to work.

If you want to visit and is worried about language barrier, don’t be. English is mandatory in our education system. And there used to be English syllabus schools back in the day, before we followed the Malaysian standard. And a few years back, Science and Maths subjects were taught in English. So we’re golden. Though you’ll have to forgive our grammars and slangs. Particularly the “lah”s. If you’ve been to Singapore, it’s pretty much similar to that.

Food

sarawak laksa

Sarawak Laksa

I think food is one of the things you really have to try when you travel to a new place. So I thought why not talk about some of the famous dishes in Sarawak. If you ever come to Sarawak, please never leave without trying the Sarawak laksa. Laksa is a spicy noodle dish that is typically curry based, but Sarawak laksa uses shrimp based hot sauce (sambal belacan) instead. It also typically uses rice vermicelli instead of Chinese noodles. Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain calls it the breakfast of the gods. So you know it’s great. (Actually, I know nothing about Bourdain except that he said that, so I don’t know how great his judgment is.) It’s a breakfast food because the soup gets bad if left to sit for too long, so once its past noon, it’s usually not advisable to consume it, especially if you have a sensitive stomach like I do.

kolo mee

Kolo Mee

Another staple food found in Sarawak is the kolo mee. There’s two variants of it. The Chinese and the Malay style. Both are excellent. I’m not sure what makes them special, but it’s a great but simple dish. The Chinese style uses lard to enhance the taste which the Malay style doesn’t use, for obvious reason. Along with the Sarawak laksa, the kolo mee is one of the dishes frequently missed by locals when they go overseas for long periods of time. Or so my friends studying abroad tell me.

Things to do

kuching

One of the many cat statues in Kuching.

The capital of Sarawak, Kuching, is where most of the attractions are. Kuching is also one letter away from the Malay word for cat, kucing, so the cat is the city’s mascot. That means cat statues, cat museums and more cat statues. The statues are even dressed for festive occasions. And to show our devotion to cats, the museum is located in the north city hall, you know, the place where the northern part of the city is administered. And since it’s the Cat City, that means a ton of souvenir items based on cats. So, cats.

About an hour’s drive from the city center is the Damai beach area. Most of the hotels there sucks, but it’s where the Sarawak Cultural Village is and where Mount Santubong is. So if you fancy learning more about the state’s cultural background, and hike and go swimming in a beach on the same day, this is the place to go. The mountain takes about six hours to climb, you’ll need gloves and good boots to climb it. There are parts where you need to climb rope ladders. The Cultural Village isn’t exactly small either, so I doubt you’ll actually do both in a single day though. Also, once a year, the Rainforest World Music Festival is held at the Cultural Village.

rainforest music festival

Rainforest World Music Festival

The Gunung Gading National Park is about two hours’ drive from the city. It’s home to some animals like civet cats and wild boars, but I think the main attraction are the waterfalls and the rafflesia, which is the largest plant in the world. It also stinks a lot. Besides Gunung Gading, another national park near Kuching is Bako, it requires a boat trip, but well worth it just to see the views. There’s a rock formation in particular that’s really pretty. It’s also home to proboscis monkeys and pitcher plants. The Semenggoh natural reserves is also worth a visit, it’s a rehabilitation center for orangutans that is about an hour’s drive from the city.

orang utan

Baby orangutan

Rafflesia

Rafflesia

 

 

 

 

 

 

bako

Bako National Park

The second largest city in Sarawak is Miri. It’s at other end of Sarawak. It’s the first non-capital city in Malaysia to be granted the status of city. Two of the biggest attractions near Miri is the Mount Mulu and Niah Caves. Both are national parks. Mulu is a UNESCO heritage site. It’s famous for the Pinnacles trail, a series of rock formation jutting out of the tree tops. It also has the largest natural room, where 40 Boeings 747 can fit inside. Some animals in the national park that you might see are the hornbills and bats. Niah is a series of caves that were inhabited during prehistoric times. It is also know for bats and swallow’s nests.

the pinnacles trail

The Pinnacles Trail at Mulu.

Niah Caves

Entrance to the Niah Caves

 

 

 

 

 

Besides that, Miri also has a series of beautiful beaches. Tusan beach is said to be very pretty at night. It’s one of the places where blue tears form. Though the place is very remote and hard to reach. If you’re a diver, the Miri-Sibuti Coral Reef National Park offers a diving spot to look at coral reefs.

tusan beach

Tusan beach at night

Last but not least, there’s the longhouses. The Ibans live in traditional longhouses, and some of them still do in the interior parts of Sarawak. It’s basically a small village of people living in a long, long house where each family occupies a room but the living area is basically one huge room. They are open to visitors to stay for a night or two, though reaching some of them requires quite a journey. Usually require traveling on sampans through the river.

longhouses

Longhouses

No doubt you’ll notice that many of the attractions in Sarawak are national parks, that’s because a huge portion of Sarawak is covered with forests. Most of the towns are along the coastline while the interior is still mostly untouched. Except for deforestation, which is a somewhat political/controversial topic, so I won’t get into that.

That’s all from me. Thanks for reading through the entire post. Have you been to Sarawak? Would you ever want to visit? Let me know in the comments down below.

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25 thoughts on “Souvenirs From Across the World – Sarawak

  1. So this is the third time I’m typing that comment, there’s some kind of bug or maybe someone just doesn’t want me to tell you how much I LOVED THIS POST. This is cruel because I love it so, so, soooooooo much. ❤ I didn't know much about your country before and I learned so many things just because of this, so thank you for that ❤ Those food pictures are glorious they are making me SO hungry, I definitely want to try this out ❤ And National Parks, I LOVE national parks and animals so, so so much. Putting that on my bucket list, now, definitely.
    Thank you so much for participating and sharing a bit about your country! ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Souvenirs from across the world : Hidden Gems From France | Drizzle & Hurricane Books

  3. I love this post, Jamie! I had such a wonderful time learning about your home of Sarawak and I definitely want to visit in the future! It’s so neat how multicultural your home is and how many holidays you celebrate! I’m all for days off 😀 Laska sounds delicious! I love spicy foods and I’m very intrigued at the prospect of having soup for breakfast! The Pinnacles Trails look incredible and I would love to see them in person! Thank you so much for sharing your home 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks! It is great to be in a multicultural environment, so many different festivals and food to experience 😀. Laksa is super delicious. Hope you get to visit the Pinnacles Trail and the rest of the country someday!

      Like

  4. I am SO in love with everyone’s posts on this feature!
    I have to admit: I had never heard of Sarawak before (which is okay, because I’m terrible at Geography anyways). However, I’m going to start researching ASAP?!
    I absolutely love how naturally rich this place is. All these beautiful landscapes: the Pinnacles trail, the beaches… Everything is stunning!
    And let’s talk about the fact that you have a lot of cat statues around the city? That is so unique! My country has no tradition on devotion towards animals, so it would be very interesting to see that in real life.
    I also love how a lot of people kept their traditional and simple way of leaving in Sarawak. We are so used to globalization as a whole that is very important to remind ourselves that there are a lot of people still leaving in comunities or small villages.
    I absolutely loved getting to know you and your country, Jamie!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sarawak is one of Malaysia’s states, so yeah, we’re not that famous, even in our own country haha.
      And the great thing is those national parks are usually within an hour or two’s drive from a city! Though I’ll admit I don’t visit them often. I’m glued to my bed most of the time. Haha. Cities and towns in Sarawak usually have an animal or fruit/vegetable statue to represent the town. For example Kuching has cats and Miri has seahorses.
      Definitely, the difference between city and rural life is huge even in Sarawak. I’ve stayed in villages a few times, and it’s always an eye opening experience.
      Thanks for your comment!

      Like

  5. Ahh I was actually born in Sarawak – but I moved away to Australia! You are ON POINT with this post – these are the things I miss about Sarawak – especially the laksa ahh! It’s my go-to meal whenever I return to Kuching ❤ You make me miss it so much haha! Thanks for posting – loved seeing more posts about Sarawak – it's so underrated, especially since most people think of KL when they think of Malaysia! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello, fellow Sarawakian 😀 Glad to know, I was a bit worried I might have messed something up. Haha. Oh laksa is the best thing ever. Maybe you could learn how to cook it? I have a friend staying in Australia who cooks laksa whenever he misses it. Sarawak is really underrated, and is a huge difference from KL, I hope more people learn about it and come visit 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve never heard of Sarawak let alone been to it but it seems so great, I must go! Some of those sights are absolutely lovely and I’m never one to pass trying out food! Everything seems awesome, I’d really love to go! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow! Sarawak looks unbelievably beautiful. The beaches and the national parks look incredible, and I’m so intruiged by the rainforest festival! I adore Laksa and Anthony Bourdan is totally right when he says it’s food of the Gods. 😊 I’d love to travel to Malaysia and explore the wildlife (especially the orangutans!) and experience the culture. How lucky you are to live somewhere so diverse! 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! They are incredible! Rainforest festival take places once a year over 3 days. The next one is happening in about a month. So you know… book your tickets 😉. Haha. Have you tried laksa? It really is divine. I hope you get a chance to visit! Aidilfitri is in just a few days away! It’s really fun to celebrate different festivals from different cultures. I hope you get to experience it one day!

      Like

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