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Tuesday 28 August 2012

Our People - Chinese

Chinese forms the second largest group of Sarawak's population after the main Iban tribe.

"Chinese pioneers first came to Sarawak as traders and explorers in the 6th century.  The Sarawak Chinese belong to a wide range of dialect groups, the more significant ones being Foochow, Hakka, Hokkien, Teochew, Hainanese, and Puxian Min." (wikipedia)

In Kuching
Main Bazaar, opposite the Waterfront, is the oldest street in the city and the heart of old Kuching. It has some superb examples of Chinese shophouse architecture, many of which have been occupied by the same family for generations. These families still pursue traditional occupations such as tin-smithing, carpentry and petty trading. Kuching’s highest concentration of antique and handicraft shops are to be found here, and shoppers can rest between bargaining sessions in a number of old-fashioned coffee shops with panelled walls and marble-topped tables.

Kuching Sarawak Main Bazaar
Main Bazaar
Carpenter Street, parallel to Main Bazaar, has a similar selection of small traders and coffee shops, as well as food stalls and two small Chinese temples. The whole area oozes charm and character. Off Leboh China (Upper China St.) there is a row of perfectly preserved 19th century Chinese houses.
Carpenter Street
Guan Thian Siang Ti Temple

Kueh Seng Onn Temple

The ornately decorated Tua Pek Kong Temple is located on Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, opposite the Waterfront, and is the oldest Chinese temple in Kuching. It is believed to date from 1843, although official records only recognize its existence since 1876. The Wang Kang festival to commemorate the dead is held here. 
 Tua Pek Kong Temple

The Chinese History Museum is situated on the Waterfront opposite the Tua Pek Kong temple. It traces the history of the Chinese community in Sarawak. Exhibits include the early trade routes, initial migration from various regions of China, geographical distribution, the early pioneers, traditional trading activities, the formation of trade and community associations, political history and the involvement of the Chinese community in modern, multi-racial Sarawak.
Chinese History Museum

Jalan Padungan is lined with Chinese shophouses, mostly built in the 1920’s and 30’s during the rubber boom. Some are very elegantly decorated, and a walk round the back of the buildings can reveal fascinating architectural details. The area has some excellent coffee shops and restaurants, more handicraft shops and some unusual specialist retailers. The Great Cat of Kuching, a monumental kitsch statue, is situated at the junction of Jln Padungan and Jln Central. It celebrates the major festive seasons of the various ethnic group by wearing their traditional costume; a pet (pun intended) project of Kuching City South Council
Jalan Padungan

In Sibu
The residents of Sibu are predominantly Foochow Chinese, originating from the Fuzhou region of southern China, and the town is often referred to as New Fuzhou.

Sibu’s transformation began in 1901 with the arrival of Foochow settlers from southern China, led by the Reverend Wong Nai Siong. Rev. Wong was a Methodist missionary who sought to find a safe haven for his followers, who were subject to religious persecution in China. Rev. Wong petitioned Charles Brooke, the second White Rajah of Sarawak, who gladly offered land in the Lower Rejang area in order to develop Sarawak’s agriculture. The first batch of 72 pioneers arrived in 1901, and by 1903 over 1,000 Christian Foochow had made their homes in Sibu. They were later followed by a sizable group of Henghuas and Cantonese during the 1st World War period.
Wong Nai Siong Memorial Garden

The early Chinese settlers planned to cultivate rice, but soon found that the soil was unsuitable for profitable rice farming and turned their attention to pepper, rubber and gambier (a sticky resin formerly used in place of rubber).

Tua Pek Kong Temple & Goddess of Mercy Pagoda, the 100-year old Tua Pek Kong Temple (Jln Temple) is the oldest and best preserved Chinese temple in Sibu.  The adjacent 7-storey Goddess of Mercy (Kuan Yin) Pagoda was added in 1987, and is said to be one of the most perfectly proportioned pagodas outside Mainland China. 
Sibu Tua Pek Kong Temple & Goddess of Mercy Pagoda

Sungai Merah Heritage Walk, the site of the earliest Chinese settlements in Sibu, Sungai Merah (Red River) is an old bazaar about 10 minutes by road from the town centre. The area has recently been restored and landscaped, with a pleasant walking trail along the river front (the water really is red, changing occasionally to yellow!) which leads through a quaintly landscaped park to the Wong Nai Siong Memorial Garden (see pic), erected in honour of the town’s principal founder and featuring a bronze statue of the missionary leader.

Sungai Merah Heritage Walk
The Yu Lun San Tien En Si (Jade Dragon Temple) at the Sibu-Bintulu road is believed to be the largest temple complex not only in Malaysia but in South East Asia as well. It is a religious place for Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism and is known for bringing all 3 different forms of practice under one roof.

There are a number of potteries around Sibu which produce excellent quality wares in tra­ditional Teochew Chinese styles, albeit with strong local influences.
Tra­ditional Teochew styles potteries in Sibu

In Miri
Chinese labourers came to Miri to work in the coalmines and oilfields. These labourers were mainly Hakka and Cantonese, with a smaller number of Teochews and Hainanese.

Miri Old Town is a narrow warren of streets crammed with tiny shops selling a huge variety of goods, from Chinese funeral supplies to hi-tech electronics, as well as some of the most traditional and original coffee shops in town. The Old Town is gradually being renovated, street-by-street, but the architectural style and layout is being carefully preserved.

Tua Pek Kong temple at Jalan Bendahara is dedicated to the deity most beloved by overseas Chinese. According to local legend, work started in the temple in 1913, in order to give thanks to the deity for helping to end a mysterious epidemic.
Miri Tua Pek Kong temple

The San Ching Tian temple (Jalan Krokop 9) is the largest Taoist temple in Southeast Asia. The superb red roof, elegant lotus design motifs and the delightful wind chimes make this a very impressive place to visit.
Miri San Ching Tian Taoist temple

Till today the Sarawak Chinese still maintain their heritage and culture, celebrating all the major cultural festivals, such as the Chinese New Year and the Hungry Ghost Festival. You can witness all these wonderful happenings here in Sarawak... where adventure lives.

Mooncake Festival at Carpenter Street Kuching

By: Erivina Jihel
Sarawak Tourism Board

Saturday 18 August 2012

Our People - Malay

The Malay forms the third largest group of people in Sarawak, after the Iban and Chinese.

Sarawak Malay Society
In Kuching, the Malay Kampungs (villages) along the riverside next to Fort Margherita have some beautiful examples of traditional and modern Malay architecture. There are some more superb Malay houses around Jalan Datuk Ajibah Abol, behind the Kuching Mosque. Both these areas are particularly noteworthy as they are self-contained, intact communities existing within a modern city.


There are a few interesting coastal Malay villages in the Santubong Peninsula. The most accessible from Damai is Kampung Santubong, a well-kept Malay village at the foot of Mount Santubong. Pasir Panjang and Pasir Pandak are two beach-side kampungs which are surrounded by small rolling hills, coconut groves and durian orchards. Although Santubong is within walking distance (4 km) from Damai beach, the other villages require transport.  

Buntal, a colourful Malay fishing village located off the Kuching-Santubong road approx. 25 km from Kuching, is famous for the seafood restaurants perched on wooden stilts which line the shore. Less well known is that the surrounding sand flats, mangroves, rivers and nearshore waters provide a rich habitat for a range of wildlife. Buntal is an important wintering ground for migratory bird species and the best site in the Santubong Peninsula for bird watching. The whole Bako-Buntal Bay is listed as an ‘Important Bird Area’ under Birdlife International’s Asia programme.  The best time for bird watching is from October to March, when large numbers of migratory birds can be seen in the Buntal river estuary. These include a variety of plovers, terns, egrets, sandpipers and godwits plus some rare migrants. Resident birds often sighted include the white-bellied sea eagle, brahminy kite and collared kingfisher. The mangroves near Buntal support a range of wildlife including silver-leaf monkeys, long-tailed macaques, monitor lizards, otters, crocodiles and a diversity of birdlife. Irrawaddy dolphins are also found in waters close to the village and occasionally enter the Buntal River at high tide. Buntal Boat Cruise offers a range of mangrove and wildlife cruises around the Buntal area.

Mount Santubong

Sarawak Malay language is different from Bahasa Malaysia, here are a few examples of the more commonly used words in Bahasa Melayu Sarawak:

English -> Bahasa Malaysia -> Bahasa Melayu Sarawak
Me -> Saya -> Kamek
You -> Kamu -> Kitak
No -> Tidak -> Sik
Yes -> Ya -> Aok
Cat -> Kucing-> Pusak
Clever -> Pandai -> Pande
Chicken -> Ayam -> Manok

By: Erivina Jihel
Sarawak Tourism Board

Monday 13 August 2012

Getting to Niah National Park, Miri Sarawak Borneo

Some of the ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ (FAQs) at our Visitor Information Centre Miri about Niah National Park are:

~ How to get there? 
~ How long do we need to visit this park? 
~ Do we need a tour guide to visit the caves?

Here are some basic info about Niah National Park:

Niah National Park is about a 2-hour drive from either Miri City or Bintulu town.  The cave itself was a major centre of human settlement as early as 40,000 years ago, and features one of the world’s largest cave entrances, Paleolithic and Neolithic burial sites, and iron-age cave paintings.  The surrounding area is covered in dense primary rainforest and is home to many species of plants and wildlife.  The caves remain important for local communities, with birds nest and guano collection providing valuable employment and income. 

Q’s no. 1:  How to get there?
Step 1:  From Miri bus station, use bus route no.28 (fare RM2.00 per person) to Pujut Corner Bus Terminal (the out station bus terminal).
Step 2:  Suggest to take the 7.30am or 8am express bus (fare RM10.00 per person) and the journey takes approximately 1hr30mins to Ngu rest-stop. 
Step 3:  Hire a ‘private taxi’ to the Niah National Park headquarters which is approximately 30mins drive from Ngu rest-stop.  Fare is from RM30.00 up to RM50.00 per transport, depends on the number of the group. 
For the return trip, just reverse step 3, 2 & 1.

Q’s no. 2:  How long do we need to visit this park?
The return overland journey requires at least a 4-hr journey and you need another 4-5hrs to explore the park; total of 8-9hrs needed.  If you wish to do it as a day trip, it would be a good idea to start your journey from Miri latest by 8am and you should back in Miri by 6pm.  Overnight? No problem, the park has chalets for rent from RM42.00 - RM157.50 per room per night.

Q’s no. 3:  Do we need a tour guide to visit the caves?
There are 2 ways we can look at this situation:
1)      You may not need a guided tour for this trip, just that you need to do a lot of reading from the information leaflet, visit the museum (take note the museum closes on Monday & public holidays) and besides that, the park has place some mini information board along the trail and at the cave entrance. 
2)      However a guided tour (package tour or hiring a private tour guide) will be an additional bonus because the tour guide can explain and give more information to you.  Meaning to so say, less time spending on reading, and more time to see & experience the park itself.  Our local tour operators sell Niah Caves package and if you wish to hire a private guide, contact the park for arrangement but you need to inform them at least 2 days in advance.

For more info on the park, visit or call the park direct at +6085 737454.

Sarawak Borneo Our backyard Niah National Park

Sarawak Borneo Our backyard Niah National Park


by Visitor Infor Centre Miri

Friday 10 August 2012

Our People - Bidayuh

Bidayuh is a collective name for several indigenous groups of  people living the southern part of Sarawak. They are noted for their hospitality and warm smiles. The name "Bidayuh" means "people of the land". "Bi" mean "people" or "orang" and "Dayuh" mean "Land". They are also known as the Land Dayaks, a term first used during the time of James Brooke, the first White Rajah (king) of Sarawak. 
Bidayuh ladies from different dialect groups
Bidayuh costumes in the trade mark black and red colour combination. The hat, known as 'Tirinak', belongs to the 'Bukar Sadong' Bidayuh group (Serian area). And to the right is a Selako Bidayuh (Sematan area). 

They are the second most numerous group of Dayak tribe after the Ibans. They come from the areas around Kuching and Samarahan divisions. The Bidayuh of different areas speak their own dialect. These dialects are not mutually intelligible, and as a result, the Bidayuhs often have to depend on using English or Malay as a common language.

The Bidayuhs are known for their 'Ogong' gong ensemble, gigantic drums and a unique bamboo percussion instrument known as the 'pratuakng'.

A bidayuh playing his pratuakng, a bamboo percussion musical instrument
'Pratuakng' of the Biannah group (Padawan)

Bidayuh dancers performing at a Harvest Festival gathering known as 'Gawai Dayak'
'Bukar Sadong' Bidayuh from Serian

The ladies of Kampung (village) Semban, Padawan with their their ornate brass rings around the lower limbs and forearms.
Wearing of brass rings by the Bidayuh ladies from Kpg (villlage) Semban, Padawan is a dying culture.

Districts where the Bidayuh form a majority include Lundu, Bau, Penrissen, Padawan, Siburan and Serian. There are a number of tourism attractions in the region they live in such as the boutique rivers and limestone caves to enjoy kayaking and caving activities, longhouse visits, homestay, village stay, orang utan and rafflesia experiences and; the coolness of the Borneo Highland Resorts. You can find more information at Sarawak... where adventure lives

Thursday 9 August 2012

Memoir of Rainforest World Music Festival 2012

A Jungle Village Festival!

... this was how SONGLiNES Magazine UK summed it up in four words about the Rainforest World Music Festival. 2012 was its 15th edition and the third year running that this homegrown music festival was awarded the magazine's '25 of the Best International Festivals'. Bangkok Post reckoned...' it remained a performer's festival, with the enthusiasm emanating from the stage itself rather than the promoter's bag of tricks'.

Here are our memories of 2012...

The jungle stage surrounded by trees in the foothill of Mt Santubong Damai Sarawak
From a distance... the legendary Mt.Santubong omnipresence begets the phrase... 'the venue nestles at the foothills of Mt. Santubong'. And there is this legend that a princess was immortalised in that mountain.

The pristine jungle backdrop of the Rainforest World Music Festival stage
Once close to the foothill, take in the sights. Some require a good figment of imagination.

The jungle and tree stage resplendent in the glow of jungle green against the jungle backdrop of Mt.Santubong
Bathed in all their splendour ... the jungle stage (L) and the tree stage. The tree stage was so-named because it was built around two trees that balanced both sides of the stage. The huge banner was there for the first time, thus setting the tone for an exciting 15th edition...

There were 16 groups from 20 countries and the winner of the Rainforest Waterfront Talent Search

There's Zee Avi - a Sarawakian who having made a name for herself internationally, finally got her dream to perform in a home-grown festival. And 'sapelele' made its world debut, a miniature lute instrument in the style of a ukelele, the signature strum of Zee. She will use 'sapelele' far and wide. The acceptance by the fiery String Sisters, each successful fiddler in their own rights, to play as a group in Rainforest World Music Festival, was likened to winning a lottery.Then there's WOMEX '10 Award for Artists in Danyel Waro, charming the festival with his melancholic Maloya singing. And what about the Kanda Bongo Man who single-handley gave the world the infectious Kwasa dance? Sensual and hip! Cankisou wild rhythms and a multi-instrumentalist cast sent the Saturday night crowd to its frenzy. Who canNOT remember (provided you were there, of course) the haunting sound of the Mongolian throat singers - Khusugtun? Surreal indeed! The jungle probably needed some time to recover after their performance. Did you feel the passion of Le Trio Joubran on their ouds? Or the talking sitar of Samuel Dass ably backed up on tabla by Prakash? The frentic and powerful perfomance of Mamadou Diabate on their balafons raised temperature a notch higher in a surprisingly but welcoming cool and almost dry festival evenings. HATA's gigantic drum belied its soft and evocative enchanting eastern blend.  Oreka Tx weaved multi-media into a performance with an instrument - Txalaparta- that is almost as unique as what the instrument was made for - a medium of encounter. La Zikabilo rendered a varied mix of jazzy music genres that wriggled hips and swayed torsos and so did Raiz De Cafezal's carimbó rhythm led by their maracas-wielding front man. For the first time, the programme was interspersed with colours and chants of Sarawak; bringing an element of spiritual exoticism to an already exotic festival.  Ramping up the Malaysia flavour for 2012, the Diplomats Of Drum, Nading Rhapsody (winner of Rainforest Waterfront Talent Search 2012), the Music of Sarawak and Rythm of Borneo displayed the multi-faceted musical influence s of the country's poly-layered ethnic communities.

Kanda Bongo dancer and Mamadou Diabate's bassist
Gyrate and Flash

Landscape view of Khusugtun performing before a captivated audience
From the open plains of Mongolia to the lush confine of Borneo's jungle... the crowd's apparent favourite, if not memorable - Khusugtun

Blowing cute little sax and beating drum
Cute and sublime

Kanda Bongo Man and band members getting the crowd up on their feet.
The daytime workshops, considered by many to be the soul of the festival. Here, the dancers swaggered and gyrated to reinforce the fact that flexibility was not an inherent trait. Ok, granted, the dancers had plenty of practice. Anyway, fun and education was aplenty... and in other sessions as well.

The village mart and taking photo with performers
Tattoo - temporary ones were wildly popular. So were the performers' CDs and made even more special when you look back at such relevancy of your purchase and possibly, it being one of your lifetime experiences.

Picture montage of the Sarawak Cultural Village - venue of the Rainforest World Music Festival since 1997
Sarawak Cultural Village - a living museum when it is not playing host to the festival. There were commentaries on the festival needing a bigger venue. Short of incurring the wrath of the princess who lives up that mountain, who for three days in a year when she can kick up her heels to forget about her woes and yours as well, part of the magic of Rainforest World Music Festival is the magic of the place itself. In development terms, new tourism infrastructures and natural attractions within the Damai Peninsular can do with some spotlights on them when the clefs and trebles have faded away. The sea, islands, resorts, wildlife, wetlands, homestays, the dive sites and the list goes on... 

Colour night scene of the village mart
Behind the scene of this festival, an army of volunteers are needed to ensure things happen with hiccups  very much part and parcel of a dynamic workforce that changes from year to year.
Sarawak Tourism Board's staff and volunteers posing for the camera
The staff of Sarawak Tourism Board and its subsidiary (STB Leisure & Properties S/B). The volunteers and interns...
Volunteers from ITE College Central, Bishan campus, Singapore (T) and Taylors University Lakeside campus, Kuala Lumpur (B)
... came from Australia, Brunei Darul Salam, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Holland, Singapore, West Malaysia and a healthy dose of Sarawakians. Indeed they were as varied as the performers themselves! 15 years on, a quiet evolution no more. FEEL that big Ooo...haa... hugs from us :-)
Ticker tapes raining down on a cheering audience during the finale of Rainforest World Music Festival 2012
Can't leave you guys out, can we? Thanks for the huge support and for many, it has been a year in year out affair. Some may be weary, its ok... its good to recharge and come back stronger, right?

And the sponsors deserve the fair share of the ticker tapes too! Heineken, Malaysia Airlines System and Audio Technica. Thank you! :-)

Sarawak's iconic lute - The Sape and the Orang Ulu warrior
This has been... Our Entertainment... The Rainforest World Music Festival 2012... this is Sarawak... where adventure lives
Sunset view overlooking the pool towards the island of Satang; part of Talang Satang National
As the 2012 edition sets into a distance memory... 
A flower left behind by a performer ... till we meet again in June 28-30 2013
... and whether the proverbial princess finds her suitor, we have to wait until June 2013, from 28th to the 30th, the next Rainforest World Music Festival to find out.

Written by: Michael Lu   - Sarawak Tourism Board

Tuesday 7 August 2012

Semenggoh Wildlife Centre

Located 24KM from the Kuching City, the major attraction of Semenggoh Wildlife Centre is the Orang Utan.

To get there, you have 4 options depending on your budget. 

1. Public Bus
Visitors can take the City Public Bus, bus no. K6, rate RM3.50 per way. First bus depart at 7.15am and the last bus depart at 4.15pm; for every 3 hours interval. Note that the bus will stop at the entrance of Semenggoh Wildlife Centre and you will have to walk for about 20 – 25 minutes from main entrance to Orang Utan's feeding area.

2. Shuttle Bus
Shuttle bus also available  at RM10 per person, which can be arranged with the tour operator or by the hotel.

3. Taxi
Taxi to Semenggoh cost about RM40 per way and the price is negotiable if the you want a return trip.

Location map of Semenggoh Wildlife Center
(Semenggoh Wildlife Centre Map)

The best time to visit Semenggoh will be in the morning and afternoon for the feeding sessions.  That's when you have a good chance of meeting the semi-wild Orang Utan returning to the Centre for a free meal. Feeding time is between 9.00am-10.00am in the morning, and 3.00pm-3.30pm for afternoon session. Make sure you are there before feeding time.

The welcome signage at Semenggoh Wildlife Center
(Welcome to Semenggoh Wildlife Centre)

During the feeding hour, visitors will be briefed on the dos and don'ts at the Orang Utan feeding area.

Signage of do's and don'ts in the vicinity of wild animals

(Visitors from all over the world)

Two young orang utans hanging from ropes while feeding
Its normally the younger ones that provide the antics to the amusement of audience

The feeding time takes about 1 hour. While we were there, the Orang Utans stayed on the trees while having their meals. Visitors like me will just have to watch from below.  It is such a wonderful feeling seeing the young ones playing freely while having their meal; knowing well that their pictures are being taken.

The largest male and orang utan at Semenggoh Nature Reserve - Ritchie
Ritchie - the oldest, the biggest and some say the meanest!

Feeding times provide a unique opportunity to witness the Orang Utan at a close range. These Orang Utans are either on the wooden platform, or on a nearby tree, or hanging on the ropes. Visitors will have an excellent view, a remarkable photo opportunity, and ample time to appreciate the intelligence and the beauty of these fascinating forest creatures.

Monday 6 August 2012

Our People - Iban

Iban claims the largest population, thus making this language the most widely used in Sarawak.

The Iban, formerly known as Sea Dayaks, are famous for their head-hunting past, their massive ironwood longhouses, their ornate body tattooing, their wonderful weaving skills, and of course their potent rice wine, tuak, which is always offered to visitors. 

It is almost a crime to come to Sarawak without visiting an Iban longhouse.

Iban hospitality is legendary, and visitors are guaranteed a good time. A longhouse is basically a terraced street of separate dwellings covered by one roof, under the authority of a headman, or tuai rumah.  Each family lives in its separate apartment, or bilik, and communal activities take place outside on the verandah, or ruai. This is also where single male visitors spend the night.  Female visitors and couples will be invited to stay inside the bilik with the family.

Most longhouses are busy, modern farming communities, and people wear practical clothes like jeans and T-shirts when they are at work. Traditional costumes and headdresses are usually only worn for special festivals like gawai dayak (the Iban harvest festival, 1st June), gawai antu (the ancestor festival, very rare) and weddings. If you want to see traditional rituals, customs and dances, then unless you are very lucky it is best to go with an organised tour group.  Tour groups are usually greeted with a glass of tuak (rice wine) and a welcome dance.  They are then shown around and treated to various cultural performances, including dancing and drumming. You will usually be invited to attempt the ngajat dance. Do not try to refuse as guests are expected to contribute to the entertainment just like the hosts. If you know any dances, folk songs or poems from your own country, you will make some lifelong friends, no matter how badly you perform. Normally you will be able to stay in the longhouse overnight, but if you prefer some privacy, many tour operators have their own guest houses near the longhouse.