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Sarawak Hotels

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The Sarawak Rundown

Brilliant biodiversity and deep, impenetrable (for now) primeval rainforests combine to make Borneo a masterpiece of Mother Nature. Among the islands on our planet, only New Guinea and Greenland eclipse the veritable heart of maritime Southeast Asia. Split between Malaysia, the State of Brunei and Indonesia, Borneo has over 18.5 million people and a fine ambassador in the state of Sarawak. ... Read more »

The dominant enclave of Malaysia is a popular platform to the rest of the island. Because Borneo is a land mass more or less equivalent to the nation of Chile, even the most intrepid travellers have to limit their ambitions and target one area to explore at length. Sarawak is the perfect place to do just that. The state has a vibrant capital in Kuching, which serves as a hectic hub for Sarawak and Borneo as a whole. The city is cosmopolitan enough to deliver all the requisite creature comforts of home but, happily, is on the doorstep of magnificent national parks.

The tidy ensemble of national parks in Sarawak is the state’s undeniable flagship tourist draw. From venerable indigenous heritage to endemic wildlife, secluded, camouflaged beaches to gigantic, labyrinthine cave systems, Sarawak, like the rest of Borneo, is still a place that inspires awe, dilates pupils and drops jaws.

Sarawak’s Top 10

10. The Astana is a diminutive palace in Kuching. The 19th century Government House was built under the second “White Rajah” Charles Brooke.

5. Niah Caves National Park unfurls some of the most impressive limestone chambers on the planet and a treasure trove of human tools and remains that date back to Neolithic times.

9. Tua Pek Kong Temple is a splendid pagoda in the town of Sibu.

4. Similajau National Park is 30 km from the town of Bintulu. The rainforest and marine reserve is home to gibbons, macaques, dugongs and dolphins.

8. Lambir Hills National Park may be small at 52 hectares but packs a wallop in terms of exotic fauna and flora.

3. Sarawak State Museum is the oldest and still the best museum on the island of Borneo.

7. Kubah National Park is a mere 15 km from Kuching but feels a world apart from the city.

2. Bako National Park covers more than 27 km2 of thick jungle, rugged coast, waterfalls and colourful animal life, from colugos to pangolins, palm civets to tarsiers. The best place in Sarawak to see a proboscis monkey in the wild.

6. Kapit Museum is a boon for visitors who want to bone up on Borneo’s indigenous heritage.

1. Gunung Mulu National Park is one of only two natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Malaysia. The park protects rare biodiversity, spectacular karst features and the most extraordinary underground chambers on earth.

Sarawak History

  • Canada Hill - Site of the first oil well in the country, the Grand Old Lady, bored in 1920.
  • Fort Margherita - This fort in Sarawak was built in 1879 and guarded against the pirates in the area.
  • Niah Caves National Park - These vast caverns are among the country’s most amazing natural attractions.
  • Fort Silvia - Built in 1880 to gain control of the upper area of Rejang and keep the peace.
  • Tua Pek Kong Temple - An interesting site to visit along the riverside offering tours with lavish details and a seven-story pagoda.

Sarawak Art & Culture

  • Islamic Museum - Divided into seven rooms by theme, including decorative arts and domestic tools, weapons, Quarans, architecture, music, science, technology, literature and economy.
  • Visitors Centre and Museum - Home to local exhibits and information on the geology and ecology of the local caves.
  • Civic Centre Museum - Recounts the history of the settlement along the Rejang and tells of the indigenous Melanau, Iban and Malay cultures and Chinese settlers.
  • Kapit Museum - This museum in Sarawak offers cultural displays.
  • Sarawak Museum - Home to an assortment of cultural artefacts.

Sarawak Shopping

  • Saberkas Weekend Market - Colourful and friendly event in Sarawak from Friday evening to Sunday midday.
  • ARTrageously Ramsey Ong - Privately owned gallery with displays and artwork for sale, especially contemporary paintings.
  • Tamu - Weekly market held every Friday with villagers who come from the surrounding area to attend.
  • Night Market - Busy marketplace opens every night and offers great Malay dishes, local cuisine and fresh produce.
  • Sarakraf - High-end arts and crafts from all over the country and a great place to pick up gifts and souvenirs.

Gay & Lesbian Sarawak

  • The Gallery Arts and Cafe - Happening place that rocks on Saturday nights.
  • Pavillion - Gay-friendly club with great people.
  • Khaturistiwa - Near the waterfront and draws a young crowd.
  • Planet - Mixed karaoke club in Sarawak.
  • Borneo Traditional Massage - Offers traditional massages.

Sarawak Outdoor

  • Bako National Park - Oldest park around the Sarawak area steeped with wildlife.
  • Kybah National Park - A wonderful retreat with waterfalls, walking and hiking trails and lookouts.
  • Similajau National Park - Quiet park on the coast with lovely white-sand beaches and walking trails.
  • Lambir Hills National Park - Attracts many to see the lovely waterfalls and swim in the natural swimming pool.
  • Gunung Mulu National Park - The most impressive place to see in the country with incredible caves and a dazzling tropical rainforest.

Sarawak Sport

  • The Sarawak Regatta program features races with traditional longboats and dragon boats.
  • With 55 rivers that stretch for more than 3,300 kilometres, Sarawak is a great place for cruises and water sports, such as white-water rafting.
  • State and nationwide go-kart races are held in Miri on its 1.3km racetrack.
  • With the largest and most extensive cave system worldwide, Sarawak offers unique caving opportunities.
  • Adventure lovers will enjoy the jungle trekking and rainforest excursions available in the area.

Sarawak Local

Sarawak is the largest state in Malaysia by far and comprises 16.6% of the total land area of an island, Borneo, that is the third biggest on the planet. The state, in fact, is almost as big as all of Peninsular Malaysia - 124,450 km² to 131,598 km². Suffice to say then, that Sarawak offers up a considerable chunk of Borneo to explore. Eleven divisions make up the state of 2.5 million people, with countless inherent points of interest.

Betong Division is part of the Saribas river area and famous for traditional Iban longhouse architecture.

Bintulu Division is home to the towns of Bintulu, Tatau and Sebauh. Bintulu contains over 25% of Sarawak’s tropical rainforest.

Kapit Division is close to 70% Iban and a major tourist destination, most notably because of attractions like the Kapit Museum, Fort Sylvia and Hock Leong Tieng Temple.

Kuching Division is home to the most populous city in Borneo and the capital of Sarawak, Kuching. The city is the chief point of entry for travellers to the island and a relatively busy metropolis of 650,000 people.

Limbang Division is under the radar in Sarawak but of interest because it splits the State of Brunei in two and contains some vivid geography.

Miri Division is home to Miri, the second most populous city in Sarawak after Kuching. The capital of Malaysia’s petroleum industry is a vital platform to national parks and other ecotourism hot spots.

Mukah Division is a prominent agricultural region that contains a worthwhile, eponymous coastal town on the South China Sea.

Samarahan Division was once part of Kuching Division and is a veritable suburb of the capital city.

Sarikei Division is a hotbed of citrus fruit, pepper and pineapple production.

Sibu Division has a discernible capital in Sibu. Home to over 250,000 people, the small city contains several landmarks and commercial areas of note. The main gateway to the hinterland of the state.

Sri Aman Division is another agricultural hub of interest to tourists because of Batang Ai National Park and Maludam National Park.

Sarawak Eat & Drink

If the cuisine of Peninsular Malaysia is eclectic, the scene in Sarawak is a heady eruption of tastes that hail from a wide stylistic orbit. Indigenous Bornean, Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Peranakan and Malay all have a say in the Sarawak bowl, with obvious emphasis on seafood, fish and rainforest bounty. Typical Western fare - some of it rather good - is on hand and in abundance in Kuching.

Bla Bla Bla (27 Jalan Tabuan, Kuching) is as flashy as it gets in Sarawak, with a fusion menu and Zen-chic décor.

Taman Selera Empurau (Kapit Bypass Road, Kapit) is a Malay-Muslim kitchen with a fervently loyal clientele.

Green Hill Corner (Jalan Temple, Kuching) is a cluster of noodle stalls that dole out thoroughly addictive fare to long queues of hungry patrons.

Café Café (10 Jalan Chiew Geok Lin, Sibu) has funky décor and a nice array of coffee drinks and snacks.

Kafetaria Mesra Murni (Jalan Temengong Mat, Belaga) is a halal eatery with a beautiful riverfront locale.

Junk (80 Jalan Wayang, Kuching) looks like a cool curio shop but whips up remarkable Western fare.

Riverside Hawker Centre (Jalan Pasar, Mukah) is the place to grab a snack and cold beer in the coastal town of Mukah.

Top Spot Food Court (Jalan Padungan, Kuching) is a rooftop hawker haven.

Ban Kee Café (off Jalan Abang Galau, Bintulu) serves ultra-fresh seafood and vegetable dishes and is tantamount to a veritable culinary pilgrimage in Bintulu.

Satok Weekend Market (Satok, Kuching) is the best place to leisurely graze on a panoply of regional delights in Sarawak.

Sarawak Events

Sarawak has a decent range of yearly festivals on tap but most events take place in national parks by way of eco-recreation and adventure sports.

Rainforest World Music Festival is a multi-day celebration of global musical traditions that takes place at Sarawak Cultural Village every July.

Borneo Jazz Festival in Miri is a mid-May event that has grown in importance over the years to become one of the premier jazz festivals in Southeast Asia.

Gawai Dayak is a festive native holiday that takes place throughout Sarawak on June 1 with much revelry, processions and ancestral rituals.

Kuching Festival is a multi-dimensional showcase for the state capital that features trade expos, food fairs and cultural exhibitions throughout the month of August.

Balleh-Kapit Raft Safari is a traditional Iban river raft race that draws a host of spectators and participants to Kapit in late September.

Borneo Convention Centre, just outside of Kuching, is Sarawak’s brand new exposition and conference centre par excellence. The impressive complex was built with environmental standards in mind and nestles rather seamlessly within the rainforest landscape.

When To Go

There is scant relief from the most burdensome meteorological abuses that come part and parcel with a terrestrial position on the equator. Indeed, it would be folly to even demand release from Borneo’s tropical rainforest climate. After all, all that rain and oppressive humidity is what makes the colossal island a singular jewel of profuse biodiversity - which is why tourists come in the first place.

To get specific about weather in Sarawak, Borneo, however, temperatures seldom stray outside of a predictable average window of 73°F (23°C) to 91°F (33°C). On the whole, it usually feels much hotter, especially when you factor in the humidex. The jungle air of Borneo is moist, thick and heavy. In the capital city Kuching, vehicular emissions and shrouds of smog from rampant deforestation in Indonesia combine to intensify and magnify the swelter even more.

There is plenty of rain, however. More than 4,300 mm, on average, every year. As a result, 5 hours of sunshine a day is the norm in Sarawak. Incredibly, the month with the “low” rainfall total, April, gets almost half as much rain as all of London over the course of a year. While the top monsoon period is from November to March, each month sees a minimum of 15 precipitation days, on average. Indeed, to declare that it rains a lot on the island of Borneo is a banal understatement. Pack appropriately then for torrid humidity, rainforest environs and sheaths of the wet stuff.

What To Miss

Unfortunately, occasional brushes with the odd snake oil agent or rapacious tour operator comes with the territory in state capital Kuching. Where there is smoke, there is fire in Sarawak and mass tourism sparks a frenzy of entrepreneurial activity. The telltale tenor of a desperate, rapid-fire sales pitch is a bad omen. As a result, beware of touts by the waterfront, give tacky souvenir shops a wide berth and, above all, stay away from the asinine cat museum.

Cultural villages abound in Sarawak and Borneo in general. For the most part, however, these faux-replicas have more in common with theme parks than authentic indigenous heritage. Skip the artifice and book a reputable river tour of the interior instead. The best operators in the state cost more, without question, but tap into the veritable marrow of native life in Borneo with sustainable, ecotourism principles in mind. Ditto for wildlife in Sarawak. If you want to commune with island fauna, do so within the confines of a national park, not a zoo.

One final word to the wise: avoid long-distance bus travel in Sarawak. You may risk your backpacker cred as a result but the truth is that low-fare airlines promise a logistical ease at odds with bus transport in the state and on the island. To wit, Kuching to Miri is fourteen hours by bus and only one hour by plane for just over double the price.

Getting Around

Kuching International Airport is the de facto gateway to Sarawak and, for many, Borneo as well. The hub serves the likes of Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru, Penang, Jakarta, Macau, Singapore and Tokyo-Haneda and handles well over 3.5 million passengers a year. Downtown Kuching is a short taxi ride from the main terminal.

Miri International Airport, on the other hand, is the number one domestic airport in Malaysia in terms of passenger movements. The small hub is a gateway to much of Sarawak’s inherent natural beauty and, as such, handles many flights from Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru, Kota Kinabalu, Singapore and, indeed, Kuching.

Borneo visitors in the state of Sabah, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei or Indonesia can affordably and comfortably access Kuching or Miri via express coach bus. Several points on the north coast of the island provide express boat access within Sarawak as well.

Within the city of Kuching, taxi is the best way to go. Most visitors to Sarawak do want to get out and explore the national parks in the state, of course, and for that, discount airlines offer easy, rapid access to the likes of Gunung Mulu (via tiny Mulu Airport) and the Kelabit Highlands (via Bario Airport). Time-wise it pays to fly as the roads in Sarawak are generally poor for long-distance bus trips.

For tours of Sarawak’s dense, dark and lush hinterland, the only viable way is by river longboat. Trips can be costly but the overall experience is inimitable. As always, research tour operators thoroughly beforehand. Most work out of Kuching and pander to niche interests such as ecotourism, adventure sports, immersive village culture, exotic wildlife and indigenous cuisine and offer decent rebates for big groups.

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ParkCity Everly Hotel Miri
Reviewer score
4.4
out of 51 Reviews
Jalan Temenggong Datuk Oyong Lawai Miri Sarawak 98000

ParkCity Everly Hotel Miri enjoys a beachfront location in the Brighton area of Miri, fronting the South China Sea. Th... More hotel details

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Tune Hotels Bintulu Sarawak
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0
out of 50 Reviews
203 Lot 7932 Assyakirin Commercial Square Bintulu Sarawak 97000

Tune Hotels Bintulu Sarawak is a value-for-money hotel that offers calming atmosphere and convenient location close to... More hotel details

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Parkcity Everly Hotel Bintulu
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0
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Plot No.1 Lot 3062 Jalan Tun Razak Bintulu 97000

With modern accommodation facilities and standard guest services, Parkcity Everly Hotel Bintulu offers a great venue f... More hotel details

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Miri Marriott Resort & Spa
Reviewer score
4.0
out of 51 Reviews
Lot 779 Jalan Temenggong Datuk Oyong Miri Sarawak 98000

Miri Marriott Resort and Spa is the perfect choice for a relaxing vacation or business meeting in the tranquillity of ... More hotel details

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Hotel Grand Continental Kuching
Reviewer score
3.4
out of 52 Reviews
Lot 42, Section 46, Ban Hock Road Kuching 93100

Discover the mysticism of Borneo or experience the comfortable accommodation blended with a warm hospitality, while yo... More hotel details

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Merdeka Palace Hotel & Suites Kuching
Reviewer score
4.2
out of 51 Reviews
Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg Kuching 93000

Featuring pleasant ambience and comfortable accommodation, this hotel welcomes you for an unforgettable holiday in Kuc... More hotel details

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Four Points By Sheraton Kuching Hotel
Reviewer score
4.4
out of 52 Reviews
Lot 3186-3187 Block 16 KCLD Jalan Lapangan Terbang Baru Kuching Sarawak 93350

Designed to meet the needs of business and leisure travellers, the Four Points by Sheraton Kuching offers excellent se... More hotel details

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The LimeTree Hotel
Reviewer score
4.8
out of 52 Reviews
Lot 317 Abell Road Sarawak Kuching Sarawak 93100

The LimeTree Hotel Kuching is the right choice for those who are looking for quality accommodation with pleasant atmos... More hotel details

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Tune Hotels Waterfront Kuching
Reviewer score
2.2
out of 51 Reviews
Jalan Borneo Off Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman Kuching Sarawak 93100

Tune Hotels Waterfront Kuching is conveniently situated along Jalan Borneo in the vibrant city of Kuching. This hotel ... More hotel details

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The One Hotel Santubong Kuching Resort
Reviewer score
2.4
out of 51 Reviews
Jalan Pantai Damai Kuching Sarawak 93748

The One Hotel Santubong Kuching Resort is located at the foothills of Mount Santubong. The hotel is an ideal base for ... More hotel details

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