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Pocket Guide: Sarawak
Visited by millions of tourists each year, Sarawak is Malaysia’s largest province, yet among the least populated. Though most of the larger towns and cities cater for the oil industry, the rest of the state is remarkably gorgeous, boasting hectares upon hectares of seemingly impenetrable forests, fantastic highlands and glorious coastal retreats just waiting to be enjoyed. Like the neighbouring state of Sabah, Sarawak is an adventure enthusiast’s dream, not to mention a nature-lovers delight.
Most of Sarawak’s highlights are courtesy of Mother Nature, including some of the world’s most pristine jungle environments and unique wildlife. Tourists are spoilt for choice when it comes to serene national parks and reserves in Sarawak. Gunung Mulu National Park is home to a collection of the world’s most amazing cave systems, and of course, Mount Mulu. Proboscis monkeys can be witnessed in the popular Bako National Park. If tourists are looking for natural beauty and tranquillity, then the waterfall-dotted Bukit Lambir National Park is worth checking out too.
Orang-utans are one of the most important species native to this part of the world. Semengoh is where tourists will find a famous orang-utan rehabilitation and sanctuary centre. The Matang Wildlife Centre is another great spot to view not just orang-utan populations, but other important native wildlife.
The highland region, including spots like the Bario and Kelabit highlands, provide the perfect setting for unbelievable trekking opportunities. In addition to the spectacular hikes and bushwalking, there are plenty of interesting hinterland villages to explore here, including the Orang Ulu villages.
Restaurants and Bars
Like in other parts of Malaysia, the Indian and Chinese influences of the region spill into Sarawak’s cuisine. The larger cities and towns tend to offer more choice in restaurants, with a smorgasbord of cuisines dotting the cityscapes. However, it’s the local delicacies that make dining in Sarawak a unique and memorable experience. Nasik aruk, which is much less oily than the traditional Malay fried rice nasi goreng is a must try. The chicken dish, manok pansoh, which blends fresh chicken and local spices, is also popular. Tuak, a local type of firewater that is distilled from rice, is the most popular drink found in Sarawak, and shouldn’t be missed by tourists.
Shopping in Sarawak
The main towns are home to a selection of modern shopping malls, including Kuching’s Plaza Merdeka and Miri’s Imperial Mall. Markets and bazaars in these cities are highly recommended. Purchasing traditional handicrafts, such as the pua kumbu woven fabrics, is popular among travellers. These items make great souvenirs or gifts.