Malaysia and Borneo
Made up of some of the world’s richest ecosystems, whilst exploring Sarawak you are never far from incredible flora and fauna, whilst its vast cave systems are nothing short of astounding. The state’s ethnic diversity is just as impressive – discover more about Borneo’s numerous tribes, including the notorious Iban ‘headhunters’, in the fascinating longhouses that still exist deep in the rainforest.
Borneo’s largest city and purported to be Malaysia’s most relaxed and charismatic city, Kuching’s picturesque setting on the Sarawak River only adds to its charms. A juxtaposition of colonial and contemporary, stroll the maze of narrow lanes at its core to admire the old architecture before visiting the fascinating Sarawak Museum to get to grips with Sarawak’s rich and varied heritage. Kuching is such a pleasant place to stay; it’s the ideal base for exploring Sarawak’s spectacular nature.
Located 32 kilometres from Kuching, the Sarawak Cultural Village works to keep the cultures and traditions of Sarawak’s many tribes and ethnicities alive. You can visit the seven traditional dwellings on the site, including an Iban longhouse and a Melanau tall-house, as well as being able to watch representatives from each ethnic group demonstrating traditional daily activities and handicrafts. Twice daily there is a cultural show of traditional music and dance.
Semenggoh is the place in Sarawak to see orang-utans – set in a nature reserve its residents are a mixture of those rescued from captivity or were orphaned at a young age and those born in the centre. Whilst some of the orang-utans are wild enough to be able to feed themselves, most swing by to the hour long feeding that happens twice daily. Semenggoh tends to receive fewer visitors than Sepilok in Sabah and has two lovely trails that will take you through lush primary rainforest.
A 37 kilometre hop from Kuching, Bako is Sarawak’s oldest national park. Displaying a biodiversity that is epic even for Borneo, Bako is home to almost every sort of flora that you find on the island, from carnivorous pitcher plants to classic rainforest. Plenty of hiking trails led alongside jungle streams, across sandstone plateau and past vast mangrove swamps to secluded secret coves. This is one of the best places to see rainforest wildlife in their natural habitat, particularly the native proboscis monkey. Day trips from Kuching are possible but an overnight stay will help you truly appreciate the parks many natural wonders.
Arguably Borneo’s foremost national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mulu encompasses the world’s largest limestone cave system and plenty of otherworldly geological wonders as well as a huge range of habitats that support its huge range of flora and fauna. At the heart of the park are the mountains Mulu and Api – Api is a popular trek due to the fifty metre high pinnacles, formed by millennia of rainfall, at its peak. A three day trek is necessary to view this rare and incredible sight. The four big ‘show’ caves – Clearwater, Wind, Lang’s and Deer – are must sees. Staying a little later will allow you to see the incredible mass exodus of bats from Deer cave at sunset.
The Rafflesia, a parasitic flowering plant, produces the world’s largest single bloom growing to up to a metre in diameter. Whilst the Rafflesia is found across both Sarawak and Sabah, one of the best places to find it is the Gunung Gading National Park which is less than 2 hours from Kuching – in fact one genus of the species, Rafflesia tuan-mudae, can only be found here. This national park offers excellent hiking and a chance to see many rare species as well as the magnificent, if not entirely beautiful, Rafflesia.
In the middle of the city on Mathies Hill, the Pullman Kuching offers contemporary luxury in a cosmopolitan and stylish setting. Sat in a lively area great for dining out and shopping, when it's time to relax lounge by the outdoor pool, indulge in the spa or settle back with beautiful views over the city and Sarawak River through the guestrooms' floor to ceiling windows.
The Grand Margherita Hotel in Kuching is situated by the riverfront and commands an unrivalled view of the picturesque Sarawak River and colourful Malay villages. The hotel features comfortable modern rooms, an outdoor swimming pool and a range of dining options.
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The world’s largest and most populous continent, Asia is a vibrant and rambunctious fusion of ethnicities, cultures and customs; an incomparably rich and turbulent history showcased by mindboggling feats of architecture and engineering; a geography that encompasses towering peaks, unfathomable gorges and paradisiacal beaches; and a biodiversity that is so abundant that you’ll be reaching for your wildlife guide.