Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sarawak

[ INTRODUCTION ]
Sarawak is the largest state in Malaysia. It covers an area of 124,000 square kilometres and has a coastline of some 800km facing the South China Sea. Lying on the northwest coast of Borneo, the third largest island in the world, Sarawak shares its boundaries with Kalimantan (Indonesia Bomeo) in the south, Brunei and Sabah in the north.
Sarawak is also known as 'The land of many rivers'. The rivers provide natural means of transportation and communication. The 590km long Sungai Rejang is the longest river in the country. The rivers together with the wide spread trunk roads and well connected domestic air links make traveling to interior destinations easily accessible.
Once ruled by the three White Rajahs for about 100 years from 1841-1941, there are many a romantic past told about the wars and glimpses of the bygone era of the Brookes. The battles between the pirates and the Brooke forces, the rebellions by Dayaks, Malays and Chinese gold miners had filled Sarawak past with mystery and excitement. The famous Sarawak Museum with its huge collection of native heritage and artefacts, also houses the best collection of its rich history. Today, despite her rapid urbanisation, many historical remains of the Brookes can still be found at Kuching and other parts of Sarawak.

[ LOCATION MAP ]


[ SARAWAK ATTRACTIONS ]
♥ Islamic Muzeum ♥
The first museum of its kind in the region, this cultural gem houses important artifacts that chronicle the development of Islamic culture within Sarawak and throughout the Malay-Indonesian archipelago.
The museum is the proud custodian of the oldest extant Islamic artifact in Malaysia, an inscription stone found in Terengganu dating back to AD1302. And within its collections are curios from as far a field as China, India and Persia.
The museum's main gallery houses artifacts and manuscripts which recount the arrival of Islam to the Malay-Indonesian archipelago.
The secondary gallery boasts an impressive collection of Islamic architecture and decorative arts found in mosques, palaces and forts dating from the early 7th to 8th centuries. Of particular interest are "Jubin" or ceramic tiles dating from the Safavid period of Persia in the 17th century. Also on display are wonderfully intricate tiles from Syria and Turkey. The museum's collection of ceramics extends to Persian earthenware bowls, and ' jars, mugs, bowls, plates, pitchers and vases with the earliest dating back to the 10th century.
A section is also devoted to Muslim scholars who made great advances in various fields of learning. Another section is devoted to Muslim astronomers and medics. Items displayed include astro-navigational instruments such as astrolabes, which were early astro-navigation instruments.
Rare, ancient science and literary religious manuscripts as well as outstanding Islamic calligraphy dating back to the 15th century are also on display.
Other exhibits of interest include Islamic weaponry dating back to the 17th century, such as keris (kris), daggers, swords and firearms from the Ottoman period, and body armour from the Persian Qajar period (1840-1850). There are also coins of various periods and items of trade on display.
♥ Sarawak Cultural Village ( Living Muzeum )♥
Popularly known as the Living Museum, The Sarawak Cultural Village is a showcase for Sarawa's rich cultural diversity. Visitors to the Village can sample instant Sarawak all in one single place. The Cultural Village built on a six hectares site at the foothill of the legendary Mt Santubong is 35 kilometres from Kuching City and is a stone's throw away from Damai Holiday Inn, a beach resort.
The Cultural,Village is tastefully landscaped with a manmade lake at the centre surrounded by 7 authentic replicas of ethnic houses: the Bidayuh centre house and longhouse, the Than longhouse, the Penan hut, the Orang Ulu longhouse, the Melanau Rumah Tinggi, the Malay house and the Chinese farmhouse. Displayed in each house are many artefacts made by the individual dwellers. Demonstration of arts and crafts like beadworks, wood and bamboo carvings, pua weaving, straw weaving can be seen while touring the Village.
The rich cultural heritage in the form of dances and music presented by various ethnic groups is one of the highlights of the visit. The grand cultural show which lasts about one hour is performed in the Village air-con theatrette.
♥ Kuching Waterfront ♥
More than any other feature, the Waterfront epitomizes how Kuching has modernized itself without losing any of its charm.
Kuching is a riverine city. Its location on the Sarawak River was chosen not only for its strategic and commercial importance, but also for its enchanting natural beauty. In days gone by the river was the city's main highway. The river still retains its importance and picturesque charm in the modern era. Present day life is still concentrated on the waterfront.
A meander on the Kuching waterfront is a walk through time; from Kuching's humble, ancient origins, to its status as a modern city. No visit to Kuching would be complete without a stroll on the modern esplanade, or to sit, relax and experience a Sarawakian sunset.
There have of course been many changes since James Brooke's time, but there are still many landmarks that are legacies from the White Raj. For the first time visitor, it would be easy to imagine the scene in 1839 when James Brooke first landed in Kuching, and started a new chapter in the annals of Sarawak's history.
The Waterfront has of course undergone several transformations since the 19th century - from a small settlement with a few atop buildings, to a busy port with warehouses and wharves, to the landscaped riverside walk it is today. The Waterfront is now also home to modern sculpture, an open-air theatre and a musical fountain.
Several buildings, originally built in the 19th and early 20th centuries to cater to Kuching's earlier development as a port and administrative center, have been restored to their former glory and are worth visiting, starting with the Sarawak Steamship Building.
♥ Sarawak Muzeum ♥
This Kuching landmark is the finest museum in Southeast Asia. For over a century, a succession of conscientious curators have collected and catalogued the single most extensive archive and exhibit of Bornean history, art and ethnography anywhere in the world.
As the most prominent repository of Bornean culture, the Sarawak Museum is also an active patron of wide-ranging academic research. The excavations at Niah Caves, which unearthed the oldest known evidence of human settlement in Borneo, were conducted under the auspices of the Sarawak Museum. A reconstruction of the prehistoric settlement at Niah Cave is on permanent display. Other notable exhibits include the history of Sarawak, a reconstruction of native longhouses, tribal art, Malay and Chinese artifacts, and local flora and fauna. Behind the Sarawak Museum there is an aquarium, and a picturesque landscaped garden.
There is a curious story behind the design of the Museum. It was commissioned by the second White Rajah, Charles Brooke, and resembles a Normandy town house. The Rajah, however, distrusted architects. The Museum was eventually designed by the Rajah's butler - a native of Normandy!
Completed in 1891, the Museum was extended in 1911. But the number of exhibits continued to grow. Another extension, across the road from the original museum site and connected by a footbridge, was built in the 1970s.
After visiting the new wing across the road, wander around the museum grounds and proceed to the Sarawak Islamic Museum.
♥ The Pinnacles ♥
The famous Pinnacles at Mulu consist of a series of 45 metre high, razor-sharp limestone spikes that tower above the surrounding vegetation, mid-way up the slopes of Gunung Api. The trek to view them is one of the most popular in the park. But be warned, the Pinnacle Summit Trek is a tough and challenging one. The trail itself is very steep (near vertical in parts) and requires a certain level of fitness.
The Pinnacles Summit Trek is usually done as 3 day/2 night trek although it is possible to do it as a 2 day/1 night trek. The first stage is a 1-2 hour boat trip along the Melinau River to Kuala Berar. If the water level is low, the boat has to be pushed over rocky sections so the trip takes longer. Base Camp 5 is a relatively easy 7.8 km walk from Kuala Berar, following flat jungle terrain and taking 2-3 hours. Camp 5 is situated near the Melinau Gorge which separates Gunung Benarat from Gunung API There is hostel-style accommodation at the camp, and cooking facilities. The Melinau river in front of Camp 5 is crystal clear and ideal for a swim after the trek from Long Berar.
The real hiking begins the following morning. The trail is 2.4 km in length but rises some 1,200 metres from Camp 5 to the viewpoint, passing through lowland dipterocarp forest before climbing steeply through moss forest. Here the trees are a lot smaller and everything is covered in slippery green moss. Limestone debris also litters the trail so trekkers must proceed with care. The last section of the trail is near vertical, with rope sections and 15 aluminium ladders strategically positioned to help with the climb. The vegetation is sparse although orchids, rhododendrons and pitcher plants thrive in the area, and can be seen at the side of the trail.
After some tough climbing you finally come out onto a rocky outcrop where the stunning view provides a good reward for all the effort. The viewpoint area is made up of a number of pinnacles, rocks and vegetation and has excellent views of the silver-grey forest of stone that rises up from the surrounding vegetation. After taking some photos and a short rest and a last glimpse of the pinnacles, it is time to begin the descent back to camp 5 and the second overnight stay.
It is very difficult to put an exact time on how long it takes to trek to the Pinnacles viewpoint. Fit and experienced trekkers should be able to reach the top in 2-3 hours. The not so fit but determined generally take around 4-5 hours. Most people spend an hour or so at the top before coming down. For many the descent is actually more difficult and therefore takes longer, so the return trip can take anything from 5 to 10 hours depending on fitness level.


By Suet Teng , 5 Alpha
11/5/10
21.35

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