Place highlight: Sarawak


If there a place with Indians and Chinese co-habit with cultural interaction, it is Sarawak.

In fact, if there is one  feature that sets Sarawak apart from many of Malaysia’s other states, is its cultural diversity. Sarawak has a population of 2.5 million, with 27 distinct indigenous ethnic groups that speak at least 45 different languages and dialects.

Except the Chinese and the Indians,  all of the 27 ethnic groups are indigenous. The region is occupied by Chinese and Malays and a growing number of indigenous people that have migrated from rural areas.

Half of Sarawak’s population live in rural areas; the other half live in towns.

A strong Sarawak cannot exist unless all races unite, says Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud. “We cannot build our State and fulfill our aspirations without working together.”


Such cultural diversit makes Sarawak one of the most popular tourist destinations in Southeast Asia. A variety of colorful festivals, rituals and practices attract tourists all year around.

Tucked away on the foothills of legendary Mount Santubong, 35 km from Kuching, is Sarawak’s fascinating cultural showcase, the “Sarawak Cultural Village” which is also the venue for the internationally renowned Rainforest World Music Festival.

This living museum depicts the heritage of Sarawak’s major racial groups and portrays their respective lifestyles amidst 14 acres of tropical vegetation and attracts thousands of visitors a year.


The state’s strong focus on development has helped to build a progressive community that has a vibrant ethnic identity among its people, no matter what their origins or religious beliefs are.

The state is creating employment and business opportunities for its people, including for the indigenous communities in those  rural areas.

The region is putting together many industrial and commercial projects in the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) development area.

SCORE, one of five regional development corridors throughout Malaysia, will transform Sarawak into a developed state by 2020. Focussing on five major growth nodes – Tanjung Manis, Samalaju, Mukah, Baram and Tunoh – SCORE will develop 10 key industries including hydropower, heavy industry and tourism. Baram, currently a rural and underdeveloped area, will benefit from a new hydro dam.

As a result, the district will attract a wide range of industries such as palm oil, pulp and paper and timber which will provide job opportunities for the indigenous people living there and ensure that Baram is not excluded from mainstream development.


The Ibans, members of a major ethnic group in Sarawak, were once the legendary warriors of Borneo; the most feared of the headhunting tribes. These days, they have adopted a peaceful agrarian lifestyle.

There are also the Bidayuhs (land inhabitants), known as the “Land Dayaks”; the Melanau fishermen of Central Sarawak, and the multitude of upriver tribes who collectively form the Orang Ulu. The Penans are the guardians of the rainforest and although most of them have now formed permanent settlements, a negligible number of Penans still live in nomadic communities.


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