Kuching is a beautiful city, proudly boasting a harmonious blend of colonial influence together with a unique traditional Borneo presence in many aspects, as seen through the architecture, food, lifestyle and languages of its people.
Here, English is widely spoken by locals besides the usual Sarawak Malay and other ethnic tongues. In fact, most Kuchingites can speak two other languages besides their mother tongue. Despite their differences, these people have been living harmoniously and easily assimilated with other cultures without losing their identity – a lovely way of life that makes Gaya Travel team members personally find Kuching inspiring.
In conjunction with Jom Jelajah Koperasi (JJK) programme organised by the Co-operative Commission of Malaysia and Gaya Travel Magazine, a group of 27 delegates consisting of media and travel agents were invited to explore selected cooperatives in this land of many tongues.
The following are the highlights of the trip:
Homestay Kampung Melayu Tebakang
Unlike an ordinary holiday, a stay at a traditional village like Kampung Melayu Tebakang will whisk travellers off to an oasis of tranquillity and rustic charm. We kicked off the JJK trip by visiting the aforementioned village and the rousing welcome we received from the villagers was beyond expectation.
The residents lined up along the road to greet us; some held bunga manggar, some played the hand percussions while a couple of children performed an impressive Gerak Waris Silat (Malay traditional martial art) for us – the air was truly festive! With such a grand gesture, we felt honoured and knew that the time spent here would be memorable.
There are 19 homes that participate in the homestay programme, each charging at the starting rate of RM100 per night.
At Kampung Melayu Tebakang, travellers’ day will be filled with various village activities such as touring the village, cruising along Batang Kayan river, witnessing a cooking demonstration of traditional delicacies like ‘Kek Jantung Pisang’ (banana bud-shaped cake) claimed to be the original ‘kek lapis’ (Sarawak layer cake), participating in a traditional Malay wedding ceremony, and plucking fruits during the fruit season.
Koperasi Tebakang Melayu Serian Berhad
Kampung Melayu Tebakang
94750 Tebakang Serian, Sarawak
Tel.: +6 082 874 263 / +6 019 834 3182 (Encik Pathe bin Abdul Rahman)
GPS: 1°06’05.8″N, 110°30’24.0″E
Homestay Kampung Mongkos
Located near the Mongkos River, approximately an hour and a half drive from the Kuching city, there is a traditional longhouse resided by the Bidayuh tribe, which is one of the many indigenous groups living in Borneo.
Unlike the Penan tribe, who still hunt and move to a different location after a few days, the Bidayuh are settlers who traditionally live in a communal longhouse in the form of a wooden structure built on stilts with a row of separate family rooms.
Every time the Bidayuh tribe expands, extra rooms can be easily added, making the house lengthier, hence the name longhouse. When we arrived at the longhouse, we were greeted by an old shaman at the entrance who performed the Mipis ritual, a ceremony believed to chase away evil spirits from harming the residents and guests.
Then, there was a long line of the longhouse residents waited for us to shake our hands, with a welcoming smile and eagerness to show us a glimpse of their culture.
The traditional dances followed right after. There were several of them including Langgi Sidandut, Langgi Perang and Langgi Empujon, whereby each one of them are inspired by folktales.
During the final dance called Langgi Aruh, the delegates were invited to join in. We were required to dance by stepping across bamboos to a fast rhythm without getting our feet trapped between them. It was then we realised that the deceptively simple steps could turn out challenging.
Regardless, our experience at the longhouse was indeed unforgettable. Ideally, the best time to visit the longhouses is on the 1st of June during Gawai or Harvest festival. The rooms are available from RM40 each per night.
Koperasi Kampung Mongkos Serian Berhad
Suruhanjaya Koperasi Malaysia, Daerah Serian
94700 Serian, Sarawak
Tel: +6 013 576 4003
GPS: 1°11’23.5″N 110°33’53.6″E
Bako National Park
Kuching also offers unlimited opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts as it is the land where endangered proboscis monkeys, orangutans and the elusive hornbill can be easily found.
Travellers can visit Borneo’s tropical rainforests by exploring the national parks within Sarawak, one of them being the Bako National Park, which is 40 kilometres from Kuching and takes a mere 45 minutes’ drive for travellers to get to Bako National Park jetty, the jump-off point to beautiful rock formations, wildlife, hiking trails and breathtaking scenery.
The park is only accessible by boat, therefore travellers need to take a half an hour ride from the mouth of Bako River into the South China Sea, then coast along the Telok Assam beach, where the park headquarters is located.
Along the way, travellers will get to enjoy the stunning tropical environment, including witnessing the iconic sea stacks. The fare for a one-way boat ride is RM15 per person for locals and RM20 per person for foreigners.
Koperasi Warisan Pelancongan Bako Kuching
Jeti Terminal Taman Negara Bako
Kampung Bako, 93010 Kuching, Sarawak
Tel: +6 017 885 7798E-mail: email@example.com
GPS: 1°39’49.1″N 110°25’52.1″E
Sarawak Cultural Village
Sarawak Cultural Village basically embodies the essence of Sarawak by presenting the multiracial communities and their rich heritage all in one place. That’s why every itinerary to Kuching would not be complete without a visit here.
This living museum is set up to showcase and educate visitors on Sarawak’s major racial groups by enacting their respective lifestyles through food, dance, handicrafts and even favourite pastimes within the replica of their traditional houses.
Interestingly, these individuals who enact the lifestyle are actually authentic village residents who represent their tribe and provide real information on their culture, tribe’s history as told by their ancestors and way of life.
There are also cultural shows being staged daily at 11:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. for tourists’ enjoyment.
Travellers are recommended to try the village’s culinary offerings that feature Sarawak’s fine ethnic cuisine ranging from RM35 to RM48 per person. The entrance fee to the village is RM60 per adult and RM30 per child.
Sarawak Cultural Village is also the venue for the internationally acclaimed Rainforest World Music Festival held annually, attracting thousands of music lovers and festival-goers from around the world to listen to the best of world music.
Damai Beach Resort
93762 Kuching, Sarawak
Tel: +6 082 846 411
GPS: 1°44’57.0″N 110°18’58.7″E
A day at the Sumiran Eco-Camp was undoubtedly fun. It was probably due to the enjoyable activities that we had there or perhaps because of the exceedingly warm welcome that we got from the owners.
But whatever it was, all of us left the camp feeling motivated and energised – that seems to be the power that this camp offers to its visitors.
The Sumiran Eco-camp is a training camp suitable for developing life-skills and doing outdoor activities including flying fox, jungle-trekking, kayaking, futsal and outdoor Zumba. We did most of the activities, but playing futsal while donning batik sarong would probably be the programme participants’ favourite, which had us all in stitches.
Our visit here ended with a bonfire and a brief stargazing session. The overall experience here felt intimate and somehow strengthened the bond among the programme participants.
Koperasi Keluarga Sumiran Kuching Berhad
Lot 896, Rantau Panjang, Batu Kawa
Matang Land District, 93250 Kuching, Sarawak
Tel: +6 010 979 2061 / +6 012 881 1952 / +6 082 645 591
GPS: 1°28’53.1″N 110°16’49.3″E
Koperasi Koppes Sarawak
In case travellers have fallen for Kuching and everything it has to offer, they may consider buying a house here as their second home.
In fact, Kuching is an affordable city to live and retire.
Some even claimed that the city is one of the most liveable cities in South East Asia.
On the final day of Jom Jelajah Koperasi Sarawak programme, we were brought to see a successful property project by an up-and-coming cooperative in the state, Koperasi Koppes Berhad. Established since 1985, this cooperative has diversified its business from only providing loan and saving services to agriculture, construction and education.
The project involves 16 single-storey terraced units priced from RM220,000 each, 30 double-storey terraced units priced from RM512,000 and eight double-storey semi-detached units priced from RM686,000. All Koppes members get special discounts on the units.
Koperasi Koppes Berhad
Tingkat 1 & Bawah, Lot 249-250, Section 8
Jalan Haji Taha, 93400 Kuching, Sarawak
Tel: +6 082 413 934
GPS: 1°33’20.8″N 110°20’22.9″E
Gaya Travel Magazine team extends our heartfelt gratitude to the Co-operative Commission of Malaysia and all Jom Jelajah Koperasi 2015 programme participants for making this programme a success.