Dubbed Land of the Hornbills, Sarawak
has a colourful and fascinating past. Excavations have
revealed that Sarawak might have been the home of South-East Asia's
earliest inhabitants 40,000 years ago.
Prehistoric paintings found on the
walls of Sarawaks limestone Niah
Caves and the discovery of human
bones, pottery shards and stone tools indicate that Neolithic man may
have once roamed Borneo.
However Sarawak's current borders and
national status date from 1839 with the arrival of the young English adventurer, James
Brooke, to Kuching, the present capital, located on the banks of the
Sarawak river. Kuching in those days was called Sarawak, stemming from
the Malay word serewa, meaning antimony which was widely mined in
Since the 15th century, Sarawak was a
dependency of the Sultan of Brunei, who would appoint a Rajah to rule on
his behalf. In the 19th century, some Land Dayaks and Malays living on
the Sarawak river carried out a revolt and declared themselves
independent in protest against the unpopular Rajah, Pengiran Mahkota.
The Brunei Sultan appealed to Brooke for
help in quelling the rebellion. When he successfully did so, the
grateful Sultan installed him as the new Rajah in 1841.
set in motion a chain of events that saw the Brooke Dynasty establish
a despotic but benevolent rule of
successive White Rajahs over Sarawak for a hundred years.
James Brooke's initial jurisdiction was over a
small land area. When he died in 1868 his nephew, Charles Brooke became the
second White Rajah. He established Kuching as the capital and expanded
Sarawak to its present state boundaries.
The Brooke dynasty ended in 1941 with the
occupation of Sarawak by Japanese military forces during World War Two.
After the defeat and surrender of the Japanese, Sarawak became a British
Crown Colony in 1946.
On September 16, 1963, Sarawak together
with Sabah, Singapore and Malaya formed Malaysia. (Singapore
subsequently left and became an independent nation.)
Much of modern Sarawak still bears the stamp of Brooke's rule. Elegant
British buildings that remain in Kuching form the capital's main
attractions, a legacy of the colourful White Rajah era.
Geography Sarawak lies on the north-western
coast of the island of Borneo with a scenic 720 km. coastline that
borders on the South China Sea, with a hinterland stretching between 60
km. and 90 km. Sarawak has a total land area of 125,000 sq. km., making
it the largest state of Malaysia.
Though Sarawak is separated from Peninsular Malaysia by the South China
Sea and located away from the main international air routes, it is
easily accessible. Its airports in Kuching and Miri link the domestic
network to international routes.
Nearly three-quarters or 8.7 million
hectares of Sarawaks surface area of 12.3 million hectares are
covered with natural rainforest developed over a million years ago. Much
of it is mixed dipterocarp forest which accounts for 7.3 million
hectares stretching from the coastal lowlands to highlands of over 1,500
Air routes, rivers and roads are the
chief means of transportation in Sarawak. They are reliable, efficient
and affordable. Flights link Kuching to cities such as Hong Kong,
Manila, Taipei, Singapore and Seoul. There are several flights a day
linking Kuching to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu in Sabah and
Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei. Besides domestic air links, express boats
provide swift river transport between Kuching, the main town, and the
rural areas. The roads and highways also provide vital links throughout
the state and an alternative route to Brunei and Indonesia. Many types
of modern public buses, taxis and rental cars are available throughout