Sarawak is showcase for bygone ways

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 August, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 August, 1995, 12:00am

SARAWAK'S capital, Kuching, the newest Malaysian destination accessible by direct flights from Hong Kong, is the ideal place for cat lovers.

Not only has the household pet been adopted as the local mascot, the city with a population of 300,000 also boasts the world's only Cat Museum.

It features a huge collection of cats from all over the world, including a mummified feline from Egypt.

The pride of place in the civic centre goes to a four-metre statue called the 'Great Cat of Kuching'.

The latest addition to this purr-fectly odd relationship is another statue of a pair of cats with a litter of kittens in the central tourist district.

Kuching got its name from a species of lychee called buah mata kucing, or cat's eye fruit, which once grew wild on a hill overlooking the original settlement.

Apart from cats, Malaysia's largest state on the northwest coast of Borneo overlooking the South China Sea is a popular tourist destination.

Tropical rainforests in the 'Land of Rivers' are a major attraction.

Tourists can experience life in traditional jungle longhouses in Skrang, once the domain of pirates.

Historic Niah Cave is another attraction. This world-famous site is where the oldest human remains in Southeast Asia were found in a caveman site dating back 40,000 years.

Paintings estimated to be more than 1,000 years old can be viewed in the Great Cave.

It is located in dense jungle but a three-kilometre gangplank has been constructed, enabling visitors to walk to the site in 45 minutes.

Millions of bats have made the caves their home. So have colonies of swiftlets and the roofs of the chambers are sources of nests gathered to make birds' nest soup.

Another of Sarawak's underworld claims to fame are the limestone Mulu Caves.

These contain the world's largest natural rock chamber and the longest cave system in the region.

Five buildings the size of London's St Paul's Cathedral could sit within 'Deer Cave', which is 1,000 metres wide and 120 metres high.

The 'Sarawak Chamber', which is to be opened to the public, can accommodate 40 Boeing 747s.

Also, the Mulu National Park is a paradise for those who love jungle trekking.

A total of 170 species of wild orchid have been counted here as well as 262 types of bird, including all eight species of hornbill.

Closer to Damai Beach Resort - the most popular holiday retreat - is the Semenggoh Rehabilitation Centre where orphaned orang-utans roam a 740-hectare reserve.

Not to be missed are the great ape feeding times at 8.30am, 11.45am and 3pm.

For a showcase of native lifestyles, the Sarawak Cultural Village (also close to Damai) is recommended.

Popularly known as a 'living museum', the village features replica ethnic longhouses containing traditional artifacts; craft demonstration of bead making, bamboo carving and weaving.

In addition, various tribal groups perform native dances and songs.

Meanwhile, those in search of 'jungle produce' should head for Kuching's Sunday Market in Kuching city which, in fact, starts on Saturday afternoon.

Native tribal folk sell hundreds of varieties of fruit, vegetables and spices at this weekend market known as Pasar Minggu.