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Sarawak

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.

History
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 the area.

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.

This 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 m.

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 Sarawak.

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