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Sarawak Cultural Village
by: Editorial Team

Sarawak Cultural Village, Step into a longhouse

Shoot blowpipe darts like a true Penan, walk across the narrow bamboo bridge, gape at real skulls in the Ihan House, climb up the Melanau Tail House... all these fun and adventurous activities, and more, await you at the fascinating Sarawak Cultural Village near Kuching.


Exotic Sarawak, land of many rivers, is famous for her many ethnic groups such as Iban, Bidayuh, Orang Ulu, Melanau, Penan, Malay and Chinese, who traditionally live in different parts of this huge state. To visit their traditional settlements would take many days. Fortunately, at the Sarawak Cultural Village situated at the foot of the legendary Mount Santubong, the interesting cultures of all these people can be experienced in one place.


o         Bidayuh Longhouse: The first stop is the Bidayuh Longhouse, where in the Barok, the circular head-house of the Bidayuhs, traditional gongs, war drums and bamboo musical instruments are displayed. In one of the longhouse dwellings, sitting by the window is master carver Pak Sijan, and he is expertly carving an intricate design on a length of bamboo — free hand! He has been carving since he was a young boy.

Outside, two Bidayuh ladies in traditional black outfits are busy pounding and winnowing rice, while another demonstrates the art of weaving fine bamboo strips into beautiful baskets. You can try your hand at these activities.


o         Bamboo Bridges: For some adventure, don’t forget to walk across the narrow bamboo bridges just wide enough for one person. Feel the bridge bend and sway under your weight, and imagine rushing water below, for these fragile bamboo bridges are often found in Sarawak’s jungles high above foaming rivers.


o         The Iban Longhouse - Next door is the Iban Longhouse, built above ground, and reached by a notched log that serves as a staircase. Once you get the hang of it, you can even run up and down the log like a true Iban child. There are several individual family rooms fronting the common walkway in an Iban Longhouse. Walk into a unit, look up and see enemy skulls in a net hanging from the rafters, as the Ibans were fierce head-hunters in the olden days. An Iban lady is weaving the traditional pua on a back-strap loom, another is making the intricate beaded collar, while a third is making the very tasty kuih jala. Visitors are often invited to sit down on the mat and have a chat with the longhouse elder.


The Penan Hut is very small and simple, as the Penans are nomadic people who live in the dense virgin jungles of Central Borneo. Penans use the blowpipe for hunting, and the Penan warrior is happy to show you how to make a blowpipe, all by hand, and shoot with it. The Penans are also very skilful at making decorations from soft wood.


The Kayan, the Kenyah, the Kelabit, the Lun Bawang and the other minor tribes of Sarawak are known as the Orang Ulu. They are gentle, graceful people, as reflected in their songs, music and dances. On the verandah of the imposing Orang Ulu Longhouse, perched on the hillside with a dominating “Tree of Life” wall mural in black, white, green and red, the Orang Ulu musician plays a beautiful melody on the sape, a stringed musical instrument. Orang Ulu ladies are famous for their intricate beadwork, and you can see a beadwork demonstration in the longhouse. The Melanau people traditionally lived near the sea where there were pirates. As a means of protecting themselves, the Melanaus built massive houses 40 feet above the ground! At the Melanau Tall House in the Sarawak Cultural Village, you need to climb up the long ladder to enter the wooden house. Once inside, you can pretend to fight an imaginary battle with pirates down below.


Outside the house is a Melanau carved totem pole, traditionally used to bury the village headmen. In a small house, a Melanau lady is demonstrating the art of making sago pearls and crispy sago biscuits, from grating the sago palm trunk to roasting the finished product. Now you know how the sago pearls used in the famous Malaysian dessert, gula melaka are made. You can try grating the sago palm trunk for a hands-on experience.


From the humblest to the highest, the traditional Malay house is a wooden house built on stilts. Observe the windows cut down to floor level for the breeze to blow in for the comfort of people seated in the front room that is designated for the men, official occasions and for entertaining guests. You can see the artistic skill in the decoration of the stairs and window railings, fascia boards under the eaves as well as the ventilation grills above or beside doorways.


Do join in the many traditional Malay games on demonstration here, such as gasing or top spinning and congkak — a traditional Malay board-like game.


The first Chinese settlers in Sarawak came in the early 1900s, and many were involved in vegetable farming. The Chinese farmhouse was a simple wooden house built on the ground with trodden earth for a floor, whitewashed plank walls and a thatched (attap) roof. The interior of the house, sparsely furnished, consisted of the open kitchen, dining and living sections and the storage area for valuables such as bicycles or agricultural machinery, and sectioned off bedrooms.


A focal point in the living area was the household shrine, while the doorpost was often pasted with pieces of red paper with auspicious sayings to bring luck to or divine protection for the family. Outside the house is a pepper garden, which should not be missed — as Sarawak is famous for its pepper crop. As the pepper bush grows taller, workers need to climb up a ladder to trim the bush or pick the pepper berries.


After seeing all the different houses, it’s time to enjoy a performance of the colourful dances of the Ibans, Bidayuh, Orang Ulu, Melanau, Malay and Chinese in the air-conditioned theatre. A most spectacular dance is the Iban Ngajat Lesong, where the Iban warrior demonstrates the extraordinary strength of his teeth by lifting a 20-kilogram mortar. Dancing with the mortar clamped in this mouth is a feat of endurance.


To complete the Sarawak cultural experience, do savour some Sarawakian food at the restaurant, and pick up some souvenirs at the handicraft shop.



Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia fly to Kuching daily. Sarawak Cultural Village is located at Pantai Damai, Santubong, about 40 minutes drive from Kuching. A shuttle van service (RM10 per person) departs from the Holiday Inn Kuching, Crowne Plaza Riverside and Merdeka Palace Hotel three times a day. The last ticket is sold at 4:30pm at the Entrance of Sarawak Cultural Village.


Opening hours: Daily - 9am to 5:15pm.

Cultural Shows daily from - 11:30am to 12:15pm &  

 4:30pm - 5:15pm


Admission (inclusive of cultural show):    RM45 (adult) & RM22.50 (child 6 – 12 yrs).

  Free for children less than 6 years.


Facilities: Restaurant, souvenir shop, car park


Hotel accommodation: Available


Information:  Tel:6082-846 411

Fax: 6082-846 988


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About The Author

Editorial Team, Editor
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