Video: Sarawak Cultural Village

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Malaysia’s largest state, Sarawak, is rich in cultural history and diversity. 27 different ethnic groups make up the small population of 2.3 million people that covers an area as large as Peninsular Malaysia. Traveling around Sarawak to see these ethnic groups isn’t practical, unless you have a lot of time and enjoy long hours on the road. But a great way to get an introduction into the local cultures and lifestyles in just half a day is at the Sarawak Cultural Village.

Sarawak Cultural Village
A traditional Melanau Tall House.

Described as a ‘living museum’, the Sarawak Cultural Village is located on the northwest coast of Borneo, about 35km from the capital city of Kuching. Covering an area of 14 acres, visitors can walk into replica buildings representing every major ethnic group in Sarawak. Centered around a large man-made pond, wooden walkways lead you to Bidayuh, Iban and Orang Ulu longhouses, a Penan jungle settlement, a Melanau tall-house, a Malay townhouse, and a Chinese farmhouse. V-shaped bamboo and rope bridges allow you to traverse some of the grounds and tree trunks with notched grooves act as staircases and entrances into some of the buildings.

Sarawak Cultural Village, Malaysia
A traditional bridge made out of bamboo and rope.

The interiors are all minimally furnished and masks, weaved cloths, musical instruments, and tree motifs cover the walls. The buildings are all staffed with members from the various ethnic groups dressed in traditional costume and carrying out traditional activities, most of whom actually live on-site.

Sarawak Cultural Village
A woman in traditional Bidayuh clothing and an Iban man playing a sape.

Twice a day a 45-minute multicultural performance is put on for visitors in the Village Theatre (it’s air conditioned by the way!) to showcase the unique costumes and traditional dances from some of the ethnic groups. I’ve seen many cultural performances in my travels as this was one of the best!

The Sarawak Cultural Village is also home to the Rainforest World Music Festival. Every year, local musicians and their rainforest inspired sounds share the stage with internationally renowned world musicians in a musical celebration. This 3-day festival offers afternoon informative workshops, ethno-musical lectures, jamming sessions and mini concerts, and evening performances on the main stage. It attracts people from across the globe and is considered Sarawak’s premier cultural event.

For More Information: The Sarawak Cultural Village is open everyday from 9am-4pm and costs 60RM for adults to enter (30RM for children under 12). Cultural shows are at 11:30am and 4:00pm. Public transit does not operate to the Village. You can hire a taxi or grab a shuttle bus from Kuching. The shuttle bus operates 4 times a day and picks up passengers from the Hilton, Pullman, and Harbour View Hotels. One way fare costs 12RM a person.

My visit was made possible by the Malaysian Tourism Board and the Sarawak Tourism Board.