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July 15, 2019

What to expect at the Rainforest World Music Festival 2019

July 15th, 2019

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The Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) is an annual world music event held in Sarawak, Malaysia. Typically held on a July weekend, the 3-day event sees musicians and artists from all around the world gather and exhibit unique cultural performances native to their countries. Taking place at the Sarawak Cultural Village in Santubong National Park, Santubong, it is hosted and organised by The Sarawak Tourism Board. Aside from live performances, the festival features workshops for ethnic livelihood as well, so visitors are both entertained and educated at the same time. Now, if you are a first-timer at this year’s RWMF, below are some of the best things to expect!

Festival highlights

Besides the versatile range of world music performances, the ethnic workshops and bazaars are what many visitors look forward to when attending RWMF. These special sessions are set up in the Cultural Village’s architectural replicas representing Sarawak’s major tribes: longhouses of the Bidayuh, Iban, and Orang Ulu interpretations, a Penan jungle settlement, a Melanau tall-house, a Malay-style townhouse, and even a Chinese farmhouse and pagoda. What makes RWMF’s workshops extra special is the fact that you get to interact with the performers up close and personal in these designated traditional areas.

This year’s lineup of interactive sing and dance sessions, meanwhile, are headlined by hometown heroes from the Sarawak Cultural Village, as well as the highly anticipated solo acts performed by many global world music artists, including Japan’s Oki and Ana Alcaide from Spain. Each session features ethnic instruments unique to the delivery of its performance, as well as voice lessons.

What else to do in Sarawak?

Take note that Sarawak is ethnically diverse, with 27 ethnic groups living throughout the state.  Rainforests dominate more than 80% of its entire perimeter. The state, which is Malaysia’s biggest, is a perfect attraction for tropical eco tours and hikes, on top of obvious entertainment lures such as music festivals and the arts. Where to start?

1. Explore the foothills of Mount Santubong

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Since the RWMF is a big tourism vessel that showcases Sarawak’s multifaceted identity, it’s going to be great to learn more about the rich heritage of each and every indigenous tribe unique to the region there. Stroll through the traditional houses and take pictures of the locals while they do their daily routines. Other interesting activities for first-time tourists to consider include ethnic food cooking classes, reenactments of Sarawakian customs and practices, and the unique experience of deadly blowpipe usage (under strict supervision, of course).

2. Spot the proboscis monkeys at Bako National Park

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Rainforests have the most diverse wildlife. And with Sarawak surrounded by them, expect some interesting creatures to make their presence in your way. One of the species native to the land is the proboscis monkey family, which you can meet at Bako National Park. Located 37 kilometers from Kuching, Sarawak’s city capital city, the park is one of the most accessible natural sites in Malaysia. Try and spot the Proboscis monkeys while trekking along the park’s unique jungle trails. You can also find wild boars and other rainforest animals there, too.

3. Go through a network of caves at Niah National Park

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Sarawak’s ecological history dates back to prehistoric times, and which site can better testify to this fact than Niah National Park? The tropical estate has a vast network of caves peppered with ancient paintings on its walls that will definitely amaze every archeology enthusiast. Fun fact: the human remains and fossils discovered there were found to be almost 40,000 years!

4. Visit the Penan tribesmen

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The Penan people living in Sarawak have had to deal with the loss of their native culture and lifestyle thanks to ongoing deforestation throughout Borneo over the years. A trip to their homes will allow you to see for yourself how they live and strive to maintain their roots while being supported by practices in sustainable tourism and education. Some of the things that help hold the livelihood of the tribe together are seed collecting and tree planting programmes, which you can be a part of when there.

5. Explore the cultural nuances of Kuching

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Kuching, which translates into ‘cat’ in English, is Sarawak’s very own capital city whose name was derived from the statues of cats that permeate the entire city. Besides hosting various colonial sites and heritage buildings, the city is also known for its seemingly endless array of colourful Buddhist temples, mosques, and other places of worship. While in town, you must make a point to visit its heavily touted local museums (such as Sarawak Museum, The Ranee Museum, Cat Museum, and more), floating fishing villages, and restaurants featuring Sarawakian cuisines.

6. Visit Gunung Mulu National Park

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One should do this with some extra time at hand, as Gunung Mulu National Park is located in Miri, a few hours’ worth of drive away from Kuching and Santubong. The park possesses a vast network of natural chambers and caves, including Clearwater Cave, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is also recognised as the world’s eighth longest in the world. Be careful not to get lost inside, so you won’t miss the attractions that await at the other end of the cave tunnels: wildlife friends in the form of bats, hornbills, and primates

7. Explore Sarawak’s biodiversity in Miri

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It must be said that Miri is one of the more popular eco-tourist spots in Sarawak. The city is filled to the brim with national parks. One of them is Lamber Hills, which is perfectly untouched, a criteria that renders the site perfect for some spiritual reflection. Expect to see emerald green waterfalls, stunning view decks for bird-watching, and diverse flora and fauna surroundings.

Want to attend RWMF while also discovering more of Sarawak’s diverse cultures and natural reserves at the same time? Send our team at Fayyaz Travels a request for a customised itinerary today!

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about the author

Naressa Khan is all about beautiful, inspiring narratives. As a versatile writer, she ensures that stories come alive, whether as a brand book, a short essay, a lifestyle feature or even an ad copy. When not busy putting things into words, she loves to cook, travel, paint, and read. A caffeine addict, she is always down for a cup… or ten

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