Malaysia //

Central Sarawak

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For travellers, central Sarawak offers rather slim pickings compared to Kuching’s hinterland and the north of the state. Those visitors who venture here tend to be drawn by the prospect of travelling into the interior along the Rejang (also spelled Rajang), Malaysia’s longest river. All such trips start from the bustling city of Sibu, some 50km inland near where another major river, the Igan, splits away from the Rejang. Express boats depart daily to zip up the Rejang to Kapit, beyond which, through the Pelagus Rapids and on to the sleepy town of Belaga, eight hours from Sibu, the Rejang becomes wild and unpredictable and the scenery spectacular. There’s not much to do in either Kapit or Belaga though, and while there are longhouse communities near both, as well as east of Kapit along the Balui River, public transport is thin on the ground, so it’s best to regard the Rejang journey as an end in itself or else fork out for (pricey) local guides to arrange trips for you.

With Sibu being so far from the sea, and the coast here dominated by mangrove swamp, the main trunk road runs deep inland until it finally hits the coast again at Bintulu. Halfway along, a side road leads off through a chink in the vegetation to the coastal town of Mukah, which has an appealing museum-cum-guesthouse nearby. Bintulu itself is a nondescript but (thanks to oil and gas) prosperous town, whose main attraction is as a base for Similajau National Park, easily reached yet appealingly quiet.

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