The worlds biggest island and the land of the jungle man (the Orangutan), is shared between Malaysia and Indonesia, we only visited Sarawak which is within the Malaysian region.
I’ve included Kuching and Damai into one blog post because they are only 40 minutes apart and if your short on time, Damai can be done in one day.
Things To Do In Kuching:
Our main reason for visiting Borneo was to see the wild Orangutan’s at Semenggoh, I’ve done a separate post because there’s to much information to fit on this page, click HERE to read.
The waterfront is lit up at night and it’s the centre of evening activity in Kuching. There are daily river cruises and the government building is stunning, unfortunately it’s closed to the public.
The national museum is free to enter and really worth spending an hour of your time in. You will learn all about the history of Kuching, village life, the headhunter traditions and the Brooke era.
The textile museum is also free and even the outside is impressive. Unfortunately we arrived 10 minutes before closing so we didn’t get an in depth look at the exhibits but they looked pretty interesting.
We also have it on good authority that the Bako National Park is a “must visit”, unfortunately the day that we planned to visit, Kuching suffered from flash floods and apparently the park can be quite dangerous in heavy rain, we spent the day hiding in malls instead.
I downloaded a self guided walking tour from Malaysia-Traveler.com which as a 47 stop route which includes plenty of cat statues. It was good fun and took us about 5 hours including museum stops and a lunch stop.
The Sunday morning market at Medan Niaga Satok is about a 40 minute walk from the Kuching waterfront, or take the K7 bus. It’s massive and not touristy at all, it’s a great place to stretch your legs and watch the locals going about daily life. There are a handful of snack stalls at the back.
Things To Do In Damai:
The Sarawak Cultural Village is the main reason people visit Damai, (it can easily be done in a day trip if you don’t want to stay overnight). Entrance costs RM60/pp which I thought was quite expensive considering we’re still in Malaysia, but after seeing how amazing the place was I changed my mind, it’s actually really good value for money. The village is huge and very well maintained, there are lots of staff doing regular demonstrations. Make sure you hang around for the daily show (11:00 and 16:00). You can leave the park then re-enter with the same ticket all day.
The mountains that surround Damai are beautiful, if you have enough time to stay longer than a day, then make sure to schedule in some pool/beach time and really admire the scenery.
Cost Of Borneo:
Borneo has a really bad reputation with backpacks as being really expensive, but honestly we didn’t think it was any more expensive than the peninsula. As long as you stick to public transport and avoid the pre-organised tours you can easily do Sarawak on a shoestring budget.
Where To Eat:
Kuching – Your absolutely spoiled for choice in Kuching. For sea food lovers, the Top Spot food court is a must. It’s on top of a boring looking office block so be careful not to walk past it. It opens at 6pm and is very popular with locals and tourists. There’s also a few dozen other places along Jalan Padungan Road, all selling similar food for similar prices, a good place to go for breakfast or lunch.
Damai – There really isn’t a lot of choice here, besides eating in the hotel (expensive!), there was one small food court with about 8 different vendors, located just opposite the entrance to the cultural village. We ate at 3 different places, they were all good, and super cheap.
The only way to get to Malaysian Borneo from the peninsula is to fly, AirAsia offer regular and cheap flights. We paid £16 to get to Kuching from Langkawi then £29 to get back to Kuala Lumpur, both booked very last minute. Prices can be much cheaper if you plan a little further in advance.
Taxis to the city centre of Kuching from the airport are fixed at RM30 each way.
A shuttle bus leaves from the Grand Margarita to go to Damai (the cultural village) a few times per day, It was RM20 each way when we visited and left at 9:15, 10:15 and 12:15, return times are 13:15, 15:15 and 17:15. Check their website for latest prices and times.
Where To Stay:
Kuching – We stayed at the Petanak Lodge for just £15 per night. It was slightly out the way but was clean and we don’t mind a walk. There were lots of cafes locally and a laundry service about a 10 minute walk away.
Damai – The Damai Beach Resort was a welcome little bit of luxury during our time in Malaysia. The breakfast was amazing and I’m sure we both put weight on while staying here. Definitely went over budget though at £38 per night. (There is one hostel in Damai, close to the cultural village if you don’t want to blow all your budget on a hotel.)