Imagine this.

You wanted to go traveling down south for holidays and you were not sure which is better: a direct flight to your destination or a few days stop in wonderful Malaysia? You kept thinking and you’ve decided to expand your experience during the holidays and hence you’ve chosen the latter option. Congratulations for making the best decision you’ll ever make in your life! Now, you’re looking on the internet, thinking of what to do for at least one week in Malaysia. Since you’re that kind of a person who avoids all mainstream things and big cities, you want to go to the biggest island in Southeast Asia because you know, it’s a humongous island full with surprises. The internet suggests tonnes of activities to do there but you can’t decide!

Well, you’ve found the right blog. The states of Sabah and Sarawak in Borneo Island are both among the biggest states in Malaysia. Foreigners seldom visit this part of Malaysia only because it’s non-mainstream. However, Sabah and Sarawak are two states in Malaysia where you can find numerous must-try activities.

The state of Sarawak is well known for its vastness in tribes and culture apart from nature. Those who come to Sarawak always go to the capital city, Kuching (also known as the cat city). Kuching is not only famous for its mouth-watering food, cats, traditional souvenirs but it is also for being the venue of the Rainforest World Music Festival. Held in Kampung Budaya (Cultural Village), this event often gathers thousands of traditional musicians from all over the world and give them a platform where they could introduce their music and musical instruments. It is normally held in July which is a perfect time because everyone is on holidays. Each year, renowned musicians from all continents come here to perform for those who have never heard of their music.

(Rainforest World Music Festival)

(Rainforest World Music Festival)

Why is it a must-try activity in Sarawak? Well first of all, it is only a once-a-year event where you get to experience the culture of the whole world through music and musical instruments. Not only that, a workshop is held in the morning, which allows people to learn more of the music apart from getting a hands-on experience in playing the musical instruments. At night, you get to party around nature to the traditional yet very refreshing and groovy musics of the world. Also, since it is held in Kampung Budaya, you get to walk around the place and visit the beautiful traditional houses of the different ethnics in Sarawak. Plus, you might also get a chance to taste some of the traditional food offered, buy some souvenirs and blend with locals! Not yet convinced? The music below is so soothing that it’ll take you to paradise (psssst, it’s Borneo). Still not convinced by the beautiful music? Watch the other video and you’ll feel otherwise.

-Video 1 : Sape Music (

-Video 2 : Rainforest World Music Festival Promo Video (


I am now sure that you’re convinced. Now, for another part of your trip; the other part of Borneo called Sabah. Sabah is the land below the wind; known for its beautiful beaches and vast culture, surely another part of Borneo that you should NEVER miss! A flight to Kota Kinabalu from Kuching will cost you only about rm250 (on average). However, that rm250 will definitely take you to a whole new journey when you go for the NEVER miss experience in Sabah which is taking a ride on the North Borneo Railway! North Borneo Railway is the oldest railway system in Borneo. Formerly used to transport tobacco in the 1890s, the railway was closed for a quite a long time and then was reopened again in 2011 with new trains and repaired lines. Despite the renovations, the nostalgic charms from the British era are still there especially the train; it still uses steam train!

(North Borneo Train)

(North Borneo Train)

Why should you board on this train? This train ride will take you on a journey through beautiful surroundings from Kota Kinabalu (Formerly known as Jesselton) all the way to Tenom. Along the way, soak in the green vistas of sprawling paddy fields, traditional village homes on stilts and buffaloes ambling in the distance. More than that, you get to interact with locals who board the train (yeap, locals are really nice people J). The journey will definitely be worth much more in terms of experience. Opportunity to interact with locals, breath-taking views along the route and the chance to board on an old train are valid enough reasons to try this off-the-beaten path attraction for at least once. Watch the video below to see more of the North Borneo Railway train and be amazed!


– Video 3 (North Borneo Steam Railway) :


Well there you have it, the must try activities when you visit Malaysia, specifically Borneo! Now back to you imagining yourself booking ticket. You’re going to reach the keyboard and type “Kuching” and “Kota Kinabalu” on the arrival part of the plane booking window because now you know that it is going to be worth it.


Photo credit:

Photo 1 (Rainforest World Music Festival):

Photo 2 (North Borneo Train) :


Video Credit:

Video 1: Sheducerrr youtube channel

Video 2: Sarawak Travel STB youtube channel

Video 3: 01276 youtube channel


By John Anak Ramsay, ASEAN Correspondent from Malaysia