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The perfect introduction to Sarawak begins in its capital. Kuching's museums, cultural exhibits, and historical attractions will help you form an overview of the history, people, and natural wonders of the state. In Kuching, your introduction to Sarawak will be comfortable and fun -- culture by day, and good food and fun by night. Kuching, meaning "cat" in Malay, also has a wonderful sense of humor, featuring monuments and exhibits to its feline mascot on almost every corner.

The Rainforest World Music Festival (www.rainforestmusic-borneo.com) is held every second weekend of July at the Sarawak Cultural Village, featuring music workshops, ethno-musical lectures, jamming sessions, and evening performances from the genre's most renowned figures. Highly recommended.

Essentials

Visitor Information -- The Sarawak Tourism Board's Visitor Information Centre has literature and staff that can answer any question about activities in the state and city. This is actually the best place to start planning any trips to Sarawak's national parks, as the main office for the National Parks & Wildlife Centre operates a Visitor Information Center next door as well. You'll find them at the Sarawak Tourism Complex in the Old Courthouse opposite the Kuching Waterfront. The Sarawak Tourism Board is open every day from 8am to 6pm (tel. 082/410-944), but the National Parks Centre booking office is only open Monday to Friday from 8am to 5pm (tel. 082/248-088; www.sarawaktourism.com). Tourism Malaysia operates an information counter at the airport arrival hall 9am to 10pm daily (tel. 082/627-741).

Getting There -- Most travelers to Sarawak enter through Kuching International Airport (tel. 082/454-242; airport code: KCH), which is 11km south of the city proper, about a 25-minute drive. The airport has ATMs, moneychangers, restaurants, and tourist information. Taxis from the airport use coupons that you purchase outside the arrival hall. Priced according to zones, most trips to the central parts of town will be about RM26.

Malaysia Airlines has international flights from Singapore, with domestic service from KL, Johor Bahru, and Kota Kinabalu. AirAsia flies direct between Kuching and Singapore, KL, Penang, Johor Bahru, Kota Kinabalu, Miri, Bintulu, and Sibu. Both SilkAir and Tiger Airways connect Kuching with Singapore.

Getting Around -- Centered around a padang, or large ceremonial field, Kuching resembles many other Malaysian cities. Buildings of beautiful colonial style rise on the edges of the field; many of these today house Sarawak's museums. The main sights, as well as the Chinatown area and the riverfront, are easily accessible on foot. Taxis are also available and do not use meters; most rides around town are quoted between RM10 and RM15. Taxis can be waved down from the side of the road, or if you're in the Chinatown area, the main taxi stand is on Gambier Road near the end of the India Street Pedestrian Mall.

Fast Facts  -- Sarawak's area code is 082. Major banks have branches on Tunku Abdul Rahman Road near the river or in the downtown area around Khoo Hun Yeang Road. There are a few Internet cafes around town; it's best to ask your hotel's concierge for the nearest one before you start wandering around -- or use your hotel's facilities.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.