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History of Sarawak · Driving & Dining Holiday Around Kuching Division

✍ 16 Jan 2024. We are going on a week long driving trip around the Kuching Division of Sarawak. My objective is to look for places and tasty food that also take us back in time.... time travel back to the early history of Sarawak.


I am updating this article "LIVE" as we go jalan jalan cari makan (wandering around looking for good food) in Sarawak - this post will get more delicious as we go, I promise 🚗 😄

We start by going back 700 years.

Going as far back as the 1300s, before Sarawak came under the Brunei sultanate, a collection of disparate fiefdoms, kingdoms and sultanates dotted the territory. The most famous was the Melano kingdom (about 1300 to 1400 AD) centred around the Mukah river in central Sarawak. Some had tributary relationships with the mighty Indonesian Srivijayan and Majapahit empires.

Ganesha statue dated 1300s excavated at Bukit Mas in Limbang, Sarawak attests to the links between early Sarawak and the Hindu-Buddhist empires of Indonesia at the time.

Sultanate of Sarawak (in red)

In 1598, Bruneian Pengiran Muda Tengah Ibrahim Ali Omar Shah or Raja Tengah, established the sultanate of Sarawak with 1,000 warriors and a band of royals, nobles and followers. These Bruneians were of Sakai, Kedayan and Bunut origin, and the ancestors of some of today's Sarawakians.

According to legend, when their father died, Raja Tengah disputed his elder brother's right to the Brunei throne. To satisfy Raja Tengah, his elder brother sent him away by making him sultan of Sarawak at the far western end of Borneo island at Tanjung Datu (literally to the end of the world).

Kuchingdivisiondistrict en.svg
By Alexliewkh at Chinese Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

The old Sultanate of Sarawak (1599 - 1641) boundaries roughly coincides with today's Kuching division of the state of Sarawak.

After the death of Raja Tengah, the Sultanate of Sarawak dissolved and the territory came under rule by local Malay governors appointed by the Brunei Sultanate.

In 1836, Malays and Bidayuh Dayaks of Sarawak River (Kuching) rebelled and declared their independence from the Bruneians. The Bruneians had difficulty suppressing the rebels and in 1841, turned to James Brooke, an ex-soldier of the British East India Company for help.

James Brooke successfully put down the rebellion and the Brunei sultanate made him Rajah of Sarawak in 1842.

Fair Land of Sarawak: Anthem of the kingdom of Sarawak (1841 - 1946).

James Brooke's kingdom of Sarawak stretched from Tanjong Datu to the Sadong River (from west end of Sarawak to slightly beyond Kuching in the east). James Brooke's successors, nephew Charles Brooke and his son Vyner Brooke later extended Sarawak's territory to today's boundary (right up to the border with Brunei).

A Chinese gold digger in Queensland 1860 (for illustration)

The Hakka Chinese miners' rebellion of 1857 was a brief tragic episode early in Brooke's kingdom of Sarawak history.

A group of about 4,000 Hakka Chinese miners moved from Sambas in West Kalimantan and set up base in Maw San mountain (Gunung Krian) in Sarawak in the 1830s. 

Thanks to the rich gold and antimony deposits at Maw San, the area prospered.

The Hakka Chinese miners got into tax disputes with James Brooke's government in the 1850s. On that fateful night of 18 Feb 1857, 600 miners raided James Brooke's palace. The miners killed some of Brooke's officials and family.

Brooke's forces managed to kill most of the miners and their leader Liu Shan Bang. The reprisal for the miners' rebellion extended to the settlement at Maw San. Most of its several thousand inhabitants perished.

Pekan Bau 2024

Burnt to the ground, the Maw San settlement was abandoned but by the 1870s, Brooke recruited a new wave of Hakka Chinese miners to exploit the gold deposits of Maw San. A new town known as Pekan Bau, rose from the ashes.

By the 1940s, Bau's gold deposits were depleted and mining operations ceased. A small population, some descendants of the gold miners remained to this day.

In 1946 (after the Second World War), the kingdom of Sarawak became a Crown Colony of the British empire.

Duchess of Kent visited the Crown Colony of Sarawak in 1952.

God Save the King / Queen. Anthem of the Crown Colony of Sarawak.

In 1963, Sarawak became a state of Malaysia.

Ibu Pertiwiku (My Motherland): Anthem of the Malaysian state of Sarawak.

Next on the agenda, what to eat during my coming driving trip to Kuching, Bau, Siniawan, Lundu and Semantan that reflect the history of Kuching Division and Sarawak?

Please share in the comments 🙏


I will update this article with food we found as we go on our driving trip around the Kuching Division. Come with us lah... 🚗

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Written by Tony Boey on 16 Jan 2024


Sultan Tengah

History of Sarawak under Two White Rajahs


  1. My go-to whenever I go back -
    1) Mui Chin Cafe, Jalan Rambutan - Sarawak Laksa
    2) Hai Nan Village Lei Cha, Happy Garden
    3) Panther’s Kitchen, Golden Arch Shopping Mall - everything is good for dinner.

  2. Carpenter Street-Kueh Chap and fishball tang hoon and pork satay
    S'wak Laksa - Chong Choon cafe and Foody Goody (both good but different signature taste)
    Kolo mee - Hon Hin cafe
    Heng Hua mee - Meng Kui cafe
    *Chong Choon, Hon Hin and Meng Kui all within walking distance.
    Tomato Kway Tiaw and crispy mee - Hui Sing hawker center (short opening hrs - 5-9pm but sometimes sold out before 9pm).
    Seafood - Topspot food court (plenty of stalls fav being ABC and Ling Loong). Tips-pick your own prawns or they will mix big and small prawns.
    Kampung Budaya S'wak is definitely worth a visit and then can seafood lunch at Lim Hock Ann at Kpg Buntal

  3. No visit to Kuching is complete without a visit to Rock Road Seafood along Jalan Rock


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