What's Bahasa Melayu Sarawak and Other Unique Sarawakian Facts

What is Bahasa Sarawak? Have you heard of the 'empurau' fish?

Well, it’s time to put your knowledge to test and see if you can answer any of these questions!

“Do you row a boat to go to school?” 

“Do you need a passport to come to West Malaysia?”

“Sometimes when your internet gets cut off, is it because your tree house signal is bad?”

Have you ever asked any one of these questions to your Sarawakian friends? If so, it’s high time that you plan a visit to Sarawak during your semester break or holidays to really experience and enjoy the Land of the Hornbills

In this article, I’ll be sharing more interesting facts about Sarawak that many wouldn’t know of unless you’re a native or have visited Sarawak. As a true Sarawakian born in Miri, Sarawak, I’m definitely the best person to share these facts with you! PS: I tried asking my friends some of the questions below and none of them could get more than 2 questions right! See if you knew any of these before reading the answers! 

Did you know? Located in the northwest of Borneo Island, Sarawak is the largest state in Malaysia, covering an area of 124,450 km² which is almost the size of the entire Peninsular Malaysia, which is 131,732 km². 

1. Can you name a Sarawakian fast food franchise?


Customers eating in Sugarbun

Everybody knows of the regular KFC, McD, Dominos Pizza, and even Texas Chicken. But have you ever heard of SugarBun?  As a Sarawakian, I’m proud to say that SugarBun is the first Malaysian fast food franchise with 79 outlets in Malaysia — a majority of which are located in Sarawak. 

SugarBun started as an ice-cream parlour in 1979 and, through creativity, innovation, and determination of this fast food chain company, SugarBun managed to make its presence known in East Malaysia and also in international markets such as Brunei, Bangladesh, and Australia. There’s even a SugarBun in China which opened all the way back in June 2012! How cool is that?!

Tip: My favourite outlet is in Sarikei and my personal favourite? Their fish fillet and chicken burger! Remember to try out any SugarBun outlet when you come to Sarawak.

2. What’s the most expensive fish in Malaysia?


The empurau fish

Empurau in Iban or Tor tambroides in English, which is known as the ‘Borneo River Gold‘, is the most expensive fish species in Malaysia. It can be found in the rivers of Batang Ai, Rejang, and Kapit river. 

In Chinese, empurau also means unforgettable (忘不了) and is named so as after having a creamy, fatty taste with a texture you’ll surely crave for more! According to Johor Kaki, it costs around RM800 to RM1000 per kg as this freshwater fish in Sarawak only feeds on a special fruit, called engkabang which is found in Borneo.

It’s quite challenging to catch the empurau as they live in the wild and migrate as soon as their habitat is polluted. It also has a slow growth rate, taking more than 2 years to reach market size. That’s a long time to wait for a fish!

3. What’s the common language in Sarawak?


The Sarawak Flag

Before you get puzzled, yes, we do have a language that’s shared across natives of Sarawak which is similar to the Iban language. It’s called Bahasa Melayu Sarawak! It’s quite different from the normal Malay language and so without learning it from a local you might get lost in a conversation with Sarawakians. Furthermore, the dialects also differ depending on each district.

Nonetheless, these days, most of the Bahasa Melayu Sarawak are borrowed from English, so it’s easily understandable. For example, the word ‘action’ is pronounced and read as ‘eksen’. 

But, the best way to understand the vast diversity of Sarawak is to start understanding our local language. Here are some basic Bahasa Melayu Sarawak for you to learn for your next holiday in Sarawak! 



 Bahasa Melayu 

Bahasa Melayu Sarawak

What’s your name?

 Siapa nama awak?

Apa nama kitak?

How much is this? 

 Berapa harga ini?

Berapa rega tok?

Where are you? 

 Awak di mana?

Sine kitak?

Where are you going?

 Awak nak pergi ke mana?

Kitak nak gi sine?

I want a piece of  chicken. 

Saya mahu makan seketul  ayam. 

Kamek mok manok sigek. 


4. How long has Sarawak Day been declared as a regional public holiday?


View of Kuching

Most of us know and remember 31 August 1957 as when Malaya (Peninsular Malaysia) gained independence from the British and 16 September 1963 as when Malaysia was established. And some may know that 22 July 1963 is a memorable day where Sarawak was given the opportunity to govern their state on their own before joining Malaysia Federation on 16 September the same year. 

However, despite all the hard work to free Sarawak from The Brooke Family, Sarawak Independence Day was never officially announced as a regional public holiday to commemorate the past leaders such as Temenggung Jugah, Ling Beng Siew, and P.E.H. Pike. 

Thus, in 2016, Sarawak’s well-known late chief minister, Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem took the responsibility to declare 22nd July 2016 as a public holiday for Sarawak. It’s a day to remind us about how our past leaders’ struggle to free Sarawak from the British and also the importance of continuing the baton of freedom and integrity. That said, Sarawak Independence Day has only been officially declared as a regional public holiday for 6 years!

5. How many divisions are there in Sarawak? 


The divisions of districts in Sarawak

I’ll bet you’ve not a clue! Well, based on the Sarawak official portal, there are 12 administrative divisions in Sarawak which are Limbang, Miri, Bintulu, Mukah, Sibu, Sarikei, Kapit, Betong, Sri Aman, Serian, Samarahan, and Kuching. Kuching, which is probably the most popular state in Sarawak, is also the capital city and the densest population in Sarawak, although it has the smallest land area. 

Did you know that each main division has an animal or fruit which represents our unique identity? Check it out: 

Miri (Seahorse)

Miri is located along a beautiful seaside coast. The seahorse’s gentleness represents different races and cultural ethnics in Miri living peacefully together.  

Our two mascot seahorses named MiMi and RiRi can be seen at Airport Roundabout. This idea was brought up in 1944’s ‘I love Miri Campaign’ by our chief minister. There are also other seahorse mascots such as in Marina Bay and Miri Waterfront! 

Limbang (Buffalo)

In Limbang, there are plenty of buffalos around the rurals parts which are used as sources of meat, paddy farming, or the famous buffalo race.

Sibu (Swan)

Legend says that a famine ended after a flock of swans flew through the sky above Sibu. The tale of the ugly duckling that turned into an elegant swan inspired the people in Sibu to work hand in hand to make Sibu a better place. The swan symbolises a new identity.

Sarikei (Pineapple)

Sarikei is known as the food basket of Sarawak as it’s the main supplier of fruits and vegetables. But, the pineapple is the most popular among all, so much so that a 3.6m high pineapple statue is built in front of the Sarikei Waterfront! 

Kuching (Cat)

Not surprisingly, Kuching which means cat in Malay, is known as the cat city. Here, there are plenty of cat statues around and even a cat museum.

Betong (Rubber Tree)

The rubber tree represents the state as it’s the first district in Sarawak to plant this tree of many uses in the early 20th century.

So, how many did you know? If it’s less than half, it's time for you to come and visit any district in Sarawak to get to know this beautiful state better!

Michelle Ling Xin Hui  is currently pursuing her 2nd year of Bachelor’s in Information Technology at Taylor's University. She is also the president of Taylor’s Leo Club.

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