As destinations go in Asia, Malaysian Borneo does not often come top in terms of culture and the arts; there are few live music concerts and almost no theatre features in any of the major cities. It is curious then that one of the highlights of the world music calendar happens to be in Kuching (where else?!). The Rainforest Music Festival happens every year over the last weekend of June at the Sarawak Cultural Village in the shadow of Mount Santabong. It showcases music from around the globe in a three-day frenzy of music, mud and beer — but oddly, no camping.
Glastonbury this ain’t but this small-scale festival attracts music lovers from all over the Asia Pacific region, adding to a family-friendly, tolerant, cosmopolitan crowd that is not afraid to get caught up in the freneticism of watching live music. Indeed, that Rainforest is able to lure the youth of Kuala Lumpur to comparatively parochial Kuching is a testament to the quality of this music festival.
It is advisable to book accommodation in Kuching well in advance, as the weekend of Rainforest sees hotels fill up many weeks before the event. You will also pay a premium for the privilege. There are often package deals on offer, especially at those hotels closer to the venue, and these often prove to be excellent value for money if your budget is between flashpacker and splurge.
Sarawak Cultural Village is actually about 30 minutes from Kuching town centre, but a bus service is laid on during the day, with the last service about 45 minutes after the last act has played. Expect to pay around 10 ringgit for a return journey.
As with any festival, a plethora of food stalls operate within the venue and precious few without. It is absolutely forbidden to bring your own alcohol into the venue, but picnics are welcomed as long as you take your rubbish with you. Tickets can be bought individually for each day for 123 ringgit or 333 ringgit for a three-day pass, but be mindful that three-day passes are limited and cannot be bought once the festival has started. An early bird promotion for this year’s festival, which falls June 28 to 30, runs until February 28.
If you are really stuck for time, then we suggest that you go on the Saturday, as this is usually when the biggest acts are playing and the crowd at their most rowdy.
By Hollie Tu.
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