Catching the Rainforest World Music Festival – Sarawak, Malaysia

The Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) is like Coachella or Woodstock but for a completely different genre known as World Music. Imagine the hippiness of Woodstock transported to the middle of a rainforest, with the laid back-ness of Coachella and that’s RWMF for you.

Rainforest Music Festival 043(World music performance includes using everything nature gives you, like the splashing sound of water)

Held annually in Kuching, Sarawak at the end of June (28-30 this year). The RWMF is a three day long event where you can find musical workshops being held during the day, and large concerts at two open stages at the base of Mt. Santubong at night.  A concert. At the foothills of a Mountain! In the Rainforest!! Its amazing I tell you.

So things to know

1)   Where the hell am I supposed to go?

If you’re coming from overseas, you need to fly into Kuching airport in Sarawak (This is on the Borneo side of Malaysia for those of you getting a little confused). Once there, you can find a place to stay in Kuching itself (I recommend the old town since I love that area, and its also at the waterfront – facing the river). For those needing chain hotels, an old Hilton is right by the waterfront. But there are also other cute b&b’s peppered around the area.

2)   Where is the event? And how do I get there?

The event is actually located in the Sarawak Cultural Village itself, which is at the base of Mt. Santubong. It takes about 40-60 minutes to get there. Luckily there are quite a few options to get there.

There are shuttle busses that you can take to the event that runs from the city to the music festival area and back (every hour) RM15 / USD 5 or you can take the city ring busses that are every 15 minutes (but has more stops in between) for RM1 (USD 0.33). You also have the option of hiring a private taxi for the day, but be prepared to pay over RM150 / USD 50 per day. The upside of course being you get your own private car, and can come and go whenever you want.

More details here

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(The main hall for workshop)

3)   What is there to do there? Are there food and drinks?

So you have the option of buying a 3 day pass or a daily pass (day of your choice). Each pass enables you to attend all the musical workshops in the afternoon, and the main concert at night. I would recommend at least checking out one of the workshops. Because of the location, these musical workshops are actually held in different traditional Sarawakian houses. They usually bring together a mix of the different performers – e.g. all the percussion players, and introduce and explain a bit about the music or the instruments. It’s really informal, and really gives you a “Kumbaya” moment of solidarity. Be warned, it can get very very hot in some of these houses.

Rainforest Music Festival 059(Workshop in a traditional longhouse)

For those who want to see something else, there are stalls of food, drinks (including alcohol), arts and crafts, and ppl just selling things peppered all around the cultural village. So relax, get yourself a burger and a nice cold milkshake, and chill out watching the mountain.

And of course at night, head over to the main area where you can find ppl up close to the stage rocking it out (including head banging and mud dancing mind you) or bring a deck chair, or mat, or newspaper and lay it out on the hillier area and chill out to the sounds of the rainforest.

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(The main concert, held at the foothill of Mt. Santubong, with the rainforest behind the stages)

4) And of course…what should I wear??

RWMFc(Chillin’ out in the area. Check out the stalls, including getting an awesome tribal haircut, and trying on the indigenous clothing)

It’s going to be HOT HOT HOT out there. Especially if you’re heading out during the afternoon for the workshops. So put on your shorts, and a tank top, or a sun dress if you want (but remember you may want to sit on the ground). Don’t forget sunglasses, bug sprat, and sunblock! Sarawakians are pretty casual and laid-back about clothing at this festival, so odds are you won’t be pissing anybody off =)

As one of the performers sang out last year

“Love! Peace! Mother Nature!”

Get your tickets now, from here. They sell out every year since they limit entry to 8,000 people per day only. You have approximately one month to go.  

Rainforest Music Festival 241

p/s: If you go to Kuching in June, you are also highly likely to be able to catch a glimpse of these guys – the Orang Utan, out in the wild, at Semenggoh Orang Utan center, located ~20-30 minutes from Kuching.