Every year in July thousands of strangers gather in the rainforest of Borneo to dance in the mud and tropical rain to music by performers from all over the world.
The Rainforest Music Festival - one of the largest music festivals in Southeast Asia - is an exciting culmination of culture, workshops, and live entertainment held every year just outside of Kuching, Malaysia. In 2010, more than 22,000 people attended the three-day festival to experience music and traditional instruments from nearly every continent.
If you happen to be in Southeast Asia in July, the Rainforest Music Festival is an experience not to be missed. Many people plan their entire vacations around attending the festival every year!
What to Expect at the Rainforest Music Festival
The Rainforest Music Festival is held annually at the Sarawak Cultural Village, a sprawling resort surrounded by lush rainforest. The two main stages come alive in the evening, however workshops, cultural demonstrations, and miniature shows fill the afternoon with exciting activities.
A matrix of wooden walkways circumnavigating a small lake are lined with booths for food, souvenirs, and crafts. The grounds of the Sarawak Cultural Village are well-maintained and educational to explore. Traditional longhouses are converted into venues for workshops and other musical demonstrations to keep everyone entertained until the headlining performers begin.
Dancing in the rain is an annual tradition at the Rainforest Music Festival. The rain - expected and even welcomed - has no real impact on the festival. The grassy field in front of the two stages is soon converted to a big, muddy pit by people dancing.
Tips for Attending the Rainforest Music Festival
- Food, drinks, and pets are prohibited, however water bottles are allowed inside.
- Arrive early; the intimate workshops with the musicians are not to be missed.
- If possible, purchase your ticket in advance from the Tourist Office in Kuching to avoid waiting at the gate.
- Plan to get wet and possibly muddy; waterproof your camera and money.
- There is no ATM available; bring enough money from Kuching.
- Food at the festival is lower quality than the food in Kuching.
- Beer and alcohol at the festival are relatively expensive.
- Many of the same souvenirs, crafts, and t-shirts are cheaper when purchased in Kuching rather than at the festival.
The gates open at the Rainforest Music Festival at 10 a.m. with the big acts beginning at 7 p.m. The final performance ends around midnight. If you stay until the end, plan on queuing for a bus back to Kuching.
Rainforest Music Festival Tickets
To shorten the wait at the entrance gate, tickets can be purchased in advance from the Tourist Information Office in Kuching. The Tourist Information Office is located in the white colonial building on the waterfront just west of Chinatown. A limited number of tickets are available at the office, check with them as soon as you arrive in Kuching.
Rainforest Music Festival tickets can be purchased either for individual days or in a three-day package. One-day tickets are available at the gate on each day of the festival, however the three-day ticket must be purchased in advance.
Never buy your ticket from people on the street!
Ticket prices and more sales information on the official site. (offsite)
The headlining acts for the Rainforest Music Festival are different from year to year. Check the official website for performer information and schedules: RWMF Performers 2012 (offsite)
Getting to the Rainforest Music Festival
The city of Kuching in Sarawak, Borneo is the gateway to the festival. Both Air Asia and Malaysian Air operate budget flights from Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to Kuching (KCH).
Chartered buses run hourly from in front of the Grand Margherita Hotel located at the east end of the waterfront in Kuching. Buses make the 45-minute journey to the festival every hour; you must purchase a ticket inside the hotel before boarding the bus.
The fare to the Sarawak Cultural Village is about $3.50 one-way; it is best to buy a return ticket, there is usually a long wait for buses back to Kuching when the festival closes. The last bus back to Kuching leaves the festival at 1 a.m.
Other transportation options are available, check for fliers at hostels and hotels the week of the festival.
The Sarawak Cultural Village
The Sarawak Cultural Village is open to the public even when the Rainforest Music Festival is not in progress. Cultural displays, traditional longhouses, and educational boards tell about the unique history and culture of Sarawak.
For more information, visit http://www.scv.com.my (offsite)