Bandar Sri Aman and around

Previously called Simmanggang, Bandar Sri Aman lies on the Batang Lupar, a three- to four-hour journey from Kuching, and is the administrative capital of the Second Division. The river is famous for its tidal bore; several times a year, a wall of water rushes upstream wreaking havoc with boats and divides into several tributaries: the Skrang River is one of these. It is possible to spend the night in longhouse homestays on the river. The Batang Ai National Park is home to hornbills, orang-utans and gibbons.

Ins and outs

Bandar Sri Aman is accessible from Kuching and Sibu by bus. To reach Skrang longhouses, buses and then chartered boats must be arranged. There is one hotel in Batang Ai National Park. It arranges transport for its guests. Trips to longhouses and the national park can be organized through
Borneo Adventure Travel Company.

Sights

The major sight in Bandar is the defensive Fort Alice. Most tourists do not stop in Bandar but pass through on day trips from Kuching to visit traditional Iban longhouses sited along the Skrang River. The route to Bandar goes through pepper plantations and many 'new' villages. During Communist guerrilla activity in the 1960s, whole settlements were uprooted in this area and placed in guarded camps.

Fort Alice
was constructed in 1864. It has small turrets, a central courtyard, a medieval-looking drawbridge and is surrounded by a fence of iron spikes. Rajah Charles Brooke lived in the Batang Lupar district for about 10 years, using this fort - and another downriver at Lingga - as bases for his punitive expeditions against pirates and Ibans in the interior. The fort is the only one of its type in Sarawak and was built commanding this stretch of the Batang Lupar River as protection against Iban raids. The original fort here was built in 1849 and named Fort James; the current fort was constructed using much of the original material. It was renamed Alice in honour of Ranee Margaret Brooke (it was her second name). It is said that every evening, until the practice was ended in 1964, a policeman would call from the fort (in Iban): “Oh ha! Oh ha! The time is now eight o'clock. The steps have been drawn up. The door is closed. People from upriver, people from downriver, are not allowed to come to the fort anymore.” (It probably sounded better in Iban.)

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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