Abd Karim: Over half million visitors for Borneo Cultures Museum since opening


Abang Johari signs the plaque for the restaurant. Looking on from right are Ngui, Abang Johari’s wife Puan Sri Datuk Amar Juma’ani Tuanku Bujang, Abdul Karim, and restaurant founder Damien Sii. – Photo by Chimon Upon

KUCHING (Jan 19): The Borneo Cultures Museum (BCM) has received more than half a million visitors in the last 10 months since it opened to the public, said Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.

The Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Minister said the museum was officially opened on March 4, 2022 and opened to the public on March 9.

“Until today the number of visitors who have visited Borneo Cultures Museum, if I am not mistaken is 572,000. That is a big number.

“I believe, although we did not do a survey on other buildings, this is the most visited building in the whole of Sarawak,” he said during the grand opening of the Borneo Cultures Museum Restaurant by Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg last night

Abdul Karim said the figure reflects the state government’s successful efforts to showcase the cultures of Sarawak in the museum.

He said there has also been very good feedback from visiting dignitaries, including Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah, who spent hours in the museum during her two visits.

Ambassadors paying courtesy calls on the Head of State and Premier also make a point to visit this museum, he said.

“I think the effort made by the state government in building this big structure has been able to unite the locals. Everyone feels proud whether you are Chinese, Dayak, Malay, Melanau, all of us feel proud. If you take a stroll inside, there is definitely a part of your culture inside here.

“This is a unique type of landmark, something that all Sarawakians are very proud of,” he said.

He noted that the restaurant has created quite an impact since its soft opening in August last year and shared that a couple from Singapore even had their wedding reception there.

He applauded restaurant founder Ngui Ing Ing and her team for being able to attract many diners despite early challenges.

He added his ministry is contemplating opening the museum on certain nights.

“We will try (to allow those who) come for dining and then spend some time strolling the floors here to see what is being showcased and view the artefacts,” he said.

Ngui said the restaurant project started after securing a lease from the Museum Department in mid-May 2022.

“The restaurant opened its doors to the public in July 2022, in line with the opening of the Borneo Cultures Museum. It held a soft opening on 8th August 2022. In hindsight, it has always been my vision to set up a restaurant that complements or forms part of the identity of the beautiful Borneo Cultures Museum, which we are all proud of.

“But it is also a tall challenge as the vision requires the restaurant interior and menu to reflect how tradition can blend well with modernity to create unique dining experiences,” she said.

She added there has been encouraging feedback from patrons since the restaurant’s opening.

Some of the highlights include a visit by Singaporean celebrity chef Violet Oon, who has been Singapore’s food ambassador since 1988.

The restaurant also recently received an entourage from the Malacca Heritage Museum, who were keen to learn about the restaurant in a museum concept, while the Sabah Museum has also invited Ngui to set up a similar restaurant in Kota Kinabalu.

Ngui, who also operates the Roundtower 1881 Cafe & Restaurant, said the food service industry is labour intensive and requires long hours and a significant human touch.

“As a community, we are responsible for grooming our youth as they are our future. And learning-by-doing is the best way to acquire skills. Both my restaurants currently provide internship placements for UCSI and i-CATS students.

“This year, I am exploring new opportunities to collaborate with universities or the government to train and certify young people in the food service industry or hospitality sector,” said Ngui, who hails from Bintangor and is Sarawak National Youth Organisation (Saberkas) treasurer.