Lawas is a small town in Sarawak that has become a busy transit point between Sarawak, Sabah and Brunei. Travelling to or from Lawas by road requires immigration checks. Mengkalap border checkpoint located to the west of Lawas checks for travelling to or from Brunei while Merapok border checkpoint located to the east of Lawas checks for travelling to or from Sabah. Locals of Lawas comprises of Lunbawang, Kedayan, Brunei Malay, Murut, Tagal and Chinese. The main language spoken is Brunei Malay, Kedayan, Lunbawang and Hokkien. Lawas or ‘Luas’ in Bahasa Melayu means a spacious and wide area.
In the olden days, people lived in group in the spacious area and settle down. There is a legend involving a group of merchants being attacked and chased after by a group of pirates at Kuala Lawas. They escaped and retreated at Lawas. At the time, the place was a very thick jungle and they managed to hide. The pirates could not find them in the ‘luas’ area and so, they returned to the sea. The group of merchants are saved and hence the name ‘Lawas’ is referring to the incident of being relief.
There are flights to and from Miri, Ba’kelalan and Kota Kinabalu served at Lawas Airport by MASWings.
Minivans and local buses operated by Lawas Bus Company carry passengers to and from neighbouring towns like Trusan, Punang, Sundar, Merapok as well as Beaufort in Sabah.
Boat services are available at Lawas Wharf every morning. Destination offers include the journey to and from Brunei, Labuan and Limbang.
Tamu Lawas or Lawas Produce Market is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Lawas, which is held every Saturday. The market provides local products such as fresh vegetables, fruits and sea foods. Ba’kelalan in Lawas is a highland village famous for its fine rice, highland iodine salt and tropical apple yard. The Ba’kelalan fine rice costs around RM 20 per bushel.
Lawas hosted the annual celebration of the Irau Aco Lun Bawang Festival or Hari Gawai Dayak Harvest Festival, a fest to celebrate the end of harvest season by providing offerings and get to entertain while waiting to resume new planting cycle.
Lawas is known as the producer of smoked fish called ‘Tahai’. One of the villages that produces ‘Tahai’ is Kampung Awat-awat in Sundar, Lawas. Tahai is made from the small Tamban fish. Other cheap and tasty fish is called Beritus that is usually seasoned with salt and deep fried served with hot, white rice.
Other famous fish dishes in Lawas include the Soon Hock fish or Ikan Batutu and also Ikan Sema, river fishes found in Lawas and Trusan River. Lawas also has plenty of mud crabs that can be ordered from the local seafood restaurant.
A unique dessert to the highlands of Lawas is called “Ekor Kuyuk” also known as “Beras Jawa”. It is not available in coffee shop since Beras Jawa or Javanese rice is very expensive, which costs around RM 100 per bushel. Therefore, if anyone would like to have a try, an order has to be placed a day earlier. The dessert is made from Beras Jawa cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaves extract.
This is the only hotel situated in Lawas town. This hotel is likable by many tourist travelling solo, accompanied with friends or family. It provides a pleasant and comfortable stay while being in Lawas town.