Kuching, the capital city of Sarawak, has many things to offer to its visitors. There’s an experience to be had for everyone, young or old. From shopping to gastronomic experience, to nature and history. The name of the city, Kuching, is thought to derive from the Malay word kucing which means cat or from the Chinese word for port which is pronounced as cochin. Others also claimed that it might have been named after a lychee-like fruit called Mata Kuching or Cat’s Eye, which was a popular trade item of the city.
There are many ways to get around in Kuching. The public transportations such as buses and taxis are efficient and are in abundance. Apart from that tourists in Kuching can also experience a more scenic view of the town by taking a ride in boat shuttles that takes passengers to various points across the river. For tourists who are staying in hotels, there’s the free City Tram that will take its passengers to the major sights once in every hour. Walking around in the city is also another alternative, as most of the streets are pedestrian-friendly with tree-lined sidewalks. For those who prefer to do their own driving and exploring of the city, there’s the car rental services which has a selection of cars for rent, provided that the person has a valid driving licence.
Museums & Historical Buildings
There are many things to explore in Kuching. For those who are interested in the local history of the city, there are clusters of museums and historical building to visit.
This museum is considered to have the best collection within Southeast Asia and it houses one of the best ethnographic collections. The old wing, designed as a Normandy town-house, first opened its doors in 1891. Located on Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg, the grounds of the museum also houses the Aquarium, the Heroes’ Memorial and the Botanical Gardens. Open daily from 9.00am to 6.00pm.
The Islamic Museum houses seven galleries exhibiting Islamic artefacts and is the first Islamic Museum ever built in Southeast Asia. The building which houses the museum is the actual Maderasah Melayu Building which has been beautifully restored to its form now. Located on Jalan P. Ramlee, this museum is also accessible from the rear of the new wing of the Sarawak Museum. Open daily from 9.00am to 6.00pm.
Chinese History Museum
Located on the waterfront opposite the Tua Pek Kong Temple, this museum houses the exhibits on Chinese Migration, their early trade routes and trading activities. It also traces the history of the Chinese community is Sarawak. Open daily from 9.00am to 6.00pm.
This is cat lovers’ paradise, the first museum in the world to dedicate its exhibit to all things feline, from feline art, photos to souvenirs. The museum is located in Petra Jaya and is open daily from 9.00am to 5.00pm. (closed on Public Holiday)
Built by Charles Brooke in 1870 as a bridal gift for his wife Ranee Margaret, the majestic looking Astana consist of three separate building which is fused into one. Situated across the north bank of the river, opposite the waterfront, this historical landmark however is not opened to the general public as it is now an official residence of the Governor of Sarawak.
Named after Charles Brooke’s wife Ranee Margaret, this building was built in 1879. Strategically located along the Sarawak River, it was built to overlook the stretch of river approaching Kuching, to guard it from pirates. Now the building houses the Police Museums. To enter the museum, as it is located within the Police Training Barracks, visitors might need to present some form of identification.
The Square Tower
Built in 1879 as a fortress, the building now is used as the multimedia information centre and video theatre, providing information on Sarawak’s tourist attractions.
Constructed as a fort in 1886, the Round Tower then was used as a dispensary. Restored in 2003, to its current form it is now currently being used as the Sarawak Tourism Complex, which houses the Visitor Information Centre.
For those who love shopping, there are many things that you can get from Kuching, from buying small souvenir items to buying antiques. There’s a row of shops at the waterfront , known as Main Baazar street, where you can buy souvenir items like the handcrafted wooden mask or bowls, textiles, bemban (reed) baskets, rattan mats and terendak hats among many other arts and crafts. In between shopping, visitors can rest their feet and enjoy a cup of coffee at some of the old-fashioned coffee shops.
For those who enjoy good food, Kuching has a fair share to offer. The Sarawak Laksa, the state’s signature dish is something that is not to be missed. Made of thin rice noodle (vermicelli) submerged in rich gravy that is made of prawn paste, lemongrass, coconut milk, tamarind, topped with generous toppings of bean sprouts, chicken and omelette strips, is best served piping hot.
Among other signature dishes that are not to be missed, are the Kolo Mee, Manok Pansoh, Bubur Pedas and Ambal or Bamboo Clam.
For a first time visitor to Kuching or even to Sarawak for that matter, one should not miss the opportunity to go to the Sarawak Cultural Village which is situated approximately 35km or 40 minutes drive away from Kuching town. Located at the foothills of the legendary Mount Santubong, the visit to the cultural village will usually sum up the cultural experience that one will need when visiting Sarawak, should you have limited time to stay in Sarawak. The 14 acres living museum showcases the heritage of the major racial groups in Sarawak. Here one will be able to see ethnic diversity, from the types of abode that they live in, to the different forms of dance and handicrafts that each racial group produces.
Visitors to the Sarawak Cultural Village will get the opportunity to visit the Bidayuh Longhouse, Iban Longhouse, Penan Hut, Orang Ulu Longhouse, Melanau Tall House, Malay House and Chinese Farmhouse and also participate in some of the activities that each house offers. Also not to be missed is the 45 minutes cultural performance of songs, dances and entertainment.
Once a year the Sarawak Cultural Village will also play host to the Rainforest World Music Festival. This 3-day event will see renowned world musicians from all continents and people from all around the world gathering to enjoy ethnic music and indigenous culture of the world amidst the lush of the rainforest and the serenity of nature.
To sum it all up, Kuching is a city that has a lot to offer to its visitors and is an experience to be had. The colourful city and people makes Kuching a destination that you would want to come back to.