Saturday, August 15, 2009
Welcome to Kuching
Kuching, the state capital of Sarawak (pop. 450,000 approx.), is one of the most interesting cities in Southest Asia, and one of Malaysia's most rewarding travel destinations. It has everything the discerning traveler could wish for. Kuching's romantic and unlikely history features a hundred-year dynasty of White Rajahs. Its rich and varried architectural heritage mixes many styles and influences, whilst the relaxed hospitality of its charming citizens is an object lesson in multi-culturalism. It is also the perfect base for discovering Sarawak's interior.
The city's main thoroughfare is the broad, meandering Sarawak River. In days gone by its banks were a hive of trading activity, watched over by the White Rajah from his palace. The river remainsthe focus of city life even today. The beautifully landscaped Kuching Waterfront - popular with visitors and locals alike - provides an excellent starting point for a stroll around the city centre.
Most of the main attractions are close to the Waterfront and the central business and hotel district, so a walking tour is the best way to really appreciate the city, soaking up the sights, the sounds and the atmosphere. It is very easy to cover the city center on foot or in one of the small ferries, or perahu tambang, that ply across the river. The old town consists of row upon row of 19th century Chinese shophouses, fanning out from Main Bazaar, Kuching's oldest street, These bustling streets are a browser's paradise, crammed full of restaurants, food stalls, and art and curio shops. Mosques, temples and churches are also dotted throughout the city center.
Kuching has literally dozens of historic buildings - even the courthouse and the post office are unique examples of colonial period architecture. The excellent museums include the historic Sarawak Museum, with one of the best ethnographis collections in Southeast Asia. Equally fascinating are the Islamic Museum, the Chinese History Museum and the Police Museum in Fort Margherita. Kuching means 'cat' in Malay, and a short ride to Kuching North City Hall brings you to the world's first and only Cat Museum.
The city's many attractions are backed up by excellent facilities and services. Accommodation includes international class hotels, small family run hotels, budget inns and backpacker hostels. Shoppers are spoilt for choice with modern malls, a host of traditional shophouses, and colourful street markets. The shophouses around Main Bazaar offer the best selection of arts and traditional handicrafts in the whole of Borneo, and for ecotic jungle produce and superb photo opportunities, the weekend market is in a class of its own.
Kuching has a range of sport and recreation facilities, including some excellent golf courses. Entertainment is taken care of by cineplexes, pubs, karaoke lounges, hotel bars and discotheques.
Eating out is Kuching's main leisure activity, with superb seafood as the highlight. A wide range of Malaysian and international cuisine is also available in hotels and air-conditioned restaurants.
Kuching has enough attractions to keep you busy for days, or even weeks. You can discover the tropical splendor of Borneo's rainforest at nearby national parks such as bako, Gunung Gading and Kubah. If you want to meet the indigenous people of Sarawak and enjoy their legendary hospitality, the Iban longhouses of the Skrang, Lemanak and Batang Ai rivers are all accessible from Kuching, as are a host of traditional Malay and Bidayuh villages. Local tour operators arrange visits, or you can make your own arrangements.
Nearby Damai is Sarawak's main beach resort area. Just 40 minutes from Kuching, it offers international class resort hotels, a jungle activity center, the world-famous Sarawak Cultural Village and a challenging, Arnold Palmer designed golf course, as well as sleepy fishing villages and rugged jungle scenery.
Kuching International Airport is only 20 minutes from the town center and 45 minutes from Damai. There are frequent flights to Kuala Lumpur, Johor Baru, Kota kinabalu (Sabah) and all of Sarawak's major towns. International connections include Singapore, Brunei, Manila, Perth, Hong Kong and Pontianak (Indonesia). Kuching is also connected by road with all of Sarawak's major towns, and there are fast express boat services to many local destinations.