Kuching- Part 1-Tourism

This is a 5 part series that showcases my experiences at the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) and also what I did in the city of Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia.

Part 1 – RWMF overview, Part 2 – RWMF – My festival experiences

Part 1 – Kuching Tourism, Part 2 – Kuching – My Tours

Part 3 – Kuching cuisine

Kuching Part 1 – Things to do in and around Kuching

Stunning Sarawak –

Sarawak is an endearing combination of the modern and ancient. Being a state that was under the rule of ‘British Rajahs’, its aura continues to bear the legacy in the form of old monuments, museums and relics, that blend seamlessly with its current avatar.

The present day State is now very modern and its major cities can match any contemporary city in the world, with their excellent roads and infrastructure.

 

 

Sarawak stuns the visitor right from the first view that it offers from the sky. The eyes are met with stretches of of green that carpet the land as far as one can see and its several water bodies intertwine with the land and meander through in S(nake) like patterns.  The coastline is marked with streams of water emptying into the South China Sea.

Known for its natural beauty and dense jungles that host a large variety of flora and fauna, this place is home to some of the well known National Parks.

The long coastline also offers beach lovers great experiences and there are several luxury resorts by the sea.

Towards the interiors of the state, are the highland regions which are perfect for jungle trekking. Apart from that, there are activities that include mountain biking and bird watching, with several exotic birds of the region.  There is also a variety flora and fauna and also rare and unique jungle fruits, seeds and plants that are used in their indigenous cuisines.

Given below are a few of the sightseeing options and activities within the city of Kuching and its nearby surroundings.

Kuching –

Kuching is called cat city and there are various legends (none verified) as to how it got its connection with the felines. One of the stories say that say that since Kucing means cat in Malay, this city developed the association with cats. There are cats in every form, right from iconic statues to motifs on handicrafts and even to tattoos.

Kuching as a city and Sarawak in general, offer the tourist a host of options.

The city of Kuching, is situated on the banks of the 120 km long, serpentine River Sarawak which is the main waterway through the city and almost cuts the city into two.

The city is large, spacious, beautifully planned, has great roads and friendly and knowledgeable people who are ready to help at any time. In short it is safe, soothing, savvy and sensitive to the needs of  global travellers, offering them a refreshing, relaxing and entertaining time.

What to do in Kuching and its surroundings –

1 – Kuching City Tour – A brief tour of Kuching could take you past the various cat monuments,  Square Tower, old Court House, the Tua Pek Kong which is one of the oldest Chinese temples, the South city hall and the Kuching Waterfront Esplanade. This is a multi religious city and there are many beautiful churches, mosques and Chinese temples to be seen.

 

2 – Kuching Cruises  – down the River Sarawak, take you on evening sunset sails, to glimpse the riverside sights.

The New Sarawak State Assembly building (the Parliament house that is shaped like a farmer’s hat), the Astana – the residence of the Governor of Sarawak and the Fort Margherita, are located on the Northern bank and are visible up close from the river. The Golden bridge is a new addition across the Sarawak river and at night the bridge and assembly building are illuminated and reflect like jewels in the river.

 

3 – The waterfront – along the river bank is a popular hang out, where one can stroll in the evenings, enjoying the breeze and view. At nights, stalls are set up selling everything from clothes to souvenirs and tables and chairs are placed for diners who choose to eat from the makeshift restaurants selling a variety of food and drink.

There are also musicians providing live entertainment along the esplanade.

4 – The local shopping – area runs parallel to the waterfront and one can visit the rows of shops selling everything from local produce to clothes to traditional handicrafts which are mainly of wood or woven from the variety of grasses and reeds that grow in the land.

 

Plaza Merdeka is one of the popular shopping complexes in the area near the waterfront, with several stores selling branded ware. It also has the Everise supermarket where one can buy food products and other goods.

There is an open street side market just at the entrance to the Plaza where clothes, souvenirs, food etc are available.

5 – Satok Weekend Market –

As is obvious, this market functions on Saturdays and Sundays and is a space for local sellers to showcase fruits, vegetables, handicrafts, forest produce, plants and local delicacies. It is about 6 km away from the waterfront at the city center and should not be missed by visitors who want to have a taste of the local produce.

6 – Cat museum –

The city of cats has a cat museum … but of course. This is tucked away in a little corner of the Kuching North City Hall building that is situated high up on a hillock from where one has a panoramic view of the city. The museum has a large cat as the doorway and has over 4000 bits of cat memorabilia (or as I would say – meow’morabilia) with posters, paintings, statues, figurines, souvenirs etc. Entry is free but cameras and video cameras are charged RM 3 and 5 respectively. One can spend about 30 min here or more, if one is a crazy cat lover 😀

 

7 – Sarawak Museum – (Orang Ulu museum)

The Sarawak museum has a good collection of ethnic art and crafts. One can also watch a short film that tells us about Sarawak’s ethnic tribes and their ancient beliefs.

Also kept here are the skull trophies of the head hunting tribes of yore.

There are 2 tall Orang Ulu klirieng poles in front of the building. These are burial poles where the bones of the dead are placed in the little hut at the top of the poles.

The main Museum is currently closed for renovation and many of the exhibits are now housed in the adjacent building.

Entry is free.

Surroundings of Kuching – 

A few of the places of interest in the surroundings of Kuching are mentioned below –

1 – Damai Beach – is the nearest beach to Kuching city and is around 35 km away. There are 3 resorts in this area.

2 – Sarawak Cultural village – is in the Damai area and is a one stop mini experience of Sarawak’s tribal culture and traditions. It is 35 km from Kuching and takes around 40 min by road.

Photo Credit – Sarawak Cultural Village

This was also the venue for the Rainforest World Music Festival 2018.

3 – Semengohh Orang Utan rehabilitation center – This nature reserve is a sanctuary for Orang utans that have been rescued and are being rehabilitated to be released into their natural habitat. The orang utans can be spotted during feed timings. Details are on the link below. Pic taken from the  Sarawak Tourism Website. Check the link for other details.

Semengohh is around 20 km from Kuching and could take 30 min by road.

4 – Matang Wildlife Center –

One can also spot orang utans at Matang where there also are deer, crocodiles, sun bears, civets etc as well as aviaries with hornbills and other native birdlife of Sarawak.

Matang is around 35 km from Kuching and could take 45 min by road.

5 – Anna Rais longhouse – A longhouse is a tribal settlement where several hundred families of a tribe live together in traditionally built abodes made almost entirely of wood. The one closest to Kuching city is the Anna Rais longhouse which is a Bidayuh tribal settlement. It is 56 km from from Kuching and  around 1 hour by road.

This is a popular tourist halt, being one of the closest tribal villages to the city. One can actually get a feel of tribal life and also have a meal or even stay at the 9-10 home stay options here. The visitor has to register at the entrance and is given a welcome shot of Tuak which is the locally brewed rice wine. Herbs, local snacks and wines like barley, sugarcane etc are also available on sale and are displayed in front of the houses.

There is an eerie Pangah (head house) where skulls of the victims of head hunters of yore are exhibited as a legacy of their (fortunately past) tradition 😀

 

6 – Various National parks –

Sarawak’s National Parks (teman negara) are scattered all over the state. There are around 15 important parks.

The one that is closer to Kuching and also very popular among visitors, is the Bako national Park which forms the tip of the Muara Tebas peninsula that juts out into the South China sea. Here one can have have a choice of 14 trekking trails (all pretty strenuous) and also spot rare wildlife like the endangered Proboscis monkey that is endemic to Borneo, the Silver leaf monkey, the Long tailed macaque, Bornean bearded pig, the Green Keeled Pit viper and several unusual birds of the region.

It is also a botanists delight with hundreds of remarkable species of flora including the carnivorous Pitcher plant.

Its pristine beaches and stunning sandstone rock formations (sea stacks) are straight out of paradise. Bako is a must visit place and is accessible only via a 20 minute boat ride across the water from the boat jetty and not by road.

Bako is 23 km from Kuching and takes around 30 min by road. One can also camp overnight at the park and there are various stay options and also a restaurant for visitors.

More information can be found here.

For more pictures see My Facebook – Kuching – Things to do – Part 1,2

For stories on my experiences in Kuching, please click here.

 


General information – 

Getting to Kuching from Kuala Lumpur –

There are several flights in a day, that connect Kuala Lumpur to Kuching. One can choose between Air Asia, Malaysian Airlines, Malindo Air which operate direct flights. There are also connecting flights from other airports like Singapore etc.

My travel dates – July 11th-16th, 2018

RWMF dates – July 13th-15th (Fri-Sun), 2018

Please Note – I visited Kuching and attended the festival, on the invitation of the Sarawak Tourism Board and Tourism Malaysia, which sponsored my flights, stay and related activities and I thank them for the same. The narrative is based on the inputs that I received from various sources as well as my own experiences.

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