Kuching is not a place you come to ‘just visit’. Intimate, laid-back, rich in history and natural Borneoan rainforests, it is no wonder that this city is so alluring for travellers seeking balance from life’s constant mad rush. Besides, its people are so diverse that a multitude of experiences can be so contrasting and fascinating that one needs to experience Kuching themselves to personally savour the moment.
If you are ever coming to Kuching, then check out this list of the things to do and see what the Cat City has to offer for an unforgettable holiday.
1. Stroll along Kuching Waterfront
Kuching Waterfront is a 900m esplanade situated in the heart of the city. This beautiful walkway is filled with live music, mascots and vendors selling delicious street food. After dusk, the waterfront will reverberate with Darul Hana musical fountain in front of the State Legislative Building (DUN). To have an intimate experience, board the sunset river cruise or local wooden boat (penambang).
Darul Hana Musical Fountain Times:
Sun-Thu: 8:30pm and 9:30pm
Fri-Sat: 8:30pm, 9:30pm and 10:30pm
2. Explore Carpenter Street
The charm of the 19th century Chinese architecture will simply take you back to the olden days of Kuching. Carpenter street is also the birthplace of Sarawak Laksa, whereby once upon a time the streets were filled with Hainanese kopitiams (coffee shops).
When in Carpenter, check out Hiang Tiang Siang Ti temple at the end of the street, known for its intricate figurines on the roof and gold-covered diety statues. For a first-hand cultural experience, check out Indah House Kuching for intimate workshops on local cooking and silk painting.
3. Buy souvenirs at Main Bazaar
Buying souvenirs can be tricky. Some can be too expensive or sell too little varieties. But this is not the case in Main Bazaar Street, located in front parallel to Carpenter street. The whole street is practically selling souvenirs. Whether it is t-shirts, key chains, beads, décor blowpipes and shield, you will get what you want. However, do bring some cash as some shops do not accept cards.
Fact: Main Bazaar is the oldest street in Kuching.
4. Learn About Different Tribes at Sarawak Cultural Village
Sarawak comprises of 27 indigenous tribes with their own lifestyle, tradition, food and music. To simply know it all would take a long time. However, it is possible to get a crash course on the major ethnic group of Bidayuh, Iban, Orang Ulu, Penan, Malay, Chinese and Melanau by paying a visit to Sarawak Cultural Village. Here, visitors will learn the day-to-day life of every major ethnic group via the programmes, traditional replica buildings and cultural performances. Also, be sure to fill up your SCV passport with stamps of every pitstop as a memorable token.
SCV is located 35km away from Kuching City. For more information, head on to https://scv.com.my
5. Relax at Damai Central
After exploring SCV, don’t go back to the city yet. Just a few steps opposite SCV is Damai Central, a multi-purpose open complex is situated right next to the beach. Take a photo with the iconic hornbill landmark, ride a pony, grub on local delicacies at the food court or simply let your feet washed by the salty waves. This beachfront attraction is definitely a recommended spot if you are seeking to chill in a place that oozes a resort vibe, for free.
6. Learn the history of Sarawak’s White Rajahs
Did you know that Sarawak was ruled by the White Rajahs or The Brooke family before it regain sovereignity and gained independence? If observed carefully, there are plenty of colonial architectural details all over Kuching such as The Old Courthouse, The Main Post Office and Fort Margherita. For history buffs, the best place to learn about The White Rajah at an in-depth level is at The Brooke Gallery, Fort Margherita or Ranee Museum at the Old Court House.
Main Post Office
The Old Courthouse
For more information head on to www.brooketrust.org
7. Feed the orangutans at Semenggoh Nature Reserve
Here’s a fun fact, orangutans are the closest relatives to humans as they share nearly 97% of the same DNA. Here, visitors will get to learn about orang-utans, Semenggoh’s conservation programme, and even interact with them in exchange for fruit. Most of the time, the orangutans roam freely in the forest, but here they are trained to come back to the centre during free times.
For more information head on to https://semenggoh.my/about-us/
8. Attend Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF)
Globe-trotting music fan will appreciate attending Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) because it is a mega celebration of world music, culture and heritage. With more and more music festivals popping up, RWMF is still in a class of its own. It has been awarded as one of the best 25 world music festivals by Songlines for six consecutive years from 2010 till 2015.
What’s truly special about RWMF is here people all congregate and celebrate music when the sun sets. During daytime, there are workshops where you get to have an intimate session with the performers. RWMF will be held on 10-12 July 2019, so be sure to book your tickets way early.
9. Eat breakfast like the locals
Eat laksa or what Anthony Bourdain dub as ‘breakfast of the Gods’. Creamy and rich, you will not find any other like it. Savour your tastebuds with a bowl of Laksa at either Chong Choon, Mom’s Laksa, Pak Amit Café or Laksa Dewi at FuYu café. Each shops has their own specialty. Once your tongue has tasted this mighty laksa, you will definitely be hooked. If you wish for something lighter, opt for Kolo Mee (combination of noodle, meat and vegetables tossed in a soup) instead.
For the best breakfast combo, pair it with Teh C Peng Special, Sarawak’s own version of three layered tea which is made of tea, evaporated milk and gula apong (palm sugar) syrup. Give it a good stir before you gulp this thirst-quenching drink.
Teh C Peng Special
10. Check out the first Malaysian Augmented Reality (AR) Mural at India Street
Murals of cats, hornbills, orang-utans and Sarawakian motifs are common in every nook and cranny in the City of cats. One mural you cannot miss is the Mural Art at India Street. Thanks to the power of technology, you can hear the stories of these two pioneer merchants in India Street once you point your phone’s camera to this mural. All you need is to download ARx Xense app before. Then you can resume your shopping at India Street where you will find lots of bargained Sarawak textiles and street foods.
Photo credit: Facebook/Terence Tan
11. Take photo with Cat Statues
You cannot visit Cat city without paying a visit to the cat statues. Kuching means ‘cat’ in the Malay language. There are a number of these feline monuments around the city. The famous one is of course right in the heart of the city opposite of McDonalds. There is also one at the Padungan roundabout entering Chinatown.
12. Stay in a longhouse
The best way to fully experience and understand the culture of a community is by checking into a homestay. When we mean homestay, we mean longhouse. Annah Rais longhouse is one that’s reputed to be the oldest Bidayuh longhouse located on the hilly areas of the Penrissen range. Located 60km away from Kuching, it is one of the nearest and easiest longhouse to access. In Annah Rais, visitors will get to try bamboo rafting, experience the ultimate jungle spa by soaking in hotspring and eat a couple Bidayuh cuisines.
13. Take a day trip to Bako National Park
Bako national park is your getaway to a plethora of unique flora, exotic faunas, refreshing waterfalls, undisturbed rainforest trails and secluded white sandy beaches. It is also home to the wildlife such as proboscis monkey. It has so much natural beauty that some might even say that Pandan Kecil is the next Krabi. With a variety of unique seastacks greeting you along the way to Bako in your boat, you might not want to go back home.
14. Smell orchids at Sarawak Orchid Garden
Stop over by Sarawak Orchid Garden to whiff the scent of various Borneo Orchids found in this garden. This garden houses over a total of 75,000 plants of 82 genera. It is also the home of the State’s very own flower, the Normah Orchid or Phalaenopsis Bellina in its scientific name. Other orchids that you can find are Lady’s Slipper and Bulbophyllum Beccari.
Admission to the Garden is free for the public. It is open every day except Monday from 9:30am to 6:00pm.