The capital city of Sarawak is not just a place that you come to ‘just visit’. Intimate, laid-back, rich in history and natural Bornean rainforests, Kuching calls to travellers seeking balance from the constant hustle and bustle of life.
If you ever find yourself in the Cat City of Kuching, check out this list of 30 things to do and see 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, stalls and vendors selling delicious street food. For a stunning view of the waterfront and the city, board the sunset river cruise or one of the wooden penambang boats! At dusk, the waterfront comes alive with the Darul Hana musical fountain in front of the State Legislative Building (DUN).
Darul Hana Musical Fountain times:
Sun-Thu: 8.30pm and 9.30pm . Friday-Sat: 8.30pm, 9.30pm and 10.30pm
2. Explore Carpenter Street
Walking down Carpenter Street will take you back to how Kuching was half a century ago. The 19th century Chinese architecture and the narrow streets are home to various kopitiams, bars and shops, as well as the Hiang Tiang Siang Ti Temple, known for its intricate figurines and gold covered deity 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 a daunting task, so how about a whole street of them?! The Main Bazaar Street, located near Carpenter Street sells all kinds of souvenirs from t-shirts, key chains, beaded jewellery, and rattan bags to little cat statues, and is the oldest street in Kuching.
4. Learn about different tribes at Sarawak Cultural Village
Sarawak Cultural Village is basically a crash course on some of the many indigenous tribes of Sarawak like the Bidayuh, Iban, Orang Ulu, Penan, Malay, Chinese and Melanau. Visitors will have the chance to explore the 18-acre grounds and traditional houses, learn the day-to-day life of each ethnic group and enjoy cultural performances. Be sure to fill up your ’passport’ with stamps of each stop as a memorabilia!
SCV is located 35km away from Kuching. For more information, head on to https://scv.com.my/.
5. Relax at Damai Central
After exploring Sarawak Cultural Village, don’t head back to town yet! Just a few steps out of the main entrance is Damai Central, a multi-purpose open complex situated right next to the beach. Take a photo with the iconic hornbill landmark, ride a pony, ride an ATV, grub on local delicacies or simply let the salty waves wash over your feet. The beachfront attraction is a recommended spot if you’re looking to chill by the beach!
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 regaining sovereignty and independence? You can still see colonial-era architectural details all over Kuching like the Old Courthouse, the Main Post Office, the Round Tower, the Square Tower and Fort Margherita. For history buffs, the Brooke Gallery and Ranee Museum at the Old Court House are open to the public if you’re looking to learn more about The White Rajah.
For more information, check out www.brooketrust.org
Main Post Office
The Old Courthouse
7. Feed the orang-utans at Semenggoh Nature Reserve
Do you know that orang-utans are the closest relative to humans? We share nearly 97% of the same DNA! At Semenggoh Nature Reserve, visitors will get the chance to learn more about conservation efforts, see the semi-wild orang-utan colony in the reserve and explore the Botanical Research Centre, which houses various gardens and a nice pond. To help with conservation efforts, you can even adopt an orang-utan!
Semenggoh Nature Reserve is open daily including public holidays for two sessions, 8am to 10am and 2pm to 4pm. For more information, log onto https://semenggoh.my/.
8. Attend the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF)
The annual Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) is a three-day celebration of diverse music as well as Sarawakian culture, food and handicrafts. In the daytime, workshops are scattered within the venue, which allows festivalgoers to have a closer, more intimate session with performing artists. At night, everyone congregates at the main stage to celebrate music on the open field!
Held at Sarawak Cultural Village in the month of June, keep your eye out for the next RWMF by checking out https://rwmf.net/.
9. Eat breakfast like the locals
Sarawakians love their laksa and kolo mee! Dubbed as ‘Breakfast of the Gods’ by the late Anthony Bourdain, Sarawak Laksa is one of a kind noodle dish with a creamy and rich broth. If you prefer something lighter, go for Kolo Mee (dry noodles tossed in a savoury pork and shallot mixture)! Pair your dish with Teh C Peng Special, Sarawak’s own three layered tea, made of gula apong syrup, evaporated milk and topped off with tea. Give it a good stir before gulping down this thirst-quenching drink!
Teh C Peng Special
10. Check out local murals
You can pretty much find street everywhere around Kuching city centre, especially along India Street, Temple Street and Lebuh Wayang! Kuching’s street art scene is relatively easy to explore, and you can access most of these murals on foot from Kuching Waterfront.
11. Take photo with Cat statues
What’s a Cat City without cat statues? There are a number of cat statues around town centre, the most famous one being the family of cats located opposite Grand Margherita hotel as well as the white cat at the Padungan roundabout which the locals dress up in festive clothes come a celebration.
Hungry for more cats? Check out the Cat Museum at the Kuching North City Council.
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 stay homestay, we really mean longhouses! Annah Rais longhouse is reputed to be the oldest Bidayuh longhouse located on the hilly areas of the Penrissen range. Located 60km away from city centre, it is one of the nearest and easily accessible longhouse. Visitors will have a chance to soak in hot springs, try out Bidayuh cuisines and try bamboo rafting!
No. 9, Kupo Saba, Kampung Annah Rais Longhouse, Jalan Borneo Height, 93250 Kuching, Sarawak.
13. Take a day trip to Bako National Park
Bako National Park is your gateway to a plethora of unique flora, exotic faunas, refreshing waterfalls, undisturbed rainforest trails and secluded white sandy beaches. It is also home to wildlife such as the proboscis monkey and so much natural rock formations and beauty! With a variety of unique sea stacks greeting you as you make your way to Bako via boat, you won’t want to go back home!
14. Smell orchids at Sarawak Orchid Garden
Stop by Sarawak Orchid Garden to catch a whiff of various Borneo Orchids found in this garden, which houses over 75,000 plants of 82 genera. It is also home of the State flower, the Phalaenopsis Bellina or better known as the Normah Orchid. Other orchids that you can find are the Lady’s Slipper and Bulbophyllum Beccari.
Admission is free and the garden is open every day except Monday from 9.30am to 6pm.
15. Visit Borneo Cultures Museum
The newly opened Borneo Cultures Museum is a world-class museum with five stories of exhibition space meticulously sourced and arranged to reflect not just Sarawak’s rich cultural heritage and craft, but also the state’s different landscapes and historical journey into modern times. Filled with a mix of artefacts and interactive exhibits like augmented reality and virtual reality, Borneo Cultures Museum is more than your typical museum and is also fun for children!
16. Enjoy traditional ethnic cuisines
One of the most unique parts about Sarawak is the diverse ethnic groups living in it, each with their own styles and cuisines. Don’t leave Sarawak without tasting local favourites like Ayam Pansuh (Chicken cooked in bamboo), stir fried Midin, Terung Asam soup, fried Tempoyak, Umai and Dayak pork!
You can try these dishes and more at Pinggai Café or any Rumah Asap as well as Budaya Restaurant in Sarawak Cultural Village!
37, China St, 93000 Kuching, Sarawak.
17. Explore Jalan Padungan
Due to its proximity to the Main Bazaar, Jalan Padungan is basically an extension of the Main Bazaar. Look out for traditional Chinese pastry shops, traditional candies, excellent coffee shops, pubs and restaurant and specialist retailers, including an entire block of fruit and flower sellers! Flanked by cat statues on both ends of the street, take a walk down the Chinese shophouses of Jalan Padungan for a glimpse of what life’s like in the heart of Kuching.
18. Get up and personal with crocodiles
Located at the 18th Mile of the Kuching-Serian Highway, Jong’s Crocodile Farm is one of the largest and oldest crocodile farm in Malaysia. Set amidst tropical trees, lush vegetation and local fruit trees, the sanctuary is home to over two thousand crocodiles as well as other rare species of birds and animals found only on Borneo. Visitors get to walk freely amongst monkeys, leopard-cats, sunbears, bearcats, civets, pythons, southern cassowary and peacocks!
19. Visit a Rumah Asap
Rumah asap, which translates into smokehouse, has gained immense popularity in the past few years, as it combines the best of Dayak food, especially BBQ pork, with live busking. Smokehouses first started out in Miri and have made its way to other parts of Sarawak, and have evolved from one lone BBQ stand to a large food court style eatery frequently enjoyed by locals.
There are a few Rumah Asap in Kuching, namely:
- Langkau Arau Rumah Asap Dayak Stutong, Lot 303 MTLD Kampung Stutong Lorong 3, Jalan Stutong, Taman BDC, 93250 Kuching, Sarawak.
- Rumah Asap Tabuan Dayak, Jalan Tabuan Dayak, Tabuan Dayak, 93250 Kuching, Sarawak.
20. Attend Kuching Food Festival
Kuching Food Festival is an annual affair that takes place in the month of August at Council of the City of Kuching South Community Hall. The festival is a celebration of food, with vendors serving up interesting and creative specialty food, drinks and desserts from all over the world, along with a garden show and stage performance. Visitors get to indulge in everything from coconut ice cream, oyster omelette, rainbow grilled cheese and even crocodile meat!
21. Leisurely ride down Semadang River
The Semadang River, located on the upper part of the Sarawak River, is one of the best places for outdoor water sports, especially kayaking and bamboo rafting. Tours of the Semadang River are available, allowing visitors to experience the tranquillity of Mother Nature by bamboo rafting, used by locals for centuries.
22. Head down to Muara Tebas for the best seafood
The quaint Malay fishing village of Muara Tebas is home to one of the best seafood spots in Kuching, Muara Tebas Seafood. They serve fresh juicy oysters and their signature dishes, Steamed Clams and Assam Laksa Crabs are a must-try! The village is also home to Ching San Temple and Bukit Batu Selabat, a popular hiking spot for locals.
23. Café hopping around Saradise
Saradise Kuching is a relatively new development space with dozens of quaint eateries and cafes scattered throughout the area. Whether you prefer a good cup of cappuccino, authentic Korean food and boba, there’s something for everyone at Saradise. Some popular cafes are Trevi Café and Zero O Clock.
24. Visit Fairy Cave
Located some 40 kilometres away from Kuching, Fairy Cave recently reopened after renovations, so visitors get to enjoy upgraded facilities along with the beauty and sheer size of this ancient cave. Fairy Cave sits approximately 30 metres above the ground and is believed to be the home of Chinese gods and goddesses.
25. Day trip to Satang Island
Satang comprises two islands, Besar and Kecil, and is located just outside the coastal area of Santubong. Satang is known for its white sands and conservation efforts, particularly with sea turtles and coral reefs. Most diving activities are done around Satang Besar, where coral reef fringes two third of the island’s edge. If you’re lucky, you might even spot the rare Irrawaddy dolphins or green sea turtles!
26. Time for some shopping!
Kuching offers over 6 shopping malls, featuring hundreds of stores, boutiques, eateries and services, perfect for avid shoppers or anyone looking for some retail therapy. Be prepared for packed malls especially during the weekends and school holidays, especially during the year-end Mega Sale.
Some shopping malls in Kuching are Vivacity Megamall, The Spring and Plaza Merdeka.
27. Birding at Kubah National Park
Kubah National Park is a smaller than Bako but is a haven of jungle trails, seven in total, all with lush greenery, waterfalls and incredible views of Matang and the Santubong peninsula. Avid bird watchers frequent Kubah for a glimpse of indigenous birds like Blyth’s Frogmouth and Bornean Blue-flycatcher.
28. Taste local tuak
Tuak is a local rice wine lovingly crafted by the Dayak and usually reserved for Gawai. However, the sweet alcoholic beverage is now served at bars all over Sarawak, some even infused with fruity flavours and commercialised to the masses.
You can try some tuak at The Walk Star Bistro, located on Carpenter Street.
29. Catch a glimpse of the largest flower in the world
Gunung Gading National Park, located near Lundu, is one of the best places in the world to view the spectacular blooms of the Rafflesia, a genus of leafless parasitic plant that produces the world’s largest flower. The national park is also home to four mountain peaks, multiple trekking trails, clear jungle streams and a carefully laid plank walk so visitors can observe the flower without damaging the park’s delicate ecosystem.
30. Check out Bau’s Siniawan Market
The Siniawan Night Market in Bau comes alive every Friday, Saturday and Sunday with open-air food stalls, cultural performances and singing. Don’t miss out on local delicacies like kompiah, glutinous rice cooked in pitcher plant and lei cha.