The city began to develop in 1841, when a British adviser to the Sultan of Brunei received the title of Rajah of the area. At that time, one could get to Kuching only along the Sarawak River, on the banks of which the city center is located. Astana, the former residence of the rajah, became the governor’s home and can be viewed from the river. The newly landscaped riverbank invites you to explore historic buildings, where colonial architecture blends with Malay and Chinese-style houses, and streets come alive at night when people go out for a run or chat during an evening meal or stroll. The musical fountain draws local families and tourists here every evening, and you should definitely climb the observation tower to admire the city and the river.
Life is in full swing here, but the city does not lose its Old World charm. The main bazaar is the oldest street in Kuching, an ideal place to buy souvenirs, here you can also buy carved wooden products and other artifacts from the long houses of the Ibans. The architecture of the city is as diverse as its inhabitants.
Among the colonial buildings, the General Post Office, notable for its 1930s neoclassical design and columns, as well as the courthouse deserves special mention. The site on which the courthouse stands was originally a German Lutheran mission, but then James Brook, the first of the White Rajahs, turned it into a judicial administration office. In 1858, the old building was destroyed, making room for the second, and then for the third option (the one that still stands in this place), finished in 1874. Here until 1973 the state government meetings were held. Today it houses the Sarawak Tourist Complex. In 1883, the Clock Tower was added, and every hour the ringing of its clock echoes throughout the city. In front of the courthouse there is a 6 m high Charles Brook memorial built in 1924 in memory of the second White Raj.
Along the Kuching coastline, north of the courthouse, is Tower Square, which today houses souvenir shops.
To the west of the courthouse is a pedestrian zone and a shopping complex on Jalan India Street, the Muslim city center. The oldest Indian mosque in Sarawak, the Masjid Bandar Kuching, was built here in 1834, but there are plans to replace it with a three-story mosque that better meets the needs of the city’s Muslim community. Further west, the Masjid Bahagian Kuching Mosque, built in 1968 near the markets, is best viewed from the other side of the river. Another, newer mosque was built on the north side of the river.
Despite the presence of new high-rise buildings, numerous traditional houses and shops – both Chinese and Indian – keep the city’s glorious heritage alive. The Chinese shops on Jalan Padungan Street were mainly built during the rubber boom of the 1920s and 1930s. Here you will find a variety of restaurants, coffee shops and shops selling local handicrafts.
Even more colorful is the Sunday market on Jalan-Satok Street, which actually opens in the first half of Saturday and works all Sunday morning. Here you will find many amazing and unexpected things – the Dayaks come here to sell fruits, vegetables, handicrafts and even more exotic items from the forest. Clothes and household items are for local residents.
To the east of the courthouse are the Tua Pek Kong Temple and the China History Museum, located near a group of five-star hotels that stretch along the river’s coastline. The temple was built in 1876. It is the oldest and still operating temple in Kuching. In the adjacent museum, you can trace the long history of the Chinese in Sarawak, who lived there long before the arrival of James Brook. Another temple, Kuek Seng Ong, standing on Lebuh Wayang, was built in 1895. For a small fee, you can cross the Sarawak River on a tambang (ferry) to see Astana (1870) and the recently renovated Margherita Fort (1879) . Astana (which means “palace” in Malay)was originally the home where the Brook family lived. These are three bungalows under one roof, built on a foundation supported by brick pillars. The building houses a library and a collection of handicrafts related to the Brook family. On the ground floor, receptions were held for the rajah’s guests in the open air; during the Second World War, Japanese prisoners of war were also held here. The governor of the state, Young di Pertua Negeri, now lives here. The building is located in a surprisingly beautiful location, but unfortunately closed to the public.
Up the hill to the right of Astana there is a road leading to Fort Margherita, where the Museum of the city is located. This building with white turrets was built by Sir Charles Brook in the image of an English medieval castle and was named after his wife, Margaret. In 1971 it was transformed into the Police Museum, which was closed in 2004. From here there are magnificent views of the city lying across the river, and crossing the river on a small and colorful tambang is one of the major river crossings in all of Southeast Asia. Boats can sail from anywhere along the coastline.
On the southern side of the river, on Jalan-Tun-Abang-Hadji-Opent Street, there is another colonial building – the Round Tower. When it was built in the 1880s, it was planned to house a charitable pharmacy.
On the same street is the Sarawak Museum, which houses one of the finest collections of folk art, flora and fauna in Southeast Asia. The museum has two wings – the new and the old, they are connected by a pedestrian bridge thrown over the road. The old wing was built in 1891 in the style of a Norman mansion, and its exposition is devoted to the rich history of Sarawak and its diverse cultures. The other wing, completed in 1983, contains more galleries and archaeological exhibitions, including reconstruction of early human settlements in the Nia Caves. There is a shop selling books and souvenirs.
At the level of the museum’s foundation, there is a Botanical Garden and the Heroes Memorial, erected in memory of those killed during the Second World War, the Communist Uprising and the confrontation with Indonesia. Adjacent to the new wing of the Sarawak Museum is the Museum of Islam in Sarawak with seven galleries.
Among the most interesting exhibits of the old wing, it is worth mentioning the restored Long House of the Ibana people, complete with a totem pole, headdresses made of rhinoceros feathers and skulls obtained by bounty hunters. There is the Kenya Tree of Life fresco – a copy of the Longhouse fresco in Long Navang, Melanau dolls that serve as a magic talisman against disease and a talisman that can lure animals into traps. It also contains some specimens of insects from the extensive collection of Alfred Russell Wallace.
The galleries of the new wing house Buddhist and Hindu sculptures, Chinese, Thai, Japanese and European ceramics and copper products, a model of the Nia caves with birds, bats and other fauna, as well as Stone Age artifacts and funeral boats from the 8th century. n. e. The photographic history of Kuching is no less interesting.
One of the galleries became the world’s first Cat Museum, in honor of the city’s feline mascot.
Kuching means cat in Malay, but no one knows exactly where this name of the capital of Sarawak came from. According to one version, the city was named due to the huge number of stray cats, which, when James Brook arrived here, innumerable numbers roamed the city, although locals claim that the city was named after the tidal current that is generated in the Bukit Mata region. -Ku-ching, where there are many fruit trees mata kuching (“cat’s eye”) . What is the most plausible theory? Brook named the port in Sarawak “Cochin”, the same as the port in India. If you pronounce it incorrectly, you get Kuching.
Outskirts of Kuching
The fishing village and the Santubong Peninsula are 40 minutes from Kuching. There you will find excellent seaside resorts and attractions, as well as forest trekking trails, bike rides and a golf course. Gunung Santubong (810 m) rises above Damai with its seaside resorts. Nearby is the Sarawak Cultural Village – 7 hectares of land, where various crafts and local cultural traditions are demonstrated. It is referred to in guidebooks as the “living museum” as you can learn a lot about Sarawak’s rich culture here. Every July, the village hosts the World Rainforest Music Festival, a celebration of music and friendship.
Damai has three seaside resorts and one rainforest resort. Any of them will offer you a variety of water sports, jungle trekking or cultural activities. Two resorts are located in Teluk Penyu Beach, close to the Cultural Village created for tourists. Near the village are local longhouses, the road to Bako National Park, fishing villages and several islands. You can take a river trip to observe dolphins, monkeys and waterfowl migrations in Bako Buntal Bay.
Sarawak has two major orangutan recovery centers. The Semenggoh Wildlife Recovery Center, southwest of Kuching, is home to orphaned cubs and adult monkeys that have been raised as pets. The Wildlife Restoration Center in Matang, northwest of Kuching, focuses primarily on orangutans, but there are also fenced-in areas for sambar deer, crocodiles, Malay Biruang bears, civets and cat bears, and aviaries in which contain hornbills, eagles and other birds of Sarawak.
You can visit the old gold mines in Bau, a town where gold has been mined since ancient times. It is located 36 km south of Kuching. Although gold mining in the region ceased in 1921, some are trying to dig illegally in the mines. Nearby are the Wind and Fairy Caves, two of which are definitely worth a visit.
Bako National Park
Not far from Kuching, there are two national parks – Bako and Kubakh. The oldest national park in Sarawak – Bako – is also one of the smallest, with an area of only 27 km2, but there you can see many different animals and plants. Since this park is located just an hour from Kuching (37 km) , visitors have the choice between a day trip or an overnight trip in the park, where they will be offered dorms or chalets for accommodation. You will first have to come to Kampung Bako where a boat can be hired to take you to the park’s headquarters in Telok Assam. The main attraction of the park is the long-nosed monkey, but you can also see other monkeys here – silver langurs and long-tailed macaques, as well as Asian kanchili deer, lizards and a variety of birds.
Bako has 16 well-marked jungle trails with bridges to cross the swamps and vantage points to observe wild animals. Twelve such trails start to the right of the park headquarters. It is worth taking the Tanjong Sapi trail – a 30-minute steep climb up to the very top of the cliff, from where you can see the bay right in front of the park’s headquarters.
On the Lintang trail, there is a small surveillance area at Lintang Salt Lik, from where there is an opportunity to see the animals that have come to the watering hole. In addition to the good views of the forest from the top of the hill, several specimens of carnivorous plants can be seen on the Bukit-Tambi trail: pemphigus, caracenia and Venus flytrap.
On the Telok-Delima and Telok-Paku trails, nasal monkeys are most often found, as they like to camp in the trees near the coast for the night. And more often than not, they will notice you before you can see them, and if your presence upsets them, they will simply make some sounds and disappear. Once on the coast, don’t miss the opportunity to spot otters.
If you are in these places, try to visit the Sarawak tribes in their forest homes, but excursions to some longhouses have acquired an artificial “tribal theme park” character. As tourism in the country develops and the popularity of such expeditions increases, this trend is difficult to avoid. The only real alternative is to climb even further into the woods for extra money. But the fact that some villagers use Western clothing or high-tech items like television and radio shouldn’t put you off.
Particularly adventurous travelers are offered a choice between a day trip, an overnight stay in a guesthouse near the longhouse, or a stay in the longhouse itself. Excursions from Kuching usually start very early. First, you drive from two to five hours on the road to the river, and then you go rafting on a longboat for an hour. Tour operators usually have an agreement with a specific longhouse.
The format of the visit varies depending on the duration – it can include a performance shortly after arrival for those day trips, or an evening performance for those staying longer. Standard tour – initial acquaintance with the longhouse, inspection of the bilik (“apartment”) and its difference from the ruai (tribal area) . Tourist groups are often greeted with tuak, a sweet wine made from glutinous rice, and a welcome dance. The musical and cultural program includes traditional dance, and in addition, you will most likely be shown a blowgun in action and cockfighting.
Before leaving for the excursion, your guide will remind you to make sure you bring gifts – preferably food, clothes or children’s books – all of which you can buy during one of the bus stops along the way. Candy and surrogate food are not suitable. The Malaysian tourist authorities can also advise you on the most reputable tour operators in Kuching who will arrange visits in a way that does not offend tribal customs.
Excursions are organized to the longhouses of the Iban tribe, located near Kuching, and to the longhouses of the Bidayu tribe, who live in the area of the hill. You can visit the settlements of the Iban communities living along the Skrang and Batang-Ai rivers. To the east of Kuching, you can visit the settlements of the Kenya and Kayan tribes. Excursions are organized either from Kuala Baram via Miri along the majestic Baram River, or from Kapita or Belaga via Siba and up the Rajang River. The Rajang is considered the largest river in Malaysia with a length of at least 560 km. A trip along such a river is an exciting adventure in itself. You have to get to Belaga by overcoming the rapids of the Pelagus Rapids of the Rajang River. There are only seven of them: Bidai (large mat) , Nabau (python) , Lunggak (dagger) , Pantu (sago), Sukat (measure) , Mawang (fruit) and the most sinister – Rapoh (grave) .
Nia National Park
In the Nia Caves, visitors can see the earliest traces of Homo sapiens ( Homo sapiens ) in Sarawak, who lived in these places about 40,000 years ago. Later, the caves were used as burial places, and now they are a hunting ground for collectors of bird nests located under the vault of the cave. The caves and the surrounding park of 3149 hectares, hidden in the forests surrounding Miri, are 480 km away from Kuching.
Adventurer A. Hart Everett came across caves in the 1870s, but it wasn’t until 1958 that local explorer and curator of the Sarawak Museum, Tom Harrison, made an important discovery – he found a human skull, which is approximately 40,000 years old, as well as rock drawings made with red hematite, which are estimated to be 1200 years old. Skull fragments found beneath ancient layers of bat guano, along with tools, clay pots, jugs, and later bronze ornaments, are on display at the Sarawak Museum.
The park, located near the city of Batu Nia, is located halfway between Bintulu and Miri. Miri is a city that emerged from the oil boom, on the wave of oil exploration. The caves can be reached from any city – the road will take at least two hours from Miri and three from Bintulu. The headquarters of the park is located in Pengkalan Batu, and you will have to apply for a pass either there or in Miri.
You must then cross the Sungai Nia River in a sampan and then walk 3 km along the boardwalk to the caves. Don’t forget to take a powerful flashlight, sturdy walking boots with good soles, and a change of clothing for your excursion through the caves – the temperature and humidity are high.
First, inspect the Trader’s Cave: bird nests and guano are collected and sold here. The main, or Great, cave is a 400 m depression in the sandstone of the Subis plateau.
In addition to giant crickets and scorpions (from which you are protected by a boardwalk that runs through the entire cave) , millions of bats and swifters (a genus of birds from the suborder Swifts) live in it . It was here that traces of a Stone Age man were found.
Every day bats produce one ton of valuable fertilizer – guano. But even more lucrative than guano are the edible nests of swiftlets – usually they are used to make bird nest soup – for which Chinese traders are willing to pay hundreds of dollars per kilogram (about 100 nests) , reselling them for thousands of dollars. Park authorities are increasingly expressing concern about the impact of such a fishery on the survival of the swiftlets themselves. The sight of a stream of swiftlets flying into the cave at the end of the day, while bats fly past them in the same stream into the evening sky, is a very exciting sight.
The boardwalk runs through the Great Cave down to the Colored Cave, which can also be accessed without a guide. This cave was discovered in 1958 at the same time that the skull of Homo sapiens was discovered there, who lived 40,000 thousand years ago. Red rock carvings, which are schematic representations of the figures of dancers, were made with a mixture of betel juice and lime in about 700 AD. e. Most likely, this cave was also used as a burial chamber.
Several forest paths have been laid nearby. The Bukit-Kazut and Madu trails are very well marked. Along the way, you may encounter long-tailed macaques, as well as a wide variety of birds, in particular nightingales, tailor birds, crowned partridges, trogons and hornbills.
When to come
Dayak Hawaii is celebrated on June 1st, so don’t miss the opportunity to see the entire city illuminated.
Do not miss
- Sarawak Museum – This museum contains exhibits detailing the history and culture of the region.
- Harbor and shore – recently this area has been restored and received a new name – People’s Square.
- This place seems to be specially designed for evening walks.
- The main bazaar is a row of two-storey shops along Kuching’s oldest street.
- Great place to shop for souvenirs, antiques and handicrafts.