A Visit to Kuching on the Island of Borneo
Sarawak is a Short Flight from Singapore
Kuching: Capital of Sarawak
Kuching is almost on the Equator. It is the capital of the East Malaysian state of Sarawak and it is also the largest city on the island of Borneo. It was named in 1872 after the Kuching River. When we were working in Taiwan we had a short break there to escape from the humidity of Taipei. It was lovely. While there, we were told that Kuching means City of Cats as cats were worshipped there by one of the indigenous groups.
Kuching has an unusual history as it was part of the Sultanate of Brunei until a British man, James Brooke, was given it as a reward for carrying out negotiations that prevented a rebellion. As a result, he became the ruler. He built himself a palace and was known as Rajah James Brooke. His descendants continued as rulers there until the Japanese occupied Sarawak at the end of 1941.
After the war, the British prevented Sarawak from becoming part of growing Indonesia and the State was given its independence in 1963.
Kuching is interesting for the visitor because of the diversity of its inhabitants, too. It is one of the most multicultural cities in the whole of Malaysia. The city is divided into north and south, with people of Chinese descent living in the city south and the Malays, or Dyaks living in the north. Each of these two sections has its own Mayor although the one in the north is called a Commissioner. There is also a State government.
Damai Beach is a popular place to stay and wonderful for a relaxing tropical holiday. It has several resorts, including the Damai Beach Resort and the Holiday Inn, and boasts a beautiful, picturesque beach.
Damai Beach is about forty minutes' drive from Kuching and there are local buses.
Learn About Borneo Orangutans
Sarawak and Tourism
As Sarawak is close to the Equator, the climate is tropical. There is plenty of sunshine right through the year. It does have a high rainfall but that is often at night and did not seem to deter us as tourists. Tourist authorities recommended that the best times to visit are between March and October as this avoids the Monsoons.
There are many places to visit for the enthusiastic tourist or for someone who would like to know more about this interesting place and its culture.
- The Sarawak State Library is also the Information Centre and this is a good place to begin.
- Museums: The Sarawak Museum is particularly interesting as it shows the culture and history, including the natural history of the area. There are even a Cat Museum, a Timber Museum and a Textile Museum.
- Historical Sites: There are historical sites, the Governor's residence (which was Rajah Brooke's palace), a fort, a temple, and old Courthouse.
- Bazaars: The bazaars are fascinating and there's a great variety of interesting artefacts and souvenirs available.
- Places to Stay: There are hotels and holiday places to stay at varying prices to suit most people's pockets, from five star hotels to Kuching homestay. Resorts may be found both in Kuching itself and also at Dalai Beach where the palms and silky-warm turquoise waters speak for themselves.
- Travel By Water: There are ferries that cross the wide Sarawak River, kayak tours along the River where you can paddle your own canoe, and boats that go off to other places along the coast. Note that if you want to travel to other parts of Borneo, you need a Visa for Indonesia and I think they must be obtained before going there, so your holiday places to visit do need to be planned before you leave home.
- Parks and Forests: There are beautiful National Parks, mountain forests and a great Wildlife Centre. We also heard about a village high in the mountains where tourists could stay and sample the local way of living and see the wildlife in its natural habitat. Probably the best known of the fauna are the Borneo orangutans, the 'forest persons'. These great apes are famous for a number of reasons, including their use of tools.
On the Sunday we decided to catch one of the ancient buses back into Kuching to attend a service at the Anglican Cathedral. It was crowded and the congregation was multicultural, although we were told that other services were held during the day in different languages as well as the English one. The Dean of the Cathedral was a very friendly person and arranged to show us some of the sights the following day.
Later we visited the busy Sunday market and then strolled along beside the river, watching the activity there.
The Dean arrived and drove us to visit several interesting places including a crocodile farm.
We could have stayed much longer in Sarawak as there was so much to see and do, but work was calling. I'd love to go back again.
The City of Kuching Map
Sarawak Cultural Village
Right next to Damai Beach we discovered the Sarawak Cultural Village. Here we were able to see the different types of houses the various groups of indigenous people lived in and people actually live there, carrying out a traditional style of life. The people are welcoming and we found it very interesting and could have stayed there for much longer.
It was especially interesting visiting their stalls, seeing the handcrafts and having fun choosing from a wide range of souvenirs.
Delightful Video of Kuching
The Travel Video below tells it much better than I have, so do have a look, but beware! You'll be hurrying to the nearest Travel Centre to start booking.
Kuching Travel Video
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