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A Visit to Kuching on the Island of Borneo

Updated on February 7, 2013
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Bronwen has lived in, taught in and visited a number of countries and loves to share these travel experiences with others.

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.

Holiday Inn, Damai Beach
Holiday Inn, Damai Beach | Source

Damai Beach

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.

Damai Beach With its Lovely Mountain Backdrop
Damai Beach With its Lovely Mountain Backdrop | Source
Damai Beach at Sunset
Damai Beach at Sunset | Source

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.

Kuching Anglican Cathedral
Kuching Anglican Cathedral | Source

Getting Around

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

A markerKuching Anglican Cathedral -
Tabuan Jaya Anglican Church, Tabuan Heights, 93350 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
get directions

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.

Choosing a Local Flute at the Sarawak Cultural Village
Choosing a Local Flute at the Sarawak Cultural Village | Source

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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    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

      thank you so much Blossom for sharing your visit via Hub :) bless you

    • teacherjoe52 profile image

      teacherjoe52 4 years ago

      Hi Blossom.

      Great story. I would love to live amongst to local people and see the orangutans.

      God bless you.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Wow, sounds like a great place...must be good birds and animals...

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      I have heard of the place, but never really had a tour like this highlighting the beauty and culture of the area. It looks like you really enjoyed yourself. Thanks for sharing this here.

    • flashmakeit profile image

      flashmakeit 4 years ago from usa

      I enjoyed reading about your trip and I hope you picked an interesting handcrafted flute.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      Beautiful Blossom and here's to so many more by you.

      Eddy.

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Youa re so fortunate for having the ability to visit such exotic locales. Thanks for sharing this journey.

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      Your picture and storytelling are superb. It really makes me want to visit this region.

    • BlossomSB profile image
      Author

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Frank Atanacio: thank you for your lovely comments and God bless you, too.

      teacherjoe52: The local people are so friendly and helpful. Not sure about the orangutans up close, they're big!

      Aviannovice: I did not get any photos of the birds, I'm afraid, but there are some interesting ones.

      teaches12345: The cultures of the different peoples living there are interesting, the colours of the tropical sea and the forest-clad mountains are wonderful. It was not a tour in the usual sense, as it was cheaper to do our own bookings, but it certainly was enjoyable.

      flashmakeit: We did! I play the flute and so does one of my daughters, and it was to add to her collection - she was very happy to receive it.

      Eiddwen: Thank you, Eddy. It's lovely that so many are enjoying reading about some of the places we have been so blessed to be able to visit, so, with your kind encouragement, I shall continue!

      shiningirisheyes: We certainly were. Now they are lots of happy memories and I love sharing them. Thank you!

      Lipnancy: It's well worth a visit and for anyone going to or through Singapore it's not a long flight - and it's into another world!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      It's a slower paced, beautiful place, great for a laid back getaway! Yes, it's not far from Singapore, where I live. Thanks for sharing, and I share too.

    • Cathy Fidelibus profile image

      Ms. Immortal 4 years ago from NJ

      Thanks for the visit, I enjoyed it thoroughly.

    • BlossomSB profile image
      Author

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      midget38: It is wonderful and slower paced. You live in a very interesting part of the world. Thank you for the share.

      Cathy Fidelibus: I'm so glad you enjoyed it - so did I!

    • Beata Stasak profile image

      Beata Stasak 4 years ago from Western Australia

      Looks like a great place to visit, Singapore is the must destination in the part of the world I live:)

    • BlossomSB profile image
      Author

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Beata Stasak: I guess Singapore is a great destination from WA and it's really worth going the extra distance to Kuching, there's so much to see and enjoy.Thank you for your comments.

    • mizjo profile image

      mizjo 4 years ago from New York City, NY

      Liked your photos and commentary very much, Blossom. The video captured a lot of the essence of Malaysia. I could never have doubted that you enjoyed a fascinating part of the world I grew up in. I hope you tried the fantabulous food?

      Great hub, voted UP and sharing.

    • BlossomSB profile image
      Author

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      mizjo: We certainly did enjoy the food. Although I remember it more from Georgetown when we went there a different time for the wedding of a friend. Thank you for your comments.

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