Travels around Malaysia – Part 2: Kuching

A fusion of cultures

Long-tailed MacaqueKuching acts as a gateway to other attractions in Sarawak, one of the states of the Malaysian part of Borneo, as well as a place to visit in its own right.

Our first stop was Bako National Park, which provided our first taste of rainforest trekking on one of its numerous trails in its 2,727 Hectare expanse. A 40 minute drive from Kuching brought us to a jetty opposite a local fishing village, where we took a 20 minute boat ride along the river to The South China Sea and the park. The local mafia was on hand to welcome us to the park, already having mugged the previous unsuspecting boat load of a carton of drink. Fortunately our excellent guide Tony, from CPH Travel, had warned us and we didn’t provide any further spoils for the Long Tailed Macaque bandits.

Secluded beachonthe South China SeaA short walk later and the rustling of tree tops revealed a group of Proboscis Monkeys, with their long bulbous noses, cheerfully munching on the leaves. These mostly arboreal monkeys are only found in Borneo, can weigh up to 20Kg and were seemingly as entertained at watching us as we were at watching them. There are many walks through the park of different durations and our guide was able to show us a variety of trees and plants. Tony was very informative about their potential medicinal and other uses. Further wildlife such as mud skippers, bearded pigs and a green snake were also encountered along the way. It’s very humid, which makes the trek harder, but a stop at a beautiful secluded beach and a breeze from the South China Sea soon revived us. A very enjoyable (apart from the confidence boosting sign that said “Beware Wild Animal Attacks”) and educational day. All the trails involve rugged terrain and some steep climbs, so this is a outing for the physically able and stout footwear. 

We based ourselves at the Pullman hotel in Kuching. A very pleasant and comfortable hotel offering a good standard of accommodation. It’s situated at the top of a hill a short walk from the riverfront.

Hiang Thian Siang Ti Chinese TempleKuching’s population is mainly a mixture of Malaysian, Chinese and Indian, so a wander around the various parts of the city enable you to embrace this fusion of cultures. There are a few splendid Chinese buildings but the Hiang Thian Siang Ti Temple was our pick of these.  Little India is a bustling thoroughfare, with the impressive Indian Mosque nearby. It’s worth saying that people of Kuching were very friendly, many saying hello as we passed by, some waving at us from a passing motorbike. Not all areas get many western visitors and, although never threatening, we did get some curious stares (after the obligatory check of my flies I determined that wasn’t the cause). On the very inexpensive (50 cents = 10p each) boat ride across the Sarawak river, some locals generously offered to take a picture of us together with our camera. This was followed by a polite request if they could take a picture of us with their camera – stardom at last. We eventually worked it out that it wasn’t my Brad Pitt good looks that was attracting all the attention (stop giggling) but Linda’s fair, wavy hair. Every other female in Kuching had straight black hair.

The Old Court House provides a little more of the history of Sarawak, having been the base of James Brooke the 2nd White Raja and Dr McDougal the bishop. We saw the Brooke memorial right outside and you can also see some of the sights from a few river boat cruises that are available. Some parts of Kuching look a bit run down but not so the area where the Sarawak Museum is located. Some finely manicured grounds house various museums, but time ran out for us to explore inside.

Kutching cat statueAnd then there’s the cat statues. Kuching is the state capital of Sarawak and its name means cat in Malay. Kuching seems to have derived its name from the abundant local Green Longan fruit known as Cat’s Eye (Mata Kuching). This meaning gets a bit lost, unless you ask your guide, with all cat statues dotted around.

The Top Spot to eat is the Top Spot. Curiously set on the top of a multi-story car park, it is a food court of sorts. The central seating area is surrounded by various stalls, mainly selling fish, where you can choose your fish, crab etc. and tell them how you want it cooked. You can order vegetables, rice etc. to accompany your choice and drinks. We attended on a Saturday night (probably not the best night) and frankly it was a bit chaotic, with our fish, rice, vegetable, drinks all arriving at intervals, none together. The food was all good though and the atmosphere was quite an experience.

Our favourite place to eat was James Brooke, set on the river front near the Hilton. Simple food, great view, friendly service and all at a very reasonable price (very cheap by UK standards).

Next stop Batang Ai.

Watch a short video of a proboscis monkey 

For holidays to Asia, Silver Travel Advisor recommends Selective Asia.


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Steve Aldridge

Award-winning travel writer

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