A city rich with culture and history, Kuching charms to locals and tourists
The fairly populous city of Kuching, although modern, is unique for its incredible landscapes and fascinating indigenous culture, each with its own practices, language, food, and traditions. Fondly referred to as “Cat City” by locals (kucing is the Malay word for “cat”), the biggest draw to visiting Borneo’s largest city extends beyond its quirky feline-centric landmarks and attractions, but rather its breadth of once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Planning a future trip here? To discover what to do and where to eat and stay in Kuching, read on.
1. Visit the Semenggoh Orangutan Sanctuary
Orangutans are considered one of the world’s smartest primates and are predominantly native to the island of Borneo. Unfortunately, recent years saw the disastrous decline of the species, due to massive deforestation. Visiting an orangutan sanctuary not only affords you with an unforgettable wildlife encounter in Kuching but also a chance to support the conservation efforts to protect one of Earth’s most intelligent residents. Located just 20 kilometres from Kuching, Semenggoh Orang Utan Sanctuary is the best place to get up close and personal with the creatures.
Unlike zoos, the primary mission of Semenggoh is to reintroduce orangutans back into the wild. Here, the orangutans are allowed to roam freely while visitors are given the opportunity to join a guided group tour during the daily feeding times (twice a day) for a chance to spot the shy primates.
2. Discover Sarawak’s indigenous cultures
Want to discover more about the fascinating indigenous groups that call this part of Malaysia home? The Sarawak Cultural Village, located about a 35-minute drive away from Kuching, is the perfect place to do so. Here, you can explore the traditional homes of Sarawak’s indigenous community, like the Iban longhouses, Penan huts and traditional Melanau homes, as well as take part in live demonstrations of crafts like weaving and bead making.
3. Cruise along the Sarawak River in a sampan
Rent a sampan and meander down the Sarawak River right before sunset – this might just be the best introduction to the city. Set against a backdrop of mountains, you will come across Malay villages, a golden-domed mosque, a Victorian fort, a fleet of 19th-century Chinese shophouses, and an imposing wooden-roofed palace on your picturesque boat ride.
4. Pay a visit to the city’s namesake, The Cat Museum
Etymologically, the word kucing means cat in Bahasa Malaysia, which explains where the city’s cat obsession stems from. Housed in the North Kuching City Hall, the Cat Museum is the place to visit to learn all about felines and their history and relationship with this city.
As visitors will soon observe, references to the sometimes-aloof animal are ubiquitous – the city’s crest is of a pair of justice scales and a golden cat with four white cats flanking the bottom. There is also a learning institute named I-CATS (abbreviation for International College of Advanced Technology Sarawak), and the city’s local radio station is called Cats FM. After a day of sightseeing, drop by Meow Meow Cat Café, just a few doors away from the Cat Museum for a cuppa and a chance to cuddle the lovable felines.
5. Hike Bako National Park
Despite being one of the smallest parks in Borneo, the Bako National Park is home to seven different ecosystems, all located within the 3,000 hectares of land. Rare wildlife like the proboscis monkey, macaque and wild boars call the national park – incidentally, the oldest one in Sarawak – home. To get here, you can take an hour-long bus ride from the city followed by a 20-minute ferry ride. There are various hiking trails you can opt for, and completing them all might require you to spend the night at the park.
While you’re here…
Book a hotel in the heart of the city
From boutique hotels to luxury outfits, accommodation options are wide and varied in Kuching. If you’re traveling in a bigger group or with family, book a stay at Citadines Uplands Kuching, a serviced residence located right across The Spring Shopping Center, one of Borneo’s most prominent malls. Depending on your needs, there are 215 units ranging from studios to two-bedroom layouts, all of which come with a fully-equipped kitchen and access to amenities like round-the-clock reception, gym, swimming pool and jacuzzi, just to name a few.
55 Jalan Simpang Tiga
Enjoy local eats like Kolo Mee
While in Kuching, ordering yourself a hearty bowl of kolo mee is a must. Roughly translated as “dry mixed noodles”, the egg noodles’ springy texture is tossed in a delicious shallot oil and soya sauce base and served meat slices. You can enjoy this dish at various hawker stalls across the city.