If you haven’t been to Kuching, Sarawak, it’s about time we helped you open your eyes to the largest, most populated city in Borneo.
There are a number of suggestions as to how Sarawak’s capital acquired the quirky name. Kuching means ‘cat’ in Malay. It is said that James Brooke, the ‘Rajah of Sarawak’ who founded the island carelessly pointed towards a settlement across the river and enquired what it is called. Whoever he asked, mistakenly thought he was pointing at a passing cat.
Thus, ‘Kuching’. However, the contradiction lies with this story as local Sarawakians refer to cats in the local term ‘Pusak’. So that might not be it. Another alternative theory lies openly for debate in the Sarawak Museum, which is that the town may have been known as ‘Cochin’, meaning ‘port’, a word commonly used across India and Indochina.
Regardless of how the name came to be, it’s reputation for being an attractive city on the coast of Borneo definitely precedes it. Should you ever be lucky enough to land on that side of town, here are some of the top, can’t-miss, shouldn’t-miss places to experience in Kuching, Sarawak.
Belly-happy to meet you
Naturally, what tops my list are the jaw-droppingly delicious local foods! The moment the plane landed on the tarmac, my tummy grumbled for popular Sarawak favourites like Kolo Mee and Laksa Sarawak.
What surprised me the most (being a born and bred KL-ite) were not only are the low prices compared to the rest of the Peninsular Malaysia, but also how authentic the taste is. Sure, there are many many outlets in KL that serve their own take of the Sarawak Laksa and Kolo Mee, but I honestly think the quality doesn’t even come close to the ones served in Borneo itself.
Thanks to a local guide, I found my top favourites – the mouth-watering Laksa Sarawak at Yong Cafe on Jalan Satok and a juicy, lip-smacking Kolo Mee from local hangout spot Kopi-O-Cafe.
Jalan Satok, Kuching
Open daily | 6am – 1pm
Foodie tip: Arrive early in the morning / midday and make sure you catch a serving of the mee goreng or char kuey teow from the Uncle cooking fresh from the wok – it’s very popular, but worth the wait.
Kopi O Corner
No. 139B, Bangunan MARA, Jalan Satok, 93400 Kuching, Sarawak
Open daily | 7 am – 12pm
Just a skip, a hop and a boat ride away
Upside Down House
Calling all Insta-holics! This is a spot that is surely not to-be-missed if you’re one of those. Quirky, cool and popular, the Upside Down House prides itself as an art and museum exhibit, of which normal rooms in a normal household are designed to look completely abnormal. They’re all upside down! Photographing yourself here will be a hoot. Make sure to stretch before posing!
Sarawak River Cruise and Waterfront
According to my local guide, my visit to the city would be incomplete without a city tour via a river cruise. You would think i would get excited at the option of a romantic sunset cruise or a leisurely afternoon sightseeing cruise, but I got mostly excited about the short boat ride that takes you across the river from only 40 cents!
A short putt-putt-putt across the river will take you to some key landmarks in Kuching, namely the majestic Astana, the official residence of the state’s Governor, and the architectural icon, the Sarawak Legislative Assembly Building. Alternatively, book a cruise or a cute little boat and spend the evening with friends or family. Group packages are available – check out the official website for more information.
While we’re talking about architectural splendours, add one more to your list with Kuching Mosque, affectionately known as ‘Masjid Lama’ (Old Mosque). Built in 1968 to replace a wooden predecessor, the gilded domes of the Old Mosque is resplendent during sunset, and makes it one of the city’s most stunning landmarks.
Padawan Pitcher Plant and Orchid Garden
After all the eating and sightseeing, it might be good to take a walk back to nature. The Padawan Pitcher Plant and Orchid Garden showcases lowland pitcher plants and orchids from all over Borneo. Situated right in the heart of Kota Sentosa, this magical garden is located about an hour’s drive from Kuchign waterfront, so it might be wise to rent a car.
Other than pitcher plants, there is a small collection of wild orchids and other rare and exotic wild plants found in the Padawan area.
9am – 4pm | Closed on Mondays.
- Free entrance for tour guides and taxi drivers.
- Schools visiting in groups are advised to write to the Setiausaha MPP for free admission.
Kuching Cat Museum
Of course this ‘Cat City’ MUST live up to its name. The infamous cat museum is situated on Bukit Siol at Petra Jaya across the river and boasts over 4,000 collections. Feline lovers, rejoice! Get a kick-start on your ultimate catty collection of cat memorabilia, from Hello Kitty and Garfield to Matthew Flinder’s cat and other famous felines. Families will definitely enjoy a purr-ing good time.
Open daily | 9am – 5pm
Tua Pek Kong Temple
More architectural splendour! Built in 1843, this iridescent building is the oldest Chinese temple in Sarawak. A major Chinese landmark in the heart of Kuching, be sure to catch the festive celebrations nearing the Chinese New Year.
If you had taken a leisurely stroll near the waterfront, you won’t have missed the resplendent building across the river, which would be Fort Margherita.
Constructed by Charles Brooke, the fort is an important monument in Sarawak’s history, relating back to the Brooke Dynasty. The grounds are really nice for wedding photos!
Bako National Park
Enough with the Peninsular East Coast, Bako deserves a shoutout too! About 37 km from Kuching is the Bako National Park, Sarawak’s oldest national park dating back to 1957. The park is only accessible by boat from the village of Kampung Bako, and offers many recreational activities – I just love the beach, so this is definitely a can’t miss while in Kuching.
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