As one of the most populous city in Malaysia, the City of Kuching seemed provincial and laid back despite the city developments. I like those kind of cities where it doesn’t feel rushed yet has the infrastructure comfort of urban living. Sarawak River threading through the city, adding a steady flow of balance between tranquility and hustle. We had a chance to see more of Kuching when friends from Place Borneo gave us a little tour to compliment our own wanderings.
Cat, Fruit or being “well”?
Being billeted at Riverside Majestic Astana Wing, it was easy to visit one of the iconic landmarks of the city, the North City Hall Family Cat Statue. One of the many cat statues in the city as Kuching has embraced the title “City of Cats”. The name Kuching may have came from “kuching” which means “cat” similar to our Filipino kuting. Some say it’s from a fruit or a state of wellness as “ku ching” also means “old and well”. Wherever the city’s name came from, the cats are here to stay. If it’s you’re thing, you may find at least seven cat landmarks in Kuching.
Satok Weekend Market
Accompanied by our gracious host from Place Borneo, Sara and Carshena, and our guide, Margaret, we took a van to what locals call Kubah Ria, or Medan Niaga Satok. A well-facilitated and structured marketplace where the popular Satok Weekend Market moved in 2013. It’s such an important market as people at nearby regions visit here to buy and sell since ages. I heard people from Indonesia also visits the place.
Market visits is such a feast to the senses. Satok Weekend Market feels like being in our market too. Very similar scenery of spices, fresh fruits, fish and meat. Aside from a few native fruits, the items are similar aside from the similar-sounding names. Yes, Filipinos will still feel at home here.
A 20-minute drive or so, we are back near Sarawak river on a hill to visit the white-walled Fort Margherita. An old fort built in 1879 by Charles Brooke. A significant site as the octagonal yard wall and rectangular building, houses the ashes of the last white rajah. There’s the Brooke Gallery inside. The hill offers a nice view of the river.
Zipping Through India Street
Crossing the river, we found ourselves at the vibrant India Street. I always enjoy strolling in an Indian market for its bustling ambiance and distinct aroma. At the main street, there were plenty of souvenir shops selling items like wooden sculptures, carpets and even spices.
Our ever knowledgeable guide, Margaret led us to this narrow alleyway where a small Mosque can be found. Interestingly, Chinese migrants use to transport and butcher pigs in this alley that’s why it’s narrowness is just right for carrying pigs. How two opposing things happen to be at the same place can be baffling.
The alley leads to the pedestrian mall with multiple street side shops. Some of them older than 60 years like Salih Ahmad. A good mix of Chinese culture here too can be found at the alleyways like the opium coffee at Hiap Yak Tea Shop. A good bulk of street art can also be found around these areas.
Waterfront Sunset Walk
Our friends from Place Borneo and guide left after the India Street leg. My travel buddy, Lagalog and I walked the waterfront to find the lively stalls and active promenaders by the waterfront. Just a short walk from India Street is the impressive S-shaped Darul Hana Bridge. A 335-meter pedestrian bridge over Sarawak River connecting both sides of north and south regions.
There were a lot to see before the sunset. The Astana Heritage by the riverbanks is the official residence of Sarawak’s governor, the Legislative building and India street mosque lighting up during sunset. There were dragon boat teams rowing under the bridge.
Taste of Kuching
All the walk and touring deserves a hearty meal and this is another thing I love about Sarawak – the food! Aside from our hotel versions of local food like Sarawak laksa and char kway teow we managed to eat some local street foods too.The Woodhouse along Jalan Stutong has some stalls where locals, especially those working at nearby offices have their meals. We had a kolo mee, a dried noodle dish, some oyster omelet and a cool local drink teh C (three layer tea).
I feel there’s still a lot more to explore in this riverside City of Kuching. The people had been very hospitable, the culture so immersive and the food highly satiable. I would gladly return to this city.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.