Kuching, the official capital of the East Malaysian state of Sarawak, is a trendy and cosmopolitan city that literally means “cat” in the Malay language. One of the best features of the city is that all major attractions are close to each other, making it easy for any visitor to go for a grand walking tour in a single day. Wandering around on foot gives the opportunity to explore major sights and uncover hidden attractions. The Visitors Information Centre provides a pamphlet that features a Heritage Trail, which you can easily follow.
A good percentage of locals in Kuching are Chinese, thus it is no surprise that the city maintains a charming Chinatown. Strolling into this section of the city allows you to see colonial shophouses, ornate temples like Hong San Si, and Tua Pek Kong, and traditional structures like the Harmony Arch, which signals the beginning of this district.
If you proceed to the south bank of the river called Sungai Sarawak, you will see a lovely waterfront with immaculate pavement, green lawns and colorful flower beds. This section is also made vibrant by the presence of small food stalls, playgrounds and trendy cafes, which makes it a highly favored destination for families and couples.
As a tribute to the origins of the city’s name, Kuching has its very own Cat Museum, which features items, art pieces, trivia, photos and movies that pertain to cats. You can also find a couple of huge cat statues around the city center, but the biggest and most well-known is the Great Cat of Kuching, at the eastern end of Jalan (street) Pandungan.
Because the city takes pride in its heritage and culture, it has numerous interesting, well-maintained museums. One of the most visited one is the old Sarawak Museum, which was established in 1891, and the oldest in Borneo. It mainly houses collections of artifacts, which showcase Sarawak’s natural history, indigenous tribes and environment. Admission to this museum is free, so it’s a great way to learn more about the local culture without spending a dime.
Another fascinating museum that is just within walking distance is the Islamic Museum, which is composed of seven big rooms with varying, carefully-selected themes. Some of the themes include Islamic architecture, migration history, decorative arts and music and weapons. If you have adequate time, it is also worth going to nearby museums in the area like the Natural Science Museum and the Art Museum.
Towards the west of the city center, on Jalan (street) Satok, sits Pasar Minggu, the local name for what is considered to be the busiest and best weekend market in Kuching. Visiting this market is a great opportunity for some authentic cultural exposure as you can personally witness how locals set up their stalls to sell and trade livestock and produce. The market typically begins in the late afternoon of Saturday and continues until about Sunday noon.
Kuching serves as the main hub for tourist exploration in the Southern Sarawak region of the country, which is populated by longhouses, national parks and animal sanctuaries. While in the city, it is easy and convenient to book a tour to neighboring sights. Most hotels in the area also offer their own excursions or have strong ties with tour operators.