Kuching, Sarawak, Borneo. Part One.

Kuching, a seaport and capital of the state of Sarawak in East Malaysia. Borneo, an exotic island and still today, a curiosity with its natural lush flora and unique wildlife inhabitants makes it a sought-after destination which is easily accessible.

Starting off, we had a wonderful carefree afternoon admiring the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching which sits mightily watching over the Sarawak River’s waterfront which stretches as far as the eye can see.

A photographer’s paradise. Look at those clouds? Wish I could say I painted this photo, but it’s the “real thing” as Russell Morris sang back in 1969. And as the lyrics go, “There’s a meaning there … come and see it for yourself.” That’s exactly what you need to do – come and see it for yourself!

There’s no touch ups, make up or photoshopping, this is what you can expect when visiting this drawcard, with its civilised traffic (no constant beeping), harmonious religious faiths cohabitating and ever-friendly people.

But best of all, what a delightful surprise to find a classy and extremely clean city in the heart of Asia. Wait till you see what’s to eat.

In the 16th century emissaries of Spain and Portugal reached Borneo’s shores, then soon after the Dutch and British arrived and it was these two latter nations that held power in Borneo from the 17th century into the modern era. In 1949, Indonesia’s area became a foreign state and in 1957, Malaysia gained its independence.

At home in Australia, you might be asked often, “Are you a cat person, or a dog person?”

Well in Kuching it’s preferable you are a ‘cat person’ because interestingly enough, Kuching means – ‘Cat City’ in Malay. Monuments of posing cats can be seen around and about and no one can tell you not to give kitty a bit of a back scratch when you happen to meet one demanding your attention.

There’s a Cat Museum too and can’t wait to tell my purring mates. Perhaps there’s an opening for a group cat tour? Meow!

Let’s talk food. Laksa to my knowledge is the food from the ancient heavens above who bestowed it onto the Malaysian people and bypassed Australia.

Doesn’t matter. Luckily, we have Malaysian chefs and eateries at home which make my favourite winter dish to perfection like shown here. And yes, even on a hot day it’s still a mouth-watering experience.

India Street Pedestrian Mall was opened in 1992 after years of trading, but traffic was halted in this time. Pockets of multicultural backgrounds can be found throughout the city which ensures a must-have shopping therapy session which calms the mind and purse, especially for all of us ladies.

Temples galore, offering you that melting pot of lifestyles who cohabitate with acceptance and respect.

The Tua Pek Kong Chinese Temple is considered to be quite famous among the tribal communities as Kuching has a substantial Chinese population. This is the oldest temple in the city and forms a part of the Kuching Heritage Trail. Opposite is the Chinese History Museum for easy access.

Don’t mind some street art… Rhinoceros hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros): the iconic bird of Sarawak. Apparently, this large, mostly black bird can be seen frequently flying over the Sarawak River in pairs. They have a colourful red and yellow bill with a ‘banana-shaped’ casque on top of the beak. The long white tail has a broad, black band near the centre making it an extremely attractive bird. They have a loud, barking-like call. Maybe it was developed to ward off any cats?

Tiger beer is one of many and there’s no chance an Aussie would ever find a shortage of a few bevies. Plenty of choices with a smooth taste from many suppliers and not just your usual frothy Four X while overseas.

Borneo’s west coastline laps up the waters of the South China Sea and is home to a plethora of various fresh fish. You’ll have no problem in finding an eatery to enjoy a selection. A popular place for locals alike and who will recommend you save up those calories for… drum roll please… Top Spot Seafood. Go early to avoid disappointment and must say, especially on weekends.

When one has finished off all that delicious seafood, there’s another local favourite being the traditional Sarawak Warisan Layer Cake (or Kek Lapis Sarawak). Layered with bright colours which appeals to all – adults and children alike. Soft, spongy and slightly dry. Eaten fresh and dipped into a cup of hot milo or coffee is the way to go I’m told.

Relax with an Afternoon High Tea, treating yourself to a seductive Sarawak treat at many of the 5 star hotels.

Meandering along the Sarawak River is a stretch of approximately 1.9 kms from Brooke Dockyard to Sarawak Plaza with so many of the city’s attractions: Chinese History Museum, Sarawak Steamship building home to arts and crafts, the Main Bazaar and Darul Hana Musical Fountain to name a handful. Here’s where we were able to burn off some of those goodies devoured earlier on.

Ok so we’ve all had a yukky hairdresser at some stage of our lives. But, there’s some of us who just adore taking photos of doors… Whilst walking around the quaint streets of Kuching, it’s a juxtaposition of heritage and old money along with newer contemporary architecture in the latter years.

Characteristic of the area, it shows how early days the structures were built for sturdiness that would last the test of time – and for many, to appreciate the secrets that may be hiding behind some of these intriguing entrances. Umm, is that a ghost below?

A short walk away from the timeless treasure-trove neighbourhood I just visited, the Kuching City Mosque is an architectural stunner and was formulated in the 1960s. It features a main central onion-shaped dome of Mughal influence and is flanked with four smaller domes. At the back of the Mosque, the pleasure again of viewing the river’s aesthetic flow, was perhaps reserved for nobility in days gone by.

After all that walking, shopping and eating you’ll probably want to escape for a nanna nap – like me.

In Kuching there’s availability in various styles of accommodation, but predominately along the waterfront there’s the Riverfront Majestic Hotel Astana Wing, Pullman an Accor property and Imperial Riverbank to name a few. These present amazing vantage points and Kuching is comparable to other destinations in offering exceptional value for your hard-earned dollar.

Young families looking for a reprieve from daily stresses would find Kuching ideal for a multi-generational get together as it’s much easier and affordable if on a shoe-string budget. Many of the tourist sites are free or quite inexpensive.

For Australians the current rate at the time of writing this blog, the exchange rate was approximately 3 Ringgit for one AUD. Bargain I say!

For further information about Sarawak, Borneo check these websites https://sarawaktourism.com and for all of Malaysia https://malaysia.travel/about-malaysia

And at the end of the day, not one of us wanted to retire immediately – just look at this spectacular commanding sunset from the Dural Hana Bridge with the India Mosque Kuching in the background.

Captured magnificently by Malaysian local Mr. Aazmeer Iskndr who kindly borrowed me this photo to showcase the extraordinary light show which reflects so perfectly over the water – and it drew me in like a magnet. It doesn’t come much better than this!

Next stop was the Betong district with the Gawai Festival – stay tuned.