Kuching, the state capital of Sarawak, is arguably one of the most attractive cities in Southeast Asia. With a romantic history of Sultans, traders, warriors and White Rajahs, a rich architectural heritage, and the warm hospitality of its residents, it is quite easy to end up spending longer than intended in Kuching.
This city of 650,000 people has modern amenities yet still retains a small town feel. Its laid-back charm is one of its key attractions. The friendly residents of Kuching enjoy meeting and talking to travellers. It is a place where there is time for a mid-morning kopi o’ (local coffee) and a breakfast of Sarawak laksa or kolo mee.
Street food is a big thing in Kuching. There are numerous stalls and coffee shops dotted around the city where you can try local cuisine. Over recent years a wide range of cafés, bistros, bars and restaurants have opened to cater to locals and visitors alike.
Kuching also has a good choice of accommodation ranging from 5-star hotels and boutique lodges to guesthouses and backpacker hostels.
Throughout history the Sarawak River was an important transport link. Today it is still a central feature of Kuching with the beautifully landscaped waterfront promenade providing a relaxing venue for strolling both day and night. The compact city centre means that most of the main attractions are located a short distance from the Kuching Waterfront.
Brooke era heritage buildings such as the Sarawak Museum, Court House, Post Office, Square Tower and the 19th Century Chinese shophouses along Main Bazaar are all within walking distance of the city centre hotels. The nearby spice market and India Street, are testimony to the cloth merchants and spice traders of old. And small lanes provide tantalizing insights into Kuching’s colourful past.
Cross the river by local ferryboat or stroll across the new Darul Hana pedestrian bridge to visit the excellent Brooke Gallery, set in Fort Margherita. Picturesque Malay villages, the stately Astana (Palace) and the new state legislature are also located on this side of the river.
Another expression of the relaxed attitude the people of Kuching have to life in general can be seen by the proximity and co-existence of Chinese Temples, Indian and Malay mosques, Churches and other places of worship that can be found within such a close area.
Kuching is the perfect base for exploring Sarawak. There are number of excellent national parks and wildlife reserves all located within a short drive from the city so there is a wide variety of day tours on offer.
These include Bako National Park, home of the rare and endemic Proboscis monkey; Gunung Gading National Park, where Rafflesia flowers bloom; the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre with its semi-wild orang utans; the Kuching Wetlands National Park with its mangrove attractions and diverse range of wildlife; and Tanjung Datu National Park where the rainforest meets the South China Sea.
Kuching is also the jumping off point for Bidayuh longhouses such as Anna Rais and Mongkos; and the Iban longhouses and rainforest attractions of the Batang Ai region.