Adventures in fascinating Kuching, Sarawak…

Thanks to Kak Lin, our tour guide for the duration of our stay in Kuching, we learned that Kuching city was most likely named for the river – Sungei Kuching – which once flowed from Reservoir Park, though now under the streets past the Tua Pek Kong temple in the centre of town and into the Sarawak River…..

The practice of naming rivers and settlements after surrounding natural features has numerous local precedents, perhaps the most famous of these being the naming of Melaka for the tree of the same name by Parameswara, its founding father…..

So it is of no surprise that this river too took its name from a tree – the Mata Kuching or longan fruit tree!!!

Rising through the centre of Kuching is Bukit Mata Kuching (Mata Kuching Hill) which once was lined by numerous Mata Kuching trees…. These bear longan fruit, with gelatinous white flesh around a shiny black seed – the cat’s eye, as mata kuching translates…. And it was said many of this fruits would fall and float in the Sungei Mata Kuching, which eventually was shortened to be Sungei Kuching, so well, in a roundabout sense, the town might well have been named after a cat, albeit via a fruit, its tree, a hill and a river, though it is entirely no so likely James Brooke ever had a hand in it…..

Anyway, this trip which was made possible by Gaya Travel Magazine, Persatuan Media Negeri Selangor and Sarawak Tourism Board was definitely unforgettable…

And here are some of the places of interests we visited and which you might find interesting too….

The Songket and Keringkam Gallery

The Songket and Keringkam Gallery located at Jalan Masjid here is part of Sarawak’s effort to protect and preserve the heritage of city folk

The Songket and Keringkam Gallery at Jalan
Masjid, Kuching has four sections – a sales section for original songket and ‘keringkam’ (intricately- gold or silver thread embellished scarf, usually square-shaped, worn by Sarawak Malay women), ready-to-wear attire, women’s
accessories such as shoes, bags and clutches, as well as souvenirs.

Demonstration on songket-weaving and keringkam embroidery; the gallery & history of songket and keringkam; and a pictorial section…

It can be truly fascinating to go check out and you can even buy and bring home your favourite outfit from the gallery..

Heritage Walk / India Street / Waterfront

Our little journey began with a stroll from Heritage Central Cafe and towards India Street…

You cannot miss India Street because one of the most prominent landmark for India Street would be the big arch at the entrance….

India Street is a long pedestrian walkway lined with shops selling all kinds of goods, particularly textiles, and all kinds of herbs and spices…. Mid-way down India Street (if you can find it!) there is a narrow passageway that leads to Gambier Road.

If you follow this passageway you’ll pass a small Indian Mosque hidden away in the middle of the city. The Mosque’s structure has undergone many changes since it was originally built by Kuching’s Indian Muslim community in the mid 19th century….

From Gambier Road, we headed to the beautiful esplanade and the walkway in front of the Main Bazaar along the Kuching Waterfront….

Kak Lin walked us down the esplanade and explained how Kuching got its name and we also saw some of the historical features of Kuching Waterfront and admired sights of the Astana, Fort Margherita and the Malay village on the banks of the Sarawak River.

We also climbed the Darul Hana Bridge for a more breathtaking view of the Kuching Waterfront, the DUN Building and beyond, even if the Darul Hana Bridge is actually new…

The Haunted House Series – Takut

Challenge yourself in one of the scariest haunted houses, the first of its kind in
Sarawak, that offers brave visitors the experience of visiting a haunted house and hmmm…

You might bump into ghosts around the corner or even along the way- varying from pocong, toyol and pontianak as well as tall ghosts, vampires, mummies, chainsaw man, psycho clowns and many more…. just hope that you don’t bump into the real thing (cos rumours are there are the real supernatural beings mingling with the actors).

The haunted house decorations and the types of ghosts featured will change every couple of weeks or so that visitors can repeatedly return and not feel bored.. soooo be afraid, be very afraid!!!!!

Kek Lapis Warisan

Kek Lapis Warisan is a company that manufactures and sell the popular and colourful Sarawak layer cakes or Kek Lapis Sarawak which comes in various colours, flavours and unique designs….These cakes are considered as one of the heritage “handicrafts” that has been handed down by the old generations of Sarawakians.

Here at Kek Lapis Warisan, you are also given the chance to try your hand making one layer of these layer cakes…

Kek Lapis Warisan cakes are fully attractive, decorated with pretty colours and are available in many assorted flavors….

There are many free samples to taste to see which one is your favorite, from flavours such as original, durian, chocolate cheesecake, Milo, strawberry and masam manis etc…..

Fort Magherita

Fort Margherita was built in 1879 to guard Kuching’s river from pirates.

Named after Charles Brooke’s wife, Ranee Margaret, it is a small but interesting building which has been renovated and turned into the Brooke Gallery, housing a wide range of memorabilia of the Brooke Era.

Website: https://www.brookegallery.org/

The Ranee Museum

The Ranee Museum is located at the Old Court House building in the old part of Kuching city…

It is the perfect place for anyone to get a glimpse at Sarawak’s pre-independence history….

The museum was set up by Brooke Heritage Trust co-founder Jason Brooke, a direct descendant of Charles Brooke, the second Rajah of Sarawak, and bears the tale of Sarawak’s historic and cultural heritage.

You can find a unique collection of artefacts on the extraordinary life, legend and legacy of Margaret de Windt, who married Brooke in 1869.

To the local people, she was simply ‘the Ranee’ or ‘Mem Ranee’, the first queen of the Rajah of Sarawak.

Some of the display includes Ranee Margaret’s collection of Sarawak ‘keringkam’ (embroidered head coverings), ‘songket’,  ‘kebarung’ and other crafts of ancient textile arts, visitors to the museum can follow Margaret on a journey that defined her sense of purpose and identity in Sarawak then.

Address – Old Courthouse, Jln Tun Abang Haji Openg

Website – www.brooketrust.org

Semenggoh Wildlife Park

Semenggoh Wildlife Centre is both an orangutan sanctuary and nature reserve. It offers visitors a chance to get up close to semi-wild orangutans.

Located about 24 km from Kuching, Semenggoh was set up in 1975 to care for wild animals used to be kept as illegal pets, orphaned or found injured in the rainforest….

Over the years these orangutans have been successfully rehabilitated and released into the 653 hectare forest reserve…. And some of these orang utans went and create a family and spend their entire lives roaming wild within this protected area…. They will normally spend most of their time in the forest but some return to the centre where they find can food twice daily.

We were pretty lucky to be able to meet up with the dowager of the family, Sodoku who happened to be the oldest in the reserve… considering it was fruit season and that was when orang utans sighting can be pretty rare…

Annah Rais Bidayuh Longhouse

Annah Rais Longhouse is a Bidayuh settlement about 60km south of Kuching… The drive here is fascinating with the breathtaking beauty of the rainforest and Padawan Mountain range along the way….
.
For centuries, the villages who are from the “Bidayuh” tribe used to stay on top of the two mountains. Eventually, they moved down from the mountains and stayed at the longhouse for more than 150 years. The longhouse is strategically located at a valley with river stream runs behind it…..

The longhouse has been built 10 feet above the ground from Ironwood (belian) and mature bamboo (apek)….

Some parts of the longhouse are still quite original whereby it is attached without nails.

There are approximately 1,500 people living in the longhouse and they are all related to each other, and some parts of the longhouse is also pretty modernized…

Naturally, be respectful when you are in this area especially when visiting some parts of this longhouse….

It can be a little nerve wrecking when you are visiting the century-old longhouse part especially the Panggah “head house” bedecked with bamboo interiors and a collection of human skulls!

Jong Crocodile Farm

Jong’s crocodile farm & zoo is the first & largest captive breeding crocodile farm in Malaysia.

Jong’s crocodile farm & zoo is located on a 25 acres property and has 500 breeding crocodiles in bulk of the farm’s off-spring for export surrounded in the natural setting amidst the natural backdrop of tall tropical trees, lush vegetation and local fruit trees…..

This unique farm with over two thousand crocodiles bred in captivity provides a perfect sanctuary for the reptiles, saving the species from extinction with natural breeding ponds for the crocodiles to mate and multiply…

Visitors can also find other rare species of birds and animals such as monkeys, leopard-cats, sunbears, bearcats, pheasants, civets, barking deers, sambar deers, tortoises, monitor lizards, pythons here….

Here you can also learn some of the history and crocodile legends of Sarawak at the one and only known crocodile museum in Malaysia and see the skull of the notorious Bujang Senang, one of the largest crocodile ever caught in Sarawak.

The Great White Cat

The Great Cat of Kuching, also known as the “Great White” is a iconic cat statue of cat city Kuching. It is one of the favorite spot for photo shooting for tourist. The cat statue welcomes everyone to this humble city.

This cat statue commemorate the Kuching City Day. Kuching became a City in 1988 and this statue was sponsored by Telekom Malaysia.

The white cat statue is nine-foot tall, made from concrete and covered with white paint. The cat statue raise up his left paw and appears to wave at oncoming traffic and passerby with a welcoming smile.

This statue appears very photogenic and complements well for every selfie photo shoot. If you are lucky, you may find this cat statue dress in traditional costume during major festival celebration. This cat is truly a symbol of racial harmony.

This was the first of Kuching’s crop of cats, created by local artist Yong Kee Yet and donated by Telekom Malaysia. It stands a magnificent 2.5 metres tall, though still much smaller than the mighty Merlion’s 8.6 metres, one paw raised in a greeting reminiscent of the Beckoning Cat statues that stare glassily from the cashier’s desk in so many businesses around town.

But the Great Cat of Kuching, despite any similarities, has been decidedly localized and is now, for better or for worse, among our most famous landmarks. It is Kuching royalty and even has its own servants from the Kuching South City Council Cat Statue to see to it and who dresses her/him up depending on the festival….

The Cat Family

“The Cat Family” or also known as “family of cats” stay top of the list of the supposedly the most photographed cat of all in Kuching…

It or rather they are featured in many blogs, websites, books, brochures and travel posters. It is even said that tourists visiting Kuching who didn’t take any photos with these cats are considered to almost never visit Kuching.

The Cat Family statue consists of father cat, mother cat and seven playful kitten. The Yellow-orange color cat with black stripes is the father cat, being alert looking at the traffic of kuching city while their kittens playing around him.
5 kittens are playing in two small groups with group 3 in front of the parents and 2 behind their parents. There is one kitten on the right busy grooming and wiping its head with his paws. Another kitten on the left is taking a sip from the water feature.

This Cat Family statue is build and owned by Kuching North City Council.

Usahawan Ikan Terubuk Masin

Known as ikan terubok in Malaysia, T. toli is highly prized among Malaysians for its meat and eggs. Overfishing has depleted the population alarmingly in Southeast Asia. Research center and fish farming are carried out by local farmers in many parts of Malaysia for conservation and commercial purposes

Usahawan Ikan Terubuk Masin sells freshly salted fish in a clean and comfortable environment… they also have some crispy Ikan Terubuk for sale which are seriously addictive!!!!

Sunny Hill Ice Cream

For those in Kuching, there is a famous ice cream parlour which should not be missed.

The Sunny Hill ice cream shop is nothing fancy or pretty like those modern cafes we like to do cafe hopping at….

Sunny Hill is actually very basic but it has been consistently rated as the best ice cream place by the locals for decades.

Located at Jalan Bukit Cahaya, it would remind you of your school canteen and it has been operating since the 60s….

You can find Sunny Hill crowded with customers of all ages, included the elderly, and it offers affordable milky, smooth and soft ice cream which is sheer heaven especially on a hot day

Borneo Cultures Museum

The new Borneo Cultures Museum is a new landmark of Kuching city and consists of two buildings namely the Borneo Cultures Museum and Annex Office Building. The Borneo Cultures Museum is a modern five-storey building with a distinctive architectural design that reflects Sarawak’s unique traditional crafts and rich cultural heritage.

Opened on 9 March 2022, the museum takes up an impressive 30,000sq m of space, making it the second largest museum in Southeast Asia and Malaysia’s largest to date. 

Yours truly had the opportunity to just sneak a peek in one of this beautiful museum’s gallery – the Shamanism , something kind of supernatural but rife in South East Asian community as well as other parts of the world….

This was definitely a wonderful trip and opportunity to peek into some of the wonders of Kuching…. hopefully will get to see and experience more of Sarawak, land of the hornbills in near future……

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