Sightseeing around Kuching, the capital city of Sarawak is easy. Much can be seen on foot and a taxi will have you at the further away destinations in no time. This lovely city spans the Sarawak River....which is a major transport route for Kuching industry. Known as the "City of Cats" there is plenty to keep you interested for 3-4 days here.
The second white Rajah Charles Brooke, nephew of James Brooke the First White Rajah, has had a lasting impact on the city with many buildings around Kuching built by him. You will see the Brooke name often.
Base yourself in a hotel on or near the river, and you will be nice and central to the sights, restaurants, taxis etc around Kuching.
Wander down the riverside walk to Brookes Coffee House.....a delightful colonial style café and one of the nicest we found around Kuching,where you can have meals, cold drinks and excellent coffee, sitting outside watching the riverside action. Try the Laksa! Delicious!
ASTANA – FORT MARGHERITA
A little further along the river walk you come to the main square, with views across the river to Astana – the new state building with it’s spectacular soaring gold roof and home to the Governor of Sawarak. Fort Margherita built in 1879 by Charles Brooke to guard the river traffic and named for his bride Margaret is advertised as housing the Police Museum although it seems this museum is no longer in existence and there is not a lot to see. The Square Tower on the waterfront side was also built as a fortress in 1879.
This row of colourful ,picturesque old buildings has shops offering a selection of crafts, souvenirs, jewellery, traditional weapons, woodware, basketware etc, clothing as well as food.
Opposite Waterfront Square you will see the historic Courthouse complex (1871) and The Pavilion (1909) based on the architecture of New Orleans. This beautiful building is now the home to the Textile Museum, The Round Tower, Sarawak Craft Council, The Women’s Museum and a Visitor Information Centre.
From the Pavilion where there are several museums, you can walk via India Street to the area where another group of Kuching’s Museums are located.
- Sarawak Museum – Borneo’s oldest museum it is now the "Ethnology Museum" which houses various ethnic displays and historical items of Sarawak.
- Tun Abdul Razak Hall - opposite the Sawarak Museum and has changing displays
- The Sarawak Islamic Museum -located opposite Tun Abdul Razak Hall with seven galleries set around a courtyard each featuring a different theme
- The Art Gallery– which was very nice
- Chinese History Museum
- Textile Museum- opposite the post office
- Tun Jugan Musuem – featuring textiles(4th floor)
- Sawarak Handicraft Centre
- The Cat Museum – is housed in Kuching North City Hall
Wander back via China Town where you can have a cheap and tasty meal – around $5R.The street is lined with shops packed with clothing, jewellery, tin products, homewares etc.This is where the locals shop....so great for a bargain.
If you are around Kuching on a Sunday, it is well worth taking a taxi and wandering this market where the locals are buying and selling everything from fish, meat, fruit, vegetables, plants, clothing, souvenirs, crafts and much more. See some unusual local produce……. all artistically laid out.
Take an early evening River cruise .They do daytime cruises but catching the sunset is lovely. There are various options and prices. A smaller , cheaper boat or the large Sawarak River Cruise which includes drinks and a dance display. You pass various historic landmarks, and get a feel for the commercial use of the river. There is also a yacht trip.
SAWARAK CULTURAL VILLAGE
Located about and hour from Kuching this is set on the edge of Permai Rainforest. You will see the different styles of houses found in Borneo. RM45 per person If you are in Sawarak in June you may like to go to the annual Permai Rainforest Music Festival which is held in the Cultural Village.
TUA PEK KONG CHINESE TEMPLE
Opposite Brookes Coffee house and below the Hilton Hotel is worth visiting. The oldest Chinese temple in Kuching this colourful temple is small but interesting with beautiful painted ceilings. It is the main temple for the Chinese in Kuching.
WAT SA THAI
Is a Thai Buddhist temple and there is also a HIndhu Temple along with more Chinese Temples located around Kuching.
Day Tour from Kuching
There are many day tours advertised but we found the cheapest way to see the sights in the surrounding Kuching area was to hire a taxi with another couple. You do need to choose your taxi.....some would be too small for 4 passengers. We chose a suitable taxi and negotiated a price based on around 6 hours the night before, arranging to be picked up at 7.30 am. Our tour in the order of visits included:
SEMMINGOH WILDLIFE SANCTUARY
This is the Orangutan sanctuary and personally I enjoyed it more than Sepilok in Sabah. However, it is always the luck of the draw. The orangutans are feed and reared to go back into the wild but they are free to come and go, and you may or may not see huge numbers. We were fortunate and saw a lot including mother and baby.
This traditional Bidayuh Tribe's longhouse is about 175 yrs old and home to 2,000 people. You are able to wander the village with its raised bamboo slatted floors, and see how the people live. This is not a display village but a real life village….....so a wonderful view of life in Sawarak.The RM8 entrance fee goes to the local community. You will be greeted with a sample of their rice wine.
PADAWAN PITCHER PLANT and ORCHID CARDEN
The Pitcher plant is a unique plant with fascinating cups designed to catch insects and flies! This garden had a wide variety of pitcher plants as well as ferns, and flowering tropical plants......although it was not the right time of year to see a mass of colour. It was a lovely green garden, beautifully set out and a pleasant cool place to wander.
This was a large cave with a lot of bats and swifts nesting in the crevices. In three sections.........there was one area that was particularly populated with the bats and swifts and your voices or cameras certainly set them off! Remember to take a torch. You could hire a torch when you paid your entrance fee.
THE FAIRY CAVE
I loved this cave with its rich greenery lining the huge cavern, and small Chinese shrine. Don’t let the stairs which tower up the side put you off. It is well worth the effort! This cave is quite different to many caves you might have visited so take your time and climb the stairs for a great cave experience. Take a torch, especially if you want to explore the tunnel at the back. It is light enough to get away with no torch in the main cavern.
We stopped in the town of Bau for lunch in a small Chinese restaurant. There are not many other places where you could have a meal .
BAKO NATIONAL PARK
If you are not venturing to Sabah you may like to spend some time in Bako National Park where you will see the strange local Proboscis Monkeys, do some jungle trekking and enjoy the beautiful beaches and waterfalls. It is also possible to hire a car and drive the coastline.
JONGS CROCODILE FARM
With over 1,000 crocodiles you would want to be there at feeding time between 11am & 3pm for the best display. There are also other wildlife .About a 40 minute taxi ride from the city.
MATANG WILDLIFE CENTRE
While probably the main attraction is the orangutan Training Centre based at Matang Wildlife Centre, you will also see Sambar Deer, Crocodiles, Sun Bears, Civets, hornbills and Bear Cats. Walk the rainforest trails and enjoy the waterfalls .
Eating Out in Kuching
Food in restaurants around Kuching is a reflection of the Chinese, Malay and Indian population with rice as a basis. Local Laksa – a spicy noodle soup with vegetables and meat or fish bathing in coconut milk, is a filling delicious meal. Try the local umai – marinated fish or prawns, Midin – jungle fern fronds as well as the rich variety of tropical fruits including mangosteen, rambutan, star fruit, langsat(duku), jackfruit and the more well known mango, pineapple, banana, guava etc.
Freshly squeezed fruit juices are refreshing and delicious. Watermelon is recommended!
There are any number of food stalls, restaurants, cafes etc. The hotels all have restaurants with a mix of both European and local style food.
SOME EATERIES of INTEREST AROUND KUCHING
Kuching Waterfront - The park and walkway along the river is lined with cheap local food stands which open in the evenings, boats ply the river either tasking you on a tour down river, or take the simple local water taxi across to the village where you can have a very cheap meal rubbing shoulders with Kuching locals. If you are there at the right time you will also enjoy the entertainment as the band strikes up.
Brooke Coffee Shop – On the Kuching Waterfront - Great place for meals anytime.
Khatulistiwa Cafe and Restaurant - Cnr by Crowne Plaza Riverside Hotel and start of the Waterfont promenade is a restaurant where you catch the breeze yet are under cover. The meals are a mix of traditional cuisine .
Barouk Restaurant - For a real local food experience take a small boat across the river to the village. Walk behind the buildings on the waterfront and there is a restaurant above the open air food stalls. You get a set menu for a few ringett …..delicious!
Top Spot Seafood Restaurant – Roof of Carpark – This is popular with locals too. You choose your fish and vegetables which are weighed and you will be given a price. You are given a choice of how you want the food cooked – BBQ’d, steamed etc Find a table and your meal will be served. The juices are to be recommended. $3R
Tun Jugah, Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman Food Hall – Choose from a variety of cuisine by individual stall owners.This food court is inside.
Hotels Around Kuching
Hotels around Kuching - As a popular tourist destination there is a good choice of accommodation ranging from 5 star hotels to cheap backpackers and B&B’s around Kuching. The waterfront hotels are in a good location for sight seeing and restaurants.
Getting Around Kuching
Much of your sightseeing around Kuching can be walked. Everything seems to interlink. For attractions further away taxis are relatively cheap and there are plenty waiting outside hotels or on the waterfront. It is wise to negotiate your price before you drive off!
More Useful Borneo Information
Mulu National Park
Mulu Canopy Walk
Kinabalu National Park
Orangutans in Borneo
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