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Welcome to Kuching, Malaysia!
Kuching is the capital of the Malaysian state of Sarawak. If you’re a foodie, nature lover or culture enthusiast looking for a quick getaway outside of the usual mainland destinations in Malaysia, it’s time to add Kuching on your travel list. Small enough to walk around and discover the city’s gems while big enough for day trips, this city will certainly keep you occupied the whole time you are there.
While tourists know only of the famous treasures of Kuching like the museums and mosques, a worldwide local knows all the people, places and things that make Kuching an even more special place. Here are some insider tips to help you have a memorable time in this beautiful town.
Worldwide Local Tip: Bus transportation is difficult in Kuching as the buses are old and are often not air-conditioned. A safer and more convenient public transport option is the yellow-roofed shuttle buses. Taxis are a bit expensive in Kuching, and you will have to insist on the driver to use the meter. Many hotels provide minibus taxis, this is by far your best option.
All About Kuching, Sarawak’s Incredible Capital
Kuching is famed for its unique cultural identity. An estimated half of the population is made up of Malays and Chinese. The other half is indigenous tribes collectively known as Dayaks, each of which has its own distinct language and customs. Visit the Sarawak Cultural Village, a 35-minute drive outside of Kuching, where you can learn all about the different indigenous tribes that live in this part of Malaysia, and their way of life. There are live demonstrations that you can take part in and learn about their traditional craftsmanship such as hand weaving, bamboo carving, and bead making. You can also tour this ancient village and check out all the traditional architecture.
Worldwide Local Tip: Be advised that the site sprawls over 17 acres or so. Make sure to set aside enough time, as there will be a lot to see and do here.
Get Outdoors in Kuching
Don’t expect to spend all of your time inside your Kuching hotel: Any trip to the city will feature visits to at least a few national parks as there are over 30 national parks, many of which are easily accessible. Bako National Park, for instance, the oldest park in Sarawak, lies just outside Kuching. Make a trip to Bako and get to see the park’s most famous dwellers, the pendulum-faced proboscis monkeys.
Make some time and also visit Batang Ai National Park, community-led conservation by the Iban tribe. Local guides will accompany you as you cruise along the rivers in traditional, longtail boats, or take you along the walking trails in search of everything from bearded pigs to huge monitor lizards, dolphins and of course, the park’s most celebrated primate, the orangutan. You’ll never be at a loss for what to do in Kuching--Sarawak’s natural beauty is all around you, begging to be explored.
Worldwide Local Tip: Bako has 18 hiking trails each varying in difficulty. Trails can take you through the jungle, past breathtaking waterfalls, out to mangroves and secluded beaches. Be warned that some beaches are dangerous to swim in because they have saltwater crocodiles. Make sure to ask the park office which beaches are safe if you want a dip in the water.
Shopping in Kuching
Kuching is a shopper’s haven. The Main Bazaar, a row of traditional shophouses that line the main street in Kuching, is the place to shop for local souvenirs or traditional arts and crafts. Some unique items you are likely to find here include beautiful handmade jewelry as well as textiles that show off the intricate mastery in the weaving of the indigenous groups that live here.
The Sunday Market comes alive beginning Saturday afternoon and runs until Sunday afternoon. Rub shoulders with locals as they shop for food, fruits, vegetables, fish (salted terubok fish is sold here), potted plants, jungle produce, including wild honey, pets, bundle clothing, magazines, and even toys. If you’ve been wondering what to eat in Kuching, Sarawak’s delicacies are at your fingertips. Be sure to try some apam balik, a local pancake with nuts and margarine, which is very filling and absolutely delicious. Make sure to wear comfortable footwear and bring tolerance for heat, crowds, and powerful odors.
Worldwide Local Tip: Avoid buying any animal products that are obviously endangered – like turtle shells and crocodile skins. There is a bit of a hidden market for this type of ‘souvenir’ in Kuching, and there’s a significant Chinese population, so traditional Chinese medicine has diffused into the conscience of the State. Stick to buying local handicrafts like woven baskets and bracelets.
Enjoy Your Stay!
Kuching is a welcoming town with so many things to offer all those who visit. Explore beyond the tourist spots as a worldwide local and you’ll be sure to leave with a lifetime of memories.