Kuching is a city found on Malaysian Borneo in the state of Sarawak. In Bahasa Malaysia, it literally means “cat city” and this is quite evident throughout the town. Although you may not find any more live cats roaming the streets than in any other Asian city, its namesake is abundantly obvious when walking around. From various statues of giant cats waving and playing to an actual cat museum, Kuching is a unique and beautiful place with a lot to offer a tourist, even if they don’t happen to be a cat person.
As a cat enthusiast, one of my favorite parts of Kuching was visiting the cat museum. It’s a bit outside of the city center, but a short taxi ride will get you to the museum located atop a picturesque hill. Admission is free, but to take pictures you have to pay a camera fee. From cat memorabilia to cats in pop culture, this museum really covers all the cat bases. The most interesting exhibit, in my opinion, was centered on the cats of Borneo. Replicas and pictures of these cats, some of which were very rare and endangered, were paired with a few paragraphs on them.
China town is an artistic section of town right by Kuching River. It’s home to colonial era buildings as well as artsy bars, restaurants, and shops. You can find anything here from delicious Western food to authentic Malaysian dishes such as laksa. Running adjacent to it is Bazaar Street, which sits parallel to the river and has rows of shops offering souvenirs and keepsakes. Although many shops seem to be selling roughly the same thing at an inflated tourist price, the memorabilia is very much unique to Kuching and worth a browse.
The riverfront offers a peaceful boardwalk across the street from the Bazaar complete with rows of flame trees and peppered with food stalls. Here you can book a boat tour of Kuching that takes you down the river, or you can simply hire a smaller boat taxi to take you across to see sites such as the Orchid Garden or the legislative building. The legislative building also offers a beautiful site, as a futuristic looking circular building looming over the river.
Bako National Park
Perhaps the most exciting place to visit while in Kuching is Bako National Park. Although it’s an 45 minute bus ride away, it’s well worth it. It’s home to proboscis monkeys, bearded pigs, and some amazing mangroves. While there I was told that it was very unlikely to see any proboscis monkeys at that time of day except possibly in the mangroves. However, on my way back to the nature center after a hike, an abrupt sound in the trees alerted me to the presence of a proboscis monkey on a branch above my head. In addition to all of the wildlife, this place has some great hiking trails that can take you through mangroves, beaches, or rainforest depending on which trail you choose.
Whether you come for the nature, the cats, or to bar hop, Kuching is sure to impress. It’s the sort of place that is fascinating to simply wander the streets and become lost in the city’s allure.