Street design Kuching
I’m surprised Kuching doesn’t generate more buzz in traveler circles given its laid back, multicultural style and ease as a travel destination. Fusing tribal, Chinese and Malay cultures with its ‘White Rajah’ history, the city is peppered with arts and crafts, eateries and interesting architecture.
You can feel the creative pulse can on Main Bazaar, a row of old Chinese shops, where murals dot the exterior surfaces. Borneo antique and craft shops are cheek by jowl here selling massed-produced and unique items. The burgeoning contemporary art scene is represented by celebrated local artist Rayond Ong (his gallery is called ARTrageously).
Longhouse Sarawak Cultural Village
Kuching has a distinct tribal vibe and locals sport tattoos with Sarawak motifs. A good place for a bit of people watching is the waterfront, especially in the early evening when the food vendors come out. A few historical landmarks are visible from here too. Across the river, over views of sampans and jungle, is the Astana (palace) and the castle-like walls of Fort Margherita.
Sanpan on the River, Kuching
Like it’s tradition of tribal and cultural intermarriage, when it comes to food, Kuching likes to mix it up. There are hip eateries like The Junk and its sister establishment The Living Room, Bla Bla Bla and Jambu. Jalan Padugan is a microcosm of eateries as sleek as the city’s cat sculptures. Fusion fare is popular and includes local dishes like ‘Sarawak Laksa’, the pride of the city.
Indigenous dishes are worth trying too. Manok Pansoh is an Iban tribe dish of chicken scented with bamboo and lemongrass. Umai is a sour raw fish salad, originating from the Melanau tribe. Midin, a jungle fern – which I highly recommend – is eaten all over Borneo. It is crunchy and usually cooked with shrimp paste or garlic. Along with Kuching’s arty vibe, hawker fare and great seafood abounds.