Culture

The Culture and Cuisine of Kuching

May 3, 2018

Situated on the tropical island of Borneo, Kuching offers a taste of authentic Malaysia. Look past its modern shopping malls and high rises and discover old colonial buildings, historic temples, bustling bazaars and handicraft shophouses. A melting pot of cultures, it’s a place where grand Indian mosques vie for attention with ornate Chinese Temples, and streetfood vendors sit side by side with chic waterfront restaurants.

You’ll find plenty of tourist guides online if you want more information on Kuching. In the meantime, here’s a quick look at the city’s rich culture and cuisine.

The riverfront

To soak up the city’s cosmopolitan atmosphere, head to the riverfront along the Sarawak River. Lined with craft shops, café terraces and hawkers, this newly redeveloped area is a thriving hub of activity. The mile-long esplanade offers fantastic views of traditional houses and historic landmarks such as the The Astana and Fort Margherita. Don’t miss the chance to take in the sights from the water with a ride on a wooden sampan boat.

Many historic buildings have been preserved along the banks, including the Chinese History Museum, the Square tower and an open air amphitheatre. Also overlooking the waterfront is the colourful Tua Pek Kong Chinese temple, which dates back to the 19th century and hosts various festivals throughout the year.

The city’s oldest street, Main Bazaar, runs alongside the river and offers a rare glimpse into local life. The street oozes charm from a bygone era, where tradesmen, tin-smiths and antique collectors eagerly await new business and Chinese shophouses beckon with intriguing crafts and trinkets.

Museums and attractions

Culture vultures won’t want to miss the Sarawak Museum, the city’s oldest museum, which houses an array of unique displays including rare taxidermy, indigenous artifacts and one of the best natural history collections in southeast Asia. The historical Chinese Museum on the waterfront is also well worth a visit, or for something a little bit different, check out the world’s first Cat Museum, containing over 4,000 artifacts and exhibits. Kuching’s cat obsession is evident throughout the city, with numerous feline-themed statues and sculptures dotted around its streets.

If you’re keen to learn more about Borneo’s rich heritage and local traditions, a day trip to the Sarawak Cultural Village is a must. Nestled in the foothills of Mount Santubong just outside of the city, the 17-acre park is home to over 150 people and describes itself as ‘the living museum’. You can easily spend a day here wandering among the traditional houses, watching the village residents make handicrafts and perform traditional dances in costume.

Where to eat

When it comes to food, Kuching is a trove of gastronomic delight. With new establishments opening every day, the ever-expanding dining scene and café culture offers visitors a truly diverse and exciting experience. The city’s multi-layered ethnic make-up is reflected in the restaurant menus, with everything from Asian and Chinese fusion food to traditional Italian pizza and Swedish meatballs.

If you want to dine like the locals, head to the open-air Top Spot food court. Unusually located on the top level of a multi-storey car park, after making the climb you’ll be greeted by a range of neon-lit hawker stalls serving cooked-to-order meals.

The city’s street markets are also some of the best places to sample authentic Sarawak delicacies. One of the most popular with visitors is the Siniawan Night Market, where you can sample favourite local dishes such as pork satay, kolo mee noodles and the rainbow-coloured kek lapis cake. You can also pick up a variety of exotic fruits from the rainforest and various other fresh produce.

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