A few days in Kuching Sarawak
I flew to Kuching direct from Manila which is an easy 3 hour flight. Kuching itself is a really nice city and while its pretty big it feels very small and has managed to maintain its cultural feel.
Malaysia is a true mix of race, religion and beliefs however I don't think I've ever seen it work as well as it does in Kuching. Borneo has been ruled by various different nationalities over the years however unlike a lot of other cities that has clawed back its native title, Kuching bears no ill feelings to any of its past or current residents. Chinese is spoken widely here, English is common place, you can hear a smattering of Tagalog (Philippino) and along with Bahsa (the Malay language) you will also hear a few different local dialects.
Kuching is (or was) based around trade up and down the river and while the word Kuching in Malay means cat there is much conjecture that it in fact comes from a very similar sounding Chinese word that means port. Despite that probably being correct, Kuching has embraced its cat status and everywhere you go there are statues of cats.
OMG – EVERYWHERE!! Every round about, every city monument – you can't escape the damn cats!
Kuching is a great jump off point for a few adventure places so its pretty popular on the backpacker trail, however in saying that, apart from Chin who was staying at my hostel, I didn't see too many western tourists at all. But I wasn't hanging out at the Hilton either so its possible I was just head down bum up and didn't really see too many.
After the Philippines which was surprisingly western food wise, I was beyond delighted to be back in tasty Asia. I landed, checked in to the hostel and then headed straight to the waterfront for Mee Goring. OMG – food with noodles and flavour. I was in heaven and I have to admit proceeded to eat fried noodles my entire way around Borneo.
The food in Kuching is plentiful and affordable and Oliver our hostel manager suggested a few local places to me which I took him up on and was glad I did. I don't know why but often as Westerners we don't always listen to suggestions or recommendations. Maybe its because info is so readily available that we don't offer any real credit to a local recommendation, but I am determined to follow some local advice this trip so I took Oliver up on all his suggestions. A couple were divine – cheap, amazing quality and superb flavour, however the one that everyone suggested I wasn't super fussed on, but I did figure out why later on.
Chun Choon Cafe
Chun Choon Cafe is “the” laksa place in Kuching. Apparently its been on TV shows, is in Lonely Planet and is well known globally for the best laksa in the region. You have to get there early though as they sell out of produce around 11, so Chin and I headed off at around 7am.
Laksa for breakfast – why not hey?
I wasn't fussed at all. It was nice, but I think the reason I didn't love it was that in Australia our Laksa is very strong. Its spicy sure, but mostly it's a very strong flavour. The Laksa in Kuching is much milder so while I was initially a bit hesitant about having laksa for breaky, it was fine as it was very mild and easy to eat.
So while it is good food – for Australians (weirdly) maybe not quite what you are used to. It's location is central and easy to find.
My other Kuching adventures
Like I said, Kuching is the jump off point for a lot of local adventures. I spend a morning at the local Cultural centre and did enjoy it more than I thought I would.
Chin and I also got the bus out to Bako (say baakoo) national park which was an adventure in itself, and I also did a 4 hour cycle tour which was really good but it did enforce to me that those awful skinny racing bike seats are the devils creation. It was only 4 hours and I could barely walk afterwards. I missed my nice big fat seat from home that was for sure.
Kampong Cycle Tour Kuching
The cycle tour was very diverse and it was everything from eating at a local cafe, to cycling along the river and out to some homes built on stilts on the edge of town. We also got to visit a local market and had some VERY nice noodles for lunch as well as visiting Fort Margherita which was erected by Rajah Charles and named after his wife, the Ranee Margaret. They were known as the White Rajahs and the story is pretty interesting. Read more about her on Wikipedia. She wrote a book about her life in Sarawak which I read and really enjoyed, however I can't seem to find it anywhere now. It's call My Life In Sarawak if you want to try to find a copy.
After you have done the fort, you put your pushbike on a boat and cross the river back to the starting point.
Aside from the sore bum (which has nothing to do with the cycle company), it was excellent and I would thoroughly recommend it.
Food and Drink
The stretch of river that runs from the Grand Margherita hotel through to the Square Prison tower is a great place to eat at night. There area a few places open during the day but it seems that most nights it becomes a market with food and souveniers.
I plate of REALLY good seafood noodles was about $6 AUD. You won't have trouble finding good food though. It is Malaysia after all.
Funnily I walked past Skynet one day. I moved pretty quickly in case they were still planning world domination.