A city which has retained and treasured its historic buildings and cultures, Kuching is the place to discover Malaysian Borneo’s past. The nearby national parks will lead you on a journey through Borneo’s ecology, from wetlands and rain forest, to a primate rehabilitation centre.
To find your bearings in the “Cat City” (kuching is Malay for cat), follow the city’s waterfront trail that winds along the Sarawak River. This trail takes you past a 19th-century fortress, a Chinese Pavilion, a Buddhist temple, and street food vendors and restaurants where you can try everything from oyster omelettes to a local dry noodle dish, kolok mee.
Discover the oldest existing street in the city, Main Bazaar, where the two-story shops are a great place to hunt for bargain antiques, wooden folk crafts, ceramics and jewellery.
Spend a day or two exploring Kuching’s many museums. The Sarawak Museum was opened in 1891 and has exhibitions of tribal artifacts and extensive natural history collections. Investigate the influence of Islam on Malaysia at the nearby Sarawak Islamic Museum, where you’ll find exhibits dedicated to weaponry, architecture, literature and costumery. The Chinese influence on the city is proudly displayed at the flamboyant riverside temple Tua Pek Kong, built in 1843.
Nature tours are also a prime reason to base yourself in Kuching. Just 30-minute bus ride from the city is the entry to the Bako National Park. Hike the short or long trails through the jungle while keeping an eye out for the endangered proboscis monkeys and flying lizards. Join a boat tour of the Kuching Wetlands National Park to see otters and Irrawaddy dolphins.
Come face-to-face with Borneo’s most famous primates at the Semenggoh Orangutan Sanctuary, which is also rehabilitating a number of other endangered species.
Kuching offers year-round sunshine and is compact and safe enough to comfortably explore on foot or by bicycle.