Kuching, Sarawak, is a city of many things. It’s one place where you can experience both culture and adventure, and it would be a memorable experience. Kuching is notorious for its cat statues and even has a Cat Museum. This is because the word “Kuching” means “cat” in English, and the figures show how proud Kuchingites are of this beautiful city.
Just a 35-minute drive outside Kuching town will take you to one of Malaysia’s most unique and informative attractions: the Sarawak Cultural Village, also known as Sarawak’s only living museum. This site is home for demonstrations on traditional crafts like weaving and bamboo carving and replica buildings of every major ethnic group in the region. Malaysia’s rich indigenous culture, such as Penan huts or Iban longhouses, are showcased here with their characteristic stilts-like legs called bale houses, besides getting the opportunity of trying on a variety of traditional clothing on site.
If you wish to stay nearby, it is also situated across Damai Beach Resort. Due to how expansive the place is, one would need at least half a day to enjoy everything. Opening hours are 9 am to 5 pm every Tuesday to Sunday, with Mondays closed due to maintenance and sanitization.
Cat lovers, this is a quirky attraction just up your street. Featuring over 2000 exhibits dedicated to the history of these felines, visiting all 1,035 square meters of the world’s first Cat Museum would undoubtedly be an immersive experience. Enjoy what this museum has to offer for a mere RM3 (RM5 if you wish to take videos.) at Petra Jaya, in Kuching North Hall.
Be sure to get a taxi or Grab there, as going there on foot is quite exhausting. The museum is open daily, from 9 am to 5 pm, but is closed on public holidays, so check the calendar properly before heading here.
You haven’t indeed visited Sarawak if you haven’t at least seen the famous traditional longhouses here. Annah Rais is a traditional Bidayuh longhouse located 100 kilometres outside Kuching, with 500 inhabitants. The Bidayuh ethnic group is the second-largest population of Sarawak, so visiting the Annah Rais longhouse would undoubtedly expose you to the rustic and traditional qualities of the Bidayuh culture. Bear in mind that there are three longhouses you can explore here — Kupo Terekan, Kupo Saba, and Kupo Sijo.
You can visit Annah Rais anytime between 8 am to 5 pm on weekdays and weekends, with an entrance fee of RM8. Should you stay here, you would be staying with a family there, which is an opportunity to understand the Bidayuh culture and way of life. Of course, you could also choose to stay here for a more holistic experience, as the concept of a longhouse is that everyone in the village lives under one roof. Either way, you are sure to enjoy your visit and can choose to relax in the hot springs nearby.
Kuching Old Courthouse is revered for its enchanting architecture and design and is often flooded with both locals and tourists. This historical courthouse houses the Sarawak Tourism Complex and dates from 1871. The complex has a great spot for history buffs to visit, including some buildings such as the clock tower built in Baroque style, Renaissance Pavilion during the colonial period, which has since been converted into a Textile Museum that showcases authentic textiles made from ethnic communities.
The complex is conveniently located next to the main promenade in Kuching, so it makes a good place for visitors who want some fresh air and scenic views at the same time. Kuching Old Courthouse is open daily, from 9 am to 12 am. Be sure to come here early if you’re driving, as traffic can be pretty bad during peak hours.
Kuching’s scenic waterfront is where the main action happens. In the olden days, this would have been a hub for warehouses. Now you can find a great walking path that flanks the water that offers passersby incredible views of some of the town’s main sights like Astana skyscraper or majestic Fort Margherita (historical site). It is the perfect place for a stroll, with a selection of cute cafes nearby.
If you’re searching for souvenirs to take back home, Kuching Waterfront is very near to the Main Bazaar, where you can explore to your heart’s content. Kuching Waterfront truly is the best place to highlight what makes Kuching so unique.
Located just adjacent to Kuching Waterfront, Kuchingites fondly refer to this place as the heart of Kuching that provides all kinds of necessities and souvenirs sold at reasonable prices. Don’t be fooled by the name; the main bazaar is just a long row of traditional shophouses lining Kuching’s main street. You can find all sorts of souvenirs here, like jewellery, beautiful beads, and even textiles intricately woven by the indigenous Sarawak groups.
If you’re lucky, you might even be able to enjoy traditional dances performed by locals on some days of the week while browsing through the shops. All of these attractions make for an entertaining afternoon out with friends or family. It is open every day from 10 am to 6 pm, and don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes as there will be a lot of walking to do here.
The snake-like river bisects Kuching, giving it a unique blend of cosmopolitan and traditional, contributing to Kuching’s charm. Just near Kuching Waterfront and the Main Bazaar, you could choose to admire the view or enjoy it up close with a boat ride. You can do this any day of the week, as it departs from Kuching Waterfront daily, though it is only available from 5.30 pm to 7 pm. The admission fee is just below RM100 (RM65 for adults, RM35 for children) and is a pretty good deal considering how one could soak in the city’s colours, sounds, and sights with a good drink in hand.
Built in 1879, the Fort Margherita has since elevated its status from a barrier against attacks to being one of the most iconic structures in Kuching. Museums like The Police Museum are housed here, displaying a fascinating array of ancient weaponry, including cannons, swords, pistols, and cannonballs. Besides, this English castle in the jungle has an almost romantic and sad story behind it revolving around the second White Rajah of Sarawak, so be prepared for a good story.
Due to it being across the river from Kuching Waterfront, you can take a scenic boat ride there or go by road instead. Either way, you will get the chance to visit this historic site, which opens daily from 9 am to 4 pm, and even on public holidays.
Sprawling over 3,000 hectares of land, Bako National Park is one of Borneo’s oldest and largest national parks. Tucked between the Borneo and Bako rivers, this park offers visitors a glimpse of the wildlife nearby, such as fresh crocodiles and dolphins in the sea, proboscis monkeys, bearded pigs, and macaques in the scrubby grasslands. One good thing to note is that the animals here are accustomed to humans, which ensures a safe experience.
You can also appreciate the lush scenery due to the well-preserved ecosystem, such as the teeming mangroves, swamps, and towering cliff sides. It’s a great spot to visit and is open from 8 am to 5 pm daily, including public holidays. However, one thing to note is that Bako National Park is not accessible by road to protect the park, so you would have to take a boat ride from the jetty to the entrance with a maximum of 5 passengers on board. While the entrance fee is RM10, the boat ride is RM47 and takes approximately 30 minutes to reach there.
If you are a sports enthusiast that loves nature, Mount Santubong is a must-visit. Located just 35 kilometres from Kuching city, Mount Santubong will provide a breathtaking experience, with scenic views that would be Instagram-worthy. However, professional filming or photography would require a permit from the park’s office beforehand. There are two hiking trails here, and you can begin your hike from as early as 8 am; though there is a cut-off time at 3 pm to ensure hikers have descended before dark, the official closing time would be 5 pm.
There is no accommodation provided here, though this mountain is a standard natural backdrop for many hotel resorts. Be sure to bring lots of water, as the experience can be pretty exhausting.
Overall, Kuching has so much to offer, and it would be hard to not fall for the city’s charm. All you need to do is get your bags packed, travel here and be prepared to be blown away.