Kuching is the fourth largest city in Malaysia and is the capital of the state of Sarawak. While Kuching is the most populous city in all of Sarawak, it is a quaint little city that you can walk around in and keep you busy for several days. Many have speculated on the origins of the name of the city of Kuching, with perhaps the most likely of these is the city being named after one of its local fruits, mata kucing, which literally means “cat’s eye.”
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Getting to Kuching
Connecting flights from Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru, Labuan, Kota Kinabalu, and other cities within Sarawak operate on a daily basis courtesy of Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia and Firefly.
Express boats, courtesy of Express Bahagia and Express Sejahtera, travel once a day from the city of Sibu in Sarawak to Kuching. These boat rides will take you about 4 hours to get to Kuching and would cost you RM36 for a one-way trip.
Many of the hotels in Kuching such as the Crown Plaza Hotel Kuching or the Holiday Inn Kuching, have joined together to a free City Tram service that would allow you get to Kuching and the major sight on an hourly basis so make sure you coordinate this with your travel agent.
Local buses are also available at affordable rates. However, most of these buses can sometimes arrive late, are messy and are quite noisy.
Make sure that you first ask for the fare before hopping in as many of these local buses only have a big coin box beside the driver’s seat for you to drop in your fare to, so you will need to provide the exact amount.
Kuching Travel Tip
Raja of SarawakBecause Kuching is located in the state of Sarawak, it has its set of immigration procedures that may differ from the rest of Malaysia.
More often than not, traveling to Kuching with a Malaysian visa may not be enough. So it will be best to coordinate this first with your local travel agent before you head out to Malaysia.
Many visitors would be able to also attain visas at the Kuching Airport when you get there.
Main Attractions of Kuching
Built in 1879, Fort Margherita once protected Kuching’s waters from pirate invasions. Today, it houses a Police Museum with its famous “laughing skulls”. Since this is located within the training barracks of the city’s police department, bring some valid ID for inspection. Admission is free and is open from 9:00AM to 5:30PM Sunday to Saturday except holidays.
The Sarawak Museum is designed similar to the Normandy townhouses that proliferated during the late 1800s. It houses the largest and best ethnographic collection in Borneo. The Old Building of the Sarawak Museum was originally home of James Brooke who was the first White Rajah of Sarawak. Today, the building displays an extensive exhibition of tribal artifacts. The grounds feature an aquarium, a botanical garden and a Heroes Memorial. Admission to the museum is free and is open from 9:00AM to 5:30PM Sunday to Saturday except holidays.
What has been a land reclamation project surrounded by drab warehouses has now been transformed into a beautifully landscaped meeting place for locals dotted with food stalls, restaurants and entertainment facilities. Although the waterfront has undergone a major facelift, a number of its old buildings still remain including the Chinese History Museum, the Sarawak Steamship Building and the Square Tower. By day, the waterfront provides an excellent view of the Astana, Fort Margherita and the Malay kampungs. At night, it comes alive with the locals out for a stroll or enjoying a show in its open-air theater.
Right across the waterfront you will find the oldest street of Kuching where you will be able to find the highest concentration of antique and handicraft shops where you may find a souvenir or two to take home.
This imposing palace located on the north bank of the river is currently the official residence of the Head of the State of Sarawak.