Hotels in Kuching, Malaysia
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Welcome to Kuching
The bustling powerhouse on the Sarawak River, Kuching – located on the island of Borneo – is the capital of Malaysia’s Sarawak state. In this diverse city, stately mosques stand alongside gated Chinese temples and you’re just as likely to catch snatches of Mandarin and English in the streets as you are Malay. Vibrant Kuching is known for its unique architecture, buzzing waterfront and outstanding cuisine, but the wider area boasts a host of attractions. From central bazaars and museums to outlying beaches, nature reserves and even caves, whether you’re a city slicker or a nature lover, Kuching has something for everyone.
Layout and History
The Sarawak River divides Kuching into two halves, with attractions dotted along both sides of the this waterway. On the north bank, the Jalan Astana is the city’s main thoroughfare and runs parallel to the river. On the south bank, Jalan Haji Taha and Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg run north-south from the waterfront area. Travellers exploring this core district will note that it is rich in Victorian colonial architecture. This aesthetic was the brainchild of James Brooke, a British explorer who had a hand in crushing a local rebellion against the ruling Sultanate of Brunei, which, at the time, included the city of Kuching. As a reward, the Sultan made Brooke the governor of Sarawak and Brooke, in turn, constructed many numerous local structures – including the city’s astana or palace and Fort Margherita – in heavy Gothic revival style. Today, these buildings dot the cityscape, making an interesting contrast to the local Malay style.
City Centre Sights
The heart of Kuching can be found in its waterfront area, especially along the pedestrianised esplanade located on the south bank of the river. Lined with food stalls and hotels, this is the place to grab a snack and explore some of Kuching’s best sights. In addition to passing by the Old Courthouse and the imposing Tua Pek Kong Temple, visitors will find that this walkway offers clear views of the stately palace built across the river by James Brooke in the 19th Century. Close to the waterfront, you’ll also find the city’s main bazaar plus numerous riverboat tour operators. Heading away from the river, visitors can make for any of Kuching’s numerous museums. Arts and crafts fans can head to the area’s textile or timber museums while history buffs can delight in the city’s repositories of local Sarawak or Chinese culture. Even if you’re more inclined toward felines, Kuching – which means ‘Cat City’ – has a museum for you too.
Local Shops, Local Eats
Kuching is a veritable shopper’s paradise. In addition to its main riverfront bazaar, the area offers a host of other retail venues on its outskirts. If you’re after a Western-style mall experience in the city, head to the Plaza Merdaka, which is located just beside the waterfront. Kuching also has a number of larger shopping outlets to the south of the city centre, including the Spring Shopping Mall as well as the Vivacity and CityOne megamalls. If you’re hungry, many malls have substantial food courts, but if it’s authentic Sarawak cuisine you want, you’ll have to head back out onto the streets. While eateries are concentrated in Kuching’s riverfront area, the weekly Sunday Market or Pasar Minggu – located to the west of the city – is the place to try local eats like laksa or a roasted pork noodle dish called kolok mee . For more food, the adjacent Kubah Ria Complex also boasts 45 different eating stalls and vendors.
Excursions and Hotels in the Kuching Area
For those ready to beat a retreat from busy central Kuching, the areas surrounding the city offer a good selection of attractions and activities. Surrounded by rainforest jungle, this is the place for trekking, hiking and exploring nature. The Semenggoh Nature Reserve, located south of Kuching, offers travellers the chance to see native orangutans in the wild while the nearby Fairy Caves are a spelunker’s delight. If you’re after something more challenging, Mount Santubong – located north of the city – can be traversed by a substantial trek. Once you’re ready to relax, head up to Pantai Damai for a chill on the South China Sea. While central Kuching’s bustling riverfront offers an array of hotel-style properties, lodges and B&Bs, this coastal area has a more laidback vibe. If you’re seeking relief from the city, this outlying district has a good selection of lodges, resorts, spas and B&Bs, all of which make a good alternative to the riverfront hotels in central Kuching.