Kuching is the capital and largest city of the East Malaysian state of Sarawak and the district of Kuching. Kuching is small enough to walk around but interesting enough to keep you there for several days, and a good base for exploring Sarawak.
Once the capital of the White Rajahs of Sarawak, it has a population of some 570,000 (2016). It's safe and relatively clean.
The name of the city, Kuching, is thought to be derived from the Malay word kucing, meaning cat. Many of the locals refer to Kuching as the "Cat City" but it more likely comes from the Chinese word for port ("cochin") coupled with the Malay name mata kucing (cat's-eye) for the longan fruit, a popular trade item. The people of Kuching take pride in being the cleanest city in Malaysia and their diverse cultures, so be prepared for a totally different experience from that of West Malaysia.
Sarawak was a part of the Sultanate of Brunei 200 years ago, but as a reward for help in putting down a rebellion, it was ceded to the British adventurer James Brooke, who ruled it as his personal kingdom. Kuching was made his capital and headquarters. The Brooke family ruled Sarawak until the Japanese occupation in December 1941.
Kuching was surrendered to the Japanese forces on 24 December 1941, and Sarawak was part of the Japanese Empire for three years and eight months, until the official Japanese surrender on 11 September 1945 on board the Australian naval vessel HMAS Kapunda at Kuching. From March 1942 the Japanese operated a prisoner-of-war and civilian internee camp at Batu Lintang, 5 km (3 miles) outside Kuching.
After the end of World War II the third and last Rajah, Sir Charles Vyner Brooke ceded Sarawak to the British Crown in 1946. Sarawak and the British Commonwealth fought an "Undeclared War" with Indonesia to keep Sarawak from being absorbed into Sukarno's Indonesia. The British gave Sarawak independence in 1963 and together with North Borneo, Sabah and Singapore, helped form Malaysia on 16 September 1963. Singapore became an independent nation in 1965.
Kuching prides itself on being one of the most multi-racial cities in Malaysia. The Chinese speak Hokkien, Hakka and Foochow. Other notable "dialect" groups among the Chinese include the Cantonese, Teochew, Hainanese and Heng Hua. The Malays, who are comprised of Kuching's original inhabitants as well as migrants from neighboring Indonesia, form only slightly less of the population than the Chinese, while Ibans form about 5% of the population. There are also original Indian migrants who have lived in Kuching for many decades. The Indians are divided evenly between Tamils, Sikhs and Punjabis. The remainder are other indigenous races, most notably the Bidayuhs, Melanaus, Javanese and Orang Ulu settlers. What makes Kuching city unique from other towns in Sarawak is, Kuching city population does not reflect the true demography of the whole Sarawak.
Most people of Chinese descent live in South Kuching area, like Padungan and Pending. The Malay mostly live at North Kuching area, and are spread evenly throughout South Kuching area. Other races like Iban, Bidayuh, Melanau and Orang Ulu are spread evenly throughout Padawan and some at South and North Kuching. Indian communities of Tamil descent mostly live at Batu Lintang and Gita area, while Javanese communities mostly live at Mile 20 Kuching-Serian Road, Rantau Panjang (Batu Kawa) and Kg. Kolong at Matang.
Kuching enjoys sunshine throughout the year like any other tropical rainforest climate. There's no dry season and no pronounced summer or winter; it typically averages a degree or two around 26C, 80F and rainfall is both heavy and frequent. One day can be very similar to the next, in Kuching it is drier in July and August and wetter between November and February, the time of the Landas (monsoon). However, this does not hinder tourists' activities.
Kuching, and Sarawak as a whole celebrate all Federal holidays except Deepavali. Sarawak has also declared holiday for Good Friday (1 day) and Gawai Day (2 days). Unlike other states in Malaysia, not all Islamic events are declared as a holiday other than; Hari Raya Aidilfitri (2 days), Hari Raya Aidiladha (1 day), Maulud Nabi (1 day) and Awal Muharram (1 day).
Avoid touring to the Santubong area during first day of Hari Raya Aidilfitri as heavy traffic occurs at Petra Jaya. Tourists can expect a large local celebration for major holidays such as Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Gawai Day. Gawai is a local ritualistic celebration similar to a harvest celebration with proceedings commencing around sunset on the evening of 31 May. It is an officially recognised holiday only in Sarawak and the subsequent celebrations may last for several days.
Kuching city can be divided into a few areas:
- Padawan - It's a small town at the outskirt of Kuching city. It's popular with its traditional Bidayuh kampungs and longhouses. This area is home for multiracial communities such as Bidayuhs, Javanese, Malay, Chinese and Iban & Orang Ulu settlers.
- Kota Sentosa - Before being named Kota Sentosa, Kota Sentosa was called (now colloquially) 'Batu Tujuh' or 7th Mile. This area is a commercial hub for people from Batu Kitang, Kg. Haji Baki and surrounding areas. Sarawak Mental Hospital is also here. Kota Sentosa has also grown its importance due to its vicinity of Army Camps.
- BDC - BDC was long time ago a remote housing area. However, today it has grown importance as a commercial hub for Stutong and Tabuan Heights area and also a growing elite housing areas.
- Tabuan Jaya - Tabuan Jaya, like BDC, was long time ago a remote housing area. Today, it has emerged into Kuching satellite city. It is also well connected to other important areas in Kuching such as Pending, BDC, Muara Tabuan Industrial Estate and Demak Jaya Industrial Estate.
- Pending - Pending is an industrial area with connecting wharf, ports & harbour. It is a mostly Chinese majority populated area of the white & blue collar middle working class, living in sub-areas of Kenyalang Park & Bintawa. Major industrial players here with their factory setup, among them are Komag, CMS Concrete, Taiyo-Yuden, Kuching Plywood, Gold Coin Fertilizer and Sarawak Clinker Plant. Pending is connected to Kuching city centre via Padungan.
- Batu Kawa - Batu Kawa got its name from volcano crater found at Gunung Serapi. It has now emerged into important satellite city of Kuching, which consist of MJC Commercial Area (with condominium housing, elite housing areas and shoplots), Sg. Maong and Pekan Rantau Panjang.
- Matang - Matang is another emerging town under Kuching. Among its prominent attraction is Matang Jaya and Gita.
- 3rd Mile - An emerging commercial area once the home to Sunny Hill School, Sarawak's first private school, and also an old-fashioned cinema, Capitol Cinema. 3rd Mile was once an important train route in Kuching.
- Padungan - Padungan is the oldest commercial & shopping hub in Kuching. Chinatown is here. It's also an important area for nightlife and clubbing, 4-5 star hotels such as Crowne Plaza, Grand Margherita (formerly Holiday Inn), Hilton, Pullman, Somerset Gateway and Novotel, popular tourist spots such as Kuching Waterfront and Cat statues.
- Simpang Tiga - Simpang Tiga is famous with its federal government complex, Swinburne University and "The Spring" shopping mall.
- Satok - Satok is the most widely spoken place among tourists for its weekend market. It is also the smallest DUN (State Legislative) area in Sarawak.
- Petra Jaya - Petra Jaya is home for majority of Malay population in Kuching, and most probably in Sarawak. It has a lot of Malay kampungs, low-cost housing schemes, housing estates and it is also a headquarters for Sarawak state government, which is an idea later copied by Federal Government for their Putrajaya. Petra Jaya consist of area from Kg. Tupong to Semariang to Demak Laut Industrial Estate.
- Santubong - Santubong is 30 km away from Kuching. It is a tourist spot for beach and annual international events such as the World Rainforest Music Festival.
- 1 Visitor Information Centre, in the complex of buildings at Barrack and Jln. Gambier (by the Renee Margaret Museum).
Kuching is a very multicultural place, and most locals speak at least Malay and their ethnic tongue, with quite a number able to speak a decent level of English as well. This is due to the fact all Kuchingites take English as a second or third language. The ability to speak either Malay, English or Mandarin is usually enough for someone in Kuching to get by.
Speaking Malay in Kuching
Please notice some basic communication terms in Bahasa Melayu Sarawak.
While standard Malay is well understood, the local dialect, known as "Bahasa Melayu Sarawak", is different enough to be officially categorized as its own language. Malays from coastal part of Sarawak, especially the one from Sebuyau, Kabong, Saratok, Betong, Sri Aman and the surrounding areas speak different dialect called "Bahasa Orang Laut". Malays from Sibu and Miri speak similar language with Kuchingites Malay, but they have some terms unique to their dialect, for example "Pia" in Sibu (in Kuching, they called it "Sia", which means "there"), "Cali" in Miri (in Kuching, they called it "Jenaka", which means "funny"). However, Bahasa Melayu spoken in Limbang and Lawas is a distant difference from Bahasa Melayu Sarawak spoken throughout Kuching-Miri.
The Iban language is spoken by some Iban people in Kuching, but almost all of them also understand Malay. You may also encounter speakers of other tribal languages like Bidayuh, Melanau and Orang Ulu.
The lack of homogeneous language used by the peoples is also clearly reflected around the city. Signs such as road names are written in Malay and Chinese. Street signs are in Malay. Shop names and other private signs are usually written in Malay, English or/and Chinese.
As Kuching is in Sarawak, which retains control of its own immigration procedures, some additional complications apply and an ordinary Malaysian visa may not suffice. Most visitors, though, can get visas on arrival at Kuching International Airport. See Sarawak for details.
- 1 Kuching International Airport (KCH IATA). It is Sarawak's main gateway. There are near-hourly connections from Kuala Lumpur and frequent flights from Singapore, Johor Bahru, Labuan, Kota Kinabalu and other cities in Sarawak like Sibu, Bintulu and Miri. MASwings links Kuching with Mukah. International connections are rather limited, although there are a few weekly services from Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Pontianak and Brunei. Flights to Kuching are also operated by AirAsia and Firefly. International airlines operating in Kuching include SilkAir, Scoot Tigerair, and Wings Air.
The airport is modern and pleasant. Passengers onboard all flights leading out of Sarawak (including Peninsular Malaysia, Labuan and Sabah) must head through passport control. On the airside, all domestic flights (both within and outside Sarawak) are on the lower concourse (second floor, airside) and the few international flights are on the upper concourse (third floor, airside). The three gates on the upper concourse (H7, H8 and H9) lead to the holding rooms for gates 7, 8 and 9 below, respectively. There are neither shops nor restaurants on the upper concourse, so international passengers will not have the benefits of domestic ones (unless you are lucky enough to have a heavily delayed flight and the airport grants you access to the lower concourse).
Meanwhile the lower concourse has gates R1-R3 and 1-9. Gates R1-R3 on one end are used by MASwings flights (i.e. that requires passengers to walk on the taxiway to their plane), 1-4 are usually used by AirAsia, Firefly and other budget airlines, and the remaining gates (5-9) by other airlines. Shops, restaurants and makeshift shop stalls are found between gates 4 and 7, including Marrybrown fast food near gate 4 and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf near the holding room for gate 7. Walking from gate R1 to gate 9 takes about 10 minutes.
In the arrival hall (ground floor, landside), there are several restaurants, including the kopitiam 'OldTown White Coffee' at one end and a McDonald's outlet beside the escalators. In the departure hall (second floor, landside), there are KFC and Starbucks outlets.
Getting there: Kuching city is about 20 min away by taxi, for a fixed rate of RM30 (2019). From the city you can get a private vehicle for around RM20 or catch a mini bus (RM7.99 for Tune guests); RM10 for others. must be booked at least 1 day in advance leaving hourly from 8:30AM-evening.
A cheaper option is taking Uber or GrabCar from the airport, which will cost about RM20 (2019).
The Sarawak Transport Company's (STC) bus 12A no longer serves the 5 daily trips between the airport and the city centre. There is a series of other buses which can drop you off or pick you up approximately 1 KM west of the Airport (turn left as you exit the airport and walk to the main T intersection, turn left again and walk until you reach the big roundabout (also Express bus terminal) and catch a bus heading north to town namely 3A, 6, 8G and 9. The most convenient place to catch these buses back to the airport intersection is at the main bus terminal in the city.
The Express Bahagia runs an once daily service from Kuching to Sibu. RM55 one way and the journey takes 5–5½ hours, with stops at Sarikei and Tanjung Manis. The boats depart from the 2 Pending Express Boat Jetty to the east of the city at about 08:30, but the exact time varies depending on the tides, so arrive an hour early to buy your tickets just in case. From city centre, City Public Link bus K1 goes to the express boat jetty for RM1. The boat from Sibu to Kuching leaves daily at 11:30 (March 2016).
Bring snacks or buy some at the terminal before you leave, as none are for sale onboard. Board early to get a good seat. The boat isn't that big and the waves are choppy, so you might feel seasick—sit upstairs to avoid nausea and for views of the water. You can even sit outside for the fresh air and views, though this also leaves you vulnerable to rain (but you can always go inside when the rain starts).
Kuching's 3 regional express bus terminal (or Kuching Sentral) is along Jl. Datuk Tawi Sli, also dubbed as "3 and a half miles", south of the city, 1 km west from the airport. All long-distance express buses arrive from and leave for major Sarawak cities like Sibu, Bintulu and Miri, as well as Pontianak in Indonesia. Regional buses for some towns near Kuching such as Lundu (for the Gunung Gading National Park and Tanjung Datu National Park) and Sri Aman also arrive/depart from here.
To get to Kuching Sentral from the city centre, go to the city bus terminal near main mosque. Take Sarawak Transport 3A or City Public Link bus K3 with destination Serian (departures every 30 min during daylight hours). City buses do not enter Kuching Sentral bus station: the bus stop is on the main north-south road nearby. Conversely, to get from the bus station to the city center by public transport you will need to brave 8 lanes of traffic on that road to get to the bus stop on the other side.
Buses for some towns and destinations nearer Kuching, such as the Bako National Park, Bau and the Semenggoh Orang Utan Centre, leave from various locations in the city centre near main mosque, depending on the bus company being used. See the individual destinations below for details.
- From Bako National Park: BusAsia (red) bus No. 1 departs from the open air market near Electra House in the city centre. RM1 one way, journey time 45 min. There are also public mini buses, more expensive and a little bit faster and more regular. The buses bring you to Bako Bazaar where you pay your RM10 park entrance fee and transfer to a boat to reach the national park. Boat costs RM47 one way and can carry up to 5 people. See Bako National Park page for details.
- From Sematan and Lundu: CPL (yellow and green) depart from Boulevard at 8AM and 4:30PM. Buses depart Sematan at 7AM and 4PM for RM1 one way. Travel time approximately 2 hr. At Lundu, take a taxi or van or walk approximately 2.5 km (north) to the Gunung Gading National Park. For Tanjung Datu National Park, catch a connecting Sarawak Transport Company bus to Sematan where you will have to charter a boat to the park.
- From Pontianak:
- Bus Asia (Biaramas Express), ☏ (at the regional bus terminal), (headquarters). Buses depart Kuching regional bus terminal for Pontianak via the Tebedu-Entikong border crossing daily at 7:45AM. RM45 adult 1 way. From Pontianak, buses depart daily at 9PM. Fare is Rp 140,000.
- SJS Super Executive, ☏ . Buses departs the regional bus terminal at 11AM and cost RM70. See the Pontianak to Kuching for travel itinerary detail of this route.
- From Semenggoh: Feeding times for the Orangutans are 9AM and 1PM so catch the 7:30AM or 11AM bus. Kuching Metro buses No.103 depart from Sarawak State Legislative Assembly (DUN) and CPL buses No.6 depart from Boulevard Also there are plenty of mini buses at the open air market that can drive you there, public RM5-10/passenger) and also more expensive mini bus taxies, bargaining starts from RM100 for the whole bus for return journey.
- From Sibu: Various express buses depart from the regional bus terminal. Most of them go via Sarikei.
To travel by car from Indonesia is pretty straight forward. As a member of Asean, an Indonesian driving license is legal and accepted in Malaysia.
Please see the Pontianak to Kuching for travel itinerary on this route.
From Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam
Sarawak is a huge state. The road networks connecting towns and places in Sarawak including Kuching are well maintained. However, long and winding roads with few rest stops can lead to fatigue. The following table lists towns and their distances from Kuching, together with suggested rest stops.
|From||To||Distance/Cumulative Distance From Kuching (Km)||Rest Stops|
|Kuching||Sri Aman||193/193||Siburan, Tapah, Beratok, Tarat, Serian, Balai Ringin, Lachau|
|Sri Aman||Sarikei||179/372||Engkilili, Betong, Saratok|
|Sarikei||Sibu||90/462||Meradong, Julau, Pakan, Jakar|
|Sibu||Bintulu||202/644||Stapang, Selangau, Tatau|
|Bintulu||Miri||198/842||Suai, Batu Niah, Sibuti, Bekenu, Bakam|
|Miri||Limbang||230/1072||Sg. Tujuh, Kuala Belait (Brunei), Seria (Brunei), Tutong (Brunei), Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei)|
|Limbang||Lawas||128/1200||Bangar, Temburong (Brunei), Sundar, Trusan|
Sabahan people as well as from Brunei can also commute freely to Kuching using Pan Borneo Highway network. However, it is subject to a lot of stopover at immigration checkpoints. Therefore, travelling to Kuching from Sabah is not advisable. Bruneian commuters should produce driving permit which is simply by filling a form at the Malaysian border checkpoint. Bruneian driving license is a valid, legal and accepted form of document in Sarawak/Malaysia.
If you're in a hurry or desire a bit of luxury, helicopters and other air transports are available from Hornbill Skyways.
City Public Link operates comfortable buses around Kuching city. Fee of local bus are RM1 under RM1 Flat Rate Bus Fare Programme. Meanwhile Sarawak Metro and Kuching Metro are free of charge.
The stage buses between Kuching and its outskirts like Petra Jaya, Serian, Bau and so forth, have not been replaced with new buses.
The main bus terminal for local bus in Kuching is Boulevard for CPL and Electra House for BusAsia.
However, there is another bus terminal for inter-state departure which is at 3rd Mile Bus Terminal. You should take your bus to Sibu, Bintulu and Miri from this terminal. Check BUS ASIA for online booking.
Local stage buses are run by 5 companies of colourful assortments, but there's a reasonably logical route numbering system and bus stops usually have some signage indicating bus route numbers.
- Sarawak Transport Company (STC)(ceased operation) - these green and beige STC buses mainly serve downtown and along the protocol roads leading southbound out of the city centre.
- Matang Transport Company (MTC) (ceased operation) - these orange and beige MTC buses serve the Kuching-Matang road and suburban settlements along the northern bank of the Sarawak River. This company is the only one not included in the Kuching City Bus Services consortium.
- Petra Jaya Transport(ceased operation) - these white buses with red, yellow and black striped livery serve the outskirts of Kuching City North (routes ending at Damai and Bako) and also the Kuching-Kota Sentosa-Kota Samarahan route.
- Bau Transport Company - these brown and red buses serve the Kuching-Bau route.
- City Public Link (CPL) - these yellow and green buses serve for Kuching, Samarahan, Serian division. After STC ceased operation, CPL is the only bus company that serving Lundu and Sematan.
- BusAsia - these red buses serve for Kuching, Samarahan and Serian. BusAsia is also serving Bako and Muara Tebas.
- Kuching Metro - Electric bus. The bus route is serving some of the most popular area within Kuching, including Cat Museum, Sarawak Museum, Chinese Museum, airport and more. The bus is departure from Sarawak State Legislative Assembly (DUN) to Senmenggoh Wildlife Centre.
- Sarawak Metro - Hydrogen bus. There's 2 routes which is Downtown Heritage Loop is operation everyday and Damai Loop is only operation during weekend.
Bus drivers and conductors do not actually have Public Relations and Tourist Guiding as part of their training syllabi. Should the bus conductor exist, kindly demand for the ticket because some bus inspectors might just walk inside and do a surprise inspection of passengers' tickets. There are some OMO (One Man Operation) buses that are equipped with a big coin box beside the driver's seat. Ask for the fare first before inserting the exact change into the box. Sit in the front half of the bus so you have easy access to the driver or conductor. Cheating, pickpocketing and sexual harassment might sometimes occur in public buses, so be watchful of your surroundings.
Inconsistent passenger load along certain routes can lead to drops in frequency and thus, bus operators cannot comply to a fixed timetable and that results in frustrating delays.
By shuttle van
Unlicensed shuttle vans also ply the main roads in Kuching, offering lower (if not the same) fares than their legal counterparts. If you are coaxed to board these vans, please do so at your own risk. Due to its illegal operations, van sapu passengers are not covered by insurance should an accident occur.
Yellow roofed kereta sewa or shuttle vans fill the void left by stage bus operators, offering somewhat more frequent trips throughout Kuching to as far as Tebedu and Bau. Each shuttle van has their own commuting routes so watch out the routes by reading the destination on the body of the van. Minimum fare for each trip is RM1 and increases with respect to distance. Fares also differ from one shuttle van to another plying the same route by commuting frequency, peak and off-peak periods and passenger load. If in doubt, ask the passengers, not the driver.
Taxis are somewhat expensive in Kuching. Although taxis are metered, the drivers seldom use it and normally they will try to charge you any fare they like. They may also hide the meter behind a rudimentary cover and claim to have no meter. Take your time and appraise the honesty of the driver before proceeding. A reasonable taxi fare from Kuching city centre to Santubong is RM42. Some hotels provide their own shuttle vans or buses to designated tourism spots and city centre. Check with your hotel should they provide this kind of service.
E-hailing services including Uber and Grab have become commonplace in Kuching and are a hassle-free way of going around the city, including to and from the airport. However, if you want to go to rural areas outside of Kuching (such as Santubong or Semenggoh), although Uber and Grab drivers will take you there, you will hardly find a Uber or Grab to return to the city. Also, when asking a driver to go to one of these rural areas, don't be surprised if the driver asks you for a tip, as they need to go back to Kuching to go back to work.
All major roads in Kuching city and suburban areas are well tarred and fairly maintained. Driving orientation is on the left and is generally slow-paced. Speed limits on dual-carriageway roads can reach a maximum of 90 km/h and can be reduced to 80 km/h or 70 km/h during festival seasons.
Tourists from cosmopolitan cities may not appreciate the driving attitude of local road users. Some drivers tend to make a turn or overtake without using indicators, and others drive beyond the speed limit. You may also find a handful of road hoggers (cars, lorries and even motorcycles alike). Honk car horns and flash high beams with careful discretion.
Self-driving in and around Kuching can be challengingly fun. Directional signs in Kuching are so inadequate and it takes a good road map and a good sense of direction to get you around. For those who use wisely their smartphone though, there are many cheap and efficient apps that can be used as GPS: here by Nokia is free, has a pretty good downloadable database for borneo (for free) and warns user about speed limits. googlampas is almost as good but you need a mobile internet connection (prepaid prices from RM50/month).
- Kuching Airport Car Rental, GL42, Ground Floor, Terminal Building, Kuching International Airport, ☏ , , email@example.com. Daily 8AM-11PM, book online and contact by email or WhatsApp. From RM70/day, cash only.
- Tranzero, Jalan Kulas, Satok, Kuching, Sarawak., ☏ , , firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 8AM-11PM, book online and contact by email or SMS. From RM65/day, cash only.
- Kuching City Car Rental (Kuching Car Rental), Ground Floor, Terminal Building, Kuching International Airport (walk up towards the domestic arrival hall exit), ☏ , email@example.com.
- Car Rental Kuching (Car Rental Kuching) (Opposite of the domestic hall exit area), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. From RM95/day, accept Visa and Mastercard..
- Sime Darby Rent A Car (Hertz Malaysia Licensee), GL20, Ground Floor, Terminal Building, Kuching International Airport (booth is after you claim your luggage at the airport), ☏ , fax: , email@example.com. M-Sa 8AM-6PM, Su and public holidays meet confirmed reservations. From RM150/day, credit/charge cards only.
- Kuching Car Rental (Kereta Sewa Kuching), AJ 205, 1st Floor, MJC Batu Kawah New Township, Jl. Batu Kawa, ☏ , , , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 8AM-9PM, call to confirm reservation or book online. From RM98/day, credit/charge cards only.
- Three Bikes Rental and Services, Singgahsana Lodge No.1 Temple St., ☏ , email@example.com.
- Teck Hua Motor, Tabuan Rd., ☏ . Motorbike rental at RM40, good service, they also have a few automatics for those who can't drive manual.
It is possible to see the sights of Kuching City by bicycle. You don't have to be Lance Armstrong to take a full day bicycle tour of the city. Roads in Kuching are adequate for cycling, though it is definitely not bicycle friendly.
- Borneo Bicycle Hire, ☏ (24 hr contact), firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 9AM-7PM including public holidays. They provide helmets, rain ponchos, repair kit and maps for doing a city tour by bicycles. Rates are very reasonably priced. If you prefer to start cycling early just after dawn you can rent or hire the bike the night before and bring the bicycle with you, the rental rates only starts in the morning when you begin your cycle tour. Should the hirer prefer another town as their centre for further exploration, they can be taken there, together with their bicycles, in a mini-bus for an additional charge. Full accident/repatriation insurance available from only RM15 + tax.
By river taxi
For a leisurely commute across the Sarawak River, river taxis locally known as tambang or penambang offers daily services at various points along the Kuching Waterfront, with a one-way fare at RM0.40. The fare hikes up to RM1 from 10PM-6AM the next day. Kindly place the exact change on the designated plate instead of giving it to the operator, as you disembark the river taxi at your destination.
Boats are sometimes available for visitors who wish to travel from one place to another along the Sarawak River.
Speedboats are available for people who wish to go to Taman Negara Bako, Satang Island and Talang-Talang Island from Santubong. Rate differs according to hotels, and in regards to public holidays and peak hours. Check schedule and rates at the respective hotels, such as Damai Lagoon.
There are no river cruises anymore.
Kuching is unusually pedestrian-friendly for a Malaysian city, with tree-lined sidewalks and some pedestrian crossings, and the city core is compact enough to cover on foot. Good walks include the Kuching Waterfront and the pedestrian shopping street of Jalan India (Kuching's Little India).
Drivers rarely stop for pedestrians on zebra crossings if there is no traffic light. However, since most roads are single-directional and have a single lane, crossing the street in Kuching isn't as treacherous as in other cities in Southeast Asia.
In Kuching, you can enjoy various sightseeing activities. Among them are visiting museums, sightseeing of Kuching city and sightseeing for nature lovers.
Kuching is quite the sunset spot, often regarded as "one of the most memorable". Take your shots, and enjoy the sunsets from the Waterfront, Santubong Peninsula or Bako Peninsula.
- Tua Pek Kong Temple, Jl. Padungan (East end of Main Bazaar). This temple is the oldest Chinese temple in Kuching and at the heart of the city. It was just at the opposite of Chinese Museum. It was built in 1843. Various festivals are held here for example The Wang Kang Festival (to commemorate the dead) and Ghost Festival.
- Sultan Iskandar Planetarium. This first planetarium ever built in Malaysia is in the Kuching Civic Centre complex. This planetarium shows videos of astronomic adventures of every planets in the solar system.
One can enjoy sightseeing of Kuching City at various locations. What is unique of Kuching city in sightseers' eyes is how the skycrapers built in the vicinity of lush green jungles.
- Kuching Civic Centre at Jl. Taman Budaya. (CLOSED. Indefinitely. As of August 2022). This is a 3-building complex, landmarked by its tower with an umbrella-shaped roof. This is the best place to get a 360° aerial view of Kuching City. Take a beautiful snapshot of Kuching concrete buildings in the assembly of lush green trees. The viewing platform is available for public access only during daytime, served mainly by two bubble lifts. Also at the top you can find a souvenir shop and the highest public toilet in Kuching. Just one level below, there's a restaurant called Link. Oe, on the ground, there's the Sultan Iskandar Planetarium, some hawker stalls, a sports gym (which used to be a public library) and a multi-function hall.
- 1 Kuching City Mosque (near the open air market). Formerly the Sarawak State Mosque, Kuching's main mosque. Later it was re-designated as the Kuching Divisional Mosque. It was built in 1968 on a site that had been used for a wooden mosque as early as 1852. It has a striking design, featuring a combination of mid-western and Italian architecture.
Please observe religious conventions
Visitors to mosques are requested to dress respectfully and remove their shoes. Non-Muslims should avoid entering during prayer times so as not to disrupt people during periods of religious observance, especially on Friday afternoons.
- Masjid Jamek, or "Jamek Mosque" at Petra Jaya. It was adjacent to the State Library and housed Dewan Hikmah, a multi-purpose hall, usually for Muslim wedding receptions. It has also some quarters for the Hafizs and the Ustazs. It was the most crowded Mosque in Sarawak due to the location nearby and area where majority of Kuching Muslims reside. It is still a most favourite place for Friday prayers due to the mosque being comfortable and air-conditioned.
- Medan Raya Complex at Petra Jaya. It was planned as the State Government Administrative Centre with a dual-carriageway boulevard linking the Kuching North City Hall and Wisma Bapa Malaysia, but it has only one building on the site called Baitul Makmur, which houses four state ministries. This area is perfect for jogging, walking and sightseeing of romantic (sometimes erotic) couples. A man-made lake lies in the centre of the complex, where locals usually race their RC speed boats after office hours, much to the annoyance of anyone living within the radius of a kilometre. At night, the fine stretch of road crossing the lake often becomes an illegal dragstrip. Come at the wrong time and the long arm of the law awaits you. Be warned.
- Kuching Waterfront. Any visit to Kuching is incomplete without taking a brisk walk at the RM1 million per 10-m strip of Kuching Waterfront. It is the most popular meeting (and mating) place in Kuching. It was once a line of old warehouses. During the daytime, the Waterfront is the best place to view the Astana, Fort Margherita, adjacent Malay kampungs of Kampung Sinjan and Kampung Lintang or even the DUN complex. At night, it is the best place to see nightlife of lovers, youngsters and love-makers. Some food kiosks are also present here but mind the high charges on food. My Kampong have a small kiosk that serve mee mamak. If you do order traditional Malay food such as grilled fish, be sure to ask them to warm it up.
- Main Bazaar. A very long row of shophouses for Sarawak souvenirs and handicrafts.
- Taman Budaya, at Jl. Taman Budaya. Literally meaning 'cultural garden' although the cultural aspect of it remains questionable. Once a reservoir for water storage and hence forever named the Kuching Reservoir, it is a perfect place for jogging, walking and sightseeing and has a big pond. The Kuching Central Prison is just next to this garden, just so you know.
- Sunday Market (Pasar Minggu), Jl. Satok in Satok. The Sunday Market comes alive beginning Saturday afternoon and runs until Sunday afternoon. The market is so huge that it might break your legs to walk to every corner of this market. It is divided into many sections such as food, fruits, vegetables, fish (salted terubok fish is sold here), potted plants, jungle produce, including wild honey, pets, bundle clothing, magazines and even toys. The market is like a huge hypermarket, without air-conditioning. Some word of advice, wear shoes when you are entering fish and chicken areas. Those areas are wet in nature and the traders might not be ashamed to splash some water to your feet. It is open almost every weekend. However, during big celebrations like Gawai, Chinese New Year or Hari Raya, some stalls at Pasar Minggu are closed. The Pasar Tamu however, which is part of the market with a permanent roofed structure, operates on a daily basis.
- The Astana. Or the Palace in English, resides the current Yang di-Pertua Negeri or the Head of State of Sarawak. The palace is situated on the north bank of the river, just across the river from Kuching Waterfront. It was built in 1870 by Charles Brooke as a bridal gift to his wife Margaret. Next to it is Orchid Garden and beautifully decorated garden with observation tower. A sampan deck, which is named Pengkalan Sapi is also situated within the Astana vicinity.
- Friendship Garden, at Tabuan Heights. The garden is developed to mark the symbol of friendship between China and Malaysia. The garden is beautifully crafted with small ponds and gardens. Perfect place for sightseeing, feeding the koi fish and trying your luck at the two wishing wells.
- Sarawak State Library (Pustaka Negeri), Petra Jaya, near to Masjid Jamek. For sightseeing purpose, visitors can opt for aerobic sessions hosted every afternoon at the library compound. The lake in front of the library is the most suitable place for aquatic lovers. A lot of fish from different species are bred here. They normally get foods from the visitors, so bring your fish food or bread here.
Many museums are clustered just south of the centre; a program of refurbishment started in 2002 is shuffling up the exhibits.
- Sarawak Museum, The Sarawak State Museum is the oldest museum in Borneo. It was established in 1888 and opened in 1891 in a purpose-built building in Kuching. Sponsored by Charles Brooke, the second White Rajah of Sarawak, the establishment of the museum was strongly encouraged by Alfred Russel Wallace. It was now called Ethnology Museum and houses various ethnic displays and historical items from Sarawak.
- Dewan Tun Abdul Razak (Tun Abdul Razak Hall), Jl. Tun Abang Haji Openg (Opposite Sarawak Museum). Formerly the New Wing of the Sarawak Museum, now houses changing exhibitions, a rather good gift shop and the Sarawak Museum Department office.
- The Sarawak Islamic Museum. It is behind the Tun Abdul Razak Hall and can be accessed via Jl. P. Ramlee. The museum consists of 7 galleries set around a central courtyard garden, each with a different theme. One of the interesting artefacts shown here is a replica of sword used by Prophet Muhammad. Open daily from 9AM-6PM (closed on Fridays).
- Chinese History Museum, Waterfront (east end of Main Bazaar). A small colonial-era museum that used to be the courthouse for the Sarawakian Chinese, then the office of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce It now houses a small permanent exhibition of Kuching's many Chinese groups.
- Fort Margherita, Completed in 1879, Fort Margherita resides at a breathtaking and strategic position at the riverside of Sarawak. It was once a defensive structure to protect Kuching from possible attack. Fort Margherita has been converted into a Police Museum and many of its old cannons, cannonballs, guns, pistols, swords and other vestiges of its armoury and armaments can still be seen. It can be accessed by road from the other side of the river, which is Petra Jaya, or by 'tambang' boat from Kuching Waterfront.
- The Cat Museum. This is a large collection of cat memorabilia, since "Kuching" means "Cat" in Malay. The museum is at Kuching North City Hall at Petra Jaya, on top of Bukit Siol (Siol Hill). Cat lovers will find all range of exhibits, photos, feline art and cat souvenirs. Some interesting cat characters like Felix the Cat, and Garfield the Cat are also housed here. Entry: adult RM3, child RM2. Open daily 9AM-5PM (closed public holidays).
- Sarawak Timber Museum (resides in the building of Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation (STIDC) Building or Wisma Sumber Alam in Petra Jaya), ☏ . Mondays to Fridays 8:30AM to 4PM, Saturdays 8:30AM-12:30PM (closed Sundays and public holidays). The museum houses forestry, traditional wood displays, forest-based products and the exhibition of timber industry development in Sarawak.
- Sarawak Textile Museum (in the Pavilion, opposite the General Post Office). M-F 8:30AM-4PM, Sa 8:30-12:30PM (closed Sundays and public holidays). yet another historical building on its own right
- Pua Kumbu Museum. The museum is at Tun Jugah Complex. However, this museum requires early booking/appointment. Refer to Sarawak Tourism Board for contact.
- Jong's Crocodile Farm, ☏ . 30 km from Kuching on the Kuching-Serian Rd. The best time to visit is during feeding time. It is open daily from 9AM–5PM, and Sundays from 10AM. Admission Charges are RM16 for adults and RM8 for children under 12.
- Gunung Gading National Park (3 km north of Lundu which is about two hours by bus or car), ☏ . home to the world’s largest flower, the parasitic Rafflesia, which can grow up to 1 m in diameter. Rafflesia takes many months to grow and then only blooms for a few days. It is best to check with the park office to avoid disappointment. Even if Rafflesia is not blooming, there are some hikes you can do in the park, see orchids (seasonal) and the world's tallest flower. There are cottages, a dorm and a nice camping area with basic facilities. park entrance RM20 (RM10 for nationals), camping RM5, guided walk RM30 per group.
- Kubah National Park, at Matang. This park is famous of its beautiful rocky streams and small waterfall. People from all over Kuching love to gather here especially on hot and sunny days for refreshing and cooling themselves. You can try jungle trekking here where you can see encaged deer and wild boars.
Kuching is a great home-base for jungle trekking and exploring Borneo.
- Bidayuh Longhouse Adventure (at Annah Rais village near Borneo Highland Resort). They offer overnight packages for you to experience the traditional Bidayuh longhouse communal life. You get to try out all sort of local dishes, home-brewed rice wine, and also lots of activities to keep you occupied, such as tropical rainforest jungle trekking, bamboo rafting, visit to natural hotspring & etc.
- Kuching Kayaking. You can choose to kayak in the Sarawak river (in the city) for a leisurely and unique perspective of Kuching; or you can choose to kayak in the sea where you may bump into dolphins; or you may choose to kayak through the rainforest and experience the sights and sounds of the jungles of Borneo. Whichever you choose, its an experience you won't soon forget.
- Borneo Headhunter Tattoos. Tattoo designs inspired by Sarawak's indigenous tribes. There are a handful of parlours in Kuching that specialise in indigenous designs and are very clean and hygienic.
- Kuching Tattoo Friendly couple and very professional. Situated same row as Kiosk 2 Cafe. A few doors away from The Junk Cafe. (Upstairs)
- Bumbu Cooking Class, 57 Carpenter St, ☏ , email@example.com. In an old traditional shophouse and almost resembles a typical indigenous kitchen but it is more modern and hygienic. The class includes a visit to the market where you will learn to choose and buy the best natural ingredients. Bookings are essential. The price is RM150 with the market tour or RM120 without.
- Scuba Diving. Dive at Talang-Talang Island to see turtles, or visit the World War II Japanese ship wreck.
- Fish Feeding. If you love feeding fish, try bring those fish food at the lake of Sarawak State Library, also at the Friendship Garden.
- Pusat Kemahiran Seni, Sarawak Cultural Village. A traditional Sarawakian dancing class is available at the centre, also lessons in playing traditional musical instruments like Sape and craft lesson for beginners.
- Traditional Batik-Making, at Jl. Stadium. Hands-on experience with making traditional batik. You can learn how to apply batik motives based on Sarawak culture. The operators of Perbadanan Kraftangan (Handicrafts body) are also expert in pua kumbu. Contact them to arrange for a lesson.
- Bidayuh Spa and Massage. At Borneo Highlands resort. Traditional spa and massage of Bidayuh.
- Jogging and brisk walking. If you love jogging and brisk walking. There are plenty of places to do so. Among the popular places are Kuching Reservoir, Masja and Kampung Haji Baki Garden.
- Sarawak Layer Cake Making. At Kampung Lintang and go to any Malay houses there to savour the making of famous Sarawak layer cakes. Among the layer cakes you can choose from are Sabok (or Sampin in standard Malay) Tun Razak cake, Dangdut cake, Retak Seribu cake and Hati Pari cake. Local guides required to look for the housewives who make the layer cakes for sale and provide teaching lesson. Other places include Rabiah Amit's house in Petra Jaya RPR Fasa II (not far from Kampung Lintang) and Dayang Salhah's in Kampung Gersik.
- Tringgus Tribal Experience (1 hr from Kuching city), ☏ , . The original 'Tringgus tribe of Borneo' were a feared sub-group of the Bidayuh (Land Dayaks), warrior headhunters of the Borneo interior, living a predominantly hunter-gatherers lifestlye. They knew how to utilise the medicinal and poison plants, edible plants and roots. Explore ancient rainforest and it's flora and fauna. Nature activities include jungle and river trekking, climbing and exploring the nearby mountains, camping and traditional white water fishing, visiting ancient remnants and relics of Tringgus tribal villages and sites. Overnight in homestays available. The park has many norctunal sights.
- 71st Skin Slavery Tattoo Studio, 1st floor, No. 75 Jl. Padungan (Opposite Everise Supermarket), ☏ . Specialise in custom tattoo, cover up, colour, black and grey work. All needle and material is in single use and well sterilized. Visit for consultation.
- Qhumang-Balai Ringin Wild Adventure (Approximately 60 km from Kuching City), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. River cruising and wild fishing adventure, jungle trekking and natural adventure as well as homestay and wild camping experiences.
- Mirage Spa, Jalan Padungan Lama, ☏ . Foot & body massage, spa & yoga.
- Kuching Caving, KuchingCaving@gmail.com (call or email), ☏ . 0900-2000. Easy, intermediate and technical day trips through fabulous, deserted caves. The company supplies you with all equipment and protective clothing. From 199.
There's some interesting shopping in Kuching. For a wide selection of tribal handicrafts and touristy gewgaws, head down to the aptly named Main Bazaar street on the Kuching waterfront. It's worth going inside for a look, as many shops have larger and more authentic collections hidden away upstairs or in a back room.
In this mostly Christian city, some shops close on Sundays.
- Sunday Market, (Pasar Minggu), off Jl. Satok, (between Esso gas station and Wisma Satok). A Kuching institution, starting every Saturday afternoon and winding down by noontime Sunday. Very much a workaday market, with tourists few and far between, the emphasis is on fresh food of every description. Be sure to try some apam balik a pancake with nuts and margarine, very filling, absolutely delicious and RM1 a piece. Bring along suitable footwear plus a tolerance for heat, crowds and powerful odors.
- Two other local markets, more conveniently located and open daily, can be found at the west end of Jl. India.
- Plaza Merdeka. A shopping mall opened in 2012 which is in the heart of Kuching city.
- AEON Mall Kuching Central, at Mile 5, the bus terminal cum shopping mall is a landmark in Kuching.
- Boulevard Mall, at Mile 4 Kuching-Serian Rd, (not far from Regional Bus Terminal). Opened in late 2007. It offers a Boulevard Hypermarket and Department Store plus a variety of shopping outlets like Sony Centre, Popular Book store and fast foods outlets such as Sushi King, Kenny Rogers Roasters and KFC. The management is expanding the mall.
- The Spring, Jl. Simpang Tiga (between the city centre and airport). Opened to the public in 2008, 'Lifestyle' shopping mall. It offers many international brands like Esprit, Elle, Mango, Charles & Keith, Starbucks, MAC and Quiksilver. The mall is spread over 4 stories including a carpark basement. The main tenants are Parkson @ tHe Spring, Ta Kiong Supermarket, Padini Concept Store, and MBO Cinemas.
- Green Heights Mall, Jl. Lapangan Terbang. Kuching's first suburban neighbourhood small mall, with an international Cold Storage Supermarket as the anchor tenant, over some 4,000 m² of leasable space. It opened in 2008.
- Sarawak Plaza, Jl. Tunku Abdul Rahman (next to Grand Margherita Hotel). One of Kuching's older malls. Lea Center is the anchor tenant, selling a wide variety of shoes from sportswear to fashion.
- Wisma Saberkas, at the junction of Jl. Tun Abang Haji Openg and Jl. Rock, is an older cylindrical building on the outskirts of Kuching (approximately 15 min from the Waterfront) that offers a feast of hi-tech products based around mobile phones and computers.
- Riverside Shopping Complex, Jl. Tunku Abdul Rahman (opposite Sarawak Plaza). One of the older malls in the city, it is home to the first Parkson in Kuching. Other anchor tenants include LFS Cineplex and Giant Supermarket. It is also home to Riverside Superbowl - one of the 2 bowling centres in Kuching.
- Wisma Hopoh, Jl. P. Ramlee, near Syaria Court. (just a walk away from Sarawak Museum). A small and old shopping centre yet still frequented by shoppers. Its tenant includes Lea Sports Centre, Jee Kwong Optics and the fast food restaurant franchise, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC).
Coffee, see, and tea, oh!
Coffee and tea in hawker centres and kopitiam goes from 60 cents to RM3 per cup/glass, a steep discount on Starbucks prices (not to mention an immeasurable improvement on their flavours), but you'll need to learn the lingo to get what you want. If you order just kopi (the Malay word for "coffee") or teh (Hokkien for "tea") in Kuching, it will definitely be served with a heaped spoonful of sugar, and more often than not with a squirt of sweet condensed milk. Kopi-C or teh-C substitutes unsweetened evaporated milk, while kopi-O or teh-O makes sure it's served with no milk. To get rid of the sugar, you need to ask for it kosong ("plain"), but if you want a cup of thick black coffee, you need to ask for kopi-O kaw! If you want your drink cold, just add a peng to the end of the drink name, eg. kopi-O-peng, teh-peng, teh-C-peng, Milo-peng etc. and it will be served with ice. There's a special thing about Teh-C. If you request for teh-C-special, you'll get a Teh-C with 'gula apong' (coconut sugar) or sometimes with a little bit of honey. Some eating place come with different portion of drinks, such as Small, Big/Large and Jumbo. Choose based on your appetite. The bigger the portion, the more expensive the drinks.
Eating out is the major pastime, with a huge variety of eateries and food available. Most places are pretty cheap with excellent service but the more "local", the less English spoken. Be sure to sample some Sarawak laksa, but beware - it's considered a breakfast dish here and the popular places sell out fast. For the local Chinese, kolo mee, a noodle dish served with slices of roasted pork, is also a daily staple. Although most places are quite clean, there are some which are not. A rule of thumb is if you're not comfortable with it, then walk somewhere else. There are plenty to choose from.
Unlike fellow Malaysians in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah, the range of food and drinks in Sarawak, particularly Kuching is somewhat different. Here are the food you might never heard of when you browse through the food menu:
- Sarawak Laksa. Sarawak laksa is the most noticeably Sarawakian food in Kuching. It was a favourite among Sarawakian from Chinese and Malay decent. It has a base of sambal belacan, sour tamarind, garlic, galangal, lemon grass and coconut milk, topped with omelette strips, chicken strips, prawns, fresh coriander and optionally lime. Ingredients such as bean sprouts, sliced fried tofu or other seafood are not traditional but are sometimes added. Non-Halal Sarawak laksa can be found at most Chinese coffee shops while Halal Sarawak laksa can be found at most Malay coffee shops (and some Mamak too). Halal and non-Halal Sarawak laksa are not that different, except for the usage of Halal chicken meat and the cooking utensils used by the cook. The Chinese version of Sarawak laksa has a less thick gravy but is rich with condiments and toppings. The Malay version of Sarawak laksa has a thicker gravy but more taugeh (beansprouts).
- Kolok Mee. Kolok mee is a type of noodle dish commonly found in Sarawak. It is served throughout the day - for breakfast, lunch or even supper though some eateries only serve kolok mee until noon because supplies run out. It is made of egg noodle, blanched in water that looks like instant noodle and served in a light sauce with some condiments like sliced pork, chicken cutlets, minced meat or sometimes shredded beef though this is unusual. The difference between kolok mee and wontan mee, which is popular in the Peninsula, is that kolok mee is not drenched in dark soy sauce and water is not added to the noodles when served. Kolok mee comes in two common flavours, plain or seasoned with red sauce. Cooks tend to season kolok mee with red sauce when they are served with pork. Occasionally, diners may also request their kolok mee to be seasoned with soy sauce, to give the dish a darker appearance with enhanced saltiness.
- Mee sapi. Mee sapi (mi sapi) is a gravy-ish version of kolok mee. It is garnished and prepared just like kolok mee with a slight difference in cooking method. The noodle can be somewhat egg noodle been used in kolok mee, or mee pok, mi sanggul - a curly type of noodle similar to angelhair spaghetti).
- Manok pansoh. Manok pansoh is the most common dish among Iban. It is a chicken dish which normally be eaten with white rice. Chicken pieces are cut and stuffed into the bamboo together with other ingredients like mushrooms, lemongrass, tapioca leaves etc. and cooked over an open fire - similar to the way lemang is cooked. This natural way of cooking seals in the flavours and produces astonishingly tender chicken with a gravy perfumed with lemongrass and bamboo. Manok pansoh cannot be found easily in all restaurants and coffee shops. Some restaurants require advanced booking of manok pansoh dish prior to your arrival.
- Manok kacangma. Manok kacangma is a Chinese type of dish which has grown in wider popularity in Sarawak. It is a chicken dish which normally be eaten with white rice. Kacangma is a type of herb which normally being used for medical and healing purposes. It is believed that woman who eat manok kacangma can enjoy ease menses. As for Malay, they normally cook manok kacangma without wine, while as for Iban and Chinese, they squinch in wine for more delicate taste. You can try manok kacangma when you eat 'nasi campur' during lunch hours in Kuching. However, it is extremely hard to find a coffee shop or restaurant who serves this.
- Umai. Umai is a raw fish salad popular among various ethnic groups of Sarawak, especially the Melanaus. In fact, umai is a traditional working lunch for the Melanau fishermen. Umai is prepared raw from freshly caught fish, iced but not frozen. Main species used include mackerel, nawal hitam and umpirang. It is made mainly of thin slivers of raw fish, thinly sliced onions, chilli, salt and the juice of sour fruits like lime or assam. It is usually accompanied by a bowl of toasted sago pearls instead of rice. Its simplicity makes it a cinch for fishermen to prepare it aboard their boats. Umai Jeb, a raw fish salad without other additional spices, is famous among Bintulu Melanaus. However, it is rarely prepared in Kuching. You can try umai when you eat Nasi campur during lunch hours in Kuching. Most Malay/Bumiputera coffee shops, serve umai daily for 'nasi campur'.
- Midin. The locals greatly indulge in jungle fern such as the midin (quite similar to pucuk paku that is popular in the Peninsular). Midin is much sought after for its crisp texture and great taste. Midin is usually served in two equally delicious ways - fried with either garlic or belacan. You can try midin when you eat nasi campur during lunch hours in Kuching. Most coffee shops, served midin daily for 'nasi campur'.
- Bubur pedas. Unlike many other porridge that we know, bubur pedas is cooked with a specially prepared paste. It is quite spicy thanks to its ingredients, which include spices, turmeric, lemon grass, galangal, chillies, ginger, coconut and shallots. Like the famous bubur lambuk of Kuala Lumpur. Bubur pedas is exclusive dish prepared during the month of Ramadan and served during the breaking of fast. So don't expect to eat bubur pedas at anytime you want.
- Linut. Linut (also known as ambuyat by Brunei people or jalit by Miri Locals) is a Melanau food. Appropriate amount of sago flour, depending on the number of people, is prepared by cleaning with water. Clean water is then added to the flour before boiling water is poured on the flour as it is stirred until it turns sticky like glue. Linut is best when served hot, and that is why the accompaniment and side dishes must be prepared before hand so that the linut can served right away while it is still hot. The traditional way to scoop the sticky linut from the bowl is to use a special clipper made from the vein of the sago palm frond. Just poke the clipper into the linut and twist it around a few times and scoop the linut which sticks to the clipper. Linut is normally served during a family reunion or a gathering of friends and visitors.
- Dabai. ‘dabai’ scientifically known as ‘Carnarium Odontophyllum Miq’ is a Sarawak local fruit .
- Mi Jawa. Mi Jawa (mee Jawa) in Kuching or Sarawak in general is somewhat different from the one served in Peninsular Malaysia, or even at its birthplace on Java island. It is a thick egg yellow noodle served with tiny slice of chicken and a sprinkle of 'daun sup' (or bay leaves). Some coffee shops serve a 'special' type of mee Jawa (which you need to add from 50 cents to RM1.50) with an additional few sticks of satay (chicken and/or beef). Mee Jawa is normally served at Malay/Mamak coffee shops.
- Roti corned beef. Roti canai is a widely-known Peninsular-origin of Indian decent food of Malaysia. However, Sarawakian has modified one type of roti canai which you might not find on Peninsular Malaysia even in Mamak stalls or Malay coffee shops. It is a roti canai with a corned beef filling and is widely available at Malay and Mamak coffee shops. It can be bought for as low as RM2 per piece due to cheap canned corned beef. However, since the Gateway-brand corned beef was officially considered non-Halal, roti corned beef has lost its popularity and if it does exist, the price may range from RM4-5 per piece.
- Nasik Aruk. Nasik Aruk is a traditional Sarawakian Malay fried rice. Unlike nasi goreng, nasik aruk does not use any oil to fry the rice. The ingredients are garlic, onion and anchovies, fried with very little oil and then the cook is added. The rice must be fried for a longer time compared to nasi goreng to allow the smokey/slightly-burnt taste to be absorbed into the rice. It is a common to see nasik aruk in the food menu list at Malay and Mamak coffee shops and stalls.
Kuching has also absorbed Thai favourites such as tom yam, nasi paprik and pattaya. Bakso and soto originally from Indonesia, and nasi ayam Singapura (from Singapore) have moved onto restaurant and other menus. Chinese restaurants have also been daring to try more exquisite cuisine from North China, Korea and Vietnam. Western food has also been widely accepted in Sarawak, especially Kuching. Fast food chains such as KFC, McDonalds, Kenny Roger's Roasters, Secret Recipe and Marrybrown, America's buffet has also taken place in Sarawakian's heart such as Hartz Chicken Buffet are also growing in presence. However, traditional nasi campur and traditional breakfast, high tea and dinner are always part of Sarawakian food ritual. It is however becoming common to see more modernised Kuchingites slowly adapting to Western food culture such as eating pasta or pizza for dinner.
Dietary restriction guides
As a guide to Muslim visitors, some of the restaurants serving Chinese food are non-halal, unless stated halal or appear to handover the food preparation to Muslim cooks or sellers. Restaurants who clearly stated pork or/and non-halal substances in their food menu (like using wine for cooking, frogs and snakes) are ones you should avoid. The easiest way to look for halal restaurants are by looking at their halal certificate. Ensure that they display halal certificate produced by JAIS Sarawak, JAKIM or HDC Malaysia. Sometimes the restaurant owners choose not to display it, so please ask to see the certificate if they claim to serve halal food.
For vegetarian visitors, always look for the restaurant clearly stating vegetarian food only. Some vegetarian meals served can still contain non-vegetarian ingredients like anchovies, chicken stock and lard. If in doubt, ask the staff.
- Madam Tang's A Taste Of Sarawak, Lot 16, Wisma Nation Horizon, Jalan Petanak. Teh C Peng special, beef noodles and nasi lemak rendang.
- Pure Fish Ball Cafe, 214, Jl. Padungan (Kuching), ☏ . Halal. It is a nice and comfortable A/C cafe selling local food especially pure fish mee noodle with 100% mackerel fish meat.
- Finest Cafe, 新时代广场 Travilion (Between the "Big White Cat" and HSBC building in the same row as the Great Eastern Insurance Building). Kolo Mee and 色香味小档 stalls cook assorted hawker food, especially their 'curry mee' (very spicy) and Cantonese style 'home-cook fast food 杂菜饭'. Halal Malay-style chicken rice with juicy tender chicken meat that comes with 3 different sauces; black pepper, butter and salad. Boneless steam chicken with home-made sesame sauce and a range of Halal food. Special laksa is a real treat for adventurous taste buds.
- Chong Choon, Jl. Abell (opposite Maybank). One of Kuching's two famous laksa joints. Usually sold out by noon.
- Choon Hui, Jl. Ban Hock (near Grand Continental Hotel). Another famous laksa joint. Spicy and popular, get here before 10AM.
- Open Air Market, Jl. Market (opposite Electra House Shopping Centre and near 'Padang Merdeka' Police Station). Despite the name, the place is actually covered. It has a wide variety of stalls serving Malay and Chinese cuisine. Their most popular stall is the one serving beef noodles and sio bi (pork dumplings). Also popular is the fresh porridge and seafood stalls. But beware, this area is not the cleanest of places so order your food from only the most popular stalls.
- Lau Ya Keng Food Court, Carpenter St. (just after the Harmony Arch, opposite a Chinese temple). A simple food court that has been around for decades and is very popular with locals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can buy very decent Kolo mee and Sarawak laksa here. But a lot of people come here for the fish-ball soup and famous pork satay that opens in the early afternoon.
- Hock King Cafeteria, Jl. Ban Hock. Basic, but quite generous meals throughout the day. Mr Hock is one of the better hosts in Kuching, fluent in multiple languages and will do almost anything to make your stay as comfortable as possible. Many local celebrities stop by for lunch regularly as Hock King is well connected.
- KY Cafe, Sekama Rd. (a corner shop opposite Hollywood KTV Lounge, about 10 min walk from the Kuching City South Council building). Run by a band of three brothers, they serve what is arguably the best 'Kolo mee' in town. Characterised by being served in an orange plastic bowl, this 'kolo mee' tastes a little bit on the sweet side and has the distinction of tasting much better towards the end. They also have excellent wonton soup.
- Bismillah Cafe, Satok and 7th Mile. If you love Indian and Mamak food, try this one. They serve good nasi beriyani, roti canai and teh tarik.
- Sepinang Sari Cafe & Restaurant, Satok next to Carpet Shop sells the best Mi Sapi HjSalleh and usually operates from 6AM-5:30PM daily. You will also find delicious laksa Sarawak and mee Jawa.
- Singapore Chicken Rice, Have branches at Padungan, Satok and Kota Samarahan. Serve excellent chicken rice comparable to other established chicken rice shop. Other side dishes are baby kailan in oyster sauce and beansprouts.
- Gerai Seafood Halal Jambatan Gantung, Satok. This is the best place to try Halal grilled chicken wings and grilled ikan sebelah. A total of 8 stalls make up the area with variety of Malay and Chinese food. All of the stalls serve Halal food.
- Rojak Kuchei Batu Lintang, Batu Lintang. This place served the best rojak India and chicken rojak in the town. Don't be surprised to see a lot of visitors during morning time because this place is constantly crowded with people from the nearby offices during breakfast time.
- Ho Joo Café, 3rd Mile. The place where you can get the thick Hainanese-style bread, toasted in a small toaster oven before spreading butter and kaya on it. Nice to be taken during breakfast or high tea. Once appeared in a Chinese daily for this specialty.
- Tracy's Kitchen, Jl. Abell (near Wisma Prudential, towards the end of roundabout with Jl. Padungan) – Serves its original "Pak Lo" duck and chicken, kolo mee, kacangma duck, wine chicken, pork leg, assam fish, rendang, and a variety of other dishes. Not to miss is its fresh cucumber juice. Open M 9:30AM-6PM, Tu-Su 9:30AM-9:30PM. Not halal.
- 1 Kubah Ria Complex, No 1 Jalan Matang (After the Satok Bridge on the Left side heading towards Petra Jaya), ☏ . A shopping and food center by the Sarawak River very near to the historical Satok Bridge. Built by SEDC to replace the former food and beverages centre. This shopping center houses 45 shoplots and 45 food and beverage outlets. This is now the most popular eating and shopping spot in Kuching.
- Benson Seafood, ☏ . No. 112 Jln Tunku Abdul Rahman. A riverside restaurant that specializes in fresh Chinese style seafood. It is well-established and don't be surprised to see them catering to groups of tourists.
- Hong Kong Noodle House, Jln Pandungan, (Opposite Bing Cafe). Standard HK fare like roast duck on rice or noodles. They also serve local Chinese dishes and is open for lunch and dinner.
- SideWalk Cafe, Green Heights (Towards airport, on the right-hand side of the BDC flyover/roundabout). Al fresco style western food away from the city near the airport. Its only open in the evenings till late and is popular with locals.
- Mango Tree, Ground Floor, Lot 362-363, Section 47, KTLD Bukit Mata Kuching, Jalan Padungan. A/C dining room, or dine alfresco in a traditional Thai garden. Thai cuisine.
- Hartz Chicken Buffet, Satok & Sarawak Plaza. This buffet restaurant is a franchise to the All-American Chicken Buffet. You can eat as much as you want for RM17.70 per person. Crispy and spicy fried chicken, wide range of salads, mashed potatoes, cakes, breads, ice-creams and fruits.
- The Junk, ☏ . Wayang Street (opposite Fata Hotel). Walking distance from the waterfront. Western/Italian menu and popular with locals and expats. Colonial Chinese decoration with lots of antiques. The portions are large and the lamb shanks and fisherman's basket seem to be the most popular. Bookings are advisable if you have a large group.
- Bla Bla Bla, ☏ . Wayang Street (A few shops down from The Junk). A Chinese restaurant which was opened by the same restaurateurs as The Junk. It quickly became an institution for fine Chinese cuisine in Kuching shortly after it opened in 2005. The interior is designed with a Balinese theme and some of the dishes they are famous for are the ostrich-rolls, soft-shell crabs, and drunken duck. Bookings are advisable.
- See Good Food Centre (Off Ban Hock Rd., opposite Hua Kuok Inn), ☏ . Casual laid-back restaurant that serves excellent and very fresh seafood, very popular with the locals. It is best to get there early in the evenings to secure a table and minimise the waiting time, as they don't take reservations.
- Top Spot Food Court, Jl. Bukit Mata (Top floor of 'Taman Kereta' Carpark, opposite Tun Jugah Shopping Mall). Has a wide range of food stalls ranging from the budget to the pricey. Most locals and tourists come here for the fresh seafood stalls which are on the pricey side. Most of the stalls serve good food, but beware; always ask to see a menu with prices - some stalls have been known to 'accidentally' over-charge tourists.
- Ristorante Beccari, Jl. Tun Abang Haji (inside Merdeka Palace Hotel), ☏ . A good authentic style Italian restaurant. The wood-fired pizzas are excellent.
- Alfresco, 2, Jalan Datuk Abang Abdul Rahim (Inside Hock Lee Centre, 1st Floor), ☏ . Lots of Western dishes here, including pizza and beer.
- ZE Kiosk, Kuching Waterfront, Jl. Tunku Abdul Rahman. If you want to have a drink or two while sightseeing the Sarawak River, this is a possible venue. Wide range of food and drinks, but the food can be pricey due to the influx of tourists who stay at the nearby luxurious hotels.
- Serapi Corner, 7th Mile. Peninsular Malaysia style food. Their specialty is ikan keli bakar bersambal (grilled catfish with sambal). It is a bit hot inside. Check for the price list carefully to avoid charging errors on the bill. If you don't mind waiting for hours they have a view of hilly road to kill your time.
- Magenta has been relocated to the old court house at Waterfront. Beautiful colonial building with a romantic oriental ambience. Good menu with large portions. Speciality is lamb shank with mashed potato which sounds bland but is very tasty.
- 2 Popular Vegetarian Restaurant, 106, Lorong Abang Abdul Rahim 5a. Vegetarian Chinese restaurant.
Be sure to try Sarawak coffee - it is delicious and can be found in any local 'Kopi-tiam' (coffee shop). Also, try a drink called "White Lady". It usually consists of evaporated milk and a syrup base with fruit and a slice of lemon within. The colours vary from yellow to pink.
The local favourite of "White Lady" is made by Ah Meng's stall at Hui Sing Hawker Centre at Hui Sing Garden. Another of the stall's signature drink is "Metahorn", made with jellies, syrup and local fruits. There are various knock-offs in Kuching but the taste is different.
There are plenty of good bars and are usually grouped together in areas around Kuching.
Kuching has a large number of clubbing districts.
Padungan Road is in the city centre, in the Chinatown area. There are a handful of bars along this stretch that mainly cater to the working-class Yuppie crowd.
Jalan McDougall, adjacent to Wayang Street, a hotel building away from the Main Bazaar. This is the area where the two main bars attract a new generation of the yuppie crowd:
- Junkbar/Backstage, inside the Junk restaurant, this nightclub offers Junkbar - a quieter, laid-back bar; a karaoke area called the Red Room between the restaurant and the Junkbar; and a noisier club area called Backstage for the younger, active crowd which features another bar and a pool table.
- Havana. Next to Backstage, this club offers a wide selection of alcoholic beverages and promotions nearly everyday. Frequented by the younger patrons of next door's Backstage, this club is famous for its beer towers and 1 liter draft beers.
Travillion in Petanak, just after Padungan Rd, is home to many newer bars and mainly caters to the young college crowd. It has bright signage, cheap alcohol, and Techno music. This area used to be infamous for gang-related brawls and other trouble - however the number of incidences have decreased significantly and while its generally considered safe now, it still pays to be a bit careful.
Taman Sri Sarawak is opposite the Hilton Hotel. This area is the closest to the Kuching Waterfront and mainly caters to the Tourist Crowd.
And a few more scattered elsewhere:
- Matang Terrace, at the Hilton Hotel. Very modern and chic design with chill-out music and the occasional live band. It is one of the nicest bars in Kuching and they have an extensive cocktail list, on a tranquil terrace.
- The Victoria Arms. (Inside Merdeka Palace Hotel). The only true 'English Tavern' in Kuching. Its a big place with live bands, English pub food, and expensive wooden interior. They have a cover-charge and dress-code for non-hotel guests. Fridays are 'ladies's nights' and are very popular.
- Ruai Bar Padungan, 240, Jln Padungan. Very cultural with Iban and Bidayuh influenced decoration. Probably the only bar that serves locally brewed tuak (rice wine). A definite must go for the experience.
- Bing!, Padungan Rd. A laid-back cafe with a Balinese theme that serves excellent lattes and fresh fruit juices. They are also popular for their cakes, deli-style gourmet sandwiches and light meals.
- Black Bean Coffee&Tea Company, Jl. Carpenter. Small cafe which serves excellent home-roasted Sarawak liberica, Sumatran arabica and Javanese robusta. If you're a coffee addict, you just cannot miss this one.
- Jase's Tea Room 1st Floor, Sublot 18, Premier 101 Commercial Centre Jl. Tun Jugah. (Above a Korean convenient store). A vintage cafe with Victorian style. A place known to serve fresh imported tea leaves and lots of varieties of drinks and finger foods.
- Starbucks, inside Kuching International Airport, next to KFC; and inside The Spring. Another popular franchise.
- Caffe Cino, Inside Hilton Hotel. They serve good coffee, desserts and meals. But the prices are a bit on the high side.
- Tribal Stove, Taman Sri Sarawak (opposite Hilton Hotel). A cool joint that opened in 2006. They specialise in a range of Gelatos and change the flavors daily. They also serve coffee and cakes. Very good ambience and nice atmosphere.
- Kluang Station, Inside The Spring. A franchise offering old-school 'kopitiam' coffee with toast and half-boiled eggs in a relaxing and clean setting reminiscent of indo-china colonial coffee shops.
- Kaya & Toast, Satok. If you love classic but classy 'kopitiam' to enjoy toasted breads with wide range of filling, try this one.
- Bidayuh Traditional Chalet and homestay (Funaborneo), Kg Tringgus, Bau (30 km from Kuching city), ☏ , . A relaxed traditional bidayuh chalet with views of virgin forest and nearby to a fresh water river. From RM38.
- Fairview Guesthouse, No.6, Jalan Taman Budaya, ☏ . Colonial House with tropical garden, a nice place that feels like home.
- Le Nomade Hostel & Cafe, 1st Floor, No.3, Jl. Green Hill, ☏ . Basic and maybe don't count on everything working or being available.
- Singgahsana Lodge, 1 Temple St (Opposite Harbour View Hotel), ☏ . A hip back-packers lodge at the Kuching waterfront. Longhouse decor and artifacts. The staff are a bit smug and self-important, but it is clean, safe and very reasonably priced.
- Threehouse Bed&Breakfast, 51 Upper China St, ☏ . Native Iban and Scandinavian ownership, in the middle of the city. Approach from the main Post Office in town you have a Chinese arch (gate) on the left of the building which leads to Carpenter St. Walk straight up that street passed a red temple on your right side, in the first junction you turn to your right and you are now on Upper China St. Walk the street up and watch out for the sunflower windmill and the only red facade building on this street.
- Tune Hotel - Waterfront Kuching, Jl Borneo, Lot 281, Section 48, KTLD, (opposite Hilton Kuching and off Jl. Tunku Abdul Rahman), ☏ . Check-out: 10AM. Budget hotel operated by chain linked to AirAsia. Limited and basic services including hot showers. Price structure as of MAR 2016: 50 RM gets you a claustrophobic room and bed. Double that for 'amenities', including towels and internet. From RM50.
- 1 Sunset Homestay, E36, Level 2, Taman Sri Sarawak, Jalan Green Hills, ☏ . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. Hostel with three levels of bunks. The bunks are capsule-style, with a curtain, so there's more of a sense of privacy than at most hostels. Lockers big enough for a medium-sized bag. Air conditioning and free wifi. RM25 for a bunk, discounts may be available. RM50 deposit.
- Basaga Holiday Residences, 69-70 Tabuan Rd, ☏ . Lot. Has an outdoor bar with a beautiful courtyard.
- Damai Beach Resort, ☏ . Beach resort with private beach and 2 swimming pools, tennis courts and restaurant. Can organise trips such as diving and snorkeling. Prices start from RM206.
- Damai Puri Resort ∧ Spa, Teluk Penyuk Santubong, ☏ . Fronts Damai Beach with 207 rooms and a spa village, secluded massage villas, a yoga pavilion, hair spa, and a tea house that serves organic gourmet. 2 outdoor pools, tennis courts, wifi is available, a 600 capacity ballroom, meeting rooms. Can organise jungle treks and water sports.
- Harbour View Hotel, ☏ . Lorong Temple. 2-3 star business class hotel that is centrally in front of the Kuching Waterfront. Standard rooms are quite basic, often occupied by tour groups.
- 2 Hotel Grand Continental, Jl. Ban Hock, ☏ . Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. A comfortable 3-star hotel about 15 min walk from the Kuching waterfront.
- Kingwood Inn, Lot 618 Pandungan Rd, ☏ . Another standard hotel that's probably a bit better than Kuching Park Hotel.
- Kuching Park Hotel, Lot 606 Pandungan Rd, ☏ . A standard 2- to 3-star hotel a short drive away from the city centre.
- The LimeTree Hotel. 50 rooms & suites boutique hotel in city centre adjacent to Chinatown and min away from the Waterfront and malls.
- 3 Citadines Uplands Kuching, No 55 Jalan Simpang Tiga, ☏ , email@example.com. The property offers studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments. Has a business centre and outdoor swimming pool.
- Hock Lee Hotel & Residences, Hock Lee Centre, Jalan Datuk Abang Abdul Rahim, ☏ . Beside Hock Lee Shopping Centre.
- Grand Margerita Hotel, Jl. Tunku Abdul Rahman, ☏ . Formerly a Holiday Inn Kuching. Visitors can gain access to the Sarawak Plaza, a shopping complex situated adjacent to it. Convenient to Tun Jugah and Parkson. Franchise outlets such as Starbucks, Kenny Rogers, KFC and McDonald's are nearby.
- Hilton Kuching, Jl. Tunku Abdul Rahman, ☏ . Great riverside location. Make sure you get a river view, extra but well worth it.
- Merdeka Palace Hotel, Jl. Tun Abang Haji Openg, ☏ . Kuching's oldest luxury hotel, its rooms aren't quite as spectacular as the lobby, but the hotel has infinitely more colonial character than others at the riverside. Next to the Sarawak Museum and nearby to the riverfront. The rooftop pool has a great view over Kuching. Rack rates from around RM300, but steep discounts in the off season can chop that in half.
- Riverside Majestic Kuching (formerly known as Crown Plaza Riverside Kuching), Jl. Tunku Abdul Rahman, ☏ . Despite the name, this is the one riverside hotel that isn't actually riverside although it's just across the street.
- ARIVA Gateway Kuching, 9 Jl Bukit Mata, ☏ . Comfortable serviced-apartments in the city centre.
- Pullman Kuching, 1A Jalan Mathies, ☏ . On top of the hill at Jalan Mathies, Pullman Kuching offers astonishing panoramic view of the city and the Sarawak River. The hotel is adjacent to a two storey city life-style shopping centre “Hills Shopping Mall” and within walking distance to commercial centre and city attractions.
The most common crime in Kuching are bag snatches by motorbike riders. When walking nearby the road or in open parking lots, keep handbags and non-strapped items far from the side of the road, holding them firmly. Jalan Main Bazaar is particularly notorious for bag snatches; it can be avoided by walking in the waterfront instead. Other than that, Kuching is a quite safe city. Armed robberies with knives are known to happen, but much less frequently than in other large Malaysian cities such as Johor Bahru or Kuala Lumpur.
Kuching is practically safe from natural disasters: no earthquakes, typhoons, hurricanes or volcanoes. Aside from the very occasional flood the biggest hazard is haze during the dry season, caused by fires in Sarawak and neighboring Indonesia.
Kuching has often been declared as one of the cleanest cities in Malaysia. The air pollution is low, while the Sarawak River is constantly being cleaned of rubbish. Some part of the city might be a little bit dirty and messy. However, tourists spots are well-maintained.
Public toilets are easily available throughout Kuching with entrance fee of 20 cents. The public toilets are generally sanitized and clean.
Public smoking is still allowed, except for areas like hospitals, government offices, public bus stops and supermarkets. Please show respect for the town you're visiting by always putting your rubbish in a bin.
- Australian Consulate, Suite 504, 5th Floor, Wisma Bukit Mata Kuching, Jl. Tunku Abdul Rahman, ☏ .
- 2 Consulate General of Brunei, No.297-2-2 Tingkat 2 Riverbank Suites and Commercial Towers, ☏ .
- General Consulate of the People's Republic of China, Lot 3719, Dogan Garden, Dogan Rd, ☏ .
- Consulate General of Indonesia, Lantai 6, Bangunan Binamas, No. 1 Jl. Pandungan, ☏ .
- Bako National Park — beaches and jungle trekking easily reached by bus from downtown Kuching.
- Miri — there are several flights daily to this major gateway to the Gunung Mulu National Park and the Kelabit Highlands.
- Santubong — with the Sarawak Cultural Park and Damai Beach is easily reached by tour bus.