In all my research, Kuching was never noted as a “must-see” city. In fact, almost everyone recommended it as a great resting point for activities around the area.
After spending a few days in the city, I think it is horribly under-estimated and equally under-appreciated. Kuching was fantastic!
We had a great start to our holiday- woke up late (midnight arrivals do that to you), and had a leisurely breakfast of omelette and toast with our hostess Annie. She gave us a few tips and directions for checking out the city centre and Riverfront. Since the Fairview Guesthouse is so well-located, the plan was to use this day as an “easing in” for the boys. Starting with the casual 15min walk to the Riverfront to check out the action.
The name Kuching is the same as ‘ku-cing’, meaning cat. Kuching is said to be named because a white settler was asking the name of “that settlement”, while the local thought he was pointing at a cat. Whether or not it is true, the city has embraced the story with its cat statues proudly displayed in the centre… and pretty much everywhere else. Our first day also coincides with Malaysia Day – a national holiday, that also coincides with the Kuching Regatta and International Wakeboarding Competition. Kuching likes to pack things in, while you least expect it.
Kuching is not your usual tourist hub – most use the city as a stop, particularly for day-trips to the Orang Utan Centre, or the Bako National Park. Walking around the Riverfront, we appeared to be a novelty or rarity: very white-skinned people, with cute, young, white kids. So many locals wanted to stop and touch the boys. I never thought of our family like this before, but after sitting and chatting with a few locals in the markets, that description was the most common given. There is no racial slur about it – merely a simple physical description for how different we look to everyone else.
The entire Riverfront has been turned into one massive party area. There are markets, balloons, musicians and plenty of food vendors. With growing hunger, we dove into the local food: fried noodles, khew tiew goreng, coconut custard toast (THE BEST), milo toast (kids’ favourite), tomato noodles, and lots (AND LOTS) of milo!
At one point, B walked back to the Guesthouse for some supplies, while the boys and I stayed in a park on the riverfront. On the way, he came across a bride heading to her wedding. Her stunning white and red dress was irresistible.
Meanwhile, the boys had befriended some local kids playing in the boat-playground. The initial novelty feeling was quickly replaced with the universal games of Tag, Hide & Seek, and Leaf Wars. This is the beauty of travelling with kids – in most cases, the urge to play overrides any other fear or adult-influenced hesitation. Beautiful to watch
Later in the afternoon, we took a sampan (traditional) boat ride across the river to check out and the view back to the city. By the time we had finished, they were closing off the river for the Regatta! Luckily enough, a Civil Defence boat took pity and returned us to the Riverfront.
As evening arrives, we settle in at a table outside a ‘more sophisticated’ vendor. Basically, there are about 3 or 4 dozen large stalls (like wheel-less caravans) set up along the river. Each has a few of the local specialities on offer, but they each have their own preferred menu. This one has noodles, that one has seafood. We’re lucky enough to pick one with a drink stall next door. There’s even entertainment nearby. Any concerns about the kids’ eating on this holiday are quickly thrown into the nearby river – they are jumping in and giving it a try, including the pronunciation!
After such an adventure, the boys were absolutely exhausted. We ended up carrying both boys back to the guesthouse (B had a backpack carrier for 2yo N, I had to ‘cuddle-carry’ S). As we crawled in to bed and our heads hit the pillow, B and I hear fireworks exploding over the city in a festival of colour. We had waited for them, but reached the point of being too tired. We just missed them!!
Accomodation: Fairview Guesthouse
Food: Breakfast at the Guesthouse; Street Vendor food most of the day.
Transport: walking; sampan (and Defence boat) across the river.
Stay tuned – the next day we visit Semenggoh Wildlife Centre (Orang Utans!!)