Travel Diary » Kuching, a lovely surprise
"We're off to Kuching next"
"Oh you'll love it. It was one of our favourite cities in Asia"
That's the response we got countless times from friends when we mentioned we were heading to the capital of Sarawak, Kuching. The response surprised me - Kuching isn't really a destination you hear a lot about but every single person we spoke too seemed to love it. What would it be like?
Flying in I didn't really know what to expect. When I pictured Sarawak I thought of rivers, jungles, long houses, tribes, orangutans, more jungles. If the guide books were right, boats are the preferred mode of transport. The view out the plane's window as we flew seemed to support this - outside the window were more rivers than I've ever seen. The whole landscape was covered in snake-like tributaries. How did this quaint modern city with a wonderful balance of the old and new that everyone raved about fit into this landscape of jungles and rivers?
After three nights staying in the jungle at The Kebun we moved into Kuching to spend two nights exploring the city. And quickly discovered we loved Kuching. Just as everyone had predicted. Beautiful historic buildings, wide green streets and a gorgeous riverfront boardwalk to explore. It was modern and clean, but lacked the polish of Kuala Lumpur or Penang. Easy to walk around, friendly and peaceful. Quiet and unassuming but developed enough to be comfortable. It was Malaysia and yet different from any city we'd visited in Malaysia.
It's hard to put into words why we liked Kuching but we did.
We decided to really splurge for the first time in two years. After three nights sleeping under mosquito nets and trekking to an outhouse toilet it was time for a fancy hotel, swimming pool, buffet breakfast! We chose the Grand Margarita Hotel, right on the riverfront at $100 for a family room including breakfast. It was honestly one of the best hotels we've ever stayed in.
The view was lovely too ...
The kids were so tired after three days of tours and playing on a farm that we didn't end up seeing a lot of Kuching. We missed the weekend night markets, the boat cruises and the cultural village. But we did wander along the waterfront at sunset looking at the stunning buildings, eating ice cream, chasing bubbles in the night markets and watching boats ferry people across the river. Bubble chasing was the highlight - I'm not sure how we got away from those markets without having to buy bubble blowers!
We explored the oldest streets of Kuching filled with their run down Chinese shop houses and stunning temples. Sarawak certainly knows how to design beautiful temples.
On our last day we visited the Sarawak Museum and got up close with some of the old colonial buildings. The museum had some very interesting artifacts and the kids enjoyed the models of traditional houses but we wouldn't list it as a 'must see' attraction. If you have the time and nothing else to do it's free and interesting but it certainly wasn't the highlight of our trip. The kids probably enjoyed seeing the giant trees and the old buildings more.
And there you have our time in Kuching. We were pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoyed this small city ... just like everyone said we would. It's definitely a lovely place to visit with children for a few days.