Kuching

From Academic Kids

Kuching is the capital of the East Malaysian State of Sarawak. It is situated at the banks of the Sarawak River on the North-Western part of the island of Borneo. The population of about 1/2 million is made up of a mixture of Malays, Dayaks, Chinese and some Indians and other ethnic groups.

Sarawak was a part of the Sultanate of Brunei 200 years ago but as a reward for its help in putting down a rebellion, it was ceded to an English adventurer called James Brooke who ruled it as his personal kingdom. Kuching was made his capital and headquarters. The Brooke family ruled Sarawak until the end of the Second World War when the third and last Rajah, Vyner Brooke in turn ceded it 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, joined Malaysia. (Singapore became independent soon after).

The name Kuching means cat in the Malay language. However the actual reason for naming it is not traceable. Some say it was named after Bukit Mata Kuching, a hill located in the heart of the city. Others say that it was named after the fruit "Mata Kuching", which is a form of longan which grew profusely on the river banks in the past.

Despite being the 7th largest city (http://www.sarawak.gov.my/contents/population/population.shtml) in Malaysia, Kuching still maintains a 'small town' feel. In fact, parochial is still the name of the game, here! Much of Kuching used to be green, with tall overarching trees offering shade at the sides of the roads. However, in recent years, the feeling of being surrounded by tropical greenery has dissipated somewhat. Nonetheless, the municipal council still do a reasonably good job of maintaining a tidy, if somewhat manicured, landscape.

Roads within the town are of a reasonable standard, though traffic congestion often leads to long tailbacks during rush hour. Roads leading outside of Kuching to the interior are of a slightly more dubious quality, although the main resort roads (e.g. leading to Damai (http://www.sarawaktourism.com/damai.html)) are also reasonable. Transport by taxi is reasonable and in popular tourist spots there always seems to be an abundance of taxi drivers eager to pounce on their unsuspecting prey. Beware the unmetered taxi, though! Public transport by antique, smoky non-airconditioned buses is strictly for the intrepid back-packer only.

Within the town, there are several museums such as the well-known Sarawak Museum, Chinese Museum, Cat Museum, etc, which are definitely not to be missed when visiting Kuching. Interesting landmarks and sites are Istana (the Rajah's former palace), Fort Margherita, Tua Pek Kong temple and Main Bazaar. The Kuching waterfront, which is really a riverside esplanade, is situated right next to the main hotels and comemrcial heartland of the city, and offers a pleasant walk in the evening. When you tire of strolling, the old shops on the opposite side of the waterfront will gladly sell you all manner of 'antiques' and tradecraft. Some other interesting areas near the centre of town include Padungan Street, which is the main Chinatown area of the city. Shops here appear virtually unchanged from 20 years ago, and offer a fascinating insight into life as it was then. Meantime, Carpenter Street and India Street still maintain their olde world charm, though the relentless process of globalisation is slowly encroaching. The old Courthouse building forms the link between Carpenter Street and India Street, and is well worth a quick stroll as you re-live faded colonial splendour (now revived and modernised).

Kuching is not traditionally known for excellence in food, although true Kuchingites would beg to differ. Kuching 'kon-loh mein' (basically noodles, flash-boiled and then served with sliced roast pork) and Kuching Laksa (a spicy curry soup base served with rice vermicelli) are the two most famous hawker dishes served. Perhaps infamous would be a better term, as non-Kuching residents often fail to see what the fuss is all about. Most hawker stalls would serve a variety of these two dishes, but locals often debatevigorously (http://www.sarawak.com.my/travel_features/guide/laksa.html) as to where to find the best variety. Meantime, the usual suspects (MacDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken) lurk in the prime commercial complexes though in case you're really interested, no, Starbucks hasn't quite made it to Kuching yet....

The Chinese are made up of Fujianese (Hokkien) in the city areas and Hakka in the suburbs mainly. Other Chinese consist of Foochow (Fuzhou), Teochew, Hainanese, Cantonese, Henghua, etc.

The climate in Kuching is tropical, moderately hot and receives subtantial rainfall. The average annual rainfall is approximately 4000mm or 160 inches. The wettest times are during the Monsoon months of December to February. The mean temperature is around 26C all year round.

The people of Sarawak consider themselves Sarawakian first, and everything else second.


External links

  • Cuti-Cuti Malaysia Travel Guide: Kuching (http://www.cuti.com.my/?f=Sub/Sarawak/guide_kuching.htm) Cuti-Cuti Malaysia Kuching travel guide and destination information, hotel & tour package reservation.
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