Sunday, August 4, 2013

Kuching, Sarawak

We had always planned at the end of the consulting assignment we would take a trip down to Borneo and visit Kuching.  And with some excellent 1st hand advice from Imogen, we booked our flights.

A quick superficial history lesson: From 1841 until 1946 the province of Sarawak was ruled by the Brooke family as a dynastic monarchy known as the White Rajahs.  After WWII the area was ceded by the Rajahs to Britain,  and subsequently became part of the newly formed country of Malaysia in 1963.  The British influence is evident in the architecture and high levels of English being spoken.  At the same time there has been a long established Chinese community.  Religion is split between Christian and Islam.  All in all it is a real melting pot of people and cultures.

We spent a couple of days in Kuching at both the start and end of our trip and really enjoyed it's laid-back vibe.

On one hand there is the colonial inspired architecture

And lots of colour

While on the other is there are many new buildings such as the new & very modern (2009) Sarawak state legislature


Old Chinatown (Jalan Carpenter) is full of colour and small shop-houses. 


Chinatown 2

Some things are still done small-scale, including making metal edges/folds by brute force, baking tins are produced and every colour of cotton you could ever need – displayed in rickety old drawers

Chinatown metal workers
Chinatown store 1

We had no problems finding good food here.  We ate everywhere from the open air market to the more upscale James Brooke Bistro.  Everything was cheap and tasty.  We made sure we had some local dishes including Kolo Mee, Sawarak Laksa and Mindin – a jungle fern, sort of like small asparagus. 


While oil & forestry are big export earners here, the exporting of Kek Lapis must be not far behind.  Kek Lapis is a local cake which originally came from Indonesia and the Dutch influence but it has become synonymous with Sarawak.  It is made with thin 5mm layers of brightly coloured, flavoured sponge cake sandwiched together – think Liquorice Allsorts and a ‘good’ cake will have 18 or more layers.  They were for sale everywhere and at the airport passengers were either checking in big boxes of cakes or lugging shopping bags full of cakes to take back to mainland Malaysia.

Kuching in Malay means cat, although the city is not named because of cats, rather the corruption of some other words.  However the locals have taken this as an opportunity to use it for a bit of local flavour so all forms of cat statues exist in the town.

One of the most touristed is on the round about on the main street.  Spotting it free from other tourists I told Andrew to pose and not squint into the bright sun directly shining in his eyes.  Apparently not squinting was the easy part, not squirming because the rocks were super hot, was a lot harder to avoid.

2 more sets of statues from around the city centre.  I like the 2nd, which someone else described as the cats doing a Nazi salute.

Kuching Cat 2

Kuching sunset

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