Kuching is one of the most interesting destinations in Malaysia located in the Southern End of Sarawak. The flight time from Kuala Lumpur is approximately 1 hour. AirAsia flights operate daily with price ranging from 40RM to 100RM (between A$10 -30) I boarded an early morning flight so I can utilise the first day constructively.
Surprisingly at the airport, there is no public transport other than taxis and Uber. The Uber ride from Kuching Airport to the main area of the city costs around 10RM.Taxis cost around 25RM. Therefore, Uber is the obvious choice. Mid-February is still a bit rainy, clearing up later in the day. As I reached Grand Margherita after 25 minutes of scenic rides through the city. With one-way roads heading in either direction, traffic gets a bit congested around midday.
1. Day 1
1.1 Staying at Grand Margherita Hotel
1.2 Centerpoint Shopping Center
1.3 Jalan Abell & Jalan Padungan
1.4 Tun Juggah Shopping Center
2. Day 2
2.1 Sarawak River Cruise
2.2 Fort Margherita
2.3 Sarawak State Museum
2.4 Lunch at James Brooke Cafe
2.5 Carpenter Lane & Backpacker Hostels & Bars
3. Day 3
3.1 Trip to Sarawak Cultural Village
3.2 Dinner at Top Spot Seafood
3.3 Exploring Sarawak Waterfront
Hotel Review: Staying at Grand Margherita
Grand Margherita is a great choice if you want to enjoy the city views and explore the city on foot. I explored a bit online and made a great choice based on reviews and location. Advance booking costs around A$60/night. The most important Landmark of Kuching, Cat Statue is located right in front of the Hotel. I had a great view of the Statue from my room at Grand Margherita. Surprisingly, on the weekends you can spot tourist taking snapshots of the status even at 1 in the morning.
Statue of Cats in front of Grand Margherita
Grand Margherita Hotel Kuching
The hotel offers great service including spa, restaurants and an outdoor pool. A walkway takes you to Sarawak Plaza and Centerpoint Shopping Center. Both of these shopping centres have food courts, pharmacies, salons etc. MacDonald, as well as KFC, is located right next to the hotel. If travelling with family, Grand Margherita is a great location.
Photos are taken during my stay at Grand Margherita
I enjoyed staying at Grand Margherita because of its ideal location next to the Sarawak River. In the evening I explored all the neighbourhood on foot. There are plenty of budget hotels located with half a kilometre of Grand Margherita. Exploring Jalan Abell and Jalan Padungan Walking south-bound along Jalan Abell takes shopping area, banks and plenty of roadside cafes. There is plenty of mid-range and budget accommodation available in this part of the city with easy access to cheap cafes and restaurants.
I enjoyed a massage at a local massage place run by visually impaired individuals. The shopping centre adjacent to the hotel has a number of cafes, stores, book shops and salons. Places to eat in the vicinity of Grand Margherita include
1. Feast and Furious
2. Chong Choon Cafe
3. Top Spot Seafood Food Court
Exploring Jalan Padungan & Jalan Abell
Jalan Padungan is quite popular for a mix of Asian and Malay restaurants. A lazy walk on a weekend morning takes you through a wide array of restaurants lining both sides of the road. You will find noodle shops, bars and some fancy cafes offering Malay Fusion Food. I had breakfast at the famous Chong Choon Cafe which attracts a large local crowd for breakfast. I tried some local noodle dishes followed by a simple toast and egg brekkie. I liked the place as the food was nice and fresh and reasonably priced.
Famous Chong Choon Cafe
Some budget hotels in this locality include:
Mid-range accommodation includes
This area is predominantly budget hotels, cafes and shopping Malls. Top Court Food court offers great seafood and is open for dinners. Food Court at Tun Juggah Shopping Center is also a great option for lunch.
Tun Juggah Shopping Mall located walking distance from Grand Margherita
I had a quick lunch at My Little Kitchen at Jalan Padungan I made my way towards the waterfront.
I explored the Sarawak Museum and Sarawak Textile Museum which was quite an interesting experience into the cultural and economic history of the region. Sarawak Museum is a great place to learn about the history of various tribes who lived in Borneo and Sarawak region. There is a large collection of local flora and fauna and stuffed animals found in the region.
The museum provides an interesting insight into early exploration in the region and history of tin mining in the region. A section is dedicated to the art and crafts of local people.
A 20 minutes walk towards the old part of the town takes you to Kuching City Mosque. I offered my Asr prayers at the mosque and enjoyed some peaceful moments in the serenity and calmness of this amazing building.
Beautiful Interior of Kuching Mosque
Sarwark River Water Front & Fort Margherita
Sarawak River Waterfront is an amazing hangout all through the day and gets quite busy on the weekend nights with riverside cafes and live entertainment. One of the star attractions is the Sarawak River Cruise. The cruise costs around RM60. An alternative option is one-hour traditional boat tour costing around 18RM and provides great views of the city from the river.
Sarawak River Waterfront
I hopped on a local transport boat to go across to the opposite side to explore Fort Margherita and Astana. Fort Margherita is a historical landmark and great cultural Icon which is well preserved with a large number of relics from colonial occupation of Sarawak. The tickets to the Fort costs 20RM. I took a leisurely walk through all three floors of the museum going through a great collection of documents, paintings and weaponry used in the 18th century. The area has a very rich traditional history of Dayak and subtribes that occupied the region for centuries. The ticket also provides access to goal and execution area within the fort. The top of the fort provides amazing views across the river.
Visiting Fort Margherita across Sarawak River
I decided to have lunch at the famous James Brooke Cafe. The cafe is located near the riverfront and offers a great location to enjoy the local crowd. I ordered the famous Kuching Laksa and some house desserts. The decor and ambience of the cafe great and offers relief from humidity during the rainy season.
James Brooke Cafe near the Kuching Waterfront
Exploring Bazaar and Carpenter Lane
This is the most interesting area of Kuching Downtown with narrow alleyways containing hidden eat-outs and budget backpackers accommodation. Carpenter lane is quite popular with westerners as it provides easy access to all the late-night bars and restaurants including Kai Joo Lane at the Main Indian Shopping Area.
One of many backpackers places to stay in Carpenter Lane
The bazaar along the riverfront has a number of Souvenir and craft shops. The inner streets are painted with beautiful mural reflecting the colourful culture of Kuching. You will also find several tour operators in these streets as this area is central to most tourists.
Main Street Along the Riverfront
Beautiful View of Astana from the Riverfront
In the eveing, I enjoyed the festivities of Chines New Year. People visit Tua Pek Kong Chinese Temple to say their prayers and make their offerings for a happy and prosperous year. This temple is located at a walking distance from James Brooke Cafe and Sarawak Riverfront.
Tau Pek Kong Chinese Temple
Sarawak Cultural Village
On the third day, I booked a tour to Sarawak Cultural Village from the reception at Grand Margherita Hotel. A shared van costs around 50RM and departs from the hotel around 9 am. A 45 minutes ride through some interesting landscape takes you to the Sarawak Cultural Village. The location is famous for Rainforest Music Festival which is held annually and brings large crowds from all across Malaysia.
The cultural village needs good 2-3 hours to explores. The different sections of the village have a replica of longhouses built by various tribes that lived in Sarawak and Sabah. Each tribe has a distinct style of longhouse, totems, dress and lifestyle. It is quite interesting to observe how these tribes created weapons, made clothes from natural materials and survived in the wilderness of Borneo and Sarawak.
In the later afternoon, a performance is held in an auditorium where various artists perform wedding ceremonies, cultural dances, social ritual and hunting traditions passed down through generations. I really enjoyed this cultural show and bought some nice souvenirs before heading back into Kuching.
On returning to the hotel I decided to have seafood dinner at Top Spot Seafood Center. This open seafood is located at walking distance from the Grand Margherita Hotel and is very popular with local families who enjoy local seafood on the weekend nights. I tried some local varieties of pomfret fish and prawns cooked in local sauces. The food was a bit expensive but worth every penny.
Later on, at night I walked along the riverfront to Ka-Joo Lane. The street is quite busy over the weekend with local markets and looks nice with colourful murals on the walls.
Carpenter lane is quite popular with backpack crowd and you can book shared dorm for under 20 RM. " Wrong Place" is a popular and trendy hostel in the centre of the old city. There are a couple of nice bars in the street that stay open till late and offer a great opportunity to meet locals and travellers.
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