Our Top Highlights in Kuching
When we arrived in Malaysia, it was clear to us that we wanted to see the top highlights in Kuching, Borneo.
Borneo had been a dream of mine for years, but it always seemed so far away. I mean Borneo, right! This was THE exotic destination that I always wanted to travel to. For me, Borneo was always the epitome of exoticism. It was a distant world and couldn’t be more remote in every way. And finally, the time came!
While we were in Kuala Lumpur, we decided to book a flight to Kuching and explore Borneo for two weeks. We wanted to spend our first days in Kuching, taking some day trips, and just letting ourselves drift around town.
In first place on our list of top highlights in Kuching was the Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Center!
We had seen wild orangutans while we were in Sumatra, and it was an unforgettable moment for us. We never thought that we would see orangutans in the wild again. But in Borneo, we were hoping to get a second opportunity.
Further highlights were planned directly in the city itself. We wanted to see everything that Kuching has to offer.
AND: We wanted to eat a lot! We got in touch with Nici and Markus from Einmal mit Alles as they have been to Kuching before. We love their food blog and got some recommendations from them on what and where to eat. Voilà! The next highlight on our list was added.
The Bako National Park was of course also on our list of top highlights in Kuching. Here we wanted to see another species of monkey, one that we had never seen before.
City Highlights in Kuching
We booked a hotel in Kuching that was a particularly good value for money and was centrally located. From there we could quickly reach all the city highlights that we wanted to see in Kuching. The waterfront, for example, was only a 15-minute walk.
The Kuching Waterfront
After a short walk from our hotel, we arrived at our first stop. Filled with food stalls and small restaurants that were full of spiced scents, the beautiful waterfront with its mile-long promenade opened up in front of us.
On weekends, markets are held at the waterfront. With street artists and musicians, it is even more full of life. We liked it here so much that we came every day for a little walk.
If you are in Kuching, you absolutely must take a walk along the waterfront!
Tip: in the evening there is a great daily water show, which you should not miss. Take a picnic with you and let the evening comfortably end on the steps of the waterfront. Enjoy the water show while overlooking the Sarawak Parliament Building (DUN complex).
Tip: there are several companies that offer boat tours on the Sarawak River. We booked a Sunset River Tour and it was amazing.
Darul Hana Bridge
On our first evening we marveled at the Darul Hana Bridge. It is such an impressive bridge and is illuminated with changing colors each evening. The design of the Darul Hana Bridge is so unique, and the views are so beautiful!
The bridge was built very recently (2017) and has been a huge tourist magnet ever since. In our opinion, it rounds off the walk along the waterfront nicely.
We took countless photos here!
Sarawak State Legislative Assembly and Astana Palace
From the Darul Hana Bridge, the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly, or DUN for short, is one of the eye-catchers you will see.
Even if it is not possible to visit the building, it is omnipresent and is definitely a landmark of Sarawak.
Standing next to it is the Astana Palace if you are wondering what building that is.
Mosques in Kuching
Also located on the waterfront is the beautiful Masjid India Bandar Mosque, which was built in 1876.
Unfortunately, we arrived during the prayer session and were not allowed in. But we enjoyed the view from the outside of this picturesque mosque.
Another mosque that we would like to mention is the pink-colored Masjid Bandaraya. (Masjid translates as Mosque.) Likewise, we did not see it from the inside and only took photos from the outside.
Museums in Kuching
On our first walk along the waterfront, we passed a museum and noticed that the entrance was free.
We just happened upon the Chinese History Museum. The history of Chinese immigrants is presented nicely here, and we really enjoyed our unexpected visit to the museum.
Across from the Chinese History Museum is the Tua Pek Kong Temple, which we also only admired from the outside.
Many of the museums are free of charge, and since it was very hot during the day, we decided to go to another museum. Kuching has many to choose from, so we agreed on the Textile Museum. The museum is an absolute feast for the eyes from the outside. And we were not disappointed by the exhibition of traditional robes and fabrics on the inside.
The Sarawak Museum, on the other hand, was THE museum that we had as “MUST” on our list. But we were so disappointed when we arrived to find that it was unfortunately closed.
The Sarawak Museum was important to us because we had heard that there were some items from Alfred Russel Wallace’s library on display there. Wallace is most famous for conceiving the Wallace Line, the invisible boundary that divides Asia from Australia.
There is also a Cat Museum. We did not go there but it leads us directly to our next highlight!
Cats in Kuching
During our first couple of days, we were surprised to see the many cat statues, cat paintings, and cats themselves in Kuching.
Only later did we find out where all this cat mania comes from.
Kuching translates as “cat”. But the city came to its name rather unintentionally. One legend has it that James Brooke asked his boatman for the name of the settlement while pointing to the village. A cat just happened to pass in the direction where Brooke was pointing. The boatman thought Brooke wanted to know the Malay name of “cat” and so he replied “Kucing”.
Chinatown in Kuching
We always enjoy walking through the different Chinatowns in the many cities that we travel to.
The red-gold lampions and lion statues transport us into another world. We like to stroll through those kinds of places that have so much activity and so much going on.
Food in Kuching
One of our favorite pastimes while traveling is to eat. We simply cannot walk past culinary delicacies that are new and unknown to us.
And, in Kuching, we were in dining heaven! Less than two minutes from our hotel was a street food mall filled with different stalls. And there were many other food courts in the immediate vicinity. We ate our favorite food in different food courts and were surprised by the delicious variety there was in Kuching. It was definitely worth the trip for us simply because of the food!
Here are some of the dishes that we tried.
Kolo Mee is a pasta dish that is eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Egg noodles are stirred in a fish sauce and then served with thin slices of pork, some minced meat, dried onions, and then garnished with spring onions. A simple dish, but it was our absolute favorite! We ate Kolo Mee for breakfast every morning. And sometimes even at noon, it was that good.
Tip: The best Kolo Mee in our opinion is at the Mee Sin Cafe. We received the recommendation from some locals that we met who have been eating here every weekend for the past twenty years.
At the time of our trip, a large serving of Kolo Mee cost 5 RM, which is just over 1 EUR!
The second-best Kolo Mee was at the Tai Pan Corner. One serving here was just 4 RM, which is 85 cents!
We were introduced to Laksa in Ipoh and I absolutely loved it! Laksa is a soup that is available in two variations: creamy curry with coconut milk, which is called Laksa Lemak, and sweet-sour and spicy, called Assam Laksa. The latter was my favorite.
In Kuching, however, we only found Laksa Lemak, the creamy version.
We ate a few times at the Chong Choon Café. Not only Laksa, but we also had Kolo Mee and some other dishes.
The hotel suggested that we should try Kek Lapis at the waterfront because it tastes the best there. Kek Lapis is a fluffy layered cake that is offered in various flavors, such as blueberry vanilla, or cheesecake. There is no doubt that we tried plenty of Sarawak’s famous cakes there.
Cheese Nan and Cheese Banana
In Malaysia, one of our go-to foods was Indian. Not only because it was within our budget, but also because we absolutely love it!
We were told about an Indian restaurant that offers a delicious cheese naan as their specialty. Even though Indian food was a bit higher priced in Kuching, we wanted to find out for ourselves what all the hype was about. And we were not disappointed! Even though cheese is used very sparingly in Malaysia, we really got our money’s worth here.
At the table next to us, a towering dish caught our eye. On closer inspection, the tower turned out to be baked bananas served in sweet condensed milk. And, the cherry on top was that it was covered with cheese! At first, we thought it sounded a bit strange, but we really wanted to give it a try. And what can we say- it was delicious!
Tip: Share a portion, they are both big enough for two!
Noodles and Dumplings
Usually, we eat almost exclusively at food courts, but the Life Café is a special address in Kuching. A Chinese restaurant that is famous for its tasty pasta and dumpling dishes. We liked it there so much that we went back, twice.
Red Yeast Chicken
We saw a dish that really caught our eye at the Tai Pan Corner. It was such a bright red color that we just had to try it.
The rich color is created by using red yeast, which has no taste of its own. The dish itself was ok, but it was not one of our favorites. It was just ordinary chicken with rice and was without any special flavor explosions. But if you like bright colors, you should give them a taste!
Rice with Chicken or Beef
We ate rice with chicken or beef often. As we are not foodie bloggers, we, unfortunately, did not write down the names of the dishes. But we would like to show you some pictures of the rice dishes that we had which were extremely good. You can find rice with chicken or beef in all variations all over Kuching.
Kuching was a food paradise, and we certainly weren’t expecting that! We can encourage anyone who is planning a trip to Kuching to eat your way through the food courts! You will not regret it!
Bako National Park
Bako National Park is Sarawak’s oldest national park, but this was not the only reason that it was on our Must Do list. In addition to having some breathtaking nature, there was the possibility to see the long-nosed proboscis monkey. We had seen so many different monkey species while in Sumatra, but we never saw a proboscis monkey! And so, we could not miss that!
Whether or not we saw one, you will find out soon in our adventurous story about the Bako National Park and our search for the proboscis monkey.
Orangutans at the Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
In Sumatra, we had an experience that left us with goosebumps: seeing orangutans in the wild! To be able to see something like this is, and was, something very special for us. The first time that we heard a rustle and crack in the jungle followed by falling leaves was a moment that we will never forget. Why? Because it was the first time that we saw orangutans. Days and weeks later we were still talking about what we had experienced. And we really wanted to see that again!
So, when we found out that there are semi-wild orangutans on Borneo at the Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, our flight tickets to Kuching were quickly purchased.
Read here about how to get to the Wildlife Center and what awaits you there!
Escape from Borneo
And then suddenly, we had to escape from Borneo! OK, that sounds more dramatic than it is, but I was bitten by a tick and had to have removed at the hospital. But the spot where the bite was looked infected. So, we decided to go back to Kuala Lumpur to get another opinion. And this is the reason why we rushed out of Borneo and weren’t able to travel further.
Many other sites, such as the Sarawak Cultural Village as well as other places on the island have been postponed to a later time.
What We Didn’t Like
Other than the tick bite, we can’t think of a single thing that we didn’t like!
What We Particularly Liked
We were surprised how much we really liked Kuching. It was a very clean city that was easy to get from point A to point B, and there was so much to see.
The number of delicious food courts and restaurants was an incredibly positive surprise. And our mouths still water when we think of Kolo Mee!
And best of all, we loved the fact that we could see endangered orangutans at the Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, as well as the proboscis monkey at the Bako National Park!
We absolutely enjoyed our short week in Kuching and can only encourage everyone to visit this city. If you were to ask us, we would definitely go there again without hesitation! After all, we want to see more and dive deeper into what was once a distant world to us.