Any popular destination in Malaysia offers more than enough to keep visitors entertained for days and make for an extended trip, and squeezing the best of a city into just 24 hours is no mean feat. Kuching is no exception, but if you have only a day to spare – and this in no way counts as a recommendation to move that fast, for slow travel is the way forward – then here is what you will want to see.
Luckily Kuching is small enough to walk around, which makes it easier to fit more into a day given you can do away with having to allocate time to sitting on public transport. Kick things off with a museum circuit, since Sarawak and Kuching in particular are well known for museums.
First off, hit the well-maintained, richly informative and deservedly popular Sarawak Museum with its free admission – it contains displays of items from Sarawak’s history and is well worth a visit. The rotating exhibitions in the Dewan Tun Abdul Razak museum and the Sarawak Islamic Museum are both nearby and worth a visit, but beware – you could easily spend 24 hours visiting Kuching’s museums alone!
Once you have had your fix of artefacts, head to Kuching’s waterfront and check out the row of traditional shop houses along the Main Bazaar, where you can pick up any number of unique souvenirs to take away a slice of Kuching with you. Then catch the local river boat, known as a ‘tambang’ boat, across the water to take a look at Fort Margherita, which was built in the style of an English castle and intended to protect the city from pirate attacks, and is an example of one of Kuching’s important historical monuments.
Back across the water check out Jalan India road, Kuching’s own Little India area where the speciality is in textiles. If you are in need of a little more retail therapy, two local markets take place every day towards the west end of the street. Alternatively, if you have planned well and happen to be in town at the weekend, make time for the Sunday Market which, despite the name, actually begins on Saturday afternoon and finishes up by lunchtime on Sunday – the emphasis at this very traditional market is on fresh, fresh food, but nowadays you will also find plenty of clothes and home wares, though admittedly not much in the way of brands.
If neither of the markets manages to sate your appetite with its roti pancakes and assortment of other local snacks, and you are still craving something more – then it is time to settle down to a big bowl of noodles, Kuching style. The local speciality is Sarawak laksa, an authentic laksa recipe which you will find in abundance all over the city, though Choon Hui Café, near to the Hotel Grand Continental on Jalan Ban Hock road comes recommended and has an excellent reputation for being full of hungry customers – always a good sign.
Head to the Semenggoh Orangutan Wildlife Centre to catch sight of these majestic primates in their natural habitat in the surrounding jungle. They are only brought back in for feeding, and you will want to be there to get a snap of them at 3pm.
Leave time to get back to the waterfront in time for a spectacular sunset across the river, something else Kuching is well known for. That means you will just have enough time to take in the centrally located Tua Pek Kong temple, the oldest Chinese temple in Kuching. End the night eating in style on Jalan Song road, where a huge congregation of different food stalls mean you really have the chance to try every authentic Kuching and Sawarak originating dish imaginable. What better way to end a whistle-stop trip around this easily navigable city?
Kuching is a short flight away from Kuala Lumpur with low-cost airline AirAsia. Note that Sarawak controls its own immigration procedures separately from mainland Malaysia, so an entry permit may be needed in addition to a regular Malaysian visa. However, for UK nationals this can generally be stamped into your passport at the airport in the same way as a regular Malaysian 90-day entry stamp.
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