Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Walk in Kuching

I arrived in Kuching early evening on Monday night - and got installed in my hostel Singgahsana right as the sun was setting. I had read good things about this little hostel right in the middle of town, just 1/2 block from the banks of the Kuching river, and I liked the friendliness of the staff and the little room I got was cozy and quiet, with air-con!
I had already decided that my stay in Kuching was to be relaxing, I wanted to give myself time to digest all the impressions from the last few weeks, catch up on emails and blog, and just take a breather! I felt I needed it, so the only thing I had on my agenda was to see the rare Irrawaddy dolphins- preferably by kayak! Other than that I would just wander a bit around town to see a few sights and get a feel for the city.
Since I had spent all day traveling - with a long layover in Kota Kinabalu were there are very limited services , I was ready for dinner. However, I felt a bit intimidated by warnings to look out for bag snatchers - there had been some incidents in Kutching, so I didn't feel like wandering off too far on my own in the dark in a new city. Before I headed out I went up to the roof top bar and had a gin tonic and got ideas for where to eat. However, when I went out I soon realized I had no clue where to find Joe the bartender's suggestions. So I ended up across the street at the restaurant at the Hilton of all places! Not my ideal place to spend time, but I made do for that evening and vowed to check things out the next day by daylight!

I slept in and felt refreshed when I woke up, got breakfast - and headed out to scope the city of Kuching out! I wandered around, eventually walking along the river on a lovely path, and then went up towards the old colonial court building, from there I just wandered around, checking out numerous chinese temples, several mosques, a Sikh temple, then on down India Street and on to the Chinese part of town. There were old and new buildings mixed in with each other, I saw a couple of the famed kitschy cat statues - Kuching is also known as cat city - not because it ever had a lot of cats, but quite a few cat statues!

Across the river was the new government building with its impressive design and golden roof, it is almost completed, but not yet in use.

Kuching is the capital of the state of Sarawak, and the biggest city on Borneo with about 600.000 inhabitant - so not a small city by any means! It has a big Chinese population and the city actually has 2 mayors - a Chinese and a Malay each presiding over their own City Hall - the Chinese in the South and the Malay in the North.

The river of Kuching runs through the city, and on one side you are in the city of Kuching with high-rises, etc. and the other bank is lined with little kampungs (villages). Sampans cross the river constantly connecting the two sides, and you can watch people returning from work in the city early evening crossing over to their village in the twilight - it's quite charming to watch. Notice the modern billboards advertising for cell phones on the roof of the sampans! Old meets new I guess!

In the afternoon I found a lovely little cafe with internet and great lattes - an art gallery on the 2nd floor - so I spent most of the afternoon there working on the computer - the internet at the hostel was down, but I was quite happy sitting in the cafe that afternoon!

Dinner had to be better than the previous night, so I followed the advice of several other guests and the staff at Singahsana and went to the Top Spot, which in an open air food court - I had a delicious dinner of Thai style red snapper and fresh jungle ferns sauteed in garlic - it was delicious, and very reasonable!
Afterwards I went up to the rooftop bar and had a drink and a chat with a couple of the other guests and Joe before calling it a night!

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