The tour was organized in October 2019 to Kuching and surrounding areas. Kuching is the capital city of Sarawak and a hidden gem of Malaysia. With plenty of colonial history and heritage, Sarawak is home to many jungle tribes whose culture has a deep influence on the art, crafts, food and history of the region.
Kuching is a laid-back city with a beautiful waterfront and plenty of nice luxury hotels along the river. I decided to stay at Grand Margherita, a beautiful waterfront hotel. The beautiful statue of lazy cats, a landmark of Kuching is situated in front of the hotel. The location of the hotel is great as it provides easy access to all major attractions in the town.
- 1st Day in Kuching Sarawak
- 2nd Day in Kuching Sarawak
- 3 rd Day in Kuching Sarawak
- 4th Day in Kuching Sarawak
Finding the best hotel in Kuching and exploring the Sarawak River Waterfront
Surprisingly you will not be able to catch any public transport other than a taxi or GRAB ( ride-sharing service) from the Airport. You should install GRAB applications as it offers the lowest travelling rates anywhere in Malaysia. An average ride from the airport to Grand Margherita Hotel at the Kuching Waterfront costs around RM 15.
Arriving at Kuching International Airport
Grand Margherita Hotel, Kuching – 4-Star Hotel at Kuching Waterfront
The drive from the airport to the waterfront area is approximately 15 minutes costing around RM 15. I booked three nights at Grand Margherita through Booking.com and got amazing rates on booking.
The hotel is ideally located on the waterfront with amazing views of the Kuching River and Fort Margherita. A couple of nice shopping malls, KFC, food courts and salons are located within walking distance from the establishment. I highly recommend this hotel for its great service and comfortable stay.
The location of this hotel is ideal and located on the waterfront on one side and shopping centres and the famous cat statue on the other side. A bit of research for local hotels on Booking.com before booking always comes in handy. Hilton and other 5-Star hotels are located in the vicinity and offer great options for luxury travellers.
On the first day, I wanted to explore the local area on foot and walked around the back alleys in and around Jalan Tanky Abdul Rehman.
One of the famous places which are decided to check out the subsequent day is the famous Chong Choon Cafe which I read a lot about when researching Kuching attractions and things to do. The cafe is closed during the daytime in mid-week and is popular for breakfast.
Other nice cafes in the neighbourhood include “Feast and Furious” and several Malay and Chinese restaurants lined along the way on both sides of Jalan Padungan that leads up to China Town.
I discovered nice budget hotels under RM 50 per night in this neighbourhood which were quite popular with backpackers and budget travellers. There is a bus ticket booking service around the corner.
The shopping centres in the area include Centerpoint Shopping Center and Tun Jugah Shopping Center. The food courts have several nice cafes and fast-food restaurants including Macdonalds & KFC.
I enjoyed and recommend Chicken Restaurant (Hartz Chicken Buffet). There is a massage and physio centre managed by staff with visual disabilities. Enjoy one hour massage for under RM 35.
On a weekend evening, you can miss the TOP SPOT food court which is popular for the local seafood buffet. The place is very crowded on Saturday night and you can try local delicacies and seafood cooked in various styles. I tried local white pomfret and satay dishes and loved the taste. Seafood dishes are quite popular in Kuching and you can find plenty of local varieties of freshwater fish as well as prawns, crabs and lobsters.
On the second day, I decided to explore Fort Margherita. Local boats take you across the river near the Kuching Waterfront Tour boat station. They charge 2RM per ride. There are a couple of seafood restaurants along the river that attracts a local crowd in the evening and during the weekend. I took a deserted step of stairs and an alleyway to the entrance of Fort Margherita.
The road access is from the mainland and would take a lot of driving time from the city to reach this location. The boat saves time and distance but you will have to walk through a local neighbourhood to reach the fort.
Fort Margherita was my first interaction with an interesting history of Sarawak. The multi-story fort was used as a prison during the colonial era and has a hanging board area and two cells for retaining the rebels during skirmishes with the locals. A winding step of stairs takes you to the roof of the fort which commands a great 360 degrees view of the locality.
The various floors of the fort have an interesting history of local British Rajas of Sarawak who controlled this region from 1841 to 1946. There is an impressive collection of documents, a replica of ships that came to this area, and weapons used by colonial officers and local tribes.
I was intrigued by the interesting history of local tribes including Dayak which made the major chunk of the 6 major tribes that lived in Sarawak. Interest in the traditional culture, lifestyle and history of these tribes took me to explore other interesting Museums in Kuching.
In the afternoon I decided to take a boating tour of the Sarwark River. The big cruise operates in the evening costs around 75RM. However, single-engine small boats conduct an hourly tour at 35RM per person and take you down 5 km along the river exploring views of the waterfront area and Istana which is located next to Fort Margherita on the other side of the river.
Make sure not to put your hand in the water as I was told by the boat owner that occasional crocodiles are sighted in the river during the rainy season.
There is a nice James Brooke Cafe located along the waterfront decorated in colonial style. I tried local Laska and some desserts. The location of this cafe is nice and offers a great ambience to sit and enjoy the pleasant surrounding on a relaxed midday afternoon.
A visit to Sarawak State Museum is a must if you are keen to explore the interesting history of this region. The Museum is housed in an old building with hundreds of interesting exhibits ranging from tin-mining history to tribal culture, totems, replicas of longhouses, clothing worn by the tribals and flora and fauna of the region. You will need at least two hours to explore all the exhibits in detail.
The museum is home to a wide collection of local insects by the earliest naturalists like Alfred Wallace.
I like the traditional longhouses which were used by tribals to live in the remote jungles of Sarawak and Borneo. Each tribe had a distinct style of longhouses and traditions. The tribals used bows and arrows along with blowpipes with poisoned needles to attack their enemies. The skeletons of the enemies are hung in the Iban houses for prayer and worship. Other tribes in the region include iban, melanau, bidayuh.
The Textile Museum is located in the centre of the city very close to the main shopping centre in Sarawak. The Museum is home to a rich cultural tradition of the Sarawak region. The museum introduces you to basic fabric-making and printing techniques used by the tribal cultures of Sarawak to create interesting designs and motifs.
With the arrival of other ethnicities to the region in the last 100 years, the Sarawak culture has evolved and absorbed several foreign influences. This is reflected in cultural dresses, wedding dresses and other ceremonial outfits worn by different people across the area.
Visiting the Sarwark Cultural Village on the outskirts of the city is one of the most enjoyable and immersive experiences in the rich tribal history of the region. I booked the tour at the hotel reception and a Van picked me up at around 9 am.
The drive to Sarwark Cultural village is around 45 minutes and the road takes you down some rural region on the outskirts of the city finally climbing up the hill to a beautiful location at the base of the mountain overlooking a rocky shoreline.
The Sarawak Cultural Village is home to Rainforest Music Festival held every year in this location and attracts hundreds and thousands of people to the locality. The entry fee to the village is 15RM and you have issued a passport to explore the various tribal households in the village.
Drive from Kuching City to Damai Cultural Village
The village is designed to house a large number of longhouses representing various ethnic denominations of the Sarawak Region. Each tribe has its distinct lifestyle, dress and, style of longhouses and weaponry used in warfare.
Once you enter the village with a passport you can walk around visiting various longhouses where you will find local tribals busy with their daily everyday activities.
The tribal chief in one of the longhouses will introduce you to the cultural history of the region and the local traditions carried out by the various tribes. You will also explore the communal area as well as residential quarters used by family members in the longhouses.
Various longhouses are used by Melanau, Orang Ulu, Iban and Bidayuh tribes
Outside the cultural village shopping area
Stilt walkways used by the villages to walk over water and cross difficult terrain
You will need 2-3 hours to explore all sections of the cultural village. At the end of your visit, there is a cultural show conducted by local tribespeople highlighting the customs, hunting styles, cultural dances and wedding ceremonies of various tribes. This cultural show is not to be missed.
for accommodation in this area, you can book at Damai Beach Resort, which is an amazing property offering 5 Star accommodation at walking distance from the cultural village. Book Online.
On the fourth day, I decided to explore the downtown and old bazaar in Kuching. This part of the city adjacent to Carpenter Lane is very popular with the backpacker crowd as narrow, well-lit and decorated alleys have several nice bars, cafes and hostels including “Wrong Place”.
Most backpackers and budget travellers tend to stay in this part of the town as there is easy access to all the tourist attractions, waterfront night markets and museums.
Walking through the side streets and exploring local crafts and souvenir shops is an interesting experience. The city has a very lazy feel to it and it seems that time has stopped during the middle of the week.
The weekends attract plenty of people from the adjacent towns the city is full of life till midnight.
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