Kuching, the capital of Sarawak, is the main gateway to experience some of the top tourism experiences in the state. Finding things to do in Kuching ranges from city experiences to rural ones, from wildlife encounter to wreck diving and from the scenic to the enclosed; caving experience.
1. Meet The People
Visit the well-preserved Bidayuh Longhouses at Kampung Annah Rais, Kampung Benuk, Kampung Mongkos or Kampung Pueh; perfect for photo ops and an insight into Bidayuh (Land Dayak) culture.
Trek above the clouds to kampung Semban, a very traditional Bidayuh community where older women still wear brass arm, leg and neck rings.
2. Go For A Walk
Discover Kuching’s Historic City Centre, by yourself or through a guided walk or bicycle tour. Climb Mount Santubong, for a birds-eye view of the city and the coastline, or take to the trails of Kubah National Park to discover rare and fascinating plant species and idyllic jungle waterfalls. Visit Gunung Gading National Park for a close-up view of the Rafflesia, the world’s largest flower, amindst stunning rainforest scenery.
Visit Tanjung Datu National Park, at the remote southern tip of Sarawak, to trek through rugged, jungle terrain to deserted white sand beaches.
3. Wildlife Encounters
Visit Matang Wildlife Centre to encounter young orphaned orangutans and sun bears and learn about the wildlife rehabilitation process. Then check out Semenggoh Nature Reserve and its thriving population of semi-wild orangutans, or go for frog-spotting in Kubah National Park, home of Asia’s smallest frog species. Take a boat to Bako National Park to view the rare proboscis monkey, as well as long-tailed macaque monkeys, Bornean bearded pigs, colugos and many colourful bird and reptile species.
4. Take To The Water
Take a Sarawak River cruise to discover Kuching from the water, and watch the sunset reflected in the water as the sun sinks over Mount Serapi. Or hire one of the local tambang ferries to explore the riverside at your own pace.
Go Irrawaddy dolphin spotting and crocodile watching in Kuching Wetlands National Park, or visit Satang Island to see the marine turtle hatchery and enjoy snorkelling with the green turtles. If you prefer to paddle you own canoe, try rainforest kayaking or rafting along the Upper Sarawak River, sea kayaking aroung the Santubong Rover and the Bako-Buntal Bay.
5. Underground Sarawak
Take part in a caving adventure int the limestone hills around Bau or Serian. Beginner, intermediate and advanced level activities are offered and equipment is supplied. Less adventurous visitors will enjoy the easily accessible caves area Bau, a short drive from Kuching. The Wind Cave, is long and narrow with beautiful rock formations and a cooling breeze, while the Fairy Cave is more imposing, with extensive cave vegetation and a Chinese shrine at the cave mouth.
6. Underwater Sarawak
The best wreck dives (including a WWII Japanese Destroyer) require at least an Advanced Open Water, but there are great muck dive and snorkeling sites around the turtle sanctuary islands offshore from Kuching. You can dive in search of marine turtles in the morning and learn about their conservation in the afternoon.
7. Food & Drink
Kuching is famous for its celebrated noodle dishes, spicy Sarawak Laksa and savoury Kolo Mee, as well as a wide selection of Chinese, Malay and Indian cuisine, exotic rainforest fruits, crispy jungle ferns and wonderful fresh seafood. Dining options range from humble hawker stalls, through waterside seafood restaurants at Kampung Buntal and traditional Chinese delicacies at Siniawan Night Market to opulent fine dining outlets in 5-star hotels, and you can even learn to cook Sarawak-style. Kuching’s most famous drink is teh-c-peng, a multi layered tea and palm sugar concoction worth of a brochure b y itself. In the villages and longhouses you can try native cuisine such as manok pansuh (chicken steamed in bamboo tubes) and fresh jungle produce, accompanied by a glass of tuak.
8. Culture & Heritage
Follow in the footsteps of the White Rajahs around Kuching’s old city centre and the waterfront, taking in the Sarawak Museum, Islamic Museum, Old Courthouse, India Street Mosque, Textile Museum and many other unique heritage sites. The cross the Sarawak River (by bridge or boat) to visit Fort Margherita, the Brooke Gallery and the exquisite Orchid Garden. The surrounding Malay Kampungs have some fine examples of traditional and modern Malay architecture.
Learn about Sarawak’s traditional cultures at the award-winning Sarawak Cultural Village, stopping by en route to visit the world’s first Cat Museum, a prehistoric human figure and the tomb of Sarawak’s first and only Sultan.
Main Bazaar and Carpenter Street, the two oldest streets in Kuching, are packed with handicraft shops, art dealers and families practicing their traditional crafts, ranging from tinsmithing to coffin-making! Nearby India Street is a pedestrian precinct with a fine selection of traditional clothing and textile outlets, and the adjacent Gambier Street is the place to buy spices ad utensils if you want to cook Sarawak-style.
In the Malay Kampungs across river, small family bakeries sell kek lapis (Sarawak layer cake), probably the state’s most popular souvenir. Also across river, the colourful Satok Weekend Market iis renowned for the Bidayuh ladies selling handicrafts, forest produce, orchids and a whole range of local snacks and delicacies.
The potteries on Jalan Penrissen produce fine ceramics in a unique Teochew-Sarawak fusion style, and the potters are happy to be photographed at work.
The busy weekend market at the border village of Serikin, where Indonesian traders come to sell their wares, is a great place to buy cheap textiles, clothing, fresh fruits, jungle produce and handicrafts. Heading north, the bustling and colourful Serian Market is a must-visit for fruit, vegetables, forest produce and amazing photo opportunities.
10. Festivals & Celebrations
Rainforest World Music Festival: Every July, Sarawak Cultural Village. The most exciting musical event in the region, and ranked among the top-25 world music festivals globally.
Kuching Festival: July and early August. A month-long festival of music, drama, arts, exhibitions and food, glorious food.
Sarawak Regatta: Every November, Kuching Waterfront. Dating from 1872, this is the biggest and best river regatta in Southeast Asia. There’s even a category for visitors to join in.
Multi-Cultural Mooncake Festival: Mid-September Carpenter St. Kuching’s Chinese community share the mid-autumn festival with everyone at a 4-day street party.