Take a quick look around Kuching and you will certainly notice a historic building or site, stately and unique, enchanting always; these are just some of the attractive charms of the city. Singularly or clustered, these fascinating cultural and historic icons are found at almost every turn and step you take around the city.
The 2-hour (approx.) route introduces visitors to the historical precinct of old Kuching city, where featured buildings are closely located to each other. Visitors may join the trail at any point along the Route, but are strongly encouraged to begin at the Sarawak Tourism Complex where the trail map of this self-guided walking tour can be obtained as well as useful brochures of the city, state and country can be obtained.
OLD KUCHING COURTHOUSE (1868-1900s)
Conservation of the Old Kuching Courthouse of Adaptive Re-use as Sarawak Tourism Complex was completed in 2003. The project won several national awards for conservation. Descriptive plaques mounted on the individual block provide detailed historical information of the building. The Old Kuching Courthouse is the first Brooke era administrative building which housed all the government functions under one roof.
THE PAVILION (1909)
This building, originally used as the medical headquarter, was one of the first public buildings of more than 2 stories high. Built with concrete frames and supported by bakau (mangrove timber) piling, it also had a concrete flat roof where occupants used to lounge and watch the setting sun, as fondly recalled through numerous writings of that era. The building had been conserved and is currently used by the Museum Department as their Textile Museum.
TUA PEK KONG TEMPLE (PRE-1839)
This temple was believed to have been built by the Chinese migrants from Kalimantan, Indonesia. In the olden days, this temple overlooked the mouth of the Kuching stream which ran between the temple and the Old Chinese Court (present Chinese History Museum), to the Sarawak River. Numerous additions and renovation works had been done over the original structure. The dominant dragon frieze was added to the retaining wall in the early 1980s.
There are two other temples in that area which are Guan Thian Siang Ti Temple (1889) and Kueh Seng Onn Temple (1895). Both located along the Carpenter Street.
OLD CHINESE COURT (1912)
Declared open in 1912 by Rajah Charles Brooke, this single storey building was originally used by the Chinese community as a court to administer the laws and customs on marriage, divorce and probate. The Chinese court was dissolved in 1921. The Chinese Chamber of Commerce formed in 1930, used it as their office until 1990. Since 1993, the Sarawak Museum had set up its Chinese History Museum here, with interactive displays that traced the history of Chinese settlement in Sarawak and the contributions made for the development of Sarawak by the respective dialectal group.
Fronting the Sarawak River, the Main Bazaar carries the distinction of being one of the oldest streets of Kuching. Now, it is often referred to as an ‘antique arcade’ not only because of its old-fashioned facades but also for the variety of antiques and handicrafts outlets found here.
FORT MARGHERITA (1879)
Across the Main Bazaar, situated across the Sarawak River, the fort was named after Ranee Margaret, the wife of Charles Brooke. Strategically perched on top of a hill, with vantage points overlooking Kuching and the river, it was the ideal sentry point for the settlement. Unfortunately, it is currently not open to public (Sept 2012)
THE ASTANA (1870)
This romantic structure standing across the river in its regal splendour was the private residence of the Rajah Charles Brooke, which was built as a bridal gift to his beloved wife, the Ranee Margeret.
Before the Astana was built on this site, James Brooke’s first residence was called ‘The Grove’, which was later replaced by “the Government House’ after a fire in 1857.
THE KUCHING WATERFRONT has undergone several transformations since 9th century, from a small settlement of modest ‘atap’ buildings, to a busy port with warehouses and wharves, and to the landscape riverside walk it is today. During the days of the Rajahs and the British colonials, boats would berth along the Sarawak River waterfront, lined with godowns, custom offices and markets. Travelers and cargo alike would embark and disembark at the wharves, making the waterfront a hive of activity during its glory days.
This is where the Sarawak Regatta is held annually. Sarawak Regatta has been a premier event with a distinct historical and cultural significant. The tradition of holding the annual Regatta in the Sarawak River continued through the colonial period and into the post-Malaysia period.
SQUARE TOWER (1879)
Completed about the same time as the Fort Margherita in 1879, both forts served as sentry posts on each side of the Sarawak River. Built next to the first Kuching Prison (1877, demolished c.1930s), it served as a maximum-security detention centre. Adjacent to the Square Tower, is the landing point called Pengkalan Batu, where the Rajahs disembarked from the Astana to attend to administrative matters at the Old Kuching Courthouse. The Square Tower, which was later, converted to a dancing hall used by the Brooke’s officers and servants during most of the weekends when they were in Kuching.
In its early days the majority of traders here were Indian migrants involved in trading textiles, brassware, spices and market goods. Today it is flanked by century old shophouses, where some had been renovated with modern designs. It used to be congested with vehicles loading and unloading wares before it was converted into a pedestrian mall in late 1980s. Still supplying textile and spices to the general population of Kuching, it is also lined with shops that supplies daily provisions, food and clothes stores with every available space stacked to the fullest.
Sarawak… Where Adventure Lives
(Article courtesy of Sarawak Heritage Society)