Post Rainforest World Music Festival: On to Kuching

Tua Pek Kong Taoist temple (Kuching) - Photo by Angel Romero
After covering the 2011 Rainforest World Music Festival, members of the music and travel media were offered the possibility of extending their stay in Sarawak by participating in various ecofriendly tours. The three programs offered were 1) Eco Tour, 2) Orang Utan Conservation and 3) Turtle Conservation. I chose the Eco Tour.

Our small group of journalists, freelancers and photographers from Malaysia, Singapore, China, and the United States traveled on July 11th from Santubong One Hotel to Sarawak’s capital, Kuching. On the way to Kuching we stopped at a bridge over the Sarawak River to photograph the majestic Mount Santubong.

Kuching, the name of Sarawak’s capital, means literally cat in Malay and you will see cats as a motive in a lot of the merchandise available for tourists. Local historians think it is unlikely that Kuching has anything to
do with cats. The two most popular theories are that it derives from the Chinese word kochin, meaning “harbor,” or that it is named after the mata kuching or “cat’s eye” fruit, a close relative of the lychee that grows widely in the Kuching area.

Our hosts booked us rooms at the Pullman Hotel Kuching in the City Center. This is an excellent five star hotel with luxurious spacious rooms, which is within walking distance to all the main attractions in Kuching.

Guided by Margaret Tan, we took a walk to the Kuching waterfront. On the way, we stopped at the Tua Pek Kong Taoist temple, one of the oldest Chinese temples in Sarawak. Kuching’s population is very diverse and you will find Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu and Taoist houses of worship.

Sarawak Parliament Building
- Photo by Angel Romero
The Chinese History Museum is located the Tua Pek Kong temple. It studies the history of the Chinese community in Sarawak. Exhibits include the early trade routes, initial migration from various regions of China,
geographical distribution, the early pioneers, traditional trading activities, the formation of trade and community associations, political history and the involvement of the Chinese community in modern, multi-racial Sarawak. It is open daily 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. Phone: 231520.

At the waterfront you’ll find numerous stores with T-shirts, bead work and ornaments. However, if you look carefully, you’ll be able to find really interesting batik fabrics, reproductions of indigenous artwork in brass and wood, clothing, Sarawak white and black pepper corns (Borneo is a spice island, this is a must buy).

Next came the Sarawak River Cruise. We were delayed for a few minutes due to an intense thundershower. Most people on the upper deck fled downstairs to shelter from the rain. The pleasant double decker boat allows you to see some of the most emblematic buildings in Kuching as well as riverside homes and some riverfront mansions.

riverside homes
- Photo by Angel Romero
Along the river we saw colorful Malay villages (kampungs) and various landmark buildings like the golden-domed City mosque. We cruised past The Astana, a palace on the north bank of the Sarawak river across from the Waterfront, built in 1870 by Charles Brooke (the second White Rajah of Sarawak) as a bridal gift to his wife Margaret. It is currently the official residence of the Governor of Sarawak, and not open to visitors.

By the time the cruise was over we were ready for food. Our hosts took us to the Top Spot Foodcourt. This is not an American-style foodcourt with chain restaurants, but rather local eateries with some of the best food in Kuching. We ate at Top Spot seafood, the most popular seafood restaurant in town. The delicious meal included prawns, soup, lemon chicken, sweet and sour fish and wild fern (sayur paku). The sayur paku is a local delicacy and it was truly exquisite.

Read the whole Rainforest World Music Festival 2011 series:

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.


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