People often complain that Malaysian Borneo is expensive compared to the rest of Southeast Asia but you would be really hard-pressed to find things to splurge on in Kuching. Nonetheless, this intrepid writer splurged for a day so that you can save your pennies. Live vicariously!
Ask Kuchingites for the best hotel in town and they will unanimously say The Pullman. With its clean, white, airy aesthetic, there is something very luxurious and classy about this hotel; the cafe even sells macaroons. Disregard the view outside the huge floor to ceiling windows and you could be anywhere in continental Europe. With rooms starting at 237 ringgit per night and going up to 695 ringgit, for the quality on offer by global standards it really isn’t all that expensive. If you’re feeling really flush, get a room with access to the executive lounge — these rooms are on the top floors and have great views of Kuching. In addition to this, they also include a free breakfast and boardroom facilities.
Food wise, eating in Kuching is great thanks to the mix of Chinese and indigenous influences. The reality is that you won’t find wincingly expensive restaurants in Kuching — the most you could possibly pay is 200 ringgit per head including drinks (in Kuala Lumpur, this could easily jump up to 500-600 ringgit and beyond).
A good place to start splashing the cash is Bla Bla Bla, a Chinese fusion restaurant. The decor is more Bali via Kyoto than Chinese Dayak but then who doesn’t love looking at a massive koi pond while listening to woozy Sunday morning hangover music? My favourite on the menu is the midin chilli salad. Midin is essentially a jungle fern – something you should definitely try when in Borneo.
Next door to Bla Bla Bla is Junk, a Western fusion restaurant. Junk by name, junk by nature, this place is packed to the rafters with, if we were being unkind, junk. Everywhere you turn, you’ll find knick-knacks and old rusty things. It’s interesting but overwhelming at the same time. Despite the surroundings, the flavours of the food are clean and simple. There’s no gastronomical alchemy here, just great solid tastes and big portions. With plates twice the size of my head, you could absolutely share one dish between two. I really enjoyed the lamb cutlets and my dining partner claimed that the veggie pizza was the best thing he had eaten all week.
To spend all that money you saved on not being able to splurge properly, take a walk to Unika Borneo – an antiques store with an impressive panoply of shiny old things. Prices are slightly less than what you’d pay in the West but you wouldn’t get much change out of 500 ringgit for a single item in here.
After splurging for one day in Kuching (and I really tried), I spent around 500 ringgit. It’s not something that could be done everyday but of all the places to splurge, Kuching definitely won’t break the bank.
By Hollie Tu
Last updated on 31st August, 2014.