This, dear reader, is a very reluctant post. A weekend in Kuching — yes that’s two days, or three if you have a flexible definition of “the weekend’” — really isn’t enough time but we can appreciate that often people will have time constraints when they’re travelling in Sarawak so let the following be a guide to enjoying Kuching in the most time efficient way!
Arriving in Kuching is a little underwhelming. You may have heard of the quaint colonial charm that runs through the streets of Kuching but it certainly does not stretch out towards any of the long distance transport hubs. As time is short, get a taxi from your arrival point — as per usual, the less time you have, the more money you have to spend; you could wait for a bus but those minutes or hours waiting could have been spent more wisely taking a nice stroll down the waterfront. You decide.
Unusually, for Malaysian Borneo, Kuching has some really good quality backpacker accommodation. Pick one in the centre of town so that you’ll never have to walk too far be in the midst of the (very languid) bustle of the city. Our favourites are Borneo Tribal Lodge on Jalan Tabuan, which with only a few rooms gives a real sense of staying in a boutique hotel (from 50 ringgit). If you’re travelling solo, head to Three House, Tracks or Nomads B & B and you’ll be sure to find company on your weekend trip in Kuching.
Kuching is famous for two things: its history and its nature. Both can be experienced without too much travelling. Day one of your itinerary should be spent wandering around museums and temples during the heat of the day and then through the quaint streets of Chinatown once the sun has gone down. All the museums in Kuching are free. A top favourite is the Sarawak Museum; a taxidermist’s dream, the upstairs hosts a replica of an Iban longhouse. If you like textiles, as we do at the Travelfish.org towers, then head to the Textiles Museum, which, incidentally, is also a great place to scare your children.
Day two should be an early start. Head down to the bus stop opposite the waterfront and catch the first Rapid Kuching bus to Bako jetty which leaves at 07:00. Once at the jetty, you’ll find yourself with yet another decision. Wait for more people to arrive so that the price of your boat is cheaper, or save time and head out straight away? The last boats leave at 16:00 and it takes 20 minutes to get to Bako National Park from the jetty. To get a full day at Bako, you really need to be the first there and last of the daytrippers to leave. Once at Bako, you have two options: take a full day’s trek, in which case, take lots and lots of water plus lunch plus snacks. Or take two short walks broken up by lunch in the park canteen, where various wildlife loiter. They are very obliging for the camera wielding tourist (apart from the monitor lizard).
Once back in the city, reward yourself with a good meal. Go to Top Spot; located at the top of a car park, it is replete with seafood stalls that serve very reasonably priced dishes. Finally, head down to Ruai Bar, an Iban joint serving local rice wine. Get a bit merry and try your hand at learning some Iban with the barman or if you’re feeling particularly reckless, get a traditional Iban tattoo.
A reminder: two days is really not a sufficient amount of time to spend in Kuching, as the town’s charming soul will sucker you in; it is not uncommon to wake up and realise that you’ve just lost a few weeks of your life to it.
By Hollie Tu
Last updated on 1st September, 2014.