THE SIGHTS OF SARAWAK
Kuching is the capital of the East Malaysian state of Sarawak, and was until World War II the seat of the “white Rajahs” – the Brookes. In 1841 James Brooke was made Rajah of Sarawak by the Sultan of Brunei who had until then reigned over the region. James’ nephew, Charles succeeded him and set up a system of government for the area. It was Charles who built many of the interesting sights in and around Kuching – the Istana, Fort Margherita, the Courthouse and the Sarawak Museum, along with many other fine buildings which are still used in the city. His son, Charles Vyner Brooke continued where his father left off, until the Japanese invaded the city at the end of 1941. After the war, the colony was ceded to Britain until independence in 1963.
View of Kuching Across the Sarawak River
The focal point of Kuching, and the reason that it exists, is the Sarawak River which flows through the middle of the city. The Kuching waterfront area has been recently restored and has become a very popular meeting place, with food stalls, restaurants and entertainment facilities. From the waterfront, you can get great views of the Istana, Fort Margherita, and the kampungs which line the North bank of the river.
Some of the interesting places to visit around Kuching include:
Fort Margherita was built in 1879 to guard the approaches to the city from pirates. The fort houses the Police Museum, which is interesting from the viewpoint of the exhibits on display, which include the “laughing skulls”.
Fort Margherita from the Sarawak River
– It is currently the official residence of the Head of State of Sarawak, however, it was originally built by Charles Brook as a bridal gift for his wife.
The centre of the city is quite compact, and places of interest in the city area are easily accessible on foot. It is largely a modern city with many sights to fascinate the visitor. It is a good jumping off point for a visit to Borneo. It is reputed to be the cleanest city in the whole of Malaysia. One of the best museums in South-East Asia, the world famous Sarawak Museum, is located in the city, and contains displays which will give the visitor an important insight into life in the villages of Borneo, the various tribes of the region, a cross section of the history of the area, and wonderful displays of the flora and fauna of the region. The museum houses an exceptional ethnographic collection, a very diverse collection of Chinese ceramics and furniture, and some excellent archaeological exhibits. We would recommend a tour of the museum prior to travelling too far from Kuching, as it will give you an insight into everything that you will experience while in Borneo.
Kuching is possibly the best place in the whole of Borneo to buy artefacts and handcrafts from the entire region, particular in the shops along the Main Bazaar, which runs along the waterfront and is the oldest street in Kuching.
View of the Istana Across the Sarawak River from City
SARAWAK CULTURAL VILLAGE
“See Sarawak in half a day”! Located just outside Kuching near Santubong, it gives the visitor a good insight into the day to day life in a typical village atmosphere, with displays of dances, music, crafts and artefacts. There are replica buildings representing every major ethnic group in Sarawak, staffed by members of those ethnic groups in traditional costumes, carrying out traditional activities. Follow this link to find out more about the Living Museum
Photographs on this page are courtesy of Phil Youdale and Sarawak Tourism