Towards the end of the academic year, after J and K were done with their respective public exams, we took the opportunity to go to Kuching for a short trip.
The excuse? The fares were low.
Kuching (cat in Malay) is the capital of Sarawak, one of the two states that form East Malaysia. Sarawak is also the largest state of Malaysia and itâ€™s located northwest of Borneo Island.
My parents-in-law are with us on the trip. Making a total of six persons. The 5D4N trip is full of fun adventures and it also brings us closer to nature.
We rent a car (MPV in our case) before the trip. We arrange pick-up and drop-off at the airport.
If you are driving in Kuching, parking coupons are needed in the city area. RM5 fine if not displayed. I forgot to display while having breakfast and I received the compound. However thereâ€™s good news: Thereâ€™s no tolled highway in Sarawak.
Of course, itinerary has been planned out before hand but we are flexible to adopt and adapt.
We didn’t go to Fairy Cave and Wind Cave in Bau due to mobility problems. My mother-in-law is not as fit as she once was and long and tough walking is not advisable.
Overall, my favourites are Bako National Park, Semenggoh Nature Reserve and Siniawan. Food wise, kolo mee ranks top on my list.
Going to the airport
We were thinking whether we should drive or take a cab to the airport. After comparing the costs of parking the car at the airport for 5 days with the price of taking a cab to and fro, we decided to drive and park our car at the airport. Itâ€™s much cheaper this way. Parking on Level 4 of Car Park B at klia2 is convenient when you come back from your trip because the arrival hall is on the same level as Level 4 of the car park. For more info on klia2 car park and calculating parking rate, click here.
Day 1: November 8 Thursday
We reached Kuching Airport at 11 a.m. After collecting the car, we headed for breakfast near the airport. Undoubtedly, famous food for breakfast in Kuching are kolo mee (RM3.50) and Sarawak laksa (RM7-8 depending on the restaurant).
Since we arrived early in Kuching and had plenty of time to spend, we kicked off our trip right after breakfast by visiting Cat Museum. I thought it was free but itâ€™s not. Donâ€™t worry, the entrance fee is highly affordable.
As the name suggests, Cat Museum houses everything about the animal from the feline family. From paintings, toys, and famous cat owners to mugs and statues. You name it. It takes about 30 minutes to tour the one-level museum. After visiting, youâ€™ll walk out of the museum as a cat expert.
Address: Located in the DBKU City Council Building
RM3 for adults; RM2 for children
While we were in that area (north of Sarawak River), we also visited Orchid Park which is not very far from Cat Museum. In Orchid Park, youâ€™ll be mesmerized by many species of orchid. The area is quite huge and it can get very hot in the afternoon.
However, thereâ€™s a â€œcold roomâ€ where exotic orchid species can be seen. Entrance is free.
Fresh Food Court æ–°é²œç¾Žé£ŸåŠ
We went to the birthplace of teh c peng special (West Malaysians call it 3-layered tea). Not sure if this is the right teh c peng as my friend who recommended this place said itâ€™s served by the shop and not the stall next to it. But when we were there (around 2:30 pm) the shop was closed. Perhaps we should go in the morning to try out the real teh c peng special.
Fresh Food Court æ–°é²œç¾Žé£ŸåŠ
Kota Sentosa, 93250 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia.
Checked in Apartment
Everybody loved this place. This is one spacious and clean apartment. We are super impressed with Imperial Suites. On the 19th floor, the unit comfortably sleeps 6 persons with 3 king-sized beds. Equipped with every facility you can imagine. From hot and cold water dispenser, cooking utensils, washing machine and dryer, hot and cold shower, and to even a safe deposit box. Besides that you can enjoy the gym, sauna, or swimming pool at the apartment. Not to mention friendly and helpful staff to help you with your stay.
Dinner at Topspot Food Court
After resting at the apartment, we went to one of the famous dinner places in Kuching: Topspot. There are a few stalls selling fresh seafood where you can handpick your ingredients before being cooked by the chef. We settled at Stall #6 Ling Loong.
We ordered steamed fish, salted egg butter prawns, oh chien (fried oyster), bamboo clams, and of course the famous local delicacy belacan midin.
Top on my list is the fish; fresh, sweet and juicy. Salted egg butter prawns are powderish, and not to my liking. Oh chien is overpriced with too few oysters. Their version of oh chien is different from West Malaysia’s. Midin and bamboo clams are good.
Overall the price is reasonable and I must say the seafood is super fresh. While you are there, you can try out lemon and sugar cane drink. Personally I think itâ€™s nothing out of the ordinary. RM7/big cup.
Besides this stall, all-time favorites are Stall #10 (Ah Seng ABC Seafood) and many prefer stall number 25.
Topspot Food Court
Jalan Bukit Mata Kuching, 93100 Kuching, Sarawak
Top floor (6th Floor) of Kuching UTC building
HOURS: 6pm to 11pm daily
Day 2: November 9 Friday
Chong Choon Cafe (æ³‰æ˜¥èŒ¶å®¤)
I was told this eatery tended to be crowded. For this reason, we tried to go there early for our Sarawakian breakfast at 8:15 am.
The cafe is famous for its Sarawak laksa (Poh Lam Laksa, off Tues) and kolo mee – both meet my high standards of approval. Garlic bread is also good and itâ€™s crispy. However mee goreng is average.
The cafe is located in the city of Kuching. And if youâ€™re driving, remember to display your parking coupon (20 sen for 30 minutes). This is where we got our ticket for not displaying it.
Bako National Park
Headed straight to Bako National Park after breakfast. You canâ€™t find Bako National Park on Waze (as thereâ€™s no road leads there but boat) but â€œBako National Park Terminalâ€ is the closest you can find on Waze. The park is 20 minutesâ€™ drive from Kuching city.
From the terminal, the boat ride takes about 20 minutes to reach the jetty of the national park. Itâ€™s advisable to go there before 10 am to avoid low tide. Last trip back to terminal is 3pm. We were assigned the same boatman to and fro.
Even though we reached terminal at around 9:40 am, the boat couldnâ€™t reach the jetty due to low tide. We had to walk about 500-700m in mud to the national park. Register yourself first when youâ€™re there. And when youâ€™re done hiking, sign out. This is for the authority to keep track of visitors as well as for safety precautions.
Advisable to wear shorts, breathable shirts, and hiking shoes.
Bako is an excellent place for nature lovers as this is where you see untouched forest and wild animals on the loose.
Wild boars are aplenty while it depends on your luck if you want to see other animals such as proboscis monkeys.
The receptionist recommended 3 trails to us. We picked the shortest one which is 2 hours two ways. Big mistake. The trail is tough. My parents-in-law who are considered fit and strong gave up toward the two thirds of the trail. The possibility of seeing proboscis motivated us to move on. But while on the way, we checked with a couple guides and they told us there was no guarantee that we could spot proboscis at the end of the trail. For this reason, we too decided to turn back.
To our relief, we managed to see a proboscis on a tree while exiting the trail on the way to the reception office. We were grateful being able to see one though itâ€™s far and itâ€™s not clear to see the proboscis. Itâ€™s better to go to Bako National Park in the morning as the place tends to get very hot in the afternoon. I got serious sun tan from the hot sun while in the boat.
The spectacular views that we see on the way (and back) to the national park compensate the heat we need to endure. They will take your breath away.
On the way back, the boatman took us to see the icon of Bako National Park: Sea Stack. Itâ€™s magical that the enormous piece of rock can balance itself with its smaller bottom. I must say that the view on the boat is as captivating as the national park itself. You must see it for yourself to believe.
There are two types of fees you need to pay: the boat ride as well as national park entrance fee. Boat ride RM30 adults; RM20 children – up to 11 years old (privately run). Entrance fee 10 for adults; RM5 senior citizens; RM3 for children aged from 6 – 18Â (collected by the government). Foreigners charged differently.
Bako Seafood Restaurant
Out of pure coincidence, the boatman recommended this restaurant to us while I waved at a woman just happened to stand in front of this restaurant on the way back to the terminal. The restaurant is operated by local Chinese. It is located just a street away down from the terminal in an old wooden shop. In fact the place is a bit run down and I hesitated if we should have lunch there.
Despite of the aging looks of the eatery, the food there is fantastic. The fried squids are crispy and fresh. The black pomfret is flavorful and crispy.
Whatâ€™s more? The price is reasonable. The restaurant closes at 3pm. We managed to go there one hour before it closed.
Afternoon coffee at Black Bean Cafe
Back to city from Bako. Another friend of mine who recently went to Kuching told me about this cafe. And the reviews I read about it are excellent. Hence I give it a try. Black Bean Cafe is located in Chinatown (Jalan Ewe Hai, adjoining Jalan Attap).
Local coffee beans brewed in different ways such as espresso and latte. Despite Black Bean Cafe is a little cafe with a unassuming decor, it has big taste in coffee. Highly affordable prices too.
We walked around Jalan Carpenter after the coffee break but there was not many happenings around in the afternoon. Many shops are closed.
The only thing we can do is to admire the beauty of the old buildings in the Chinatown area.
Day 3: November 10 Saturday
Semenggoh Nature Reserve
Thereâ€™s not much chance to meet orang utan in person and this place is one of few ones that allow you to do so. Itâ€™s a great experience to have up close personal encounter with our hairy friends. Feeding time is at 9 am.
We reached Semenggoh Nature Reserve around 8:30 am. Park your car at the entrance and buy entrance tickets. Then drive your car into the reserve and park at the designated place. You can walk to the feeding spot from the entrance gate; itâ€™s about 1 km in distance.
Follow along the road and gather at the nearest feeding platform for a safety briefing conducted by a reserve ranger. There are a few feeding spots. Not sure if this is pure luck but we managed to view the orang utan at two feeding spots. The animals look more beautiful in real life than in pictures.
While you are there, keep your voice down.
Orang utan is highly agile and flexible. They can hang on a rope and eat at the same time. It’s genius how orang utans crack coconuts for water and flesh. The park closes at 10 am and open again for the second and last feeding time of the day at 3. The good news is tickets are valid for the whole day and if you have nothing to do, you can come for the all two feeding sessions.
As a bonus, there’s a crocodile in a confinement area near one of the feeding spots. If you are brave enough, take a peep and say hi to the crawling creature.
I highly recommend this place. More so if you have young children.
Lunch in Kota Padawan
We had an early lunch in Kota Padawan on the way to Serikin Border Market; passing through Siniawan and Bau. We made a quick round of the small town of Kota Padawan and picked one restaurant that looked crowded and decent for our energy refuel.
Serikin Border Market
The weekend market (bordering Indonesia) is one hour’s drive from Kota Padawan. It was not a good timing as it was raining heavily when reached. We waited at the car park for almost an hour but the rain only subsided a little, and turned heavy again. Patience was running low. We took the plunge and strolled around the market with umbrellas.
The are stalls on both sides of the road and most of them sell similar items: fruits, low quality clothes (and counterfeits), souvenirs, and a few stalls selling antique. We didnâ€™t finish walking the whole market due to the rain and similar items being sold. Nothing much. We didnâ€™t buy anything.
In my opinion, Serikin Border Market is not worth going judging from the distance you have to travel and thereâ€™s nothing much to be seen and bought.
Tasik Biru (Blue Lake)
As Bau used to be famous for gold mining, I understand that Tasik Biru is a legacy of that: a former mine. The lake is used purely for recreational purposes now. You can take a boat ride or cycle on the lake. A great spot for photo taking as well.
Later, we had afternoon tea in Bau. We stopped at Lok Koi Fol. The food we ordered was not bad. We ate soup noodles, fried bihun, and tomato fried kuey teow. Later, we spotted about three food courts in the town which I would have gone to if I knew it sooner.
Siniawan Heritage Town
On the way back to Kuching city, we stopped by in Siniawan. Itâ€™s just a short distance from Bau, Siniawan is a small heritage town that is lined with two rows of wooden shop houses.
On every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the only road in Siniawan will be closed for night market. The Hakka town will turn into a street food galore starting 5:30 pm. We reached there at 4pm and it was too early for that. We didn’t wait until the market opened. But some of the stalls had opened then and we bought some local delicacies back to the apartment to enjoy. The chang (Chinese dumplings) and kuih are good and cheap.
Besides food, the heritage town is similar to a Western cowboy town and an excellent place for photo session.
If youâ€™re a an old building enthusiast, this is must-go place for a nostalgic tour of old architecture.
Day 4: November 11 Sunday
Satok Weekend Market
Another weekend market that is located in the city itself. The car park turned market sells lots of local produce, snacks, fruits and vegetables. The area is huge and adjacent the normal market that is open everyday.
We wanted to try some of the local fruits but for some reason we didnâ€™t. The souvenirs here are cheaper compared to Main Bazaar. In my opinion, Satok Market is much better than Serikin Border Market.
Next destination is Fort Margherita. To go there by river, weâ€™ll have get down the boat in Kampong Boyan.
First we parked our rented car on the roadside near the Chinese History Museum (Donâ€™t worry, no car park coupons required on Sundays). While enjoying the magnificent view of Kuching Waterfront, we walked to jetty to take a boat (itâ€™s called Tambang) across the river to Kampong Boyan. To do that, just go down to jetty and wait for the boat to come. You pay to the boatman while alighting the boat. RM1/trip/person regardless of age.
After reaching Kampong Boyan, follow along the tarmac road through a village, guided by signs to Fort Margherita. The walk takes about 15 minutes. Named after Charles Brookeâ€™s wife, Ranee Margaret, Fort Margherita was built in 1879 used to be a fort and surveillance tower. It was used to guard Kuchingâ€™s river approaches from pirates. But now it houses a gallery about the Brooke empire in Sarawak. It has 3 floors and a top floor for viewing.
Ticket prices: RM 10 adults /RM3 senior citizens/RM2 children.
Chinese History Museum
The best thing about Chinese History Museum is itâ€™s free. It an easy-to-walk-one-floor museum which is located not far from the jetty. A great place to get to know about Chinese immigrants and their culture at a glance.
Insider tip: Also, due to the fact that this museum is air-conditioned, it makes an excellent place to escape the heat of the afternoon sun.
Lunch at Song Hai Kheng Hawker Centre
We tried kolo mee, gong pia (this is good!), chicken rice and coconut and sugar cane drink. This hawker center is patronized by many locals.
We went back to apartment and had a rest.
Dinner at Rumah Asap
Based on a recommendation by my wifeâ€™s friend who lives in Kuching, we went to Rumah Asap for dinner.
The main attraction that drew me there was Dayakâ€™s BBQ pork! True enough, this food court is haven for food lovers and itâ€™s crowded with hungry customers. This is the place to savour local dishes especially Dayak food.
BBQ pork belly (RM6/10g), pansoh chicken (ie: bamboo chicken, RM7 with rice), grilled fish, banana fritters with cheese, fried rice, burgers. Personally I find grilled fish is the best. Prices are highly affordable. Bored? Get entertained by a live sape performance.
The eatery gets a bit smokey due to the BBQ grills and itâ€™s better sit outdoor.
Rumah Asap Smoke House
Address: Jalan Tabuan Dayak, Tabuan Dayak, 93250 Kuching, Sarawak.
Note: Another great place to devour Dayak food is Lepau Restaurant. It’s on our itinerary but we didn’t have time to dine there.
Darul Hana Bridge
The latest addition to Kuching attraction. Opened in November 2017, Darul Hana Bridge is a pedestrian bridge that connects both sides of Sarawak River.
It is more interesting and beautiful in the evening as it turns into a breath-taking bridge that changes colors like a chameleon.
On weekends, visitors are presented with musical performances on the riverside of State Legislative Building (DUN). The session that we saw was at 10 pm. The performance lasted for about 10 minutes. You can view the musical fountain from the bridge or on steps on the opposite riverside.
Opening hours: 6 am – 12 am
Taking photo with Kuching’s most popular landmark
There are many cat statues around the city. I was told the most popular one can be found at the end (or start?) Jalan Padungan. The white cat is dressed according to the current festival. When we were there, it was dressed up for Deepavali.
Day 5: November 12 Monday
Last day of our trip. We had fruits for breakfast at the apartment. As we had covered pretty much what needed to cover, we chilled at the apartment until checkout time before we hit the road.
Lunch at Meekwong
No kolo mee for once. We tried something new for lunch: Foochow food. We ordered a few Foochow delicacies for lunch.
I am fine with the food there but J and K are not so excited. I understand that this coffee shop is famous for Foochow food among locals.
Damai Beach Resort
Since we had run out of places to go, I had no choice but to go to Damai beach. I am not so keen as I donâ€™t think the beach is nice. We went to Damai Beach Resort but were not allowed to enter as the resort is reserved for guests only. No sightseeing and strolling on the beach for public. We managed to enter on the premise that we wanted to dine at the restaurant. Not quite but we had coffee at the cafe. The beach is very hot in the afternoon. So be prepared. Sarawak Cultural Village is nearby but we didn’t go.
Another free museum. Located opposite the General Post Office and next to Plaza Merdeka Shopping Mall. It was raining heavily when we were there and we parked our car in the mall. Textile Museum has three floors. Itâ€™s a very clean and well organized museum. It introduces textile and costumes of the people of Sarawak including the aborigines’.
Kek Lapis Dayang Salhah
Purposely save this for the last day to maintain the freshness of kek lapis (layered cake). Itâ€™s one of the Kuching specialties. We bought these as souvenirs for friends at home. Kek Lapis Dayang Salhah located in Kampong Gersik. They sell two types of kek lapis: margarine and butter based. The prices are RM25 for butter and RM10 for margarine regardless of flavors.
Free tasting is available. Staff are friendly and service is excellent. If you buy in bulk, the staff has a creative way to pack in such a way that you can carry without the risk of damaging the cake. If you buy more than RM100, youâ€™ll get one free.
Dinner at Bla Bla Bla Restaurant
Of all the restaurants weâ€™d been to in Kuching, not that weâ€™d been to many, Bla Bla Bla receives my â€œBeat Ambience Award.â€
The narrow and long restaurant is very warmly decorated and plants make up the most of it. We made a mistake of over-ordering as the servings here are surprisingly huge. The waitress should have advised us the appropriate order based on the size of the group. Despite the awesome ambience and decor, the food is generally below average.
I might even say itâ€™s one of the worst of the trip. But if you havenâ€™t been there, itâ€™s okay to pay a visit for the ambience and decor.