Sarawak’s White Rajahs
The Astana, or ‘Palace’ in English, always features on lists of the must-visit attractions in Kuching. Sitting elegantly on the banks of the River Sarawak, the 1870 colonial palace exudes grandeur. Formerly the residence of Sarawak’s White Rajahs, it’s now the Governor of Sarawak’s seat and isn’t open to the public. Manicured lawns and a fence surround the palace with ‘Astana’ spelled out in giant white letters. Stand on the opposite side of the river for the best photographs. Return after dark when the palace lights up.
Tua Pek Kong Temple
Dating back to 1843, Tua Pek Kong holds the title as Kuching’s oldest Chinese temple. Located in the heart of the city centre near the Waterfront and Chinese Museum, the colourful façade welcomes curious visitors. While the Taoist temple might not be an obvious entry into the list of the must-visit attractions in Kuching, it does provide cultural insights into the city’s past and hosts several annual festivals.
Sarawak’s name translates as ‘Cat’ in English, giving the nickname ‘City of Cats’. The world’s first cat museum covers four galleries inside the City Hall buildings. With over 4,000 items covering everything related to felines, this is a must-visit attraction in Kuching for cat lovers. Since opening in 1988, the Cat Museum gets thousands of annual visitors. Expect to find figurines, photographs, posters and a rare Egyptian mummified cat.
Bako National Park
Holding the title as Sarawak’s oldest and one of the state’s smallest, Bako National Park can be reached within an hour to the northeast of Kuching. After taking a boat to the park entrance, visitors can hike along colour-coded trails, visit beaches and go wildlife-spotting in the many habitats. Highlights include its resident population of endemic proboscis monkeys, slow loris and pangolins, as well as 190 species of birds, lizards and other mammals. Bako National Park is an ideal place to go wildlife-spotting and experience Sarawak’s rainforests.
Sarawak State Museum
Borneo’s oldest museum first opened in 1891. The White Rajah at the time, Charles Brookes, had a passion for natural history and commissioned the Sarawak State Museum. Several displays cover all aspects of Sarawak from ethnographic exhibits and traditional longhouses to Neolithic artifacts, natural specimens and both Chinese and Islamic art. The grand three-storied colonial building housing the museum is a masterpiece in itself.