We finished our travels in Borneo with a little more time in Kuching, the Cat City (and home to a lot of feral cats, including an adorable semi-tame one that seemed permanently housed in the doorway of our hotel). We had coffee at the Black Bean, which serves locally-grown coffee and has hardly any seating. Fortunately, two young women from Kuala Lumpur had room at their table and asked us to join them. We had a great time talking with them about life in Malaysia and travel in Southeast Asia.
They answered all of our pressing questions about Malaysia, like “does anyone ever get towed for parking however they want, making up their own spaces, or parking in parallel parking spots in a half-diagonal way with their bumpers out in the middle of the travel lane?” The answer was: “No — unless you’re in the central business district in K-L, you can do whatever you want.” Same goes for a lot of things in Malaysia; it has some law enforcement but often also has a bit of a wild west feel.
They take their coffee very seriously (and expressed some surprise when they saw I’d ordered an iced tea). Prescott got a thumbs-up for his choice of a mocha.
We took another informal walking tour of Kuching’s small riverfront area, which is both its tourist hub and its Chinatown.
There are about five Chinese temples in a two block radius. They were extremely active on Thursday, though we weren’t sure why so many people were out burning incense and joss paper at 7:00am in the morning.
The main street on the water, where our hotel was located, looks a little run down. Our hotel is the tall (relatively speaking) white building at the far right below.
It’s a pretty traditional shophouse setup, much like what you’d find in Singapore (but Singapore has more power washers and fewer plants growing between the cracks).
Other buildings in Kuching show evidence of the British architectural influence of the late 1800s and early 1900s.
We had dessert and drinks at a cafe called Kopi C in the beautiful old courthouse building, which has been converted into an arts and dining space:
The two other major features of the Kuching landscape are (1) their public buildings, which largely tend toward the temple/UFO architecture style (like that of their Parliament building), and (2) the many mosques, though I don’t have pictures of them (they’re located a little further from the riverfront). I would have expected more churches — 48% of Sarawak’s population is Christian, I learned from my morning perusal of The Borneo Post — but I only saw a few.
I’m not sure that we would return to Kuching for the city itself, but it’s a good home base for Borneo exploration. Malaysia is easy for western travelers; most people speak some English, the food is good, and the driving isn’t too crazy (parking aside). And they put entertaining signage in their restrooms. This was in the Kuching airport:
Do they have a toilet seat theft problem in Malaysia? Or are they just trying to get us to pay attention to “No Vandalism” and cut down on graffiti with Frank Zappa quotes? If so, how do we explain the presence of the sign below?
I’m not sure why the Malaysian Airports decided to post that. Really, it’s a mystery.