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Is this your first time?

Disclaimer: All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are writer’s own.


I am Kuching-born.

I left the city in the early 1990s for college and came back after being away for more than a decade. The city changed tremendously while I was away. Change for the better (iMax woohoo!!), as well as for the worst (traffic jams!). Of course that is expected of a capital city. However, as much as possible, Kuching still retains many of its ‘small-town’ charms.

So, is this your first time visiting? If so, let me tell you…

#1 What I love most about Kuching…

Kuching is still small enough to be personal and its community very much family-oriented. Although it was declared a city in 1988, and commercialisation is taking over many of its once-upon-a-time empty spaces, Kuching is still a place where you can potentially bump into your enemies  colleagues while browsing around in one of its modern and chic malls.

#2 It’s your first time visiting Kuching? Come with me to…

Kubah Ria Wet Market. Get acquainted with the locals who will treat you as though you’re a long lost acquaintance and see amazing and equally squemish things like the sago worms. Then grab something to eat after. Fried sago worms in soy sauce perhaps?

#3 Since it’s your first time visiting, you should…

Book a hotel room. HAHAHA. Just kidding! Lots of things actually. But mostly, smile to the first local you meet. No. Not the Immigration officer at the airport. But hmm… him too of course. Smile and strike up a conversation with that Kuchingnite who sat beside you in the flight. For all you know, a friendship might bloom and you have yourself a guide. Or better, a host while you’re in town.

#4 For your first meal, especially since you flew in in the morning, should be…

Sarawak laksa. The breakfast of Sarawakians! Skip the fancy cafes listed in tripadvisor.com. Instead, look for small kopitiams around Chinatown a.ka. Padungan. You will not be disappointed. And if anything, avoid comparing Sarawak laksa with mee curry. You wanna die?! won’t want to go there.

#5 For your dinner, the best place to go would be…

The home of a local. That’s why #3 is important. We’ll have you for dinner. We’ll be happy to have you join us for dinner.

#6 Oh yeah! Do keep in mind that the locals are…

Friendly and always ready to help a stranger especially someone from out-of-town. because your disappearance will not be missed. And yeah… we would like to put an end to that ‘do you live on trees?’ question which we get a lot from fellow citizens from across the sea…

#7 Souvenir buying? Let’s go…

Carpentar Street and Gambier Street. From the basic keychains to ethnic music CDs and brass antiques or even the well-loved Kek Lapis, your budget (and your flight’s luggage weight limit ) is your only restriction.

#8 Kuching offers many things that you need except…

A sports activity centre that offers wall climbing, skater park, baseball pitch or batting arena, mini golf etc. (Or water holes to collect tadpoles from for that matter.) Remind me to speak to our urban planner on this matter.

#9 It’s past 11pm, and you’re leaving tomorrow. Let us…

Head over to the nearest kopitiam, order some cold milktea or kopi O peng kosong and eat lok-lok as we chat about the exciting things you’ve seen, heard and experience while you were here.

#10 Before you go, I want to share a piece of  Kuching’s history…

Remember Kuching’s major malls? theSpring mall was built on a large empty piece of land where I clearly remember a circus from the UK once set-up tent and performed for a few months. That was in the 80s. The land where CityOne mall is on was actually a forested piece of land where I would occasionally see the burung keruak or white-breasted waterhen roaming as we wait out the traffic lights at the intersection. And VivaCity mall? It was built on land that was directly opposite the house that my family rented when we first moved back to Kuching from KL. There was (or still is, I’m not sure) a small stream separating private homes and the mall where crabs and the occasional monitor lizard would make their appearance every evening.

So. Will you come and visit Kuching? And no, we no longer hunt heads. At least, not at this current moment…

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