KUCHING

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Kuching is the only place where you have 2 mayors and 2 cities. The city status was proclaimed on 1 August 1988. Since then we had MBKS (Majlis Bandaraya Kuching Selatan) and DBKU (Dewan Bandaraya Kuching Utara). The late Datuk Yusof Hanifa (passed away on 30th July 2019) was the first mayor of DBKU whilst Song Swee Guan became the first mayor for MBKS.

It has been 31 years yet Kuching still retains the charm of yesteryears. It is a place that many seem to at times call it to be similar like Perth in Australia. Of course, getting to Kuching would need you to fly either MAS or AirAsia from Kuala Lumpur. This route has about 169 flights per week according to some read material. This makes Kuching the 4th busiest airport behind KLIA, Kota Kinabalu and Penang.

However, when it comes to direct international flights, Kuching is only accessible via Singapore, Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei), Pontianak (Indonesia) and the occasional charters from Haikou, Hainan China. Hence the reason why Kuching is not flooded with tourists like Kota Kinabalu and Penang. This quaint city is home to a small population of just over 570,000 people. This makes things less stressful and you tend to see and feel life more.

The Rainforest Music Festival (RWMF 12th to 14th July 2019) just concluded and it has been reported that this year’s 21st edition garnered the largest total guests at 23,650. It has grown since its reported 300 when the RWMF began in 1998. This music festival is normally held in July and the next one is slated for 10th to 12th July 2020. The 22nd edition. Some may refer this to the 23rd edition as the idea was born in the year 1997. But, the first performance was in 1998.

It is unlike other festivals you would have been to as it has daytime workshops and night time concerts included in your ticket. Bands and performers from all over the world would give you raw and fused music and songs based on cultural heritage. It is as if being thrown into a surreal world of communal happiness backed by nature. The venue itself is right at the foot of Mount Santubong within the premises of the Sarawak Cultural Village. The natural surroundings is unique to anywhere else in the world.

This year’s event even took a stand against plastics and promoted recycling. Cashless payments via the Sarawak Pay app. It was also notable that over 40% of the attendees were international visitors. The prelude to the RWMF was The Rainforest Fringe Event held from 5th to 12th July 2019 and this was held in the heart of Kuching at the Old Courthouse. It showcased arts, heritage and culture interpreted.

The Kuching Food Festival began on 26th July 2019 and would be ending on 16th August 2019. This is in celebration of Kuching’s 31st anniversary as a city and organized by MBKS. It is not only about food but there would be walks, theatre, sports competition (rugby, football, hockey, volleyball, fishing, badminton and even e-sports) and dances. There are an expected 281 food stalls each night. The push for recycling and cashless payment continue as well.

The next festival after this would be the Walk About Kuching (WAK) 2019. The Waterfront Jazz Festival would be the kick start just like the inaugural event in 2017. It would be held over the 27th and 28th of September 2019. This is the 3rd year and WAK promises a month long from 28th September till 27th October 2019. It would focus on celebrating arts, culture and lifestyle. It pays tribute to the heart of Kuching.

Kuching is also a city now focused on having local mural artists emulate the efforts done by Zacharevic in 2014. As you walk around Kuching the most prominent ones are works by Kuching’s Leonard Siaw. His murals depict the life of Kuching and this serves as an encouragement for many more mural artists to come by and pepper the walls and pavements with beautiful art. UNIMAS students have also made their mark. Sonia Luhong, Amy Amin, AkiraCeo (miao & wafu pafu) and Daphne Siaw are just a few of them. There are many more.

Food in Kuching would also have its distinct followings. The infamous Belachan Beehoon would take a huge leap of faith. Some compared it to eating stinky tofu from Taiwan and some compared it to eating and drinking longkang water. Yet, it is the most simplest of food. Rice vermicelli topped with a ladle of belachan broth with slivers of cuttlefish, cucumber, a pinch of taugeh and a dallop of chilli infused with belachan. Another one would be the tomato mee. The crisp noodles are topped with steaming hot tomato sauce gravy loaded with chicken pieces, prawns, fish cake and fish slices.

There is also a local dish called curry rice. This is where your rice is drenched and flooded with curry gravy and garnished with char siew, siew yuk and poached chicken with a few pieces of long beans. The local kolo mee is normally served with the noodles tossed with the red drippings of the char siew. It looks bland but the taste is in the noodles, not the condiments. Of course, one cannot forget the Sarawak Laksa. The late Anthony Bourdain went twice on different occasions to a Choon Hui Café to partake in this dish which he claimed to be “Food of the Gods”.

Sio Bee would be the other delicious snack Kuchingites love. These small pork dumplings are made famous by the stall in Open Air Market as well as at Hock Hai and Fock Hoi. Each taste different. They are unlike the siew mai you get elsewhere. Look up for sio bee when in Kuching and you would understand what I mean.

Kuching is also now known to be vegetarian friendly as many coffee shops also offer the local delicacies in vegetarian form. Vegetarian coffee shops have also started to open and as well as award winning vegetarian restaurants.

Kuching is becoming a hub for simple festivals to complement the typical Christmas, Chinese New Year, Hari Raya, Deepavali and Gawai.  It is worth your time to plan your trip to this beautiful city of Kuching. Travelling opens your mind.