After two trips to Kuching, including two weeks volunteering with Orangutan Project at the MonkeeBar, I got many opportunities to discover Kuching, like a local. Since I was staying in a volunteer house in the city, it was easy to just get a Grab or Uber to all attractions in and around Kuching city. This gave me ample chances to explore this lovely cat city and create this amazing list of things to do in Kuching Sarawak, heart of Malaysia.
So, join me and experience Kuching, through my eyes.
Table of Content
- 30 Things to do in Kuching City in 2017
- Hike in Bako national park
- Look for Sea Turtles in Satang Island
- Enter the world of Cats at the Cat Museum
- Volunteer at the Monkee bar
- Get a tan at Damai Beach
- Walk along the Waterfront
- Hop on the Irrawady dolphin tour
- High Five the Cat Statues
- Stay at Fancy Hotels
- Bask in the Cafe Culture
- Visit the Quirky Upside Down Museum aka Rumah Terbalik
- Attend the Rainforest World Music Festival
- Gulp Beer in Cool Drinking Holes
- Orangutan Feeding at Semenggoh Nature Reserve
- India Street
- Check out the Kuching Mosque
- Bird Watching in Kuching
- Orchid garden
- Shopping in Kuching
- Sarawak museum
- Watch a Muay Thai match
- See the Famous Fort Margherita
- Loiter around Padungan Street
- Kuching Old Courthouse
- Buy Cat Souvenirs
- Try Local Food
- Be Mesmerized by the best Sunsets in Malaysia
- Stay Fit at Kuching Integrated Recreational center
- Meow Meow Cat Cafe
- Cooking class with a local
30 Things to do in Kuching City in 2017
Hike in Bako national park
Bako national park happens to be one of my top spots for hiking in Kuching. It’s a lovely park for nature and wildlife enthusiasts and has the highest density of Proboscis monkeys, which are endemic to Borneo. You can also see the adorable Bornean bearded pigs here and enjoy a multitude of jungle hikes.
Since the weather is hot and humid, Bako requires a fair bit of planning and packing essentials. Be sure to check out the guided night hike for a chance of one on one encounters with nocturnal animals in Bako.
In short, this park offers an amazing array of adventures and activities.
Look for Sea Turtles in Satang Island
Satang island can be a once in a lifetime experience if you visit during the turtle hatching season from April – September. If lucky, you can actually see turtles coming to the beach and laying eggs or the hatch-lings fleeing away to the big blue seas.
This can be an incredible experience and I documented my entire experience of watching this natural phenomenon in another blogpost.
Enter the world of Cats at the Cat Museum
Are you a cat lover? If so, I would highly recommend visiting the cat city of Kuching and definitely take a look inside this adorable cat museum.
Entry is free and it takes around an hour to go through all displays.
The cat museum in Kuching has some cute cat statues, many cat posters, cat adverts and cat figurines. However, the best part are the cat souvenirs which you can buy for just RM 10 for 3-10 pieces (Depending on what you buy). This amounts to $2.3 total, and you can choose from fridge magnets and keyrings.
Cat museum is surely among the top free things to do in Kuching.
Tip – Cat museum is open till 1700 daily, so I would recommend starting from Kuching city around 1500 (max) as the museum is located on the outskirts and can take a while to reach.
Volunteer at the Monkee bar
Follow my footsteps and do your bit by traveling responsibly. Help out where you can and since I am not too great at teaching, I choose to opt for animal welfare. MonkeeBar is in affiliation with Project Orangutan, which means 50% proceeds from the bar profits go towards orangutan conservation in Matang wildlife center.
There are two ways to volunteer with the Project Orangutan – paid and free. Paid volunteers stay in close proximity to the animals and help out by cleaning their enclosures, feeding (in rare cases), building enclosures or any odd jobs required around Matang. As a free volunteer, you cannot work directly with Orangutans but you can help out at the bar by doing usual bar work – cleaning, serving drinks, informing guests about the project and more.
You can read all about Project Orangutan and how you can help by clicking here.
Get a tan at Damai Beach
This is surely one of the best beach resort destination in Borneo. With stunning coastline, dotted with Damai resort properties, this beach is popular with guests staying in these resorts, as well as locals/travelers who visit just to enjoy some beach time.
Several water activities and the mangrove tour is also organized by the resorts at Damai. Plus, this is one of the best spots in town for some great beach side dining options.
Walk along the Waterfront
THE place to be in Kuching, hands down is the beautiful waterfront. The Waterfront is a great place to walk around, eat out and chill with friends. Evenings are vibrant and lively with the lovely state legislate building, all lit up, casting amazing reflections on the water.
You can choose to stroll the length of Kuching waterfront or even opt to take a guided river cruise. There is a lot to do at the Waterfront like listen to live music, eat local food (at dirt cheap rates) or watch breathtaking sunsets. The sunset point is right at the end of the waterfront and makes for lovely views of sun peeking behind the mountains. So if you are wondering what to do in Kuching at night? A visit to the Waterfront is surely one of the top things to do in Kuching at night, apart from scoring the multitude of bars.
Hop on the Irrawady dolphin tour
One of the best attractions in Kuching is a lovely mangrove tour to find the Irrawady dolphins. This starts from Damai beach and usually lasts 2-3 hours.
We were fortunate enough to see a bunch of playful dolphins up close, Proboscis monkeys, few water birds, neon blue tiny crabs as well as a crocodile on this tour.
The tour also covers a visit to the local fishing village, which offers a peek inside traditional village culture.
High Five the Cat Statues
Well, you are in cat city! You most certainly cannot ignore the multitude of amazing cat statues at important intersections in Kuching city. Why not try what I did and high five the adorable cat statues around town? I soon discovered this was a LOT of fun 🙂
I booked a Grab car and simply asked the driver to take me to all the cat statues in Kuching. I was told that the main cat statue (the white cat in pic above) is adorned in traditional clothes from time to time, like during Chinese new year, the cat wears a red dress and so on so forth. How utterly cute is that?
Stay at Fancy Hotels
You can stay at lovely hotels without breaking the bank just because Kuching is an overall cost effective city to live in. I have personally stayed in Citadines apartment hotel, where they provide fully equipped apartments with all hotel comforts. Click to read my review of Citadines.
The other hotel I tried was Merdeka Palace hotel, which was also pretty amazing with close proximity to Plaza Merdeka shopping mall and a short walk from the bustling Waterfront.
Apart from these two hotels, I practically lived like a local in the volunteer house whilst walking/cycling to work everyday, hitching rides or taking a Grab car. I also lived in basic jungle lodges at Bako national park and Satang island.
Must Read – top 10 amazing hotels in Kuching on TripAdvisor.
Bask in the Cafe Culture
Cafe culture in Kuching is simply amazing. As someone who is location independent, I love working from cafes while traveling. I get to try local food, drinks, meet people and just enjoy living like a local .. in a new country. Plus, it is so much better working from a cafe than your hotel, right?
From themed cafes like Feast & Furious (You are right, that’s Fast & Furious themed) to lovely coffee shops like – Bing, 21 Bistro, The Coffee Garden, Earthlings & more, its easy to immerse in the cafe culture here.
Visit the Quirky Upside Down Museum aka Rumah Terbalik
Okay so full disclosure – this was my first visit to an Upside down museum, so needless to say – I loved it to bits. I believe I saw a few upside down exhibits in London several years ago but nothing like this quirky museum in Kuching.
So as everyone knows, things in the museum are upside down and you simply pose and click pictures to give a notion of hanging from the roof and fun stuff like that.
After this, I even visited the bigger better version in Penang but quite honestly, I would say the museum in Kuching was far better. The staff was super helpful and smiling vs. the staff in Penang’s Upside down who always seemed to be a rush, can’t blame them as they are super busy, but hey.. you can’t rush a good picture now can you?.
Even though’s Kuching’s Upside down museum is small but its very new so with enthusiastic and helpful staff and lovely displays, this is surely a must visit.
You can buy a combo ticket with the 3d Wonders museum (though, I didn’t try it personally). Ticket price for non Malaysians is RM 20. For any info, feel free to contact their responsive staff on their Facebook page.
Attend the Rainforest World Music Festival
Kuching has a variety of events and festivals which attracts hoards of travelers from around the globe. I was fortunate enough to be invited as a guest of Sarawak tourism to attend the amazing Rainforest World Music Festival 2017 and I LOVED it!
This absolutely makes it to my top 30 list. It was attended by over 20,000 Malaysians and foreigners this year and has a great vibe to it. Even though its trying to resurrect traditional instruments, the beats created are simply amazing. I never expected to have so much fun in a cultural music fest but this was way beyond my expectations and turned out to be a fun-filled event.
Lots of beer, great music and good company are the key elements to enjoy this festival – and of course, when it rains, things get a lot crazier.
Gulp Beer in Cool Drinking Holes
Well, I am surely biased so I will highly recommend having a few pints at the MonkeeBar or Bear Garden. Both of these bars are affiliated with Project Orangutan so 50% proceeds go towards Orangutan conservation efforts. So, if you are in Kuching and want to drink for a cause – Check these bars out.
Other options are Junk, The Library or just head over to one of the many kiosks by the Waterfront to enjoy ‘after-party’ drinks at happy hour rates.
Orangutan Feeding at Semenggoh Nature Reserve
Semenggoh is a primate rehabilitation center which offers best chances of seeing Orangutans in ‘Semi-wild’, as they call it. Orangutans here are left free to roam in the reserve and the rangers call them out at fixed feeding time everyday to ensure they never run short of food in the wild. Hence, they are ‘semi-wild’ as sometimes during fruiting season, they might not come looking for fruits at feeding hour.
Early morning is the best time to visit Semenggoh so you can walk around a bit on your own and do some birding and hiking before feeding time at 0900 hours. The noon feeding time is at 1500 hrs but it gets very hot and it’s not a great time for bird watching either.
Rangers in Semenggoh are friendly and helpful. They would happily tell you about all Organutans in the park, their names and awesome facts about the park and these primates.
A visit to Semenggoh is a must-d0 family activity in Kuching city.
Okay so in all honesty, coming from India, the India street in Kuching didn’t impress me much. Narrow lanes, shops and a local mosque is basically all the street has to offer.
However, the street is right across Waterfront and the open air market so its easy to cover it with your Waterfront evening stroll. If nothing else, the vibrant colors and clothing might interest you.
Check out the Kuching Mosque
Kuching has some incredible architecture with jaw dropping backdrop of rainforests and mountains. So much so that everything looks ultra pretty in the cat city.
Kuching city mosque and other lovely mosques in town stand tall and look stunning from every angle – throw in some cloud porn for good measure and you have a picture perfect setting.
Bird Watching in Kuching
As an avid birder, my sole mission was to find the best birding spots in Kuching and so, I did. In no particular order, these are the top 3 birding spots in Kuching –
Kubah National Park – The trails inside Kubah have ample fruiting trees which draw hoards of bird species. A quick early morning 3-4 hour birding session in Kubah is said to be extremely fruitful. Be sure to take an experienced guide along with. While in Kubah, also pay a visit to animal rescue center at Matang to understand what Project Orangutan stands for an how you can help.
Borneo Highlands Resort – This is a eco-wellness resort, around 45 mins from Kuching city center. The resort lies 1000 mtrs over sea level is nestled amidst dense forestation, making it ideal for highland birds. I could not check it out personally but all avid naturalists I met would swear by this place. The only criteria is you will have to start extra early around 0430 hrs to make it there on time for early morning birding.
Bako National Park – Bako was undoubtedly my favorite. Since the park rangers and guides don’t have immense birding knowledge (well, they know their kingfishers and sunbirds), its best to spend a few nights and zero in on best spots each morning. I had great luck around the restaurant area, which is also an excellent spot for Proboscis monkeys. During one of my morning birding sprees, I was lucky enough to spot a Proboscis without the usual tourist rush, well, i was the only one there at that time. I spotted a White bellied woodpecker and the Asian fairy bluebird, which were both lifers for me.
Tip – There is dearth of good birding guides in Kuching. Mr Yeo is the most popular (And expensive) guide but he s booked for months in advance and worth every cent he charges. However, if you are on a budget (like us), simply spend more time and look for fruiting trees, open areas near resorts and wake up early. It can be hard to find birds in the dense rainforests but keep your eyes open and binoculars handy, you can get lucky anytime!
Our third free entry spot in Kuching is the lovely Orchid garden. It is close to the cat museum so I would recommend visiting both together.
This greenhouse nursery boasts of over 82 species of Orchids including the Normah Orchid which is the state flower of Sarawak.
However, avoid an afternoon visit as it can get very hot and you lose half the fun in a rush to get out of the scorching sun. Not many Uber/Grab drivers and locals know this garden yet so search and save it beforehand on your phone GPS.
Shopping in Kuching
Honestly, I am not big on shopping but I got some great deals for gifts, souvenirs and clothes at Plaza Merdeka. I also paid a visit to the biggest mall in Kuching – Spring Shopping Mall. However, the malls houses similar international brands like we have in India, so there was no novelty for me, at least.
India street and the open air market around the waterfront is great for street shopping. For example, I purchased a pair of slippers for 50 cents and no they are not branded but last for years.
Another one of those free things to do in Kuching is visiting the Sarawak State Museum. As the oldest museum in Borneo, it draws fair bit of crowds from all over Malaysia.
You can see stuffed animals and peek into the rural Bornean life and culture in the olden ‘headhunter’ days. My favorite part was a re-creation of a traditional long house. You can literally walk inside and see exactly how Sarawakians used to live, sleep, eat in their authentic village house.
Photography is prohibited inside the museum but the lovely building makes perfect backdrops for your travel photos.
Watch a Muay Thai match
Muay Thai is quite popular in Kuching, as in other parts of Asia. For the first time, I saw a Muay Thai match inside a mall (at Plaza Merdeka) and there was no place to step foot inside – that’s how much Sarawakians enjoy watching this sport. Bystanders were gawking at the champions from even upto 4th floor of the mall.
It was quite a frenzied affair, which also meant all shops were empty and I could roam around and shop with ease.
See the Famous Fort Margherita
Built by Rajah of Sarawak in 1879 along the Sarawak river, this is a important milestone in Sarawak’s history.
Fort Margherita was built with the sole purpose of safe guarding Kuching from pirates who would come via the river. Back in the day, a canon shot from the fort, used to mark the end of each work day.
Loiter around Padungan Street
Jalan Padungan is a bustling street full of lovely themed restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, bars and bakeries. This is the place to be for chilling or a day out with friends.
Bar (or even restaurant/cafe) hopping can be easily done here and that’s what I did for over 2 weeks while volunteering at the bar. MonkeeBar is a short 5 mins walk from the street intersection which made this the perfect day hangout / work space for me.
Kuching Old Courthouse
If you like to see heritage style architecture, pay a visit to the old courthouse which is now a tourism complex. It used to be the administrative center for Kuching and now hosts all sorts of events like weddings, corporate events and a multitude of indoor and outdoor private events.
Buy Cat Souvenirs
You cannot visit the cat city and leave without cat souvenirs now, can you? Absolutely and most certainly not!
Purchase cute and cheap cat souvenirs and trinkets for just RM 10 ( USD 2.4) for 10 pieces at the cat museum, which is the cheapest I saw in the city. I also found a lovely cat print pashmina at Plaza Merdeka for RM 20 in their souvenir store on 1st floor. Apart from that, you can find souvenirs around the open air market at Waterfront or India street.
Try Local Food
You will NEVER be worried about ‘What to eat in Kuching‘. This city , like any other Malaysian city actually, is FULL of delightful delicacies around every corner. However, unlike peninsular Malaysia, Kuching is extremely cost effective.
My personal favorite restaurant is the Life cafe and for outdoor seating and local street food – head to the open air market at waterfront. Food kiosks offer dishes starting at just $1 and you can gulp ice cold beer as you enjoy the river breeze and lovely sunsets.
Be Mesmerized by the best Sunsets in Malaysia
Honestly, I experienced some of the best sunsets of Malaysia right here in Kuching. My top sunset spots were –
Waterfront – Walk towards the very end of the Waterfront, opposite the open air market. You will come to a dead end and usually a lot of photographers will mark the spot after 1800 hrs daily. The USP here is the sun fading over the city and mountains with the river in forefront, offering perfect reflections of the changing colors of the sky.
Bako National Park – You can find the most dramatic sunsets on the beaches of Bako. I love the crooked shaped mountain as the backdrop, sky always seems to be on fire and the Bornean bearded pigs make for excellent objects to shoot in this landscape.
Satang Island – The sunsets at Satang had the most beautiful and bright orange hues I have ever seen. This private island offers excellent sunset photography options with various objects on the beach – trees, fallen branches, crabs, rocks and the empty beach which help to create a stunning effect.
Stay Fit at Kuching Integrated Recreational center
Want to stay active while traveling? Visit the Kuching Integrated recreational center to enjoy a variety of sports and activities to stay active, healthy and motivated. Take a jog around the huge park or dip in the pool, play a game of basketball or enjoy an open air Tai Chi class.
Meow Meow Cat Cafe
I love how Kuching city has all this cool cat stuff and I cannot stop recommending this destination to my cat loving friends. Another feature in the hat for this cat city is the enchanting Meow Meow cat cafe.
This is a lovely cat themed cafe with decor, drinks and food – everything themed around cats. Plus you can make new feline friends by playing with one of the 6 friendly in-house cats.
Entry is just RM 10 ($2.3) which includes a drink from their menu. What’s not to like about this cute cafe? I say, head straight to Meow Meow when you visit Kuching!
Cooking class with a local
Many locals offer cooking classes where you can learn the local cuisine. These classes can be quite fun too and start at around RM 50 ($11.6).
Benefits of taking a class with a local is you experience the local lifestyle first hand by cooking with them and understanding all ingredients and process. What you want to learn will depend on you but the popular dishes are Roti canai and Laksa.
My friend gave this class a shot and even though this video captures her worst attempt at making Roti canai, it is evident that she had a blast –
For booking a cooking class, feel free to contact this number (Whatsapp/Call) – +601136316579
Kuching is the gem of East Malaysia and a Sarawak must visit city. If you happen to be headed to Borneo, enjoy one of the many interesting and fun things to do in Kuching as listed here or try something different on your own. Do share your must-do’s and anecdotes from your time in Kuching city with me in comments or feel free to drop me an email.