Kuching is the capital of Sarawak. The town centre is on the south side of the Kuching River. The atmosphere reminds me a little of Sorrento in Italy: a small city which seems to have been built with tourists in mind. If not for the substantial amount of pollution from the road, which is very busy and makes the central bit rather dusty and grimy, the town centre would have the ambience of manufactured plastic.
Among the main buildings are the Holiday Inn, Hilton, Crowne Plaza, and an expensive apartment block called the Riverbank Suites. There are shophouses further westwards selling blowpipes, bamboo spears, krises, and other souvenirs.
All this is roughly along the Esplanade, a pedestrian walkway running down the river. It kind of reminds me of the one in Santa Monica, except this one of course has a river on one side.
Nearly directly across the river from the Holiday Inn is Fort Magherita, a charming toy fort built before the war by Charles Brooke, who named it after his wife. Incidentally, he reportedly is also responsible for naming the city, which was previously called Sarawak.
Charles Brooke was second in the line of the White Rajas (princes). James Brooke, his uncle, ascended into royalty by putting down a rebellion with his armed yacht, The Royalist. The Royalist is now a name of a pub situated in the complex behind the Crowne Plaza.
Charles was succeeded by his son, Charles Vyner, with whom the reign stopped when the Japanese landed.
Kuching means 'cat' in Malay, and thusly has rather pagan-looking cat statues scattered around the town. Several kilometers north of the river lies a building called the Astana, which looks like an overturned shuttlecock. Situated in it is the world’s only cat museum.
Kuching is strange because while it has the semblance of a reasonably large city of about a million inhabitants, and therefore well within the bounds of civilization, it is in actuality an oddity on the shores of a remote and (in relation to its size) scarcely-populated jungle island. Just when all the little luxuries of the city seem abound, a turn of the head reveals the total absence of emery boards, art prints, and Ikea furniture....
I was born here, and write from my head. Any inaccuracies have been in my mind for so long that they no longer seem to be so; I will be grateful if they are pointed out.