It takes a lot to make this jungle outpost in the far south-west corner of Borneo seem crowded. Hemmed in by huge swathes of untouched virgin rainforest, the Sarawak capital seems a million miles from anywhere – a long way in spirit and personality from south-east Asia’s great bustling metropolises. By comparison, sleepy Kuching can be explored in a day – but therein lies its subtle charms.
Cat City, as locals have affectionately nicknamed it, amply rewards those who are happy to flit from bold, colourful Chinese temples to Indian-era mosques hidden away on backstreets. It has a British influence, too – that’s in part thanks to its former ruler James Brooke, an English adventurer whose exploits helping the Bruneian Empire of which Sarawak was once part, made him the first White Rajah of the state. This gives it a somewhat unexpected multi-cultural, cosmopolitan air.
Those with a desire to get themselves out into the wilderness like Brooke once did needn’t look far. Within an easy day trip you can escape to Robinson Crusoe-esque beaches, unchartered national parks like Bako or Kubah, or bundle yourself into a 4x4 for a penetrating drive into the heart of headhunter territory in the Borneo jungle. Deep among the lush, green trees, you may even find yourself coming face to face with an orangutan. It’s that kind of place.