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Kuching is the capital of the East Malaysian state of Sarawakmarker. Being the most populous city in the state of Sarawak, Kuching emerged as one of the most vibrant cities in the region and it is the largest city on the island of Borneomarker and the fourth largest city in Malaysiamarker. Kuching was elevated to city status on 1 August 1988 and carries the nickname of Cat City.


The city of Kuching is located in the district of Kuching. The district covers an area of , and is one of the three districts within Kuching Division. The district of Kuching is administered and divided into three local governments, which are namely DBKU (Kuching North City Hall), MBKS (Kuching South City Council) and MPP (Padawan Municipal Council).

The area north of the Sarawak River, parts of Old Kuching, Satok and the western Central Business District (CBD) is within the jurisdiction of Dewan Bandaraya Kuching Utara (Kuching North City Hall) covering an area of . Kuching North City Hall is directly under the supervision of the Chief Minister of Sarawak. The area south of the Sarawak River, eastern CBD and towards the South China Sea is within the jurisdiction of Majlis Bandaraya Kuching Selatan (Kuching South City Council), covering a smaller but more densely populated area of .

There are those who believe that the divisions in power for the Northern (primarily Malay and Bumiputera residents) and Southern (primarily Chinese residents) districts came about due to ethnic reasons in the 1980s. There are also those who believe the administration is divided due to geographical reasons, as the Northern and Southern districts are linked by only three bridges spanning the Sarawak River.

The third local government is Majlis Perbandaran Padawan or Padawan Municipal Council, formerly known as the Kuching Rural District Council (Majlis Daerah Luar Bandar Kuching), which administers the rural areas within Kuching district, Batu Kawa, Kota Sentosa and Third Mile. It covers a large portion of Kuching district with an area of .

List of areas in Kuching

Kuching North City Hall area

Kuching South City Council area


Sir James Brooke, Rajah of Sarawak

Sarawak was a part of the Sultanate (Jhooata) of Bruneimarker 200 years ago but as a reward for help in putting down a rebellion, it was ceded to the British adventurer James Brooke who ruled it as his personal kingdom. Kuching was made his capital and headquarters. The Brooke Administration was given the status of Protectorate under Rajah Charles Brooke's rule and was placed behind the Indian Rajs and Princes. The Brooke family ruled Sarawak until the Japanesemarker occupation in December 1941.

Kuching was surrendered to the Japanese forces on 24 December 1941, and Sarawak was part of the Japanese Imperial Empire for three years and eight months, until the official Japanese surrender on 11 September 1945 on board HMAS Kapunda at Kuching. From March 1942 the Japanese operated a POW and civilian internee camp at Batu Lintang, three miles (5 km) outside Kuching.

After the end of World War II the third and last Raja, Sir Charles Vyner Brooke ceded Sarawak to the British Crown in 1946. Sarawak and the British Commonwealth fought an "Undeclared War" with Indonesiamarker to keep Sarawak from being absorbed into Sukarno's Indonesiamarker. The British gave Sarawak independence in 1963 and together with North Borneo, Sabahmarker and Singaporemarker, helped form Malaysiamarker on 16 September 1963. Singapore became an independent nation in 1965.

Origin of name

The origins of the city's name have never been clear. "Kuching" does translate into "cat" in Malay and "kuching" is an old Malay spelling. However, the new official Malay spelling today would be "kucing," but both of them are pronounced the same. There is a separate explanation whereby it may actually be a variation of the Indian name for "port" - "Cochin". Kuching was first settled by Indianmarker traders who set up base at Santubongmarker. Artifacts of Hindu origin can today be seen at the State Museum.

One highly unlikely explanation is a story based on miscommunication. According to the story, when Rajah James Brooke arrived in Kuching on his yacht, the Royalist, he asked his local guide what the settlement's name was. The guide, thinking that the English adventurer was pointing towards a cat, said "Kuching." However, Sarawakian Malay for cat is "pusak" and this explanation does not hold much credibility.

Another explanation is that the city was named after the "mata kucing" or "cat's eye" fruit. Trees bearing this fruit used to grow in abundance by the river banks - where the city's commercial heart, is located. There is a hill in the heart of the modern city called Bukit Mata Kuching, and was named after the fruit. Also, at the foot of the hill, there was once a stream called the Kuching River. The stream, located in front of the Tua Pek Kong temple, had large amount of silt deposit and during the 1950s, was filled in to make way for roads and the city's expansion eastwards.

Another possibility is that in those days, asking a person which river he/she came from, was quite common. As the river that flows along the Brooke's residence is known as Sg. Kuching (Kuching river), it would have been a possible that Brooke's reply was Kuching. Hence, the area which the Brookes reside which eventually became the administrative centre would be known as Kuching.

There is another more credible explanation and that Kuching actually means "Ku" - Old and "Ching" - Well or "old well" in Chinese. During the Brooke's rule, there was no proper water supply and water-borne diseases were common. In 1888, there was a Great Cholera epidemic. However, water from a well at the present day China Street in Main Bazaar area saved Kuchingites from the disease. Clean supply of water from the well helped water-borne diseases became a thing of the past. Evidence of the well is still found at China Street. As Kuching expanded and the population and demand for clean water supply increased, the well was not adequate to supply the clean water and it was replaced by clean water supply from Matang area later.

Despite those various explanations, the city was named Sarawak under Rajah Sir James Brooke's rule. Under Rajah Charles Brooke's rule, the city was renamed Sarawak Proper in order to avoid confusion with the ever expanding Kingdom of Sarawak. Only in the latter part of his reign was Sarawak Proper renamed Kuching.

The city has never been noted for having a significantly large population of cats. In fact, the many cat statues, the Kuching Cat Museum and other association with cats have been largely a recent phenomenon, part of a modern effort of tourism. Many travel brochures refer to Kuching as "Cat City" or the "City of Cats".

Geography And Climate

Kuching is situated at the banks of the Sarawak River on the North-Western part of the island of Borneomarker. The longitude and latitude of Kuching is 01°33' N, 110°25' E.

Kuching has a Tropical Rainforest climate (Koppen climate classification Cfa), moderately hot but very humid at times and receives substantial rainfall. The average annual rainfall is approximately 4,200 mm or 165 inches. Kuching is the wettest populated area (on average) in Malaysia with an average of 247 rainy days per year. Kuching receives only 5 hours of sunshine per day on average and an average of only 3.7 hours of sunshine per day in the month of January (wettest month of the year). The wettest times are during the North-East Monsoon months of November to February and the dry season starts from June till August. The temperature in Kuching ranges from to but the average temperature is around in the early hours of the morning and rises to around during mid afternoon but the heat index often reaches during the dry season due to the humidity. This temperature stays almost constant throughout the year if it is not affected by the heavy rain and strong winds during the early hours of the morning which could but rarely bring the temperature down to . The temperature could also rise to under rare cases due to the haze caused by open burning from Indonesia during the dry season. The haze occurs almost annually around mid year in Kuching.


Kuching is the 4th largest urban area in Malaysia, after Kuala Lumpurmarker-Klang Valley, Penangmarker and Johor Bahrumarker. The 2006 census indicates that Greater Kuching's metropolitan area, including Asajaya, Samarahan and Bau-Lundu, is consisted of 980,000 inhabitants.

The main urban population of 579,900 (2006 census; Kuching City South - 143,500; Kuching City North - 133,600; Padawan- 3rd Mile/ 7th Mile/ 10th Mile - 302,800) is made up of Chinese (220,400), Malays (207,000), Iban (58,100), Indian and other ethnic groups. The Dayaks, the grouping of local indigenous tribes, can be categorized into Ibans, Bidayuhs, Melanaus and Orang Ulu, among others. The Chinese are made up of Fujianesemarker (Hokkien) in the city areas and Hakka in the suburbs mainly. Other Chinese consist of Foochow (Fuzhoumarker), Teochew, Hainanesemarker, Cantonesemarker, Henghua and others. Interracial marriages among those of different ethnic backgrounds are common in Kuching.

The main religions of the citizens are Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism and Islam. Malays practice Islam and all Malays are Muslim by definition. The Chinese practice either Buddhism, Taoism or Christianity. Most Dayaks are Christian, with the exception of the Melanaus, who are partially Muslim.

The city is considered one of the cleanest cities in Malaysia and was voted as one of the world's healthiest cities, recognised and awarded by both United Nations (UN) and World Health Organisation (WHO) and by the Alliance for Healthy Cities (AFHC) in Suzhoumarker, Chinamarker.

A majority of people in Kuching are capable of communicating in Bahasa Melayu (Malay Language) and English. English is widely spoken in Kuching. The dialect of Malay spoken in Kuching is known as Bahasa Sarawak (Sarawakian Malay Language), which has lexical differences with the dialect spoken in Peninsular Malaysia.

On top of Malay and English, Kuchingites can usually speak his or her own ethnic dialect or language. An Iban can speak Iban, a Bidayuh can speak Bidayuh and the Chinese usually several Chinese dialects, the most common being Hokkien and Mandarin in Kuching. More recently, it has been argued that Mandarin has become more widely spoken than Hokkien since it is well known by other Chinese and is the language of instruction in Chinese vernacular schools. For the Bidayuhs, the dialect of Bidayuh spoken in one kampung/village may vary greatly with another kampung/village. It is also common to find people who can speak more than just Malay, English and their native tongue, not only due to the wide practice of mixed marriages but because of the close rapport amongst the people of Kuching.

Filming location

Kuching offers some of the world's greatest natural flora and fauna. With this, several international film makers have made their ways to Kuching and chosen Kuching as their filming location.

The Sleeping Dictionary financed by Fine Line Features was shot here in 2000 and is probably the best-known Hollywood production to be filmed in Kuching.

Other famous Hollywood movies shot in (and around) Kuching included:
Year Title Distributor Director Actor
1987 Farewell to the King Orion Pictures John Milius Nick Nolte
Nigel Havers
Frank Mcrae
Marilyn Tokuda

The common link in the locations of these international productions is a Malaysian company "Southeast Asia Film Locations Services" headed by a local Malaysian Chinese based in Kuching, Edgar Ong; whose partner, Chandran Rutnam (whose bases are in Sri Lankamarker, Berlinmarker & Los Angelesmarker) have jointly been instrumental in attracting these major studios and film producers to use Sarawakmarker in Borneomarker as the backdrop.

Rutnam is an Oscar winner for his film "Indochine" (starring Catherine Deneuve) which won the Foreign Film Oscar in 1991. In 2007,another co-production "Water" (Dir: Deepa Mehta) was nominated for a Foreign Film Oscar.

Besides Hollywoodmarker, Kuching is also a target film location for Hong Kongmarker while Japanmarker used to shoot a Japanese Series briefly in Kuching. Currently, Indian's Bollywood are also making their ways to Kuching to shoot up an adventure Bollywood movie. This has indirectly attracted more Indian tourists to visit Sarawakmarker because of the film.

Politics and Administration

Kuching is home to the New Sarawak State Legislative Assembly Building which was recently completed. It is located at the bank of the Sarawak River and is one of the latest landmarks of the city.

A new federal administrative centre in Matang is also under construction. It is estimated to cost RM2 billion and will be completed by 2025.


Kuching is home to Universiti Malaysia Sarawak. The university now has two campuses. The old campus in Kuching is known as the East Campus, while a new campus to be called the West Campus is currently under development. The West Campus is located in a new township called Kota Samarahan.

Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campusmarker is also located in the city. The university offers courses in IT, engineering and business.

Future and current development

Kuching has many current and future development projects, both public and private ones. The Matang Highway which will create a direct Kuching-Lundu road access has been constructed. It is a 2-lane, dual-carriageway road, with a gateway bridge over the Selang Rambungan River and a minor bridge over the Matang Sebubut River. Construction of this highway commenced in July 2002 and was completed in May 2007. It relieves traffic congestion on Matang Road.

  • ICONmall - The biggest shopping complex hotel apartment project in King's Centre, Kuching, with some of gross building area.
  • Imperial Hotel Apartment - The building consists together with Boulevard Shopping Complex, the hotel apartment will be offering up to 700 units of rooms. It is expected to be completed by June 2009, will be open on December 2009.
  • Isthmus Hypermall - The mall is part of the Kuching City Extension plan and will house a hypermarket & retail shoplots all under one roof. It is expected to be the largest shopping mall in the region upon completion.
  • Jalan Tun Jugah - Jalan Song Flyover- The fifth flyover to be built in Kuching spanning Jalan Tun Jugah - Jalan Song intersection in the direction towards the airport and vice-versa. The project aims to ease traffic congestion at the intersection and will be undertaken by Global Upline company. Costing RM75 million, the project includes widening the 2.1 km stretch of Jalan Tun Jugah between Simpang Tiga and Kenyalang interchange to three and four lane carriegeway in each direction.
  • Kuching Tower - A 315-room 5-star hotel cum office complex, standing 39-storeys or 150 metres tall, will be Borneomarker's tallest building.
  • Mudajaya New Township - The project comprises a new satellite township to be built on of land. The township will be a self-contained township comprising apartments, condominiums, shophouses, shopping complexes, offices, private hospital, public and private schools and college, wet and dry markets, recreational park, town squares, sports and swimming facilities, bus terminal, police station, entertainment centres and hawker centres. The entire project is expected to be completed by 2015 and is expected to generate a total Gross Development Value of more than RM1 billion.
  • Pullman Kuching - An international 389-room 5-star hotel cum 3-storey up-market shopping centre, with about of retail space. It will be a 23-storey building with 2 underground basements. It is expected to be opened by end of 2009.
  • Plaza Merdeka - A brand new CBD shopping mall with of nett leasable area (built up - ) plus a 290-room Boutique hotel complex (built up - ) located in the historic heart of Kuching, it is expected to be ready in mid-2010.
  • Samariang Mall - A new 3-storey shopping mall located in Bandar Baru Samariang new township.
  • Proposed Upscale Hotel - This planning design proposal is prepared for the approved layout plan for a 12-Storey Hotel on Lot 337, Section 46, KTLD situated at Jalan Tabuan, Kuching. The usage of the building remains unchanged and the number of Guest Rooms is at 220 rooms.
  • Kuching Sentral - Proposed Kuching's regional transportation terminal cum shopping complex, located at Mile 6 1/2 Jalan Penrissen is expected to be completed by end of 2009. It will house a hypermarket and retail shoplots.
  • Kuching City Mall - Proposed 5-acre 2-storey shopping plaza, located in the neighbourhood of Taman Desa Wira , a stone’s throw from MJC and Jalan Stephen Yong and within 10 minutes’ drive from the heart of the city. It will house a hypermarket, department store and retail outlets.
  • Batu Lintang Mall - mixed development of office and shopping complexes.. no news about this project right now. It may just a rumored one but it was under naim cendera. Located at the government quarters land in front of saberkas, somewhere around the famous rojak kuchei restaurant.


  • The Spring - The second largest lifestyle shopping mall in the state, situated along Jalan Simpang Tiga, was opened on 10 January 2008, covering some of net lettable area (built up - 1.2mln sq ft). The anchor tenants are Parkson Department Store, Ta Kiong Supermarket and MBO cinemas.

  • Boulevard Shopping Complex - Phase I of the mall was opened on 22 December 2007. It is a new regional mall located along Jalan Datuk Tawi Sli in the 4th Mile area, the major tenant is the Boulevard Department Store & Hypermarket, with some of net lettable area, which will be the largest one-stop lifestyle mall in the state. Other tenants include Body Glove, Hang Ten, Popular Bookstore and Converse. International fast food restaurant franchise like KFC, Sushi King, Pizza Hut and Kenny Rogers can be found here.

  • Green Heights Mall - Kuching's first suburban neighbourhood small mall, with an international Cold Storage Supermarket, with some 4,000 m2 of leasable space, opened on the 13th of June, 2008.

  • OneTJ - Sarawak's first ICT based shopping mall will be developed in the Heights Drive commercial centre, with some of leasable area, opened on 22 November 2008.

  • E-mart - A new one-stop shopping destination, located at Matang Jaya.The anchor tenant is E-mart Department Store and Supermarket.

  • Sarawak Plaza
  • Wisma Tun Jugah
  • Riverside Shopping Complex
  • Crown Square
  • Hock Lee Shopping Podium
  • Wisma Saberkas
  • Wisma Satok
  • Wisma Hopoh



Roads within the city are of a reasonable standard, though traffic congestion often leads to long tailbacks during rush hour, and especially on Saturday mornings. As Kuching is located near the equator, potholes have the tendency to develop on the roads during the monsoon season (usually around the end of the year, coinciding with winter in the northern hemisphere). Roads leading outside of Kuching to the interior are of a slightly more dubious quality but are being upgraded from time to time, although the main resort roads (e.g. leading to Damai) are also reasonable.

Transport by taxi is reasonable but it is usually difficult to flag down one on the street since they are only popular amongst tourists. One can get a taxi from the taxi stand near the corner of the Electra House/end of India Street, in front of hotels or by contacting them through the telephone. Intrepid backpackers can try the public transport by antiquated, smoky, non-air-conditioned buses or the 'van sapu' (mini-van converted into mini-buses) which offer cheaper mean of getting to places. Air transport is served by Kuching International Airport, 12 km away from the city, currently the subject of several expansion projects. Those trying to get a bird-eye's view of the city have the option of hiring a helicopter or small plane from Hornbill Skyways.

Kuching International Airport at night

Kuching is served by several major bus companies. Among others, Chin Liang Long Motor Vehicle Co. (traditionally blue) serving Kuching South, Matang Transport Company (yellow and orange) serving Matang-Kubah and Petra Jaya Transport Company (Black, yellow and red strips) serving Kuching North. The Sarawak Transport Company (traditionally green) and Bau Transport Company (Red) have routes from Kuching to other smaller towns. A large portion of the buses in service are antiquated and not air conditioned. The fares are low. Although the routes are poorly documented, the stops have no names and the buses not well known for being punctual - it is not difficult to get to places because Kuching is a friendly city and most are able to communicate in English. For tourists, the State Ministry of Tourism has provided bus shuttles to transport tourists around Kuching.

Road signs adhere to the Road Sign Standards issued by the Ministry of Transportation. Kuching is famous for many large traffic circles or roundabouts. The roundabouts are efficient at handling medium scale traffic. However, as traffic continues to rise in Kuching several roundabouts have given way to traffic lights and over and underpasses. These traffic circles are usually well landscaped.

List of highways in Kuching city


Kuching, like most towns in Sarawak, has connections to other urban centres and settlements by water transportation. Between the banks of Sarawak River, near the city centre, many 'tambang' (small boats) can be seen ferrying passengers from one riverbank to the other. For those staying along the river banks, it is a faster means of getting to the city-proper. The wharf for express boats servicing transport to further areas such as Sibu and Bintulu, is located in the east of the city, near the Sim Kheng Hong Port, also known as the Tanah Puteh Port, in Pending.


Kuching International Airport is the main gateway for air passengers. It is served by many local and international airlines including AirAsia, Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines. The airport's history dates back to the 1940s. The new terminal complex was opened in April 2006.


Within the city area, there are several museums such as the Sarawak Museummarker, Chinese Museum and the Kuching Cat Museum, which attract tourists who visit Kuching. Interesting landmarks and sites include The Astana (the former palace of the White Rajahs and currently the official residence of the Governor of Sarawak), Fort Margherita, the Tua Pek Kong temple and the Main Bazaar.

The Kuching Waterfront, which is a riverside esplanade, is situated right next to the main hotels and commercial heartland of the city. Located opposite the waterfront are old shops selling antique items and craft.

Some other interesting areas near the centre of town include Padungan Street, which is the main Chinatown area of the city. Shops here appear unchanged from 20 years ago. Meanwhile, Carpenter Street and India Street contain rows of traditional shop houses. The old Courthouse building, which forms the link between Carpenter Street and India Street, has been restored and modernised. There are also several city parks around Kuching.

Kuching is also noted for its beautiful sunsets, often complimented by tourists as "one of the most beautiful in the world".

Since 1997, Kuching has been host to the Rainforest World Music Festival, an annual music festival which brings performers and spectators to the region from all over the world.

Model of the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK)
The Borneo Convention Centre Kuching or (BCCK) is the first dedicated convention and exhibition centre in Borneo. It was opened in October 2009.

Other attractions include:
  • Padang Merdeka
  • Brooke Memorial
  • Old Post Office
  • Warrior's Memorial
  • Old City hall
  • Pavilion Building

Attractions near Kuching

Numerous natural attractions including National Parks, notably the Bako National Parkmarker and the Kuching Wetlands National Park as well as the Semenggoh Wildlife Center which operates an orang utan orphanage and rehabilitation program are popular attractions near Kuching.

Others include:
  • Lundu Beach Resort
  • Gunung Gading National Park
  • Sematan Beach
  • Damai Beach Resort
  • Kubah National Park


Kuching has a number of notable local dishes served at hawker stalls:
  • Kuching 'Kolo mee' or 'koh-loh mein' (egg noodles, flash-boiled and then served with (classically) garlic, shallots, minced pork, white vinegar, pork oil or in some cases peanut oil and sliced barbecue pork also known as "char siew") is a widely popular dish with the local population.
  • Sarawak Laksa (a spicy coconut prawn paste-based broth served with rice vermicelli, egg, prawn, chicken, deep fried tofu and occasionally clams), Asam laksa is different.
  • Tomato Sauce Mee (crispy noodles served with tomato sauce, vegetables, and meat) or Tomato Sauce Kuay Teow (flat rice noodles) are the most well-known hawker dishes served.
  • Bubu Cha-cha, a concentrated mixed syrup of sago, agar-agar and sweet potatoes.
  • Kueh-Chap, Flat rice noodles served with pig entrails, tofu and egg.

Custom ordered dishes (usually called the "special") are available on request. Most hawker stalls serve a variety of these three dishes, but locals often debate vigorously as to where to find the best variety. Visitors should be aware that portions are half of what is usually commonly found at Chinatowns in the West.

Kuching has some very good local seafood restaurants, often run by the Chinese residents serving prime local shellfish. Prices are usually very reasonable. There are many such establishments in and around the city, most notably along the way to popular seaside resorts located on the island of Santubong.

While global chain outlets (McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Starbucks) are ubiquitous in the prime commercial complexes, a local fast food chain "Sugarbun" also serves a variety of Malaysian food in a more Western (plastic trays, brightly-lit menus, uniformed staff) style.


  1. Ooi, Keat Gin (1998) Japanese Empire in the Tropics: Selected Documents and Reports of the Japanese Period in Sarawak, Northwest Borneo, 1941-1945 Ohio University Center for International Studies, Monographs in International Studies, SE Asia Series 101 (2 vols) ISBN 0-89680-199-3, pages 6-11
  2. Cat Translation to Malay
  3. Population data from Sarawak Ministry of Health
  4. WHO Healthiest City Award
  5. AFHC Healthiest City Award
  6. Bollywood debut in Kuching
  7. Indian tourists attraction
  8. Dewan Undangan Negeri
  9. ICONmall @ Kuching: Shopping Mall, Cinema & Hotel
  10. [1]
  11. Kuching Tower
  12. Mudajaya New Township
  13. Novotel Interhill Kuching
  14. Plaza Merdeka
  15. Plaza Merdeka
  16. Plaza Merdeka
  17. Proposed Upscale Hotel
  18. The Spring
  19. The Spring
  20. Boulevard Shopping Complex
  21. Green Heights Mall
  22. OneTJ

External links

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