Heather Hapeta lives in Aotearoa-New Zealand: real travel, real adventures, real stories, real photos. Recent destinations Vietnam, Cambodia, Taiwan and Hong Kong – now NZ destinations due to COVID travel restrictions
Once part of the Sultanate of Brunei some 200 years ago, Kuching then became the capital of the White Rajahs of Sarawak and now this capital city, Kuching, is often called “Cat City” and has many cat statues as public art.
The meaning of ‘Kuching’ seems to be lost in history. Some say it’s from the Malay word kucing, meaning cat, (Note in Malay the letter c is pronounced as ch as in church) and many locals call it “Cat City”.
The guide on my city tour bus says it could come from the Chinese word for port (cochin) or, “most likely, from the Malay name mata kucing” (cat’s-eye) for the longan fruit. He continues “There was a small tributary of the Sarawak river called Sungei Kuching so some others say it was from this stream that Kuching got its name.” So take your pick.
Cat city seems to be the most common usage and the city has not only many cat souvenirs for sale, and statues of cats, but also a cat museum. This is on top of a 60 metre high hill which gives great views over the city. (The museum is on the ground floor of the Kuching North City Hall.)
The Cat Museum has four main galleries and evidently has more than 4,000 cat artifacts including paintings and the media group I was with were mixed in their reactions to the collection – from bemused, to thrilled, to amused. Its well worth a visit, and like all the museums in Sarawak, it’s free to visit although a small fee is charged for cameras.
What do you call a city whose name means cat, but is not named after a cat? A city that has two mayors with the same powers, wages and responsibilities and who can carry out them differently ; who has a pedestrian mall called India Street but very few Indian shops on it … well I call it wonderful.
The waterfront has wind and solar panels to light the many lights along its length and across the river, the Astana is lit up like a Christmas tree – day and night locals and tourists promanarde it’s length, junks, water taxis, and a large tourist boat give people either passage home across the water or river level view of the city.
They also make wonderful layered cakes that are sought after by all Malaysians when they visist from West, or penunsula, Malaysia, taking them home as gifts for friends or family. I will write a blog or article about this Sarawakian skill, and now tradition, when I return to New Zealand