Lonely Planet Writer

Pathfinder pics: the Heritage Trail of Kuching

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Lonely Planet Pathfinder Rusli Wahab recently visited Malaysia. Here he shares his highlights of the Heritage Trail of Kuching.

Kuching, the capital city of the Malaysian state of Sarawak, is one of the major gateways to the world’s third largest island: Borneo. If Malaysia itself is considered as the cultural melting pot of Asia, Kuching is even more so, with various cultures influencing all aspects of life there – some of which are clearly evident when walking along the heritage trail of this beautiful, laid-back city.

Temple fever

There are a few Chinese temples and landmarks near the Kuching waterfront and this is the oldest Chinese temple in town. Its name – Tua Pek Kong (literally, eldest grand-uncle) – represents the patron saint of Chinese migrants, not only in Kuching and Sarawak, but also throughout Southeast Asia.

Iconic symbols

Located just across the river from Kuching waterfront, the shape and design of this iconic symbol of the state – the Assembly Building – might remind visitors of the Bidayuh House in Sarawak Cultural Village.

A collective name of several indigenous groups in Sarawak, Bidayuh means 'Inhabitants of Land' and they are also known as Land Dayak. Interestingly, this building complex is flanked by two 19th century buildings, The Astana and Fort Margherita, which were inspired by English castles.

A slice of Europe

Further down the road, you’ll find this European-influenced building, which was the first multi-storey building in the city. Built in the early 20th century as a hospital for officers of the Rajah and other Europeans, the Pavilion Building has been used for many other purposes throughout its history – and today it houses the Textile Museum, one of the most popular museums in Kuching.

A walk back in time

History played a role in the naming of the Japanese Building; it was built entirely by prisoners of war, who were marched here from their detention camp on a daily basis during the Japanese Occupation between 1941 and 1945. Located behind the Old Courthouse and near the Pavilion, the building sits between two different cultural enclaves, India Street and Carpenter Street (Chinatown).

Back to the beginning

Not far from the other end of India Street and perched atop a small hill, Kuching Divisional Mosque is believed to be the state’s first mosque. The current structure was built in 1968 to replace the original that was erected there before James Brooke, the first Rajah, arrived in Kuching in 1839. With its gilded Mughal-style domes and surrounding Muslim cemeteries the mosque looks hauntingly beautiful at sunset.

Food for thought

With so much to see, stopping to fuel up on some good grub is essential. Here is the popular laksa sarawak (spicy noodle soup) and ABC (shaved ice) with gula apong (palm sugar).

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