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Sarawak

The Capitol of Sarawak State is Kuching, and this is a really interesting city to visit, with a great range of hotels both in the City and then also along the coastline.

There are flights to Kuching mostly arriving from KL and Singapore, and it is about a 2 hour flight from either city.

'Kuching' means Cat in Bahasa Language, though the name's origins may be more to do with a variation on the Chinese word 'Kochin' which means 'Harbour', or maybe it was named after the 'Mata Kuching' (Longan) fruit, that when you peel off the skin look like a cat's eye. The fruit is like a Lychee with the flesh having a wet look, a seed inside and a delicious sweet taste. They sell them in fruit shops all over Malaysia.

There is a common joke in Malaysia about enjoying Kuching Rendang (Cat Curry), but as far as I know it doesn't exist – though the street alley cats you see have a strange 'bob-tail'!

The City of Kuching is located on both sides of the Sarawak River and has a population of around 750,000 people. It is a city with a mix of newer high rise buildings as well as small Kampong (Village) houses, and a number of other historic buildings that relate to its diverse indigenous, Indian, Chinese, Malay and British Heritage.

In the 1700's and early 1800's Sarawak was under the control of Governors appointed by the Sultan of Brunei. This changed in 1836 when Sultan Omar Ali Saiffin II , when locals staged a revolt against the unpopular Governor, a situation that was resolved in 1839 when the Sultan took on the support of the British to quell the uprising.

The British forces were led by an Indian born Englishman, named James Brooke (1803- 1868) and in 1841 the Sultan appointed James Brooke to rule over Sarawak with the title of "Rajah of Sarawak".

James Brooke, became the first "Rajah of Sarawak" building a number of civic buildings, establishing law, order and developing Sarawak and its industry. His nephew, Charles Brooke (1829 -1917) became his successor, followed by his son, Charles Vyner Brooke (1874-1963). The "White Rajahs" as they came to be known established British Rule of Law and became the ruling dynasty in Sarawak.

During the Second World War, the Japanese invaded Sarawak, and following the war Sarawak came under the control of the Australian Military for a short while, before the third Rajah of Sarawak, Charles Vyner Brooke ceded Sarawak to Britain in 1946. The British then appointed a Governor, Duncan Stewart (1904-1949) with Sarawak becoming a British Colony. He had only been in Sarawak a few weeks when he was assassinated by two youths, who would later be hanged for their crime.

Some Sarawak Postage stamps during this time had images of the 3 Rajahs, others of individual Rajahs and then of the King and later Queen of England. In 1963, Sarawak gained its independence from Britain and in September that year it became a state of Malaysia.

In Kuching there are a number of buildings and places to see that relate to the times of the 'White Rajahs', and also the influence they had on the development of the City. Equally there are temples churches, mosques and other buildings that reflect the different cultures that make up this city.

Perhaps the best way to see the old parts of the City and some of the main attractions is both on foot and also by boat – on a cruise tourist boat, or on an Iban Long Boat, Orang Ulu Boat or Chinese/Malay Sanpan that are a more interesting experience.

From the Sarawak River, you will be able to see many parts of the waterfront, small jetties and City - including the Sarawak State Assembly Building on the north side, high rise buildings on the south and along the River the Astana (White Rajah's Palace) built in 1870; Fort Margherita, built in 1879; the Square Tower Fortress also built in 1879; Sarawak Steamship Building and the Kuching Mosque and also State Mosque. You will also see the State Dockyard and small Malay riverside Kampung houses and boats along the River.

A spectacular Golden Bridge in the shape of an S is due to open in 2015 connecting the two sides of the River.

Happy Travelling!

Geoff Stuart

Happy Traveller

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