How to Spend 48 Hours in Kuching, Malaysia

One of the cat statues in Sarawaks Cat City
One of the cat statues in Sarawak's Cat City | © Anna ART/Shutterstock
Sam Bedford

Kuching is known for the White Rajahs, cats and some of Malaysia’s best food. Located in Sarawak on Borneo Island, tourists enjoy the small city’s colonial and cultural charms, romance, and the wild proboscis monkeys. Here’s how budget-conscious travellers can get the most out of 48 hours in Kuching.

Day one: Kuching’s history, culture and shopping

Culture Trip recommends Hero Hostel, which is just 10 minutes on foot from Kuching Waterfront. Expect friendly staff, a sociable environment and a convenient location with prices at only RM40 ($10.10) a night. For sightseeing, it’s possible to visit Kuching’s attractions using a combination of walking and Grab Car.

Pro tip: Download the Grab App and find fast and convenient transport at a fraction of the price in a taxi.

Morning: Visit Main Bazaar, the Upside Down House, and a cat statue

Start the day at Black Bean Coffee (opens at 9:00am) for a morning coffee before heading to Main Bazaar near the Waterfront. The street in the heart of Old Kuching stretches along the southern banks of the Sarawak River. Traditional Chinese shophouses dating back almost a century line the street. Some retain their original trades; others sell handicrafts. Continue east along the road and visit Tua Pek Kong Temple, Kuching’s oldest Taoist temple. Keep walking east and turn right onto Jalan Borneo to visit the Upside-Down House. One of Kuching’s many cat statues is a little further along Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman.

Kuching’s famous Statue of Cats

Afternoon: Hit the museums

Take Grab from the Cat Statue to Kopi O’ Corner for a light lunch and cup of coffee approximately 1.6 kilometres (one mile) southwest of the cat statue. Borneo’s oldest museum, the Sarawak Museum, is nearby inside a three-storey colonial building. Exhibits cover natural history, regional archaeology, and Sarawak’s ethnic groups. Admission is free. Walk south for a minute or two and snap a few photographs of the Heroes’ Monument dedicated to those who lost their lives fighting for the state. Visit the Islamic Museum (free admission) opposite the Sarawak Museum, where seven galleries cover Islamic architecture, science and history. Enthusiastic tourists can check out Sarawak Art Gallery too.

An old colonial building that’s worth a visit while in Kuching

Evening: Stroll the Kuching Waterfront

As the sun sets in the sky between 6:00pm and 6:30pm, go to the Kuching Waterfront. The Waterfront hugs the southern banks of the Sarawak River for approximately one kilometre (0.6 miles). On the opposite side, snap photographs of the Astana, the former residence of the White Rajahs. The State Legislative Building, an architectural beauty with a nine-pointed roof, sits nearby too. Both attractively light up after dark. Vendors sell street food along the Waterfront.

A nice place to stroll in the early evening and where most locals would come and relax
Early evening view of Sarawak’s New Legislative building

Night: A quiet dinner at a vegan restaurant

While vegan food might not be for everyone’s taste, a trip to Bear Garden on Jalan Wayang is worth a stop. Apart from offering a selection of Western and Asian food (and affordable beer), they also contribute 50% of their earnings to the Orangutan Project. Don’t stay out too late as the second day of our 48 hours in Kuching itinerary will be even more action-packed.

Healthy vegan meals at Bear Garden

Day two: Sarawak Laksa and proboscis monkeys

Day two holds the real treat in this 48-hour Kuching itinerary. Wake up early and start the day with a steaming bowl of Sarawak Laksa, a dish highly recommended by celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, before taking the chance to see proboscis monkeys.

Morning: A bowl of Sarawakian Laksa for breakfast

Culture Trip recommends Poh Lam Laksa on Jalan Abell, approximately one kilometre east from Kuching Waterfront, for Sarawak Laksa. The state’s most famous dish consists of vermicelli rice noodles with shredded chicken, bean sprouts and egg in a prawn-based broth. For some, having this delicious dish is a highlight of their 48 hours in Kuching.

Pro tip: Get there early as Poh Lam Laksa is at its busiest around breakfast time.

Start your day with a delicious bowl of Sarawak’s famous Laksa

Afternoon and evening: Day trip to see proboscis monkeys

Bako National Park sits approximately 27 kilometres (16.8 miles) northeast of the capital. The national park is both the oldest and one of the smallest in Sarawak. Tourists can hike along 16 colour-coded trails through the jungle, visit islands and see unusual rock formations as well as get up close and personal with Sarawak’s wildlife. With a population of approximately 200 proboscis monkeys, the weird pot-bellied long-nosed primates endemic to Borneo live inside the forest.

Top tip: It’s quite common to spot them near park headquarters. Others animals to look out for include bearded pigs, pangolins and 190 species of birds. Expect to spend anywhere between four to seven hours at Bako, depending on activities.

See the endangered proboscis monkeys in the oldest national park in Sarawak

Practical information for visiting Bako National Park

Tourists can take the bus (red public bus number one) from the wet market near Kuching Waterfront to Bako Market, leaving every hour on the hour. Anticipate 60 minutes on the bus, costing RM4 ($1) per person each way. Top tip: Speak to other guests at the hostel and see if anyone wants to split the cost of a taxi.

Admission is RM20 ($5) for non-Malaysians while Malaysian’s pay RM10 ($2.50). Take a boat from the jetty to Bako National Park HQ.

Pro tip: Hang around and share the boat with others to cut the overall costs. An on-site restaurant serves local Sarawakian and Malaysian dishes. Eat before hiking along the trails, which can take anywhere from one to five hours.

There are several ways to get to Bako without spending to much on transport

Night: Dinner on Carpenter Street

Return to Kuching by bus, taxi or minivan. The bus departs at half-past the hour with the last one leaving Bako Market at 5:00pm. Minivans outside Bako National Park are available, costing between RM30 ($7.60) and RM60 ($15.10), and seating up to seven. For dinner, head to Carpenter Street behind Main Bazaar. Visitors will find several restaurants specialising in Sarawakian, Malaysian, Chinese and Western cuisine. Grab a drink or two at Drunk Monkey Bar and reflect on an unforgettable 48 hours in Kuching.

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