Kuching for me is a place where l feel immediate relaxation and truly at home whenever the plane touch down after l’ve gone travelling to anywhere else in the world, even other parts of Sarawak! Kuching for me too, is full of fond and lovely memories and to tell what Kuching really means to me, l need to go back to the time when l was growing up.
Yes, Kuching is a place where l’m proud and glad to have lived in all my life. l do bear witness to Kuching’s constant growth and changes throughout the years. Most changes are for the better, a few l do not quite like, one of which is the volume of traffic nowadays on Kuching’s streets. Streets used to be narrow and allowed for only 2 cars. Today, most 2 lanes have become 4 lanes roads. It would be so nice to have a lane for bicycles because l believe Kuching has lots of nice places to see and the best way to see them is on bicycle!
I remember when Jalan Laksamana Cheng Ho and its surrounding area was a total jungle. My family used to stay at Ong Tiang Swee Road and l attended a primary school there. The Sarawak Cheshire Home and The Blind Center were and are still situated along Ong Tiang Swee Road. As a child, l was fascinated to see inmates in the Cheshire Home without limbs who could swim and the blinds who cleverly cross the road. And l used to proudly tell my pen pals (having penpals was the rage those days!!) that my school was a very special school because it had a class where the blind inmates from the Blind Center studied Braille. I used to wonder what all those tiny dots meant! Ong Tiang Swee Road was a road l travelled mostly on foot during my childhood years. Kuching was so safe and peaceful those days that my parents never had to worry about mine or my siblings’ safety when we walked to school and back. I fear security is not as good as those days now.
Those days, way back in the l970s, Kuching was the epitome of peace and serenity and very laid back. TV was a luxury, nobody has heard of the word internet and handphones were sophisticated gadgets used only in James Bond films. People knew each other well especially if they stayed on the same street and mind you, we not only know our classmates then but we also know the whole family way back to their grandparents and uncles, aunties and cousins!!
Kuching people are friendly and helpful, still are and very much so compared to our west Malaysians counterparts in my humble opinion. People of many different races co-exist in harmony and peace. We hold open houses for almost every big festival like Chinese New Year, Hari Raya, Christmas Day and Gawai Dayak. In Kuching, our cultures have become so merged the Chinese serve their guests curry, lemang and some other malay food during Chinese New year whereas the Malays served cookies like pineapple tarts, kueh mo mo, etc and even distribute ang pows!!
One can easily find a Malay operated stall selling roti canai side by side with people of other races selling Kuchingites favourite food like bak kut teh, kolo mee, chicken rice and laksa in any of the numerous, numerous kopitiams in Kuching! Food is our greatest love and no visitor will be able to say they have visited Kuching and found nothing to eat!
I do wish however, that the relevant authorities concerned, be more stern in ensuring cleanliness prevails in these eateries and their toilets!! Together, let’s make it our task to have cleaner public toilets!
Transportation in the older days in Kuching must have been a problem for outside visitors, l think. I remember there were 3 big thriving bus companies back then; the Chin Lian Long Bus Company with their white and blue buses, The Sarawak Transport Company with their green and off-yellowed buses and the Bau Transport Company with their red buses. Buses were the main public transport in Kuching in my childhood days. Nowadays, buses in Kuching look so forlornly empty and we hardly see any full bus load in the buses plying the streets of Kuching these days!
Kuching has grown tremendously in all aspects since. We now have many shopping centres and many more housing estates. The expanded area is so wide such that if one lives in Kuching and don’t own a car, it can be a problem to move around. It would be nice if public transportation are improved with more frequent and on-time buses plying the numerous roads in Kuching. It would be great to have a light rail transport system to beat the growing congested traffic in Kuching these days. I do dream of the day when we can just hop onto a train to go to Sibu, Miri or even Sabah!! Now we still have to drive for hours to go to Sibu and it just not worth the time and hassle to drive to Kota Kinabalu.
Buildings and public places in Kuching have changed so much for the better too. We now see a beautiful waterfront where there used to be two blocks of building housing hawker stalls and the main wet market. Our roads are so much wider and cleaner. Beautiful trees and flowering plants add to the charm of Kuching.
When the bourgainvillas are in full bloom along the Satok flyover, it makes driving along that stretch of road such a joy!
Residential housing estates are now better planned. l am sure our postmen and courier services are grateful that houses and lanes nowadays can be easily found with proper signboards and numberings. I do wish for bigger and more parks though.
Kuching, however, as it is now, is well loved by its people. And KUCHING will remain my beloved hometown forever!!