Kuching for me is a place where the sun is never so splendid as it rises over the Eastern seas. It is a place that is richer, warmer and nobler. Where different races lived harmoniously together ever since centuries ago. A place where people possess the dark burning eyes and delicate skin. A place contentment unknown to the West. Where legends once conquered the mind of the people.
To those who had visited Kuching will never have forgotten the sense of a vast mysterious magnificence, unreachable and yet close by. The old buildings that filled Kuching still haunt the people with the glimpse of the White Rajahs era, and before that, a land of legends.
Santubong Mountain, a wonderfully shaped mountain at the mouth of Sarawak River, very majestic, over 2 000 feet high, covered with a thick cloak of trees nearly to the top, with a soft casuarina trees below. This majestic mountains holds a legend that any Kuchingites may never forget, from the old generation to the new generation; the Legend of the Goddess Puteri Santubong and Puteri Sejinjang.
I may not live in the 19th centuries when James Brooke, an ambitious young sailor reign Kuching as a form of reward. But overlooking the Sarawak River, water that gleams like a thousand mirrors, I was spell-bound by the beauty that it brings. How strange does it seem that the Sarawak River can give such a mysterious magnificence that a person can feel? I feel like I am back to the beginning of Kuching and how those historic building in the present began to form and stand proudly as a part of us, the Kuchingites.
Every historic building in Kuching whether it is singularly or clustered holds a significant role in moulding and shaping Kuching today. In those mysterious majestic building told a story of the Sarawak by-gone era. An era that most of who lived in had gone away, leaving us the newer generation to discover the untold magnificent story of Kuching as it is to be today.
I could still remember when I first visited the Sarawak Museum. I was four-years-old. It was huge and was filled with antique items that had existed long before I was even born. The smell of old building gave a nostalgic memory of the old era. It reminisce me of how it feels as I pass through the natural history collection and specimens of Sarawak fauna. The reptiles, mammals, birds were all expertly prepared and mounted for display.
Being a child, the building was large. The window frames, door cases, and walls resembled the old colonial era. I could almost feel as if I was travelling back in time to the secret of the country’s glorious past. One of the things that I could never forget when I went to the first floor was the heads of human skeleton hung up like garlands of flowers in the models of the Iban house. I was startled by the view. Even until today, I still couldn’t decide whether it was real or is just replica of the actual skeleton human heads.
But not only the collection of historical items displayed gave us the vast mysterious magnificence of Kuching and Sarawak as a whole, but the building itself gave us the glimpse of the Brooke era. Not long after that, somewhere when I was in primary school, I discovered about the history of the Sarawak Museum. It is magnificent how the old building that stood proudly today can hold such interesting history.
It was opened in the year 1891. A building established by Charles Brooke, permanently built to house and display local native arts, crafts and collections of local animals as mainly encouraged by the famous naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace, who was collecting specimen in the country. It signifies the European architecture imposing edifice in Queen Anne style.
During the Japanese occupation, a time when most of us could have never forgotten where thousands of lives were sacrificed, even to my own family when my great grandfather died by the bombing of the Japanese army so long as he was still a boy, and years later named my father after him. But through all the nostalgic Japanese occupation in 1941, the building itself suffered very little damage and remarkably very little looting.
Today, in the year 2015, after 124 years ever since the day it was built, the Sarawak Museum stood proudly as a part of historic building that had shaped Kuching today. Not only that, it had also witness through the evolution of the Kuching city since the White Rajahs era, to the formation of Malaysia when Sarawak and Sabah joined the Federation of Malaya. The building is the fascination of the old Kuching and now an internationally renowned museum.
Fort Margharita, the Astana, Kuching Central Post Office, Islamic Museum formerly the Malay Madrasah, Sarawak Pavillion housed the Textile Museum, Chinatown, Waterfront and Tua Pek Kong Chinese temple are just a few examples of the old era of Kuching known by its people.
The most interesting part of Kuching to me is how it could draw a fine line of old and modern structures known today. Over the years, Kuching had developed into a modern city with its vast development of new structures such as the shopping complexes that are growing bigger over the years with new architectures and technology installed by the streets such as the digital advertisement resembled the time square.
But through those modern developments, Kuching still signifies its old mysterious magnificent history and legends known by Kuchingites ever since the Brooke era to the modern Kuching. It is undeniable to everyone, especially to me, how mysteriously enchanting Kuching can be at time. To see the soft vast blue colour coloured the sky as the Sarawak River gleams like crystal with the refreshing greenness of the forest set by the river. A contentment unknown, I’ve let myself be indulged in Kuching, and found the magnificence Eastern Paradise.