Kuching for me is my cherished home and a completely foreign place all at once. I have been living overseas for six years so it was astonishing to see how much Kuching has changed between the time I left and the time I returned home. During that time my family came back for a very long holiday so when I first walked out of the airport, I was surrounded by the warm embrace of the humid air. How can I ever forget the hot weather that lasts all year round. That day also happened to be my birthday so there was going to be a celebration at kampung (village) but before that, we drove home. My home. I couldn’t wait to see my home. I kept wondering what has happened to my home and to Kuching while I was away. And sure enough I was surprised. Amazingly surprised.
A remarkable thing happened during that holiday: I rediscovered Sarawak’s legendary ‘kolo mee’. My grandma, sister and I walked to the shops near where we lived. We stopped at a cafe so my grandma could order this ‘mee’. As we stood there, I watched in awe at how the lady cooked the ‘mee’ so easily and efficiently. Then when we reached home, we finally ate the ‘kolo mee’. And they were devoured. It was so delectable that we went to that shop nearly every day because we craved for it. In Kuching, if you suddenly had a craving for whatever, food can be essentially located everywhere you turn. Like for afternoon tea, it is as simple as stopping at a roadside stall for all my family favourites such as ‘kueh lapis’ and ‘pisang goreng’. Then when day turns to dusk, I just can’t resist the welcoming scent of delicious food waiting to be eaten at the night market. I guess that is why many people (and me) like to go out, especially for dinner. Kuching is a melting pot for food because you are either spoilt for choice or can never decide on things to try.
The first thing I noticed when traveling towards the city was the shopping malls: Boulevard, the Spring and CityOne. I am so thrilled and excited that Kuching has upcoming places to shop where there is more exposure for the international brands. I have also noticed many construction sites in and around the city which is a good sign that Kuching is developing and progressing. But what captures my attention the most is the charming colonial shop houses which leaves me intrigued by the history of Kuching. These buildings such as temples and mosques have so much character that they easily reflect their cultural heritage through their architecture and with many buildings around, Kuching has a variety of cultural influences over time. Besides the hustle and bustle of the city, I really enjoy Kuching’s charming natural surroundings. Whether it be the beach or the rainforest, it is always a leisure to be outdoors and be one with nature. The peace, serenity and freedom is what makes me and tourists want to keep coming back to these natural playgrounds. But with the current situation of the haze, I just hope it does not threaten to damage Kuching’s green haven.
I believe that the lifestyle of a place shows on the attitudes of the people and what I have observed is that Kuching has a harmonious medley of different races and cultures all living side by side. This shows me that there is deep and mutual understanding between one another and with everyone being cool with each other, they can just call each other auntie, uncle, ‘abang’ or ‘kakak’ which always seems to confuse me. I always think when I am told to call a family friend auntie or uncle, I always think they are related to me because since I have such a huge family, it becomes very misleading. Nonetheless, I bet that the society of Kuching is by far the most respectful society compared to many Western societies which is also probably why I find it tricky to call people by family titles. With that said, I still feel a sense of community everywhere I look. From neighbours to entire towns, you will always be in good company. Even when I was away, I knew that I can trust my neighbours to look after my home and they did a great job of that. It is amazing how long life friendships come from being neighbours or from being part of a society like Kuching with important moral values that are shown through the people.
Kuching for me is now my journey, my endeavour to explore. I have so many things yet to learn and experience about Kuching. There are many great qualities that Kuching already has like the local delicacies that no one can resist but crave, a city steeped in history which is remembered through the architecture and you can walk down the street and say ‘Hey, uncle!’ to someone who is not necessarily related to you. But if we, as Kuchingites, want to improve Kuching for the better, we can start by looking at other well developed cities from around the world to see what ideas they have that helped them improve their city. We can also start looking into ways of improving public transport and adding more recreational areas to benefit the young, growing generation of the future and to cater for the interest of visitors.
In my mind, if Kuching was a person, you will never be bored because Kuching has character, charm and personality to keep you fascinated for a long time. If not, then Kuching will most definitely bribe you with food.