Kuching for me is home.
As I drive along the roads of my city, I look at its historical Brooke era buildings and old style street shops which symbolize a time where the White Rajahs made Sarawak into the thriving region it has become today. Few days later, I would be away from the city having a retreat at my friends’ villages in the jungles. From an urban feel to the lush green forest areas, this is the place where I get the opportunity to experience the best of both urban and village life.
Although a city by status, Kuching has a small town mood to it. Everybody knows everybody and everybody is very friendly to each other. Often, I will meet people that I know wherever I go whether it be on the road or in the malls. This is how small the city is! Living here, I also do not feel the “big city rush” that many cities in Malaysia have. Everything from driving to eating is slow and relaxed. For us Kuchingites, we enjoy taking life slowly and spending quality time together with our family and friends.
With so many different ethnicities in the city, my friends and I from all these different races are able to live together in peace and harmony. It is very comforting to know that we are all viewed as an equal, living side by side without prejudice or discrimination. There are also many mosques, churches and temples that are built close to one another all over the city and we do not mind it one bit. My friends and I can live together, sit together and eat together without complications or worries as everyone in Kuching understands each other and are very sensitive to one another. Of all the Malaysian cities, Kuching is the only place where I can find Malay, Dayak, Indian and Chinese hawker stalls selling food side by side in one coffee shop. I just love the unity that everyone has in them!
One of the wonderful perks of living in a multi-ethnic community is that we have so many traditions, cultures and history. Being a Chinese, I feel very welcomed when my Dayak friends teach me their traditions and beliefs. I can honestly say that I know my friends’ traditions as much as I know my own! I get many opportunities to visit friends’ villages to celebrate their annual Gawai festivals or even stay over in my Malay friend’s house and experience how it is like to fast during Ramadhan. That’s the beauty about us Kuchingites; we are not afraid to take part in the traditions of others. It is not an unusual site for us to see Malay friends coming to church for a friend’s wedding or Chinese friends giving red packets to Indian children during the Chinese New Year. In our eyes, we are all equals.
The closeness and manifestation of trust that we have with one another is why we have many weddings that involve people from different religions and ethnicities. In fact, Kuching is a city with one of the highest percentage of inter-ethnic marriages in the world and many friends of mine have either mixed Malay-Dayak, Indian-Chinese or Dayak-Chinese-Eurasion blood in them to. There are even a few friends who have more than five different types of ethnic bloods and it is funny because they, as confused as the rest of us are, do not know how to categorize themselves! Despite all that, we are able to create a multi-racial community that lives as one big, happy and loving family.
Of all the states in Malaysia, I am grateful that Kuching is safer and cleaner. Many visiting friends have often asked me “How is your city so clean?” and I often find myself not knowing how to reply them! Life is also peaceful here with no riots or wars. We can sleep well at night, greet our neighbors and eat till we are full. The city also has many beautiful sceneries and I am still given the opportunity to see clear blue skies or witness a colorful sunset, a privilege not found in many cities in Malaysia. Traffic flow is also mostly smooth throughout the city and transit times from one place to another are short even when casually driving. As life here is so laid back, we often see drivers cruising around the city so casually that there are more slow drivers in Kuching than any other major city in Malaysia.
American author, Maya Angelou, says “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel“. We Kuchingites know this very well and we would go out of our way to ensure that our friends outside the city will feel at home. Whenever guests come for a visit, we would make it an effort to meet them at the airport and accompany them throughout their stay in Kuching. This Kuching hospitality also means that our friends would be feasting on the many delicious and unique dishes that can only be found in Kuching. The famous Kolok Mee, Laksa and Kuih Lapis will be among the first foods on the list for any friends that come to Kuching! Almost everyone that has visited Kuching love the hospitality and friendliness that we have. For them, we are different and special. That’s what makes them feel attached and fall in love with Kuching.
There are so many things about Kuching that are needs to be discovered, the people, culture, lifestyle, sceneries and food. Out of so many places I have visited, I have yet to find a place that has a perfect blend of a modern and traditional way of live along with the warmness and love that only Kuching has. I hold my head high as I know that this is the place where I come from.
This is my city, this is my home.