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  • Writer's pictureRick

East Malaysia Day 15: Around Padang Merdeka and Waterfront of Kuching (古晋)

I woke up at 6am and lazed in bed until 8am. I had intended to explore the old town and the various sites around the waterfront on a very leisurely pace. Since most shops in the old town would not open until 9am or 10am, there was no reason for me to go out so early.

I left the hostel at 8:45am, and walked along Carpenter Street to find breakfast and taking in the street views and murals. However, all the coffee shops along the street were full house and many people were standing around waiting for seats — although a Monday, it was a public holiday throughout Malaysia. I should have come out earlier.

A beautiful mural of a marketplace along Jalan Ewe Hai.

And a somewhat-dilapidated mural of three tinsmiths along China Street.

I had read online that the kolo mee at Oriental Park (东方花园) was popular and had intended to go to the coffee shop during lunch but seeing that most of the coffee shops along Carpenter Street were full house, I decided to head to Oriental Park. It was located in a hidden alley, sandwiched between Lorong Market and Lorong Gertak, and easier to reach by cutting through India Street, which was a pedestrian mall with shops and makeshift stalls selling all kinds of goods, especially textiles. There were a couple of beautiful murals along the street too.

There was a short queue when I arrived at Oriental Park. I get into the queue and waited for 10 minutes before getting a table. Someone in the queue had been here the previous day but did not get to eat the kolo mee as the noodle was sold out by 10:30am. He came an hour earlier this time to queue. Fortunately, I did not wait until lunch.

When my food was served at 10am, a call went out from the noodle stall, all noodle were sold out. That was how popular their kolo mee was. I enjoyed my noodle dish slowly since there was no pressure on me to finish fast and leave. The springy noodle and homemade char siew, with white sauce, was indeed very good. They had red sauce and black sauce versions too — reminded me of Xuu Yau Wanton Noodle  in Tan Hiok Nee Heritage Walk, Johor Bahru.

I took a walk through India Street again, and explored the Old Court House that split the old town into two. The courthouse housed several restaurants and cafes. Standing in front of the courthouse was (Charles) Brooke Monument with carvings of 4 major ethnicity or races (at that time in history) on its sides.

Both the police station and post office were also housed in colonial buildings. I came to Padang Merdeka, after cutting through Plaza Merdeka, saw St. Thomas’s Cathedral, took photos outside Sarawak Museum and finally came to Borneo Cultures Museum.

Borneo Cultures Museum had a beautiful and magnificent architecture but I was hesitant to go in — I seldom visited museums when travelling. I might pay the museum a visit if I really, really, really had nothing to do in the next two days.

A restaurant next to the main entrance of the museum, aptly named Borneo Cultures Museum Restaurant (BCMR), had a sign that said “Alcoholic beverages are only allowed in this area”. That triggered a cord in me, I went in and asked if they had Sarawak tuak. They did and I bought a bottle (500ml, RM38+) of the local wine as takeaway. I also had a pandan mango cake with a dirty matcha latte for eat-in. It was 11:20am, I was not hungry yet and also because it was expensive to dine here.

Exiting from Borneo Cultures Museum, I searched on Google Map for where to go next and noticed a Swee Kang Ais Kacang nearby — its ice kacang must be really good to be used in the name of the shop. I headed towards it. It was already near to noon time and most of the shops were closed — well, this was expected when travelling during a holiday.

10 minutes later, I sat in Swee Kang Ais Kacang and ordered a “white lady”, which was said to be Sarawak’s own version of the ice kacang dessert using condensed milk instead of syrup and gula melaka. It came in a cup instead of a bowl since I did not requested for it. But, that did not affect the content. The white lady was comprised of fruit cocktail (longan, grape, lychee, peach, sweet pineapple), various flavoured jelly, topped with crushed ice and a slice of lemon for its citrusy juice. It was a nice dessert and yet not very sweet.

I felt hungry and ordered a fried kway teow with cockles from one of the food stalls named “Goreng Goreng”. The char kway teow was good and tasty with fully-cooked cockles — would they cook the cockles partially if I had requested?

I walked back to the waterfront and took some photos. Despite the sky being cloudy and not so hot, both the infrared and ultraviolet heat could still be felt by me and my phone camera — the photos were darker than usual. I went back to the hostel to rest, shower and charge my phone. I would revisit the waterfront later closer to dusk and hopefully for sunset.

In the room, I tried the Sarawak tuak I bought, which was also a rice wine, except that it was yellowish in colour, not transparent, not very sweet and had a mellow citrusy note. The aroma was lighter as compared to the rice wine from Kedai Kopi Kinabalu in Sabah. This was my 5th bottle of rice wine on this trip.

I left the hostel just before 5pm. During the 3 hours in the hostel, I had escaped a downpour and the sky had cleared up a little but still cloudy. I strolled along the waterfront, checking out the sights from one side of Sarawak River.

Then, I crossed the curvy Darul Hana Bridge to the other side of the river, took in the sights of Sarawak State Legislative Assembly (DUNS) and the tallest flagpole in Southeast Asia but the flag would not fly if the wind was not strong enough. And Fort Margherita had closed at 4:45pm — a RM20 ticket was for The Brooke Gallery, housed inside the fort, which was about James Brooke, the founder and first Rajah of Sarawak.

Half an hour was all it took to cover the major sites around the waterfront. Then, I waited for sunset, which was around 6:43pm in Kuching. I took some sunset photos under a fragmented sky before crossing Darul Hana Bridge again.

The floating India Mosque against a sunset backdrop was photogenic as well as after dark. All the major structures along the river were also brightly lit at night — I missed the water fountain show and went back again on the following night to watch.

Back in the old town, most of the restaurants and coffee shops were already closed. I skipped the resto-bars because I had a bottle of tuak in my room. After walking a big round, I came to Borneo Delight, a cafe serving authentic Borneo delights that included Sarawakian dishes, Foochow dishes and native Borneo cuisine.

I saw something special on the “Native Cuisine” menu and ordered it. It was called “kacang ma”, a chicken dish cooked with motherwort herb (益母草), ginger, sesame oil and rice wine, and paired it with steam rice. It was supposedly a nutritious dish for mothers during confinement after giving birth — very similar to Chinese’s red lees chicken (紅糟鸡) or Taiwanese’s sesame oil chicken (麻油鸡).

The menu included other native dishes that were recommended to try in Sarawak and I would be back again — I was very sure I would because there were very few options for dinner in the area and I wanted to try as many Sarawakian dishes as I could.

8:30pm, I was back in my room. And I sipped the Sarawak tuak again. 500ml was about 2 full cups, or 4 half cups, and I should be able to finish it by the next day.


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