Are you a cat lover? Then Kuching, the dreamy little seaside town is for you!
I got out of my 2-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur and landed in this beautiful little city, Kuching, on the island of Borneo. On the way to my hotel in the city centre, I saw so many cats. They are omnipresent: on rooftops, at traffic signals, on sidewalks, in parks. There are a bunch of statues of cats too. Curious, I asked my guide why there were so many cats when she explained. “The city’s cat obsession is apparent from its name,” said, Selena, our guide. “In Malay, the word ‘kucing’ means ‘cat.’
There are different theories about why the city is named after cats.
The first Rajah of Sarawak pointed at the city and asked what is it called, and a local thought he was referring to a cat and said its called ‘Kucing’ and hence it became the name of the city.
Kuching was named after the trees that grew around the area, bearing small fruit called ‘mata kuching’, or cat’s eye fruit.
The residents of Kuching named the city after a short-tailed cat which lived in the area of Borneo Island.
The city was named after the famous Indian city ‘Cochin’ which became synonymous with a harbour town. It also has a link with the Chinese kaci or harbour. Since Kuching has a beautiful harbour, the British started to refer to it as Kuching from the year 1988.
The cat culture of Kuching
Sarawak has people from different parts of the world. There are Malays, Indians, Chinese as well as local tribes like the Iban, Orang Ulu, and Bidayuh to name a few. Cats play an important role in all of these diverse populations who live here in Sarawak. For example, the Chinese believe that cats are a good luck charm. Cats are more than just animals which live here in abundance. It’s a part of their culture in Sarawak.
The city of Kuching has cat graffiti sprayed on the walls, a cat museum, shops lined with cat souvenir, cat statues, a cute Cat B&B and even a Meow Meow Cat Café!
Cats to the Rescue
In the early 1950s, due to excessive malaria-carrying mosquitoes, the people of Sarawak and the tribes were killed. WHO sprayed the city of Sarawak with a chemical to control the Malaria. This chemical also killed a lot of cats during the process. Rats flourished and it gave way to a lot of diseases like plague and typhus. To cope with these problems the World Health Organization had to parachute 14,000 live cats into Borneo through the royal air force. This is often called ‘Operation Cat Drop’ or ‘The Flying Cat Story’.
What else does Sarawak have to offer?
There’s more to this famous feline town than just cats. Sarawak is also known for the hornbills and three different kinds of monkeys: The famous Proboscis monkey, (which is indigenous to the island of Borneo) Long-tailed macaques, and the silvered leaf monkey. The city houses one of the most beautiful national parks called Bako National Park. All the three varieties of monkeys can be seen in the wild here. There are multiple treks you can take which even offers stunning views of the ocean. Bako is also home to one of the most venomous snakes in the world: The Green Keeled Pit Viper of Borneo.
The Island of Borneo is also home to the very famous Orangutans. The Semenggoh Wildlife Centre is the biggest Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sarawak. It is a sanctuary for the injured and orphaned orangutans.
I visited Kuching to attend the famous Rainforest World Music Festival. It’s a beautiful 3-day music festival with people from all over the world. The vibe and the music is the best I’ve ever experienced.
Go to Kuching for the Rainforest World Music Festival, go if you love cats, go if you love some adventure, go if you love nature. There’s so much character in this city you’d be surprised.
Kuching has an International airport and has direct flights to and from Kuala Lumpur connected by Malindo air and few other airlines.
Read more: There’s another country that is all about the cats, read about the feline conquerors of Istanbul here.