Thursday, March 22, 2007

Kuching, the cat city

Note: In the musical photo presentation above, the first time you play it, the music may be sporodic, but the replay will be smooth.

Kuching, which is cat in the Malay language, is situated beside the meandering Sarawak River and is the capital city of Sarawak on the Borneo Island. It is not clear how the city got its name, but one of the tale says that when the Englishman Sir James Brooke helped the Sultan of Brunei quell a local rebellion in 1841, he was given the right to rule Sarawak. When he was in Kuching, and was unsure of what to call the town, he pointed to the riverside, and his local guide thinking that he was pointing to a scavenging cat, mentioned the name "kuching", the Malay name for a cat, and that was how the city was named Kuching. But one thing for sure is, the city is not named Kuching because there are many cats in Kuching. The ones you see prominently are concrete ones - sculptures of cats like those you see in the photo presentation above.

Kuching has a few famous delicacies, which you see featured in the photo presentation above, among them kolo mee, which unlike its counterpart in West Malaysia, derive its taste not in the soya sauce added to it, but the taste of the mee is incorporated into the mee itself. There is also the famous Sarawak laksa which has a different taste from its West Malaysian counterpart. The tomato kueh teow (keow teow soaked in tomato sauce) is well liked too.

Kuching has a cat museum too, where all sorts of cats are displayed from the tiger through to cats made of wood, stone, porcelain, pewter or fabric and posters, greetings cards and stamps. The history of man’s relationship with cats is traced from Egyptian cat-worship though Middle Ages persecution. The art and literature section include reproductions of Old Masters which depicted cats right through to Louis Wain (1860-1939) and modern artists such as Zoe Stokes. Also depicted are stories and illustrations of famous cat lovers and their cats from Charles Dickens, Sir Winston Churchill and President Theodore Roosevelt. There are also exhibits on Cats and Children which range from classic books and toys through to modern cartoons.

Kuching is divided into 2 parts by the river. In the main section of the town, the only way to cross over to the other side (the side with the castle and the Astana with small Malay villages behind them) is by sampan, or little boats. When I was there 30 years ago, it only cost 10 cents to take the boat ride. It is still inexpensive. In the newer section of Kuching, the two side is connected by the Satok bridge.

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