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Cat city … Kuching, the capital of Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo

September 20, 2013

Once part of the Sultanate of Brunei some 200 years ago, Kuching then became the capital of the White Rajahs of Sarawak and now this capital city, Kuching, is often called “Cat City” and has many cat statues as public art.

The 'big cat' is dressed according to the season or festival, these are its Gawai clothes - the Iban harvest festival

The ‘big cat’ is dressed according to the season or festival, these are its Gawai clothes – the Iban harvest festival

The meaning of ‘Kuching’ seems to be lost in history. Some say it’s from the Malay word kucing, meaning cat, (Note in Malay the letter c is pronounced as ch as in church) and many locals call it “Cat City”.

The guide on my city tour bus says it could come from the Chinese word for port (cochin) or, “most likely, from the Malay name mata kucing (cat’s-eye) for the longan fruit. He continues “There was a small tributary of the Sarawak river called Sungei Kuching so some others say it was from this stream that Kuching got its name.” So take your pick.

Cat city seems to be the most common usage and the city has not only many cat souvenirs for sale, and  statues of cats,  but also a cat museum. This  is on top of a 60 metre high hill which gives great views over the city. (The museum is on the ground floor of the  Kuching North City Hall.)

The Cat Museum  has four main galleries  and evidently has more than 4,000 cat artifacts including paintings  and the media group I was with were mixed in their reactions to the collection – from bemused, to thrilled, to amused. Its well worth a visit, and like all the museums in Sarawak, it’s free to visit although a small fee is charged for cameras.

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For more about Kuching, see the many other blogs I’ve written, or the Sarawak Tourism Boards’ official website

 

 

“Look Heather, the cat is naked” says one of the drivers who knows I’ve walked often to this statue for photos!

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