I didn’t know what to expect when I first arrived in Borneo on a short hop flight from Kuala Lumpur, but it certainly wasn’t a city devoted to and revolving entirely around cats.
When I decided to fly to Kuching on a whim, I probably had the same visions in my head that most people do when they think of Borneo. Thick impenetrable jungle, unexplored tropical wildernesses filled with Orang-utans, wildlife, traditional longhouses and tribesmen. I had romantic notions of a golden age of exploration, of rediscovering a place whose name alone still evoked such powerful and evocative images. So arriving in Kuching for the first time was in some way everything I had imagined, and in other ways a complete and utter shock.
After the plane landed, I found far, far more than I ever imagined. The heavily gentrified streets were a world away from the organized chaos of Kuala Lumpur, they were clean, well maintained and well planned. The river was overlooked with a gentrified promenade filled with picturesque eateries and blessed with stunning views perfect for relaxing evening meals, and modern glass and chrome buildings sat comfortably within the facade of faded charm that made up the rest of the city. Yet for what is technically a small city, Kuching retained an almost small town, edge of civilisation outpost feel.
As much as the gentrified modernity surprised me in Kuching it was the atmosphere and sheer uniqueness of time and place that gave me that sense of wander and exploration I was hoping for.
Kuching had a laid back, sanguine feeling that permeated through every pore of the city that really hit me, it simply oozed an unflappable, unhurried air of complete contentedness. Whether the feline like atmosphere was intentional or whether it was an indirect influence from the countless cats making their home here I couldn’t tell, but one thing I did know instantly, cats are worshipped here!
In all my travels I have never seen anything quite like Kuching. Like the locations in the fantasy novels I read as a child where the hero finds a strange city of cat people in the middle of the jungle worshipping a feline deity, it was a strange feeling to find a city practically doing just that!
Kuching is a city built around and for cats, completely devoted to our feline friends, from the countless small cat statues dotted throughout the city to the larger feline sculptures that are dressed up for specific religious and cultural festivals. It has a cat cafe, of course, there are countless cat souvenirs sold in every shop and market, and even and entire cat museum built to showcase and honour everything feline. Even the name, Kuching, literaly means cat city!
As someone who loves seeing the unique and quirky side of anywhere I visit, Kuching absolutely blew my mind, and as a cat lover myself, (how could I not be when one saved my life in Cairo?) I absolutely fell in love with the laid back city of Kuching and stayed a lot longer than I originally intended to.
Just as the countless cats and kittens I met strolling around the town and napping lazily along the gentrified riverbank, spending a few extra languid days in this amazing and beautiful city was just far too hard to resist.
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