Exploring Kuching’s Rich Heritage: A Walking Tour Through Time

Our walking tour was led by Kelvin Lu Wei Jian, Paradesa Borneo’s Sales & Marketing Executive cum Certificate in Regional Specific Tour Guide, who was exceptionally knowledgeable and accommodating.

Beginning from the iconic Hong San Si Temple, we meandered through historic shophouses, century-old businesses and vibrant cultural enclaves.

Our first stop was at the Hong San Si Temple located at the intersection of Wayang and Ewe Hai Streets.

As you step into its ornate courtyard, you are greeted by the scent of incense and the serene atmosphere of devotion. The temple, dedicated to various deities, is a testament to Kuching’s multicultural heritage and religious tolerance.

Image: Rafidah Hamit

Managed by Kuching’s Hockien Association with old accounts of it existing as early as 1848, the temple carries an architectural blend of traditional Chinese and Southeast Asian influences, showcasing intricate details and vibrant colours, its roof is adorned with ornate carvings and colourful ceramic tiles, depicting scenes from Chinese mythology and folklore with dragon motifs symbolising strength and good fortune in Chinese culture.

From the temple, we ventured into Ewe Hai Street, where time seems to stand still amidst rows of well-preserved shophouses dating back to 1886.

These structural gems, with their intricate facades and wooden shutters, offer a glimpse into Kuching’s colonial past. Walking along this street feels like a journey through a bygone era, with each shophouse telling its own story of trade and commerce.

Image: Rafidah Hamit

One such story unfolds at Ho Nyen Foh, a century-old tinsmith business that has stood the test of time.

Run by the third-generation owner Ho Chin Hin who was surrounded by an array of tools and sheets of tin and copper — he showed us precision and expertise as he worked the metals against each other as sparks fly transforming the materials into different shapes.

The clang of metal and the aroma of molten tin created a sensory experience that transports you back to a bygone era of craftsmanship and dedication.

Continuing our journey, Lu led us to Upper China Street, a vibrant alley nestled within Kuching’s Chinatown.

As we stroll through the narrow lanes, we pause at a stall run by an old Teochew couple, Mr and Mrs Kho, to indulge in Lek Tau Suan; a mung bean dessert that delights the senses with its sweet aroma and comforting flavours, providing relief from the tropical heat.

Amidst the colourful murals adorning the walls, we learn about the trading of local products that have been the lifeblood of Kuching for centuries. These frescoes depict scenes of bustling markets, traditional crafts and the rich biodiversity of Sarawak’s landscapes.

One of them displayed the historic wooden clogs showing skilled artisans crafting footwear using age-old techniques.

These murals serve as a reminder of the city’s vibrant past and ongoing commitment to preserving its cultural heritage.

Image: Rafidah Hamit

We then had lunch around Wayang Street at The Kantin at The Granary, a stylish dining spot located within a historical setting, formerly a rice mill.

Combining rustic charm with modern comforts, the Kantin offers a diverse menu featuring local flavours and international dishes. Guests can enjoy their meals indoors with cozy decor or opt for outdoor seating with scenic views of the Sarawak River, all while receiving friendly and attentive service from knowledgeable staff.

This charming eatery celebrates Kuching’s culinary heritage with delicious food, a picturesque ambience and a blend of traditional and contemporary elements.

Whether you are drawn to its historical significance or simply seeking a memorable dining experience, the Kantin at The Granary promises a delightful journey through flavours and aesthetics.

We then proceeded to go to the Lane of Zinc Sheets, Coffins and Opium or presently known as Kai Joo Lane, each carrying its own unique charm and historical significance.

Lined with quaint cafes and boutiques, Kai Joo Lane offers a glimpse into Kuching’s modern art scene and creative community.

Meanwhile Coffin Lane, with its intriguing name derived from its historical association with coffin makers, is now a charming alleyway filled with quirky shops and eateries.

Taking a break, we headed to Hiap Yak Tea Shop which serves the famous “Opium Coffee” paying homage to Kuching’s storied past as a trading hub for exotic goods.

Image: Rafidah Hamit

“Opium Coffee or Butter Coffee is an old method of drinking coffee with butter that started when people who came from opium dens wanted to soothe their dry throats,” shared second-generation owner, Madam Tan Mui Kim.

At 73 years old, she recounted that her father established the shop in 1945 immediately following the Japanese Occupation.

“Our coffee beans originate from Indonesia. We grind them freshly, brew the coffee and add a slice of butter. The flavour is balanced, blending harmoniously and we serve it alongside filled bread slices.”

Image: Rafidah Hamit

We then stopped by a pastry shop, Tongkee that sells chicken and beef Siew Pao at an affordable price of RM3.50 each.

As soon as you arrive near the shop which has been running since 1973, your senses are greeted by the warm, buttery scent of freshly baked pastries mingling with the aromas of herbs, spices and savoury fillings.

The golden-brown flaky crusts are baked to perfection, enticing customers not only with their mouthwatering aroma but also their irresistible appearance.

We concluded the tour with an easy walk through India Street – a vibrant and bustling thoroughfare encapsulating the city’s multicultural essence.

Image: Rafidah Hamit
Image: Rafidah Hamit

Lined with colourful shopfronts, aromatic spice stalls and vibrant textiles, the street is a sensory delight for visitors and locals alike.

From the aroma of Indian spices, traditional clothing and accessories to delectable Indian snacks and sweets, India Street offers a treasure trove of experiences and shopping choices, making it a must-visit destination for anyone exploring the vibrant tapestry of Kuching’s streets.

Kuching warmly welcomes visitors to explore its rich heritage and discover the stories etched in every corner of its enchanting landscape.

Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a food lover or simply seeking a journey through time, Kuching promises an unforgettable experience that celebrates the past while embracing the present.


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