Hello, Cat City!

I’ll be taking off for Kuching tomorrow…yes, for the CNY hols. Yes, the bane of married people. We go back to our husband’s hometown. Well, I go back for a while but scoot home to Penang as soon as I can – that’s because in Penang, I get to do the usual Chinese-y routines of CNY – M&M that stands for mahjong and makan.

What a potent combination right? Yes, didn’t you know? I’m Cantonese and CNY is nothing but the M&Ms. Of course in my husband’s rather (ahem) proper family back in Kuching, they’ll keel over if they see me cursing my way through rounds and rounds of noisy mahjong.

So in the spirit of CNY, and while I am travessing Peninsular Malaysia on the AirAsia flights (Pg-KL, KL-Kuching – ye gawd – while carrying tubs and tubs of festive cookies!) here’s one quirky piece on Kuching otherwise known as Cat City for everyone who has never been to that town in East Malaysia. And ya, now no need passport to enter Sarawak. Yes, very sure. I used to feel like an absolute dork with my passport at the Kuching Airport (passport in intra-Malaysia travel!) but now you don’t need a passport anymore. Yes, yes, believe me.

Here are some observations about Kuching and its people which I’ve been puzzled about for the past few years that I’ve been there.

1. It’s a fashion parade at the cineplexes of Kuching. People dress up for the movies. In Penang, we just go in comfy shorts and t-shirts.

2. Kolo mee and Sarawak laksa are breakfast favourites. Every local person will have his or her favourite stall to go to. Don’t even think of roti canai. You’ll need to hunt for it if you crave it. If you find it, it probably sucks big time.

3. Three-coloured tea is another copycat fave. The regular teh comes in a glass with three different layers. It’s hot because it’s a novelty. Every kopi tiam seems to serve it.

4. Kuching people like to park haphazardly, without consideration for others. They’ll doublepark without batting an eye. Told you the place was law-less!

5. Don’t like green-haired folks and blondes who aren’t Caucasians? Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Certain young folks in Kuching like to look plain weird. Green hair. Gold hair. Maybe it’s fengshui. Maybe they’re lost, or try too hard to copy other people. Maybe they’re just plain Ah Beng and Ah Lian.

6. Sarawak people don’t have politics like we Semenanjung people. They’re rarely talking politics. I suspect they don’t really care unless the policies affect them. Does that mean they’re docile? I think they’re comfortable with what they have. Not rocking the boat is the main thing.

7. Sarawakians call us Semenanjung people ‘roaches’ as in cockroaches. Don’t believe me? Go ask your Kuching pals.

8. You cannot find a decent shopping mall in Kuching. With all that land, one would have thought that they could build the biggest shopping mall ever. Nope, they like building 4-storey shophouses which are ugly as hell. That’s why the locals themselves fly to Singapore to shop. You get supermarkets like Ngiu Kee and Everise which are hardly vogue places to shop.

9. In Kuching, the locals have a quirky habit of eating siew mai with soya bean drink. How does a savoury meat dumpling go with a sweet, milky soya bean? I don’t know but it seems it is a standard of sorts there. Go to the open air market for this odd pairing.

10. Sarawakians are damn proud to be Sarawakians. No kidding. They get manic about their roots. When one Sarawakian meets another in a place other than Sarawak, they start going on and on in their own Bahasa Sarawak, much to the annoyance of non-Sarawakians. Patriotic, maybe. Maniacal, definitely.

More Sarawak stories to come once I get all settled in!

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