I first heard of Kuching, Sarawak was the time I read a novel called Ghost Cave by Elsie Sze. A story that transcends three generations – a Hakka labourer ancestor embarked to Kuching to search for a better life during the nineteenth century, a young man who belonged to a communist guerrilla in the 1950s Sarawak fought in the jungles for his believed ideology, and a girl who traced her own roots and questioned her own identity while spending a time in the City of the modern-day. This captivating novel highlighted the rebellion we must each have to confront with at some certain points of our lives and only that we could eventually define ourselves who we are as humans. It also captures the importance of family and traditions that should be cherished and treasured.
Since I had read the book a few years ago I always wanted to go to Kuching. Since I had visited the place in late March it occupies a special place in my heart. There is no direct flight to Hong Kong to Kuching so I am thankful that my parents came along with me to take an international transfer flight and roamed around the City for this short but unforgettable five-day holiday. They were daunted at first because they always found something negative to say about a place and the availability of food spots which were unbeknownst to them. “The place is notorious for motorbike robbery”, “it’s very inconvenient not to have metro transport system.” However soon we got there, the disadvantages that are pointed toward this City were over-weighed by the laid-back aura there. Provided with the newly completed bridge being set as a backdrop to the waterfront esplanade the spectacle becomes really peerless indeed and my feeling was quite overjoyed.
One of my ultimate destinations was to see the Fort Margherita. Commissioned by the second white rajah, Charles Brooke, and being built in 1879, it initially served as a fort to fend of potential enemy and later transformed into a police museum before turned into a gallery which recounts and commemorates the Brooke Dynasty. In this case, the Fort oversees four generations of Sarawak governance. The Gallery mainly comprises of a few sections: (a) the start of civilisation of Sarawak, exploration of Borneo Island by European precedents and early life and exploits of James Brooke; (b) deprivations of the locals by Sultanate of the early Bruneian Empire, piracy operated by Dayaks, crushing of turmoil in Sarawak by James Brooke and his allies, and finally the proclamation of a new Kingdom by the first White Rajah Brooke; (c) Brookes’ governance, dissidents and uprisings against Brooke Dynasty; (d) centenary celebrations of Brooke Dynasty before WWII, Japanese Occupation; (e) Charles Vyner Brooke, Anthony Brooke, and anti-cession movement; and (f) Today’s Sarawak and Malaysia Borneo.
Some of the most interesting parts of the Brooke stories are the exploits of James Brooke and his setting sail on the Royalist. It is incredible how a veteran who had a bullet shot with a wound in the lung during his fight could be inspired by stories of the East while in Bath and had such an adventurous heart that made him the first White Rajah (which, could somewhat overlooked his controversial rule), Brookes’ wives, and post-war Sarawak on which how the anti-cession movement turned “dirty”, how the Sarawakians fought about their future and interests. It seemed like roles and identity are always the concerns that entrenched many Sarawakians all the time. While many displays are very interesting and gripping, some definitely give me a heart attack, like that badger encased in a glass. I didn’t expect a taxidermy on display at all!
However, I think this gallery is operated to commemorate Brookes and unfortunately only one side of the coin is shown. It should somewhat include more on the controversial sides of White Rajahs, for example, the massacres around the Dynasty, as well as the the effect and aftermath of colonisation as well. Apart from that, I also went to the Chinese History Museum, Sarawak Natural History Museum (although only the building about history of Sarawak is open to visitors, but I never get tired to it), and Sarawak Cultural Village (only one hour and a half because the taxi cab is waiting outside).
The most surprising bit is that I’ve got to try Seafood Ngare at the Waterfront. If I had visited this city alone I would have doubted whether I had the heart to do it! After spending a few days in Kuching, I really enjoy being surrounded by the place and the people, and the motto of “unity”. My goal would be to return to this city someday, and hopefully to have learned much more about the history of Sarawak beforehand to be more culturally indulged in the beauty of it.