A friend traveled to Kuching recently and it was his first time in more than 40 years and he was amazed of what changes had occurred since he was last in Kuching (where he used to live).
As he recalled in his mind, Kuching was still a small town with its main town Kuching Bau, Lundu and Serian. Across the Sarawak River around Astana and Fort Margherita are a few clusters of Malay villages. He used to consider them the poorer relatives as compared to the town side of the river. Even some of the richer and more educated Malay population lived on the town side of the Sarawak River. Now, that poorer side of the river is booming and that is where most of the Malays lived. Houses are huge and most of the Ministers eg the Chief Minister of Sarawak live in that part of town. There is now the Cat Museum there and many utility companies and Government and expensive private schools such as Tunku Putra and the city municipal offices are relocated there from the old Kuching town near Electra House. Normah hospital (first big private hospital) is on that side of town as well. He feels that there is segregation between one side of the River and the other side. One side is al the government buildings are and on the other side of the river are the commercial business areas. He says from what he can see ,it’s looks like that the Malay population are living on the one other side of the Sarawak River and the other populations eg Chinese, Indians, migrants lived on this side of the Sarawak river as Kuching town as 2 mayors. One on each side of the river. He reckons it seems a very interesting concept and from what he heard, it seems to work very well.
In his mind, he remembered the main towns consisting of Kuching. Serian, Lundu, and Bau. To get to any holiday destination is a matter of driving long distances on mostly small gravel roads. Actually he recalled taking a slow small engine boat (4hours) to Santubong. Accommodation is a few scattered wooden bungalows with no cooking facilities.. Now one can drive to Santubong in 1 hour to a resort with swimming pool and big restaurants. Off course the beach is not what it used to be. It used to be a wide span of beautiful sand, plenty of coconut trees and the sea for your holiday pleasure.
There were no resorts in Kuching in his days, now there are (at his last count) 6 resorts and many are part of the hotel chains. These once beautiful uninterrupted stretched of white clean sandy beaches are now filled with new resorts. In one sense it is wonderful as the locals now have places to go to and not having to fly across the South China Sea to West Malaysia to a holiday. On the other hand, he can see environmental destructions as a result of sewage into the nearby sea and plastic bottles and other man made debris washed up on shore.
Forty years ago, it was a fair distance to get to most local holiday destination except to Matang at the ‘Red Bridge’ 11th mile and further up the famous heavy deep waterfall at 13th mile, especially when it rained.(a few reported deaths by drowning happened at the waterfall) To get to the ‘red bridge’ a place where there is a deep flowing wide stream for locals to swim and fish, that takes more than an hour. The place at the red bridge at Matang at that time has no bathing facilities. Changing into swimming costume is a
matter of changing in the bush or inside the car. Now as he headed back to his favorite childhood spot where he first learnt to swim, all he could see was a trickle of water and the deep stream is all but gone. There are a few concrete tables and stools for holiday makers but it does not have the same ambience as before. The natural feel of the place is long gone.
The famous waterfall further up the mountain has also become a figment of his imagination. The waterfall is now no longer majestic and strong and now behaves like how he felt as he thinks back to his childhood days. Weak, sad and lifeless looking environment. The rocks around are full of debris from food wrappings and empty plastic bottles (left behind by holiday campers), the water in the lower part of this once beautiful waterfall is now murky and cloudy. This vision just reminds him and strengthens his thought that one should protect the environment so that the future generation can enjoy what he used to enjoy.
Hotels in Kuching town are few and scattered in those days. He stayed in Fata Hotel and that is considered one of the best hotels of that era. Fata Hotel is still there but now considered a budget hotel. Fata Hotel and Borneo Hotel, (the only 2 hotels in Kuching at that time, as he remembered) used to be considered in the centre of town. The centre of town was literally where the only shopping centre (Electra House) was and also where the Big Bus station was situated
and where the wet market was situated. There used to be a Ting & Ting Supermarket and that was the only cold storage (imported goods) supermarket in Kuching town. Now there centre of town seems to be where the big hotel such as Holiday Inn, Riverside Hotel, Pullman Hotels & resorts etc are situated. This is also where the bigger and newer shopping centers are situated. Shopping center such as CentrePoint Shopping Centre, Sarawak Plaza, and Parkson are where the younger generations congregate. There is even a Sheraton Hotel further away from town central.!
Time has certainly changed for the better in the town area as Kuching is no longer a town but a city.
Kuching can now boast about her ability to provide further education for her population. Kuching now have UNIMAS, one of the eighth public universities in Malaysia. Swinburn University also located in Kuching and a few colleges such as SATT College, SEGi College Sarawak (the only full-fledged private law school in East Malaysia) allows students to
Aerial View Kuchingstudy in their own hometown without having to fly half way round the world to further their education.