Framed against the tight winding streets of the old town are the giant murals that’s been appearing across otherwise blank facades on the scattering of colonial shophouses. No longer the monotone of cream or shocking riot of Valencian orange, art has taken this unassuming city subtly, quietly and pervasively.
Unlike it’s counterparts in Malacca or Georgetown, the characteristic feature of colonial heirlooms gracing parts of this city isn’t as numerous, or as prestigious. Yet being the heart of Kuching, it has started to attract a host of intellectual, artsy, hipster and perhaps pretentious concepts that echo the sentiment of millennials.
Like soybeans left to sprout in a petri dish of moist cotton, arthouses, cafes, bars and lodges are gentrifying this once mostly commercial district. Some are timeless renditions, some are just hinkypunk trashy. What does it do for the locals? Variety, diversity, and maybe the beginnings of communal awakening to the possibilities that has already overtaken our neighbours.
The Great River splits the city in half, with well paved riverbanks, shaded boulevards and the occasional busker playing out a romantic, chilled out vibe most can’t find in other major cities across the country. Riverboats ply the currents, ferrying passengers from one side to the next for almost next to nothing. The highly controversial behemoth parked by the riverbank grabs the eye with its golden yellow umbrella shingles. Five foot way traders sit outside offering wares ranging from the ubiquitous layer cake to the innocuously packed gambier and keychain combo.
The heart of the city, ironically no longer harbors the heart of the people. As property prices skyrocket and urban growth makes its inevitable march outwards, people have begun to nestle in their comfortable suburban communities. Not many bother to make the journey all the way downtown just for a cuppa, unless it’s a special occasion.
But the winds are a changing. What was previously thought of as irreversible brain drain of some of the best and brightest, has slowly changed course with many overseas luminaries making a return to their home, in a combined effort to grow organically what they feel is the best feature of Kuching.
The eagerness for change.