Kuching, Sarawak: Location, location, location

 |   |  2 min read

Kuching, Sarawak: Location, location, location

As befits a fine-looking establishment named for the first “White Rajah” of the region, the James Brooke Bistro and Cafe occupies a prime location in Kuching, the capital city of Sarawak.

Set back from the popular riverwalk on a well-groomed crop of lawn – with a view to the handsome new parliament building and the old white rajahs' palace on the opposite shore where generations of British Brookes oversaw the region in the colonial era -- the Brooke is a beacon for tourists and locals trying to escape the humidity or a sudden downpour.

On a hot day – and Kuching gets its share of 30-plus degrees here on the northwest coast of Borneo – three of the walls open wide and old-school standing fans add a further and essential cross-breeze. Located near the main international hotels and across from the pocket-sized but interesting Chinese Museum, the Brooke is harder to miss than it is to find.

Of course you pay a little for this degree of convenience and stylish comfort, not the least being an ambient Western-nonsense soundtrack which features things like Kenny G's vacuous treatment of My Heart Will Go On . . . and rather more Sting and low-range Eric Clapton than you might ever want to endure.

Sometimes the service at the Brooke – such as it is – can be extremely leisurely, not to sarawaksay barely-there. But, when you are restfully beering yourself while watching people outside melting or getting drenched on the pathway by the poo-brown but slow-mo river, you're probably in no hurry to go anywhere anyway.

In part because everything in nearby cafes and eating places is so cheap, the bungalow-styled Brooke is obliged to keep its prices down too. So a large and cold Carlsberg or Tiger beer is a reasonable NZ$3.00, although I did have “three-kind-duck” with rice and an iced tea at a Chinese place within staggering distance for less than the price of a slice of banana cake at the Brooke.

However, to be fair, that downmarket place didn't have a tablecloth and flowers, or even a hygiene certificate, I suspect.

So everything is relative in Sarawak, but a chicken laksa at the Brooke is a mere NZ$3.50 (a bit ordinary though) and a steak dinner if you require one after days of noodles and such less than NZ$14. You can see why some settle in for an hour or so during the day, and slowly pick at the menu while occasionally wandering down to the river to watch overloaded sampans ferry locals across the river for less than NZ20 cents.

Every now and again a few cats wander through the Brooke – Kuching is known as Cat City and there's even a bizarre Cat Museum just 30 minutes north – and these lazy felines often seem in more of a hurry than the staff.

sarawak_2So, aside from its location near the Sarawak River and the easy ambience, you could say there's not a lot to recommend the illustriously named magnet that is the Brooke . . . other than as a place to rest up and consider the view across the top of a welcome beer in the wet heat.

But some days in this part of the planet that's more than enough.

And if you're in attractive and interesting Kuching with its river, proximity to Bako National Park with its proboscis monkeys or the nearby orang-utan enclaves, the safe money says you will – at some time – end up in the Brooke.

Be warned though, although it boasts Asian-cum-Malay elegant d├ęcor and well-dressed staff, the James Brooke Bistro and Cafe is cash-only.

So, despite appearances, it's got that in common with my cheap three-kind-duck'n'tea place just down the road.  

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Travels articles index

Melbourne, Australia: Alt.shopping tips for those who don't shop, but buy

Melbourne, Australia: Alt.shopping tips for those who don't shop, but buy

People like me -- men mostly, I suspect -- don’t like shopping. We certainly buy things, but what some people call shopping seems to entail hours of looking with little to show for it.... > Read more

Hanoi, Vietnam: Milking it

Hanoi, Vietnam: Milking it

Marcel was so French you could spot it across the cafe. The shrug of the shoulders, the downturn of the mouth and sulking bottom lip, the sleepy eyes and cigarette permanently attached. He was a... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

UTE LEMPER INTERVIEWED (2003): The ice maiden cometh

UTE LEMPER INTERVIEWED (2003): The ice maiden cometh

Midnight on a warm Wednesday in New York City, the Gotham of the Great Republic. The German cabaret maven has come home early from a recording studio across town so, sure, she has plenty of time to... > Read more

LEE SCRATCH PERRY IN THE 90s: Getting dub'n'reggae through time tuff

LEE SCRATCH PERRY IN THE 90s: Getting dub'n'reggae through time tuff

By the early 90s - a decade on from the death of Bob Marley - the consciousness reggae movement he headed was floundering internationally. In New Zealand, where reggae is one of the bloodlines, it... > Read more