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Topics include Dining Scene, Malaysia: For Foreign Visitors & more!
Kuching is home to a wide variety of people who call Southeast Asia home, so the city is a blend of many cultures. Chinese festivals are major celebrations due to the large ethnic Chinese population; the Lunar New Year (the date varies from year to year, but generally in February or late January) is probably the largest such festival. There will be firecrackers, parades and decorations throughout the city as Chinese people indulge in lavish meals and special sweets, visit family members and friends, and exchange red envelopes of money. As another sign of Chinese influence, you will probably see many temples around the city. Do not assume that they are all Buddhist, though. Many of them practice Christianity, Confucianism, Taoism and other beliefs as well.
There is a large Malay Muslim population in Kuching, which means that the city has fairly strict laws regarding public behavior, especially for women. There are severall mosques in the city. The old state mosque is near to the old town and within walking distance. Get permission before entering the mosque itself. Prostitution here carries severe penalties, so soliciting such services in Kuching is not a good idea.
The other ethnic groups in Kuching are the Iban, Bidayuh and the Orang Ulu (Kayan, Kenyah, Kelabit, Murut and etc). All speaking their own distinct languages and dialects. Most of them are either Christian or pagans. Their colourful costumes and dances are the stuff that steal many a tourist's heart, and are always a photographer's delight. Of course you do not find them staying in the famed longhouses as they are only found in the upcountry. Many of them are civil servants and stay in modern housing estates with all the amenities.A large part of Malaysian culture is the food, which is widely available for very low prices from street vendors. Specialties include kolo mee, a noodle dish with pork that people eat very frequently, and Sarawak laksa, a breakfast curry dish, usually topped with shrimp or prawns. Seafood is also very popular in Kuching (due to its being a seaside city), with clams and crustaceans tending to be more widely found than fish. Food courts, or glorified coffee shops proliferate throughout the city. One can find all type of food that are popular in Kuching in the form of small stalls. Popular ones are at Jalan Song, King's Centre, Central Park and MJC city. New food courts are sprouting up every now and then. Take your time and look from stalls to stalls, ask questions if the vendor is not too busy, Kuching folks are a friendly lot. Ask your cabbie which is the nearest popular ones.