I had a great opportunity last Friday, August 19, 2017 to go again on the Sarawak River Cruise. I’ve been on this cruise numerous times and I never tire of it.
It’s a great way to see Kuching city from a different perspective. It is definitely on my list of must try tours in Kuching. It gives you a view of the old and new Kuching. Definitely worth trying.
So I didn’t hesitate when my colleague asked if I would join them with a few Indonesian friends whom are here on an educational tour of Kuching.
MV Equatorial is the name of the vessel.
The MV Equatorial is docked at the Kuching Waterfront, a major public place and attraction in the city centre. Built in 1990, It has been sailing the Sarawak River for about almost 30 years now. To be honest, it is the cruises of MV Equatorial, that branded the Sarawak River Cruise. Nowadays there are other options on smaller boats, but in my view nothing beats the MV Equatorial.
As you can see from the photo, there are 2 parts of the vessel, lower deck and upper deck. The difference? air conditioning. I have always preferred the upper deck. Gives you a 360 degree panoramic view of the city.
The Sunset River Cruise departs at 5.30 pm sharp. Last Friday, a family of 4 just missed boarding in just about 30 seconds. They ran as fast as they could to get on board but to no avail. Be on board early say 15 minutes.
The vessel would first go to the west of the river, then make a u turn and head towards the east before sailing back west as you go head on sailing into the sunset.
The whole experience takes about one and a half hour and ends by 7.00 pm, just in time for dinner.
Prices are stated as below:
- RM 65 for Adults (Ages 13 and above)
- RM 32 for Children (Ages 4-12)
- Children aged 3 years and below sail for free.
This also includes free flow cordial drinks and a nice small serving of the Sarawak layered cake, the kuih lapis.
There is a snack bar on the upper deck just in case the cordial drinks or the kuih lapis doesn’t quench your thirst. The guy with the cowboy hat i noticed went for a cool beer, which is an excellent choice.
There is a snack bar on the upper deck and they sell other canned drinks and also snacks that you can enjoy during the cruise.
Another reason to board early is to grab a space for you and your buddies to sit down and enjoy your chit chat.
There are some notable sights along the Sarawak River.
Sampans and the Malay Kampungs
Icons of the Sarawak river, the Sampans seen here at one of the village jetty waiting for passengers.
For a person that has never been to Kuching, i would describe it a nice blend of old and new. The Sarawak River sorts of divide the city into the bustling city on the south bank of the river and the laid back, almost unchanged Malay kampungs on the north.
The other notable thing for first time visitors Kuching, the other notable thing you would notice on the Sarawak River is the Sampans, the small passenger boats used since hundreds of years to ferry folks across the river. It costs 50 sen per trip and if you tip the boatman RM 50 ringgit, he would take you on a private boat ride which lasts for an hour or so. Another recommended “private tour” if you are a travelling couple.
Kuching folks waiting for the sampans to ferry them across back to the village after running errands in the city.
There are quite a few iconic buildings that I would call a head turner and here are some of my choices.
The Astana is the official residence of the Governor of Sarawak.
The Astana, then called the Government House, was built in 1870 by the second White Rajah, Charles Brooke, as a wedding gift to his wife, Margaret Alice Lili de Windt. The couple married at Highworth, Wiltshire on 28 October 1869 and she was raised to the title of Ranee of Sarawak with the style of Her Highness upon their marriage.
Ranee Margaret arrived in Sarawak in 1870, and the royal couple then occupied The Astana as their main home. She later reminisced about life in The Astana and colonial Borneo in her memoir My Life in Sarawak, which was published in 1913.
Brooke is said to have cultivated betel nut in a small plantation behind the Astana, so that he could offer fresh betel nut to visiting Dayak chiefs.
Brooke Dockyard was established in 1912 during the reign of the 2nd White Rajah of Sarawak, Charles Brooke.
In 1977, Brooke Dockyard become a fully owned by the Sarawak Government. From just a humble beginnings of just serving as a dry dock for ship repairs and maintenance, Brooke dockyard has expanded its services to include ventures into the Oil and Gas industry, to Marine Engineering and Land based Engineering.
So never judge a book by it’s cover the saying goes. It might need some paintwork. But that shabby looks really tells that it is indeed an old building.
Old Kuching City Mosque
The former State Mosque was built in 1968, replacing an original wooden one built in 1852. It is affectionately known as the “Masjid Lama” or Old Mosque by fellow Kuchingites. Definitely best seen from Sarawak River.
State Legislative Assembly
This nine-storey building is the Sarawak’s new state legislative assembly building. The distinctive “payung” (umbrella) roof of the new DUN complex is an iconic landmark for Sarawak. I’ve always joked that it is inspired by a giant orange squisher!
Boats and more boats
So we head east now after making that u turn not far from the Masjid. Slowly sailing away enjoying the view. I enjoyed watching all the various types of boats that ply this river.
So many different shape and sizes.
This fisherman is probably thinking about the next catch tomorrow or just plainly admiring the calm of the evening.
Boats of the Marine Department of Sarawak docked and awaiting its next round of duty.
These guys play a major role in the determination of an efficient, effective and safe navigation system within Malaysian waters.
They broadcast maritime safety information, make sure lighthouses, beacons and buoys are functioning, provide navigational charts and in certain cases conduct search and rescue operations at sea.
One of the many mansions spotted towards east of the Sarawak River.
There’s a few mansions located towards the east of the Sarawak River and it is upon reaching the mansion above, that the MV Equatorial turns back to the kuching waterfront. By this time of the day, the sunset has just about set in.
View of Mount Serapi in the golden lights of the sunset and the river that mirrors those lovely colours of the sky.
Live Cultural Show
There is a cultural performance on board and starts when the boat heads back to Kuching Waterfront. 3 types of dances, the Iban, Bidayuh and the OrangUlu.
A traditional dance performance adds colour to the Sunset river Cruise.
The cultural performance on board the sunset river cruise is a very simple. I like it as it is not too short and not too long. Just a nice show that gives you the basic insights into the types of movements of each dance.
The costume colours? A lovely colourful sight.
The show is about 20 minutes and is accompanied by commentary, explaining the dance.
And so we head back slowly and it’s about 6.30 pm . Just nice for a sunset adoration time. I love sunsets. Love watching the sun go down and reflect on the day that was and also to self dialogue. In my own moment of zen.
As we docked, I couldn’t help but compare it my previous trip on board the MV Equatorial. I couldn’t pick any inconsistencies. Except that today the weather wasn’t that conducive enough for a spectacular sunset.
Overall a good job by the crew. Very good commenting onboard, nice cordial and lovely cake lapis. Lovely cultural show.
It is still one of the best ways to enjoy the sights of Kuching.
The cruise on board MV Equatorial is managed by SR Equatorial Sdn Bhd.
Please visit their website for updated information with regards to their river cruises which are also available for bookings for other private occasions.