The Trimurti of Kuching Streets

The three oldest streets in the entire Sarawak would have much to say if they could only talk.

Main Bazaar

The first official road to ever appear in Sarawak’s landscape, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman or better known as Main Bazaar is where Kuching’s modern history began. It was the city’s centre before it expanded to its current boundaries, and as the name implies was where the city’s first trading centre was due to its proximity to the waterfront’s piers and wharfs.

When James Brooke stepped foot in Sarawak in 1839, the row of shops along the street were merely made of wood and nipah, sitting on the edge of the river’s mudflats. As the British Raj administration flourished and Kuching prospered, Main Bazaar saw a tremendous increase in activities, with various vendors opening up shop along the most popular street in town.

Under the governance of the second Rajah Charles Brooke, some of the wooden edifices along the road were replaced by Kuching’s first brick shophouses in 1872, further solidifying the importance of the street in the state’s history. The following 1884 fire devastated the rest of the wooden buildings, giving way to an entire road of shops of brick.

Main Bazaar is where Kuching’s kaki lima or the pavement originates from, getting its name from the five feet measurement of the pedestrian walkways when they were originally built.

As time passed by, Main Bazaar slowly lost lost its stature as the business hub of Kuching. Right now it is the go-to place for antiques and souvenirs, as well as boutique hotels like The Ranee.

Carpenter Street

Unofficially regarded as Kuching’s ‘Chinatown’, Carpenter Street has managed to preserve much of its authenticity, alongside Main Bazaar. It was the centre for the Chinese who immigrated to Kuching on their own accord as well as under Rajah Brooke’s promising campaigns. As more people migrated to the street and Kuching in general, the vicinity thrived as the cultural heart for the Chinese community, housing temples, cultural centres, association offices, businesses, and delicious food courts.

Initially known as Attap Road (because of the use of nipah in the buildings), the Great Kuching Fire of 1884 ravaged the street (alongside Main Bazaar), burning down more than 160 shops. The shophouses in the street were then rebuilt with brick in the style of architecture that still can be seen until today, and the street’s name was changed to Carpenter Street to reflect the woodwork workshops in the area.

India Street

Originally called ‘Kling Street’ (Kling means Indian in Hakka), it was changed to India Street under Rajah Brooke’s administration in 1928. The state derives its name from the fact that many merchants from India had set up store in the street.

Having always been known as the hub for textiles and jewelleries, India Street continues its role today after being converted into a pedestrian shopping mall in 1992. Adjacent the street is the first Indian Muslim mosque in the state as well as Jalan Gambir (where the aphrodisiac gambir is sold) and ‘Kucing Transformers’.

Vimal Palasekaran

Vimal Palasekaran

Loud laugher. TV buff. Hispanophone.
Vimal Palasekaran

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