March 11, 2002
This is Kuching's favorite place to see and be seen. Teenagers and twenty-somethings of both sexes flirt and giggle as they furtively ogle one another -- this is, after all, a predominately Muslim country -- in a manner so innocent and chaste, from the Western point of view, that it all seems rather comic. It's easy to spot the "fast" girls, for they aren't wearing any head-covering. The others, always in two's, three's, or four's, stroll slowly by these "harlots" and flash them looks that seem more haughty than recriminating.
There's usually a handful of tourists around, of course, but they're a pretty sophisticated lot, more traveler than tourist. For all of Kuching's considerable scenic and cultural charms, it is not a "conventional" South East Asian destination. This is no Phuket -- or even Kuantan; it's a delightful little backwater that, despite its 21st century patina of Internet cafes and video arcades, still has more in common with the 19th century Malaya of the White Rajahs than it does with the present.
From journal Kuching, the Cat City