Culture and city brands of Sarawak had a shot in the arm over the weekend, thanks to a new festival which came to town.
The launch of the inaugural Rainforest Fringe Festival (RFF) in Kuching, has proven to be a boost for Sarawak tourism, art, fashion, food and culture, thanks to festival director Joe Sidek, who has for close to a decade, placed George Town in Penang on the world map of festivals.
The ten-day RFF serves as a prelude to the world-famous Rainforest World Music Festival which sees visitors from all over the world converge on Sarawak.
Tourism arrivals into the state last weekend included visitors from Singapore (like Val), Kuala Lumpur (Shireen and her entourage on the Kuching Express) and Penang (Ed and the festive-making Stuart).
RFF’s exciting ten—day programme includes highlights such as the spectacular fashion extravaganza (SARAWAK: Theatre of Clothes), an entertaining musical showcase (Sada Kamek: Music of Sarawak), various engaging art and photography exhibitions, eye-catching mixed media art showcases, a myriad of products at the craft and vintage market, internationally acclaimed film and documentary screenings, and various talks.
Apart from taking in all the festival related events beyond the heritage-rich and charming Old Courthouse building, visitors were also treated to warm Kuching hospitality wherever they turned.
Carol and I were touched by Joanna and Jit’s warmth in feeding us in the middle of Chinatown and later being given a lightning tour (by Jit) of the elegant Ranee heritage boutique hotel.
Kuching sunsets are as spectacular and colourful as her famed “kek lapis” (layer cake) and what a joy it has been for Ed, Carol and I to take in the gorgeous “paintings in the sky” all weekend and consider ourselves blessed.
The generosity of Jason & Ronald in sharing their favourite spots for Laksa Sarawak with us are reason enough to return to this vibrant city. Our touristy and less discerning standards saw us make a beeline for the cafe overlooking the river for what we thought was great laksa!
Thank you to Nabin, the friendly and articulate waiter at The Granary who made us feel welcome for brunch more than once at the trendy cafe. Yvonne from The Marian, is another of the city’s great envoys whose tour of the newly-opened The Marian Boutique Lodging House has left us hatching (more) plans to return to Kuching.
The black and white-themed Marian is touted as Kuching’s very first heritage boutique lodging accommodation and a sister property of the Ranee Boutique Suites.
It was once a pre-war family mansion that later became the all-girls St.Mary’s boarding house and the diocesan centre for Kuching’s St. Thomas Cathedral.
The little detours we made to spots such as these over the weekend were proof enough that the fringe festival and the people of Kuching have what it takes in making the city and its sights a happy place to be.
This art of creative place-making can do with the goodwill of tourism industry players like airlines, hotels, event venues and the continuous support of the Sarawak state authorities in getting their brands a prominent spot in festivals such as the RFF, in exchange for VIP perks at the event.
Thank you Joe Sidek for gently reminding Malaysians that culture and traditions do not need to be compromised or forgotten, as cultural diversity and inclusiveness continue to be celebrated!