When British adventurer James Brooke first crossed the Kuching River and entered the Malaysian city that was to later share the name, he spotted a large wild cat along the bank. In the Malay tongue, kuching means “cat,” and thus the river and the city were so named.
At least that’s one of the legends about how the city and river first got their names. However, the reality of how Kuching got its name is not quite that romantic. As it turns out, Kuching was named after a tidal stream called the Kuching River (Sungai Kuching) that ran between the present-day Tua Pek Kong Temple and the Chinese History Museum. The stream originated from Cat’s Eye Hill (Bukit Mata Kuching) where there was an abundance of a local fruit called green longan, better known locally as Cat’s Eye (Mata Kuching.) The stream no longer exists, as it was filled up to make way for the construction of Temple Street in 1928, but its name lives on in the city itself.
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