Wednesday, January 22

Kuching – the city of myriad festivals!

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Photo shows the popular Kuching Food Festival.

WITHIN a period of less than 10 years, the city of Kuching has seen a tremendous growth in traffic jams with more vehicles on the roads, hundreds of new eateries, dozens of new shopping malls and complexes – and most of all, a glittering array of new or annual events – festivals, runs (marathons, joggathons, walkathons) and zumba, jazz dance, and other sporting and charitable events.

The list, to say the least, is really mind-boggling!

I reckon that hardly a single weekend goes by without at least two or three or even up to a dozen such events being held within the city limits, at convention halls and in stadiums. They run the whole gamut of charitable ‘raising funds for a purpose’ to ‘healthy wellness’ programmes to pure entertainment. Even high end programmes are now the craze – literary offerings, book fairs and film festivals.

The most popular locations and sites for these events and special purpose fairs and fests range from the Waterfront – more suited to the mass appeal water regattas and events promoting local handicrafts and shows that appeal to the folks from across the river and around the ‘kampongs’, as well as those city dwellers and suburban folk. It seems that out of 52 weeks in a year, more than half of the time the entire waterfront esplanade is occupied with one kind of fair or another promotional special. They always seem to bring in the crowd and the inner city roads will be gridlocked for that period of time when such events are happening.

But surely that’s a fair price to pay, you might say?

Then there are the purpose-built event halls of the major international 4 or 5-star hotels; and the higher-end places like the High Court Complex, the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) as well as MBKS Stadium and the former Jubilee Ground, the Amphitheatre, the newer Borneo 744 and many more.

We seem to have enough facilities with halls and venues to be able to accommodate all these events, fairs and festivals.

I am rather impressed with the organisational skills of our local talents – from the event management teams to the companies providing canopies and tents and high-end air-conditioned enclosures as well as to the AV suppliers – who manage both sound and visual professionally and more than adequately. It wasn’t so long ago that we had trouble with just sourcing ‘porta-loos’ (ie mobile toilets!).

I have encountered locals who were commissioned to work on huge festivals and other exhibition projects away from Kuching –in even bigger cities. It just goes to show that we have the skills, the talented people and expertise to be able to secure sizable contracts outside our own local comfort zone. We are as good as anyone else anywhere in the world today.

At any given time if you were to look up the events section of Facebook for happenings around your vicinity or area where you reside, you would be astonished to find out that there is a lot going on. There are events, fairs, festivals and promotional activities within a half hour or even just 15 minutes away from your place of abode.

Even within a small area or building, like recently, at the Old Courthouse Kuching along the corridors, within the many purpose build rooms and halls there were events like exhibitions, plays, readings, film shows and music entertainment – all happening within hours or a day or two within one another. Everything’s well planned out, professionally done and certainly of an international standard!

Believe it or not, many of these happenings are free of charge to the public for them to view, visit or be entertained. Others may just cost some token amount.

We are also fortunate that within the last few years we have had a handful of very helpful, well written and edited publications, most of them free as well, and available to the public at strategic locations like supermarkets, upper-end bistros and eateries, clubs and petrol kiosks and most shopping malls and public places.

I can name some of them here. I’ll start with KINO which stands for ‘Kuching In and Out’ – a brainchild of Marian Chin, it has been in existence for more than 6 years and is circulated free at many places. Check it out at https://www.kuchinginandout.com/e-magazine for a free e-magazine.

It is a bi-monthly and has information of all important events, fairs and festivals as well as tips on everything interesting in and around Kuching. Its many featured articles are well researched, expertly written and most informative. All the photos are original and in full colour. Unmissable.

Then there’s ‘Happenings in Sarawak’ – http://www.happeningsarawak.com/.

This is another well printed and widely circulated magazine, mostly available at airports and touristy places like hotels and the likes. This has information on Sarawak as a whole and is also a useful diary of what’s going on and interesting material on places to visit, things to see and do, food and drinks offerings. Another must-not-miss regular publication.

The Sarawak Tourism Board publishes and prints in the three main languages of Malay, Chinese and English, useful brochures, leaflets and info-sheets on all the tourist attractions throughout the country. Its many flyers would also promote special events and festivals. You can pay their office a visit at the newly occupied building known as Plaza Aurora on the 4th level. It’s just next to Merdeka Plaza and faces the St Thomas’s Cathedral at Jalan MacDougall in downtown Kuching.

As someone who has lived most of his life in Kuching, besides working away for a number of years, I must say that living in this small city of less than 650,000 people, it has a lot going for it. We’re getting a small sized city with big dreams and enough talented people with exposure to the world of the arts and crafts, entertainment and information, IT-savvy and yet still not too ‘hoity toity’ to have their noses stuck up in the air, or having airs about themselves.

It’s great to live in a city full of life, love and laughter, small enough for us to know each other, but big enough to escape away from the madding crowd if need be. Kuching – my city of myriad festivals, there’s none quite like you. Amen.