Colonial buildings and modern skyscrapers meet in Kuching, the capital of Malaysian Borneo, giving it a cosmopolitan yet old-world feel. It's a hub for exploring Borneo's rainforests and discovering the island's incredible wildlife. This proximity to nature also makes it the perfect base for outdoors adventures; you can go hiking in the rainforest, canoeing along crocodile-filled rivers and scuba diving in the ocean. After an adrenaline-pumping day, relax with a beer in one of the city's many contemporary bars.
You can expect a Kuching hostel to have plenty of social spaces. Make the most of the weather on rooftop decks, splash around in swimming pools or hang around indoors in games rooms and on-site bars. Some offer a free simple breakfast and the large majority provide Wi-Fi. Kuching hostels include modern buildings with sleek minimalist bedrooms, traditional homes with heritage furniture and places with quirky designs, including one with superhero-themed décor. A few are out of town in the rainforest, with tropical fruit trees in the garden.
Kuching Waterfront is the heart of the city, with a 900m-long promenade lined with street food stalls and riverside bars. It also has a bazaar selling crafts, spices and souvenirs. The Petra Jaya neighbourhood is just across the Sarawak River and has a local Malaysian vibe. It's pretty relaxed, with lots of small eateries serving Malay meals. For the best nightlife, head to Jalan Song Thian Cheok: this area is packed with pubs and clubs where you can sample craft beer and cocktails, as well as try out a few international restaurants.
There's plenty to do here, including checking out the quirky hilltop Kuching Cat Museum, full of feline-themed knick-knacks. It's worth visiting for the views of the city alone. Some of the most exciting things to see are outside of town. You can watch orangutans in their natural habitat at Semenggoh Nature Reserve, about 20km south or 30 minutes by car. The park rangers feed the animals twice a day, in the morning and afternoon. For more adventure, head into Bako National Park to hike and to spot proboscis monkeys, with their bizarrely long noses.
Kuching International Airport is about 20 minutes' drive from downtown and Kuching Sentral Bus Terminal is right beside the airport. Here, you can get express buses to other parts of Borneo, as well as public transport into the city. The centre is small enough to stroll around on foot, though if you want to go further, look for the bright green City Public Link buses. Taxis are widely available too and are usually reasonably priced with meters.