Malaysia is a major world producer and exporter of pepper, producing around 25,000 tonnes anually, of which 98% is grown in Sarawak. High quality Sarawak pepper on various forms and packagings and a host of pepper-based products are widely available in Kuching.
What to buy: Many of the shops in Main Bazaar offer various products made from Sarawak's two well-renowned produce, ie. pepper and sago extracted from the nipah palms grown wild in the lush swampy coastal areas.
Some pepper-based products are biscuits, sweet, powder and in ground form.
What to pay: Price depends on the grade and types of pepper. White pepper is more superior and expensive than black pepper. Pay about RM10 to RM12 for a pack of 5 small bottles of pepper of 40g each. Prices are quite standard. However, you can get a better deal if you buy more.
What to buy:
Most of the handicraft, souvenir, curio and antique shops can be found along the Main Bazaar. Must-buy souvenirs should include handwoven Pua Kumbu (ceremonial blanket), traditional headgear, Sarawak mats, blowpipes, pottery, wood carvings and the Orang Ulu beads and beadwork.
Those interested to know more about the craft of Sarawak can drop by at the Sarawak Craft Council which is located at the Round Tower, opposite the General Post Office. (See Things to Do tips)
Pepper products are sold at most of the shops here.
Other than shopping for handicrafts and souvenirs, you can also shop at the many travel agencies here. They organise city day tour, visit to long house, national parks / caves.
What to buy:
This is a type of fish very popular among the locals. The meat is tasty but full of fine bones. Be cautious when eating it. It can be grilled or preserved with salt as an appetiser. Some local tourists even packed it frozen to send home. It can be easily found in market stalls or seafood restaurant.
What to pay: 3 salted Terubok fish for RM10
The Main Bazaar is a great place to walk & discover the flavors of Kuching. There are many shops where you can find ingredients for cooking
What to buy: Dried fish is an ingredient in a lot of local dishes. I got a couple of dried shrimps & anchovies to bring home because they cost less than in a supermarket
What to pay: Inexpensive, and they are priced by weight
These salesmen are mostly stationed at the sidewalk and have large signs to attract customers. I don't know who would have the nerve to actually walk up & buy the items because other people may snicker at them when they approach the stall
What to buy: Gambir is an herb that is also known as the local viagra, is popularly used by men to enhance their sex lives.
You can find some lovely shops selling local crafts in the Main Bazaar and some shops along the Waterfront. Some even bring the whole ethnic feel into their shops by making them look like inside of a longhouse.
What to buy: There are all sorts of local craft but some of my favorite include glass beaded jewelery & decorations, the Pua Kumbu Iban textile, pottery and carvings
What to pay: Some prices are fixed but you can bargain at the shophouses
There are many shops along India Street & the Main Bazaar where the locals shop for all sorts of textiles & accessories at attractive prices.
What to buy: There are many materials to choose from, colorful silks to traditional sarongs.
What to pay: Some shops display the prices but you can always try to bargain
I found shopping for womens clothes for me near on impossible. I am tall (5ft 10) and slim but still couldnt find anything to fit me. Asians bodies are shorter than ours so clothes shopping was a no go for me.
Also I found the kids clothes to be orientated towards the Asian children as they wear lots of frills and gymic type clothes... Not what my kids would wear.
The usual tourist shops selling wood products, placemats, bags, and other items can be found along the road opposite the Waterfront.
There is also a large fish market along the river that can be quite smelly come mid afternoon.
What to buy: You have to some home with an orangutan souvenier of some kind or its not worth going!! Mine was a toy stuffed one for my daughter.
What to pay: I didn't find it to be as cheap as Thailand or Bali.
The main bazzar of Kuching has numerous shops that sell handicrafts and souvenirs. Most are just cheap things, like keyrings and frideg magnets, but you can buy furniture and more expensive wooden things, like statues and ornaments.
Main Bazaar are shop houses near the water front where you can buy the Sarawak Matt, Sarawak Layer Cakes, Antiques, Local Craft, Shirts, Pepper and so many other things.
Price is so reasonable here and you can bargain for the price. A few shop here may give you discounted price even if you dont even ask for it.
What to buy: Sarawak Matt , Sarawak Layer Cake (RM18 - Liza brand is delicious), antiques, local craft and even Sarawak pepper.
Along this road you'll find several shops which offer everything from cheap keychains to antique Iban wooden masks and sculptures. Recommended by the locals as the best place to go souvenir shopping.
What to pay: Don't forget to bargain.... you can usually take 30-50% off their initally asking price.
What to buy: Kuching is famous of pepper. I found all sort of food made of pepper, such as cookies, candy, chocolate, even perfume!! There's also local craft which is quite unique but remember to compare the price before you buy.
Would you like to spice up your life? If you answer is YES, shops like these stock a wide range of exotic spices in rich colours. There are different types of curry powder or paste, chillies, tumeric, cinnamon, cardamon - you name it, they've got it ...and more.
To find them, just follow your nose - the aroma of the rich mix of spices on open display will lead you to them.
What to buy: Spices for those curries, marsalas and khurmas.
India Street is one of the oldest street of Kuching. In the early days, Indian merchants conducted their business here. Though most of the shops are now Chinese operated, there are still a number of Indian curry-houses, spice shops and textile merchants here.
Before air-conditioned shoppings began to sprout all over Kuching, India Street was the place to shop for shoes, clothings, textiles & foodstuffs.
The old -style architecture of the shops plus the very local ambience of the place makes it worth a stop.
What to buy: No high-end shopping here, but it's a good place to shop for cloth....if you wish to tailor your own dress ( anybody still do that?)
If your shoes are worn out from a walking tour, this is also the place to get some cheap shoes.
The Main Bazaar (with shops dating back to 1864) along the riverfront is where you will find many interesting shops (tourists and female shoppers take note!) peddling antiques, curios and handicrafts.
If you like, you may put your bargaining skills to test here! There are Old and new antiques, Iban and Bidayuh carvings & handicraft, curios, masks, antique & ethnic jewellery (brass, copper and silver are the most common) and souvenior items.
There are also everyday items (such as plastic pails, wooden clogs, iron woks, Good Morning face towels, brooms, woven mats, etc.) at non-tourist prices.
Some years ago, I bought an interesting silver belt made out of old one-sen coins joined together. It can be worn as a necklace or a belt, and it does add an ethnic touch to my outfits.
What to buy: Iban and Bidayuh handicrafts & weapons
Silver Trinkets, Jewellery
Rattan & wooden crafts
What to pay: Need to bargain and shop around. No fixed prices.