In Borneo, City Pleasures and Jungle Adventure

David Hagerman for The New York Times 

Boating on the Sarawak River in Kuching, with the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly in the background. More Photos »


Published: January 21, 2011

A SNOW-WHITE fortress in the style of the English Renaissance, garnished with crenellations, pepper pot turrets and an octagonal keep, is not quite what you’d expect to find on a steamy bluff overlooking an equatorial river in Malaysian Borneo. But Fort Margherita, built in 1879 by Charles Brooke, the second White Rajah of Sarawak, is just one of the many charms of Kuching, a gracious and kaleidoscopically diverse city of about 600,000 just an hour and a half by air from Singapore.

An amble through its safe, eminently walkable streets will reveal dragon-festooned Chinese temples a few blocks from a 19th-century South Indian mosque; fortresses from the time of the White Rajahs (English rulers of the Kingdom of Sarawak from 1841 to 1941) a short walk from a high-rise district of hotels and icily air-conditioned shopping malls; and chic restaurants that would not be out of place in London a few streets away from open-air stalls redolent with half-a-dozen Asian cuisines.

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