KUCHING, Oct 1 — The Sarawak Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry wants to turn the Kuching Old Bazaar area into a major tourism spot to attract domestic and foreign tourists, its minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said today.
“This is where the old Kuching was born and where the commercial centre was first started,” he told reporters after a soft launch of Kuching Old Bazaar: Cultural Mapping and Tourism Promotion programme.
He said his ministry plans to elevate the Kuching Old Bazaar to be on par with Singapore’s Chinatown, Penang’s George Town and Melaka’s Jonker Walk.
Karim said the cultural mapping will also be extended to Padungan, with old buildings there also constructed many decades ago.
In his speech earlier, he thanked the Kuching Old Market Community Association for submitting a proposal to him in April 2019 on the conservation of the Kuching Old Bazaar area.
“After the soft launching ceremony today, serious work will start and hopefully the outcome will be delivered in five-month time where we will officially launch the Kuching Old Bazaar in February next year,” he said.
Karim said within the Kuching Old Bazaar area, there are around 200 traditional shophouses with the Main Bazaar to the North, Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg to the West, Jalan Green Hill to the East and St Mary School that marks the southern boundary and in between, the popular Carpenter Street.
“Being in the centre of the old Kuching district, there are rapid changes in recent years with old traditional trades disappearing and many old residents slowly moving out from the area.
“Therefore, we see the urgency of preserving and conserving our tradition and heritage. There is a need to review and rejuvenate the old Kuching district. We need to bring back life and activities to the area,” he said.
On the Kuching Old Bazaar: Cultural Mapping and Tourism Promotion programme, Karim said it is a systematic compilation of the intangible heritage, by recording the oral history from residents, as well as collecting historical written record and photos from over 100 years of history.
He said this in-depth undertaking will involve current and past residents, business traders, community associations in the area, as well as old newspaper and the official record, dating back to the Brooke era.
He added that the study will be conducted in collaboration with well-known researchers, historians and universities in Sarawak.
“Using the information from the cultural mapping study, we aim to produce a series of promotional material including a historical booklet, four tourism brochures and five promotional videos, which will be promoted through Kuching Old Bazaar website and social media platforms as well as Street Arts presentation,” he said.