Carpenter Street – Iconic and vibrant

General view of Carpenter Street in Kuching. Photos: Mohd Alif Noni

Nestled in the heart of Kuching, Carpenter Street is one of the city’s most iconic and vibrant streets, steeped in rich history and heritage.

These days, the area houses not only an array of decades-old establishments easily identified by their faded vintage signboards but also several new businesses which have organically settled in.

Beautiful place for ones who love to take pictures and street photography enthusiasts.

Despite these fresh additions, much of the street’s authentic charm has been well preserved over the years. Taking a stroll down Carpenter Street can often feel like one has travelled back in time.

Lining this street are stores and small traders offering a wide variety of products. Among these are goldsmiths, tinsmiths, traditional Chinese medicine stores, hardware shops, frame-makers, furniture shops, and more.

In addition to these, numerous eateries and hawker stalls are serving delectable local favourites. Some of these hawkers have handed down treasured family recipes from generation to generation.

Also found here are two Chinese temples and the iconic Harmony Arch which marks the entrance to the street. 

Carpenter Street is almost constantly bustling with activity at any given time, with most of its businesses operating during the day while bars and dinner locales open up in the evenings.

As the area is so promising and popular among locals and tourists alike, it is no wonder that thoughts on its development are raised from time to time.

One such recent idea came from Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, who suggested that Carpenter Street should be converted into a walking path with motorised traffic only permitted during certain periods in a day.

He hoped that this proposal would be realised in the future, while also suggesting that a roof could be constructed over the street to provide shade for pedestrians – similar to the one set up at India Street.

“The area has witnessed many changes over the past 200 years of its history and it is indeed an important community in Sarawak. Apart from being a historically significant political and economic centre, it also possesses a unique cultural heritage.

“Today, Kuching Old Bazaar has become one of the must-visit destinations for tourists to Kuching,” said Abdul Karim when launching of the Kuching Old Bazaar project at Carpenter Street here recently.

New Sarawak Tribune spoke to several establishments along Carpenter Street as well as members of the public to hear their opinions on these suggestions.

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Juliana Embrose.
Juliana Embrose, owner of Juliana Native Handwork

I welcome the proposal as more people would come to Carpenter Street and it would also be safer for pedestrians. It will help to further promote Carpenter Street and get people to know more about what the traders are doing here. Singapore has Bugis Street, Kuala Lumpur has Jalan TAR and Petaling Street, and Melaka has Jonker Street – so why can’t we do it here too?

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Trudy Tan.
Trudy Tan, owner of Indah Café

I believe this is a good idea, especially if there are plans to replicate something like Jonker Street in Melaka. But of course, the quality of things on sale and the composition of shops here would make a difference – there needs to be some cultural elements to it.

“If this project is implemented, I hope it would encourage more businesses to come in. At the same time, consideration needs to be put towards who the target market is and what is the attraction for people to visit.”

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Kelly Ho.
Kelly Ho, manager at Hong Lou Bistro Sdn Bhd

I think it is a good idea to encourage more people to come here. It may also help to boost tourism efforts. If the street is converted into a walking trail, tourists and locals can walk safely without having to worry about vehicles and snatch thieves.

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Roy Timban.
Roy Timban, chef at Pinggai Café

Converting Carpenter Street into a pedestrian walkway would be a good move as many tourists visit this area. This is an old street so if it is revamped, people would surely love to visit and see the new attraction. It will certainly be safer as well, seeing that this road is quite narrow and cars park along the sides of the road. It would be better not to allow cars to enter the street, like at India Street.

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Lisa Ikram.
Lisa Ikram, 28, Corporate communications officer

Turning Carpenter Street into a roofed pedestrian trail is not a bad idea, given the harsh weather conditions. However, I feel that this would cause the loss of that traditional essence of the street as one of Kuching’s main tourist spots.

“People will have differing opinions on the matter since Carpenter Street has been known for its history and culture. If the developer can come up with methods to maintain that culture, this plan might be a success.

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Shorhana Iylia Shah Iszhan.
Shorhana Iylia Shah Iszhan, 20, Student

It would be an incredible idea to turn Carpenter Street into a pedestrian trail since all the shops are located close to each other and it will not be that much of a burden for people to take a walk. It would also be easier for pedestrians as they don’t need to be anxiously looking out for cars or motorcycles coming from any direction. This change will attract tourists and locals to visit the street as they can enjoy strolling while taking pictures of the vintage buildings around them.