I'd just stepped outside into the 36 degree heat and humidity when my phone rang. It was my wife back in New Zealand, where the weather was wet and cold.
We had a quick chat about various things and then she told me our new cat, Otis, described by the SPCA as "a handsome gentleman with a sense of adventure" seemed to be missing me. And had taken to tearing up the furniture.
I stopped her.
"Darling, I've really had enough of cats right now," I said.
I was standing outside the Cat Museum near Kuching, the capital of Sarawak, and had just seen more cat statuary, posters, trinkets and artwork than in the many previous decades of my life.
Kuching is close to the Malay word for cat, and it may have been there was an abundance of felines around this region along the edge of the Sarawak River. Another theory is the place was named for a particular fruit (mata kucing) which, according to some, looks like cats' eyes.
Either way, attractive and sprawling Kuching - population around 500,000 although you'd never know it in the quaint central area - has embraced its cat association. At various intersections there are plaster or cement statues of cats (some cute, some idiotically ugly) and the animals wander freely through open-air restaurants, bars, cafes and shops. In many small stores there are shelves of cats carved from wood or moulded from plaster.
Cats everywhere. And soooo cute.
The crowning glory in this cat obsession, however, is the Kuching Cat Museum, located in a commanding building north of the river. This towering place on top of a hill is enormous and impressive . . . but when taxi drivers or tour guides point and say "Cat Museum", that's a little misleading.
The museum occupies only a corner of the ground floor of this municipal hall and office block, but they sure cram in a lot of cat stuff.
The Cat Museum was transferred to Sarawak on the north coast of Borneo from Kuala Lumpur on Peninsula Malaysia in 1988 and officially opened here five years later.
Since then anything cat-related - and I do mean anything - seems to have found a place in it.
The room of movie posters illustrates this at its most bizarre. Aside from a single word in the title, what's the connection between the films Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Cat People, The Owl and the Pussycat, What's New Pussycat? and The Cat Burglar?
Labels: Kuching, Sarawak Museum