As you stroll along the waterfront in Kuching, look across the river on the northern end and you will see this stately building. This is The Astana, or The Palace in local Sarawakian dialect. It used to be the landmark on the other side, but has now been eclipsed by the giant Dewan Undangan Negeri under construction.
The Astana has a romantic beginning as it was built by the second White Rajah of Sarawak, Charles Brooke, in 1870 as a bridal gift to his wife Margaret Alice Lili de Windt. Charles Brooke, then 40 years of age, returned to England and on 28th October 1869, married Margaret, who was 20 years his junior. He had considered it his royal duty to produce a male heir. Margaret was given the title Ranee Margaret. However, she did not stay there all the time as she preferred the life in London and she and Charles lead separate lives.
The Astana is now the official residence of the Yang di Pertua (Head of State) of Sarawak. Entry is not allowed but visitors can cross over on a tambang boat to view it from upclose. However the view from across the river is best. The Astana consists of 3 separate buildings which are connected by narrow passageways. There is a car park outside the palace gates and many residents from the other side of Kuching park their cars here and cross over using the tambang boats instead. The supposedly beautiful gardens outside the Astana has become an eyesore. The viewing tower is closed and some planks on the boardwalk are missing.
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