Sunday, September 26

A weekend in Sibu


SIBU: After travelling on the road for six days with our Isuzu (which we christened as ‘the BAT mobile’), we ran out of clean clothes and were beginning to sense the somewhat pungent aroma from our individual bodies despite our best efforts.

INSIDE AN EXPRESS BOAT: Business class passengers on an express boat to Kapit.

COMMON SCENE: A busy morning at the Sibu express boat terminal.

COLOURFUL SELECTION: Customers browsing for necklaces at the Sibu night market.

It was with much relief when the town of Sibu appeared on the horizon sometime mid-Saturday afternoon. After checking into Premier Hotel, we dropped off our dirty laundry at a laundry shop just down the road. Then it was back to the hotel where we set up base on the ground floor café and proceeded to pound out the day’s stories from our trip earlier, much to the amusement of the staff and other hotel guests.

Filing stories while on the road presents a unique set of challenges. Sometimes we were not able to return to our hotel on time to file stories before our daily deadline, so we are always on the look-out for friendly coffeeshop owners who don’t mind having three ‘slightly smelly’ reporters and a photographer parked in their shop and using the shop’s electricity supply to power their laptops for a few hours.

Of course, we usually end up ordering quite a few drinks while doing our work, so the shop owners also benefit from having us there.

We are also grateful to Celcom for sponsoring our two broadband modems. Without their services, it would be very difficult for us to send our stories and photos back to our office in Kuching while on the road.

After dinner on Saturday night, we made our way to the Sibu night market located just behind our hotel.

Even at that late hour, the market was still a busy hub of activities. Locals know that this is the place to come to if one is in search of cheaply priced items and imitation goods sporting well-known brand names: handbags, clothing, watches, jewelry, sunglasses, home decorations and just about everything.

The next morning, we had a filling breakfast at the hotel before walking over to the Sibu central wet market. Some people say that it is the largest wet market in Sarawak, maybe even in Malaysia.

Indeed, the sight, sounds and smells of the wet market are impressive. Even though the whole market was experiencing a power outage that morning, it was crowded with locals buying supplies for the week.

An interesting thing about this market is that there are no clearly identified trading areas for certain products to be sold. Indeed, some vendors seemed to sell whatever they wanted leading to some rather eclectic selections of wares on display. All this adds to the overall charm of the market.

The ground floor area is generally reserved for selling fresh meat, fish and produce while upstairs is allocated for food stalls and retail shops. Most of the retail shops were selling clothing and shoes. Some shops specialise in selling reasonably priced quality used clothing imported from overseas such as Japan.

After that, we headed off to another local landmark nearby– the 114-year old Sibu Eng Ann Teng Tua Peh Kong temple. This large temple is a popular destination for visitors because of its impressive tiered pagoda.

Sibu is still an important stop for travellers and trade along the Rejang River. We could see a number of large boats which serve as floating supermarkets to rural communities along the river, waiting to be taken out for trading purposes along the river.

After our visit, we met up with Raymond Tan, our colleague from The Borneo Post Sibu office for a very satisfying lunch of Foochow noodles. Indeed, it would be almost a crime not to indulge in the local delicacies before leaving this colourful and interesting town.