SARIKEI: Sarikei is a bustling riverside town with the mighty Rajang River flowing next to it, and is not called the ‘Fruit Basket’ of Sarawak for no reason. Its iconic pineapples are something the town should be proud of for their crunchiness and sweetness are unlike other pineapple species.
But the town is not only producing its famed pineapples but also other fruits such as green oranges, bananas, mangoes, corns and watermelons.
Being a vital agricultural centre, a visit to Sarikei would be incomplete without a trip to the wet market.
Hence, the Borneo Post Adventure Team 6 (BAT6) visited the wet market to have a look.
The wet market serves as a main trading centre for the local farmers to sell their produce such as kangkung, pumpkins and chillies.
Besides fruits and vegetables, there are stalls selling fruit saplings, potted flower plants and clothes as well, making the market a one-stop centre for the local communities.
Driving around the town, we realised that it is no less vibrant than the market itself.
It is easy to find fast food outlets such as Sugar Bun, KFC, Pizza Hut and even Pezzo.
When there are many traditional Foochow foods such as kampua, mee sua and kompia available around Sarikei, most foodies would not have a second glance at these fast food.
For those visiting Sarikei for the first time, do not be surprised that a big cup of hot drink in the coffeeshop costs only RM1. Furthermore, there is no such thing as small cup of hot drink like coffee or tea because they only serve one size of beverage.
The town is definitely fast growing as it has opened its doors to international retail outlets such as ShareTea, Guardian, Watsons personal care stores, The Body Shop and Blackball-original Taiwanese tea and dessert.
We also noticed a row of Bodhi trees at the town centre. The Bodhi tree is easily distinguished by its heart-shaped leaves. It was under the tree that Buddha was said to have attained enlightenment.
Slowly leaving Sarikei town centre, we passed a few birdhouses along the way. They are hard to miss as the buildings are dull-looking without any window except for tiny holes. It is at these birdhouses that swiftlets nests are harvested and processed.
Sarikei is well connected to Pakan town which is about 35 km away. Along the way, oil palm trees and pepper vines line the road.
The humble town of Pakan consists of five blocks of concrete shophouses. The town is seemingly quiet in the afternoon except for some stalls set up for the Ramadan.
Normally, these small towns are vibrant in the morning. Perhaps that is the reason Pakan looked quiet when we visited it in the late afternoon.
Pakan is now well served by a good road network which will further enhance connectivity in this rural area. Such improvement in road connectivity will benefit major towns such as Sarikei and Sibu as the people will easily get there to sell their produce as well as to buy their necessities.
The future of Sarikei
With better road connectivity, Sarikei is poised to become an even more important agriculture hub in the near future with a plan afoot to connect it to Tanjung Manis. And with the completion of the Pan Borneo Highway, Sarikei’s role as an important agriculture hub would be further enhanced.
According to Kuala Rajang assemblyman and Assistant Minister of Workforce Development and Training Datu Len Talif Salleh, the state government has approved a link road covering a distance of 18 km from Sarikei to Tanjung Manis via Bintangor.
Len said this is in line with the state government’s plan to fully utilise Tanjung Manis’ deep sea port. With the recent completion of the RM1 billion water supply project, he said Tanjung Manis is now ready to play its role as a vital nerve centre and export point for products from the central region including Sibu, Kapit, Song, Kanowit.
Apart from that, it will also be the export point for Sarikei which also has a rich hinterland such as Julau, Pakan, Saratok, Betong, Lubok Antu and Engkilili which are well known as major producers of oil palm, pepper and rubber.
It is hoped that in the next five years, when the proposed road connecting Sarikei, Bintangor and Tanjung Manis is completed, the town will play an even vital role as an important trading centre. And with the Pan Borneo Highway, Sarikei is expected to be more vibrant as it is already among the most important growing towns in the state.