Key essence of a small town’s experience


The Terasang Market, with its lovely Chinese-influenced architecture.

A TRIP to Kapit would not be complete without going to the Terasang Market and Gelanggang Kenyalang.

These two must-visit areas are where one can truly feel that small town’s hustle-and-bustle as hawkers, farmers and the visitors fill the air with shouts for offers and bargains, and laughter.

Owned and run by the Kapit District Council, Gelanggang Kenyalang is a double-story building, with a triangular layout, at Jalan Tong Ung Hua in the heart of the town.

On its ground floor, there are 30 stalls offering Muslim, vegetarian, Chinese and Dayak food and beverages, while on the first floor, there are also 30 registered units for Bumiputera entrepreneurs to run their respective trades.

Photo shows the outside frontal view of Gelanggang Kenyalang.

Food, beverages galore

Just like other marketplaces in Sarawak, Gelanggang Kenyalang offers a wide variety of food and beverages to the visitors. From the popular breakfast fares of ‘roti canai’ and ‘teh tarik’, ‘mee Jawa’, ‘mee kari’ and ‘nasi lemak’, to local favourites like fried mee, meehoon or kuetiaw, ‘nasi ayam penyet’ and ‘nasi campur’, accompanied with the sweet ‘ais batu campur’, sugarcane juice, iced coffee or iced tea.

Nurbaizura Abdullah is the third-generation roti canai seller operating at the market. She has inherited the roti-making skills from her mother, who had earlier inherited them from her mother.

An order of regular roti canai at her stall goes for RM3.50, while a ‘roti telur’ (addition of egg) is RM5 – each meal served with a bowl of chicken curry with a dollop of sambal.

“Business has been good, the demand is high. On average, I sell between 100 and 150 pieces every day,” says Nurbaizura with a smile.

Nurbaizura welcomes you to try her deep-fried roti canai, served with curry and sambal.

Hub of local produce

After satisfying their hunger and thirst with a hearty helping of roti canai and teh tarik, the visitors can simply walk over to the Terasang Market, a mere five-minute stroll away.

Also a double-story building, its ground floor houses the wet market while on the first floor, there are units that house beauty salons, general stores, tailoring shops, and premises selling food and drinks.

The wet market exhibits wide varieties of jungle produce such as the ‘kechala’, ‘miring’, ‘daun sapun’, ‘bako’, ‘daun masam’, ‘ensabi’, ‘terung Iban’ and ‘buah bedai’, as well as freshwater fish species like the ‘tengadak’, ‘mengalang’, ‘ikan padi, ‘labang’ or ‘patin’, ‘lajong; ‘baung’, ‘sakam’ and occasionally, the highly-prized ‘semah’.

There are also traders offering ‘kasam babi’ and ‘kasam ikan’ (pork and fish, fermented with rock salt and a host of herbs and wild vegetables), as well as handicrafts such as wood carvings, the Dayak traditional woven fabric Pua Kumbu, and also beadworks.

A display of jungle produce at the market: (from left) jungle bamboos used to cook chicken or pork over open fire, as well as wild edible leaves of ‘kechala’, ‘sapun’ and ‘bakul’.

There are also traders selling local fruits such as dragon fruit, starfruit, pineapple, banana and guava.

Indicators of prosperity

Kapit District Council chairman Lating Minggang says: “To know how prosperous Kapit is, just visit the Terasang Market or Gelanggang Kenyalang.

“No trip to Kapit is complete without visiting these two places!”

View of the bustling food court at Gelanggang Kenyalang.

According to him, Terasang Market replaces the old ‘Pasar Terabai’, which could no longer accommodate the growing number of traders soon after the completion of roads connecting the rural longhouses to the town.

Officially open to the public in 2000, Terasang Market operates daily, with some traders opening their stalls as early as 5am.

The wet market, or ‘tamu’, houses some 100 traders who travel daily to the market from their longhouses, bringing with them fresh jungle produce and food. Overall, there are around 200 traders operating at the market.

“For any visitor outside Sarawak, the Terasang Market is undoubtedly an eye-opener, because it is where they can see some of the jungle fruits that they have never seen or known before.

“Thus, the market is indeed an interesting place in Kapit that is worth a visit,” says Lating, also singing praises of the offerings available at Gelanggang Kenyalang.

He says the council places very strict standards of hygiene and orderliness on both markets, to ensure that these places would stay clean, neat and presentable.

“Cleanliness is particularly important because it is the very first thing that any visitor would base their first impression on,” stresses Lating.

‘Worth the trip’

Simon Wong is among many Sibu folks who are willing to endure over three hours of driving, at least once a week, just to go to the Terasang Market and look for the wild vegetables and fish that they cannot get in their hometown.

“Many of these things are not available in Sibu,” says Wong.

“Yes, I do admit that the prices of the freshwater fish in Kapit are very expensive, compared to those caught in the sea.

“I’d say the folks in Kapit are ‘orang kaya’ (rich people)” he quips.

Loh Ming Hua is one of the freshwater fish sellers at Terasang Market. He opens his stall at 6am every day, offering to customers the catch of the day supplied to him by the local fishermen.

“I sell many types; usually, the smaller ones, I sell at the market, while the bigger catch, I would have them frozen to be sold outside Kapit.”

There is a wide variety of fish at Loh’s stall: there are ‘patin’, ‘lajong’, ‘tengadak’, ‘mengalang’ and ‘padi’, and also the highly-prized ‘empurau’ and ‘semah’.

An array of freshwater fish on sale at Terasang Market, such as (from left) ‘padi’, ‘mengalang’, ‘baung’ and ‘labang’.

The mere mention of the last two freshwater species translates to very high prices.

Loh determines the prices based on weight, and also on demand.

A mature ‘empurau’ weighing 3.5kg and above, would go for at least RM900; a ‘semah’ weighing around 1kg would sell for RM250; while ‘labang’ of about the same weight would be tagged at RM120.