Sibu and Sarikei have their charm that will definitely make for a memorable trip to East Malaysia.
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For most tourists who are itching to visit Sarawak, Sibu and Sarikei are not the usual places that come to mind. While they do not have stunning beaches or impressive mountain ranges, there is no lack of culture and heritage to be found in these quaint, “ordinary” cities.
Here’s why you should visit them anyway.
Home to 162,676 people, this lovely city will charm its way into your heart with its rich cultural heritage, unique local activities, and mouth-watering food.
1. Tua Pek Kong Temple
You do not want to miss out on this local attraction! Besides its vibrant colours and striking architecture, the Tua Pek Kong Temple is popular for being the oldest Chinese temple in the town with a 7-storey pagoda. It is visited by many locals and tourists who are in search of spiritual enlightenment.
At the entrance of the Tua Pek Kong Temple, you’ll find a 100-year-old Rain Tree. Yes, you’re right. That’s basically a century! This Rain Tree is considered an emblem of longevity to the locals who often visit the temple to pray for a long and better life.
2. Traditional Hand-pulled Mee Sua
Sibu is well-known for their Foochow dishes, and the top of that list is the Mee Sua Longevity Noodles. The noodles are made of sago and wheat flour, and are usually served on birthdays, during Chinese New Year and other special occasions.
At 6 ½ miles, Jalan Oya, you get to put your culinary skills to the test and experience how this traditional hand-pulled Mee Sua is made from scratch. Don’t worry, Mr. Ting Cheng Sieng and his wife will be there in case you need professional assistance.
3. Sibu Night Market
What better way to get to know locals if not by visiting the local Sibu night market. There’s a wide range of food options available at the night markets, ranging from Chinese delights such as steamy buns and handmade dim sum to Malay fare such as perfectly barbecued satay.
Savour the taste of local delights while shopping for household items, clothing, shoes and more at affordable prices. The stalls normally start setting up at about 5pm and operate until 10pm. Just in time for you to grab a couple of post-dinner snacks!
Fun Fact: While you stroll around Sibu town, take a peek into the drain. You might just find yourself staring at a 3-foot long crocodile. After all, the town is located at the confluence of the Rajang and Igan Rivers.
Known as the Fruit Basket of Sarawak, this riverside town is located on the banks of the famous Rajang River and is just an hour drive from Sibu.
1. Central Sarikei Market
Of course, as the Fruit Basket of Sarawak, a trip to the local market goes without saying. The Central Sarikei Market has over 400 stalls selling an array of items that are either home grown, foraged or crafted by locals. The market opens at 7am and stays busy till 1pm.
At the market you’ll be able to spot exotic fruits and vegetables, crafts and wares, snacks, souvenirs, you name it! Besides the unique shopping experience, you will also be able to mingle with the locals and try some of the things that they are selling that you can’t get elsewhere in the world.
2. Rumah Nguka Longhouse
Although there are many longhouses in Sarawak, the Iban Longhouse in Sarikei is the most popular. Not only is this longhouse home to 300 people from 45 families, it also houses 9 skulls from the Lubok Lemba community.
Yes, you read that right. I’m talking about 9 human skulls that were gathered during the headhunting period in the early 1800s, and passed down from generation to generation.
At present, there are still native folks that are currently residing in this historical landmark. The longhouse is made entirely of ‘Belian’ wood aka Borneo Ironwood, which is known for its unmatched durability. It is so durable that it can even withstand attacks from termites!
3. Wong Pala Munsoh
This waterfall, which looks like it was taken right out of a scene from The Lord of the Rings, is the reward you get after embarking on a 2 hour long jungle trail. Do note that this duration may vary from person to person depending on your stamina and sheer willpower.
On the jungle trail, you get to enjoy the abundance of nature in our tropical Bornean rainforest. You might even come across the famous Belian tree and unique fruits such as salak or snake fruit. The jungle trail is usually accompanied by a local guide, so you don’t have to worry much about getting lost (as long as you keep up).
Fun Fact: Did you know that Sarikei produces 80% of Sarawak’s world-famous pepper? It is also one of the major suppliers of fruits and vegetables for the Central Region.
Sibu and Sarikei are two truly underrated gems of Sarawak. Whether you’re planning to get in touch with nature, or experience a taste of local life in Sarawak, these two cities are sure to have something special for you.