A town by the mighty Rejang River

Rejang River is the longest river in Malaysia, and Sibu town is just along this river.  Apart from the plane, I never see the town and the river from aerial view anywhere else until one day when I was at the mayor’s office.  I’ve been to the mayor’s office many times, but never really step outside the balcony to watch the view because the door was always closed.  What standing between the balcony and the mayor’s office is the transparent glass door.  But the view is blocked by …what do you call that…high fence?… at the balcony.  So, that fateful day, I looked outside, and I thought ‘no wonder people loves skyscrapers’.  It is such a beautiful sight.

So…a little tourist time here.  Sibu is not a city…okay..but it is a developing town.  The town owes much of its growth and prosperity to the mighty Rejang River.  It is a business town, soon to be very busy in the next few years, I believe.  It is a place where the modern world, nature, tradition and culture mixed up together.

Growing up in this town, all I ever know was this is a boring town.  It is…actually, to be honest.  We don’t have Disneyland or beaches or national parks. Sometimes, it got me thinking… What is it about the town that the mayor and those in higher authorities so enthusiastic about?  Why they say that Sibu has great tourism potential? I got to admit, since few years ago, the number of tourists are increasing, though not as many as in the big city, you could still spot one or two foreigners everywhere you go.  To really understand that, I asked myself ‘Do I really need to see Sibu in a tourist perspective?’

At some point, maybe or maybe not.  Since I became a reporter, I met a lot of people, whether from the streets, or from businesses, or from the authorities, I learned a lot from them.  When I went for the job interview, I remember the chief told me ‘Journalism is about growing, you’ll learn more about yourself in this job’. And I believe its true.  And not only I learned more about myself and trying to improve the areas I needed to improve, I learned more about Sibu too.  The town where I grew up.

Being an observer to this town and through many meetings with people, I finally able to see Sibu from another perspective.  Not in a tourist eyes, but in the eyes who had always been a part of community of Sibu.  I realized that the town is full of heritage with interesting history.  I think it is a sad thing that the Education Ministry never encourage the students to learn more about their own town.  It is such an important subject.

A few months ago, the municipal council launched the Sibu Heritage Trail that features the nine heritage sites.  They are Sibu Heritage Centre, Sibu Old Mosque, Warriors Memorial Site, An-Nur Mosque, Oldest Muslim Cemetary, Lau King Howe Hospital Memorial Museum, Hoover Memorial Square, Tua Pek Kong Temple, and Sibu Central Market.  It is part of the council’s effort to promote tourism in the town.

I also realized that the community spirit is very strong.  Because they love the people of Sibu so much, associations established memorial parks with history of the early Sibu.  The town is so rich in culture and heritage, if it went unexplored it would be gone forever.  Nobody will know that Sibu is called the ‘little Foochow’ or it was brought up by Christians missionaries.  It is also a town of cultures and festivals, and famous for its delicious and affordable local cuisine.  From Kampua, Dian Miang Ngu, to Bien Niuk to Kompia…they are the favourite among the locals and tourists.  Given the name as the Swan town, Sibu is steeped in the colourful history of the early Foochow immigrants led by Wong Nai Siong who were in search of a better life.  Today, Sibu is a fascinating and thriving modern town with vibrant centre.

Most importantly… I asked some of the tourists ‘what were their first impression on Sibu town?’ And they always say the same thing ‘The people are so friendly and loving’.  Now that really put the smile on my face.

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Going to City, Back to Nature Trip

I got up from my seat as the bus made a stop at a town about 1am on June 1, 2012  (friday).  Most of them got up and rushed outside the warm dark surrounding.  I was glad it made a stop, I needed to get out from the bus really bad.  It was so cold inside the bus.

I was with other 33 members of the Institute of Rejang Journalists (IRJ) for three days two nights trip to Kuching that day.  Our transportation was on 12 midnight on June 1.  The bus had just made its first pee stop in Jakar Town after an hour travel from Sibu.

Although it has been only an hour traveling, already my body felt so tired and a little lightheaded as I walked outside.  Of course I would.  It was 1am, way past my sleeping time, plus Thursday was a very busy day for me.  My eyes were closing by 9pm and brushing my teeth became a chore.

I woke up early for work that Thursday morning and had not been resting all day.  Went to gym as usual around 6pm that because thinking I might not be able to go to gym for the next few days made me so uneasy.

I love traveling, be it air, road or water, I love them all.  But midnight road trip is my least favourite time to travel.  Because I could not sleep well in the bus.  I did go to bed around 10pm on Thursday night.  I wanted to get some rest, at least for an hour, but it didn’t help much though.

Oh yes, I was glad the bus made a stop.  I needed to stretch my legs a little while and get out from the cold bus.  I got off the bus and looked around.  No toilet available that night.  Everywhere I look, all doors were closed shut.  It was very quiet and somewhat depressing  “Oh man…I cannot believe this.”   I thought, well, it works for guys but not for the ladies.

The guys had gone to the bush to do their stuff, while ladies were still scattered everywhere, thinking, looking around, trying to find a perfect spot.  There was about six hours left to reach our destination and we did not know how long to our next pee stop.  It was either now or hold it for another hour or two.  Most of us chose to do it right away.

I think most of us just wanted to be able to get as comfortable as possible until the next stop.  “Just don’t look..,” a member called out.  Everyone seemed to find their spot and agreed not to look.  Yes, I found mine too.  It was at the small drain just behind the counters of a shop – good enough to block the view.

A group of ladies from the Human Resource Department seemed to find the whole thing quite amusing.  They were laughing and talking and deciding how to do it.  I think they were the loudest that night.  “You go first, I’ll block the view with my jacket.” I heard one of them said.

At that moment, it got me thinking.  Why is it so easy for men, but so difficult for ladies, though we are of course the same sex?  Question mark. I have no answer for that.  About 10 minutes later, everyone was back inside the freezing bus to continue our journey.

The lady sitting beside me was my roommate for the whole trip.  I was just happy that I could push back my seat to 45 degree.  It was not too bad a ride after all.  My roommate kept moving throughout the night.  She lifted up both her legs to her seat and disturbed me.  She took a little bit of my space though and I do not know whether she knew it or not.  I wanted to tell her that, but I wasn’t sure whether I should tell her to move a little.  So I just let it be.

We arrived Kuching about 7am and before started our first programme, we had our breakfast somewhere in Mile 7, Kuching I believe (I’m not familiar with the city).  Perhaps finding something to eat was the second thing most of us had in mind.  Most of the shops were still close at that time.  Everybody was looking for the bathroom.

We had approximately about 45 minutes to start our first programme.  There was a long queue at the nearest bathroom.  We were only given 45 minutes.  Time was so precious that day that I decided to look around for another bathroom.  I went quite far to find vacant bathroom that morning.  At least I did not have to wait.

The most exciting thing about this whole trip was to be able to enjoy the beauty of nature.  Apart from the zoo, I’ve never seen real wildlife in the wild before.  I got to see Orang Utan.  I’ve never seen Orang Utan before and that was my first.  I was as excited as a little girl.  We were in fact on time for the feeding time.  It was amazing to see Orang Utan swinging from tree to tree during feeding time.

I believe the best picture i took throughout the trip.

The place was called Semenggoh Wildlife Centre (SWC).  I do not know how many orang utans were there, but we saw seven of them during feeding hours.  Such lovely creatures.

SWC is not a zoo by the way.  The animals are not kept in cages but are free to roam about the thick, green forest canopy.  When we arrived, two orang utans (a mother and her young) were already in the middle of the excited crowd.  I guess they decided to give the visitors the warmest ‘welcome’ to us outside the entrance.  Opportunity like this does not come very often.

It did seem that they really like the attention.  The crowd was taking pictures of them at every corner possible.  All of us were waiting for the entrance to the feeding point to open while we were watching them.  For the next 20 minutes,  the young entertained the crowd with…well, just being playful.

The young wanted to play with the mother, the mother..well..just let the young did his stuff.   The young got up, and fell down purposely on his back, got up and fell down again and keep repeating.  That little orang utan really put a smile on everyone’s face.

The two orang utans that attracted so many people

In every programme, there is always one which is the main event.  For this year’s IRJ’s trip, it was a trip to Bako National Park on the second day.  Gazetted in 1957, Bako is Sarawak’s oldest national park.  Covering an area of 2,727 hectares, it is one of the smallest national parks in Sarawak, yet one of the most interesting one.

With its rainforest, abundant wildlife, jungle streams, waterfalls, bizzare rock formations, extensive network of trekking trails, there were so many activities to do there.  Spending about three and a half hours at this amazing place…it WASN’T enough.  We were left with our own activities over there.  The tour leader reminded us to gather at the hall for lunch before heading town again.  There, I got to see the famous sea stack in Bako.  It formed like a mighty serpent head.

sea stack that looks like a serpent head

Cruising through the sea with a small boat was extremely fun.  Yeah…the waves were a little bit scary at times, but still, it was an amazing experience.  However, here is the most pathetic part.  I love jungle trekking, but because the time was so limited, I was only able to trek about 45 minutes (trekking 400m to the jungle then back again).  Yes, pathetic.  Because of that, I missed a lot of things.  I didn’t see the wildlife, because I didn’t go deep enough, except wild boar and a few grey monkeys.  I didn’t see the waterfall and they said the waterfall was beautiful.

the grey monkey

Nevertheless, it was a great trip.  A very great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of town.  I even got to know some tourists from Belgium and Canada.  THUMBS UP!!

Sarawak is rich in culture, thus, as part of the programme, we visited one of the very few surviving Bidayuh longhouses in Sarawak – Kampung Benuk Bidayuh Longhouse.  The trip was in conjunction with the first day of Gawai Dayak Celebration (harvesting season).

Bidayuh Longhouse

Back in the city – what else could we do there except shopping.  I didn’t buy anything though.  My roommate on the other hand was quite a shopper.  I believe she spent between RM200 and RM300 on clothes only.  That was in one day.  Can’t complain much because there were sales everywhere.  I mean like 70 per cent discount, 50 per cent discount in most of the shops.  Her lucky day I guess.

We had seafood for the final night together.  I’m not really a fan of seafood, but as part of the programme, I needed to show some support to the one organising it.

Final programme before heading back to Sibu, we went to the museum..well outside … because it was not open when we arrived.  Then, watched another wildlife at Jong’s Crocodile Farm.  Again, we were lucky enough to arrive there during feeding time.  Other animals there…there were peacocks, monkeys, parrots, lizard, bear, and so forth.

a crocodile feeding on meat

Seven hours midnight bus trip is the least favourite time to travel.  But to be able to have fun and get in touch with nature again, it was definitely worth a trip.  I just wished it could be a longer trip.

group photo at Bidayuh longhouse

Graveyard In The Middle Of Town

graveyard in the middle of town

I use this road everyday to the office and everyday I thought it is only a graveyard.  Nothing special.  This morning I was attending a press conference.  I didn’t notice the scenery when I went up the sixth floor.  It was after the press conference and was waiting for the elevator that I saw this.  I looked at it..and it was my first time seeing this. I said to myself ‘This is how it looks like from above’.  It is beautiful and it is amazing to see green in this developing town.  It means the Green Concept adopted by the town council is working.