Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Attractions in Sibu

Mid August 2011, we went back to Sibu for a five days' vacation. With around 200 thousands of population, it is a small town in the middle of Borneo Island. Motivated by the feedback from our reader, we have collected more information this time.

Like in our previous post about Sibu, Wong Nai Siong Garden is still on the top of our list. As a historical site, the Foochow immigrants from Fujian Province once made their very first step on the land of Hornbill, right on the bank of Sungai Merah, or the red river. 72 pioneers on February 20, year 1901. Then, the rest followed and made a total of 1118.

"The country is blessed by Sibu" are the words from one of the Ministers of Sarawak, D.S. Wong Soon Koh, carved in Wong Nai Siong Garden, as a token of gratitude to the contribution of Wong Nai Siong. The wall behind the statue of Wong Nai Siong listed the names of the fathers of Sibu. LS's great grandfather is one of them.

Statue of Wong Nai Siong (left) stood still in the garden, facing the busy Tun Abang Haji Openg Road, which was just a small bicycle track during his time. The garden attracts many visitors, both from local and international.

Sungai Merah Town is clearly reflected on Sungai Merah. "Sungai" means river, while "merah" means red. This was the location where the immigrants debarked from their long voyage. The place is well-known, for the small step they made long ago had brought a big leap on today's Sarawak. The garden is place for us to feel:  the flow of the red river, the heat of the sun, the touches of wind, and the heartbeats of the people who were there a century ago. The garden is located in the middle of Sungai Merah Town (Sungai Merah means Red River), around 5 km away from the Sibu Town center, which can be accessed by bus or taxi. If you drive by your own, the parking at Sungai Merah is free.

Wong Nai Siong Garden is surrounded by Sungai Merah Town. We can get a nice meal at the market's food stalls, or the coffee shops which spread across the little town. Our recommendation, the fried noodle and "koew tiao" at the market (they are open until noon). If you wish to try the authentic Sibu food- kampua, then you will need to observe- find a coffee shop with many customers, that should be the one for you.

Sungai Merah Town is a part of Sibu Town. The bridge provides the crossing of the river. Wong Nai Siong Garden is just in front of the blue-roofed building.

The shops on the another side of the river. Sungai Merah Market is the building with the red roof. Today, Sibu Town has developed and expanded far beyond the border of Sungai Merah. Children of Sibu spreads even further, across the world.

Hoover Memorial Garden, around 1 km away from Sungai Merah Town is a little bit tricky to be reached. You need to head north (opposite direction to Sibu Town center) from Sungai Merah using Tun Abang Hj. Openg Rd., turn left on the first traffic light, and the garden is on the left side at the end of the road. The garden is built by the Methodist churches of Sibu, in commemorating the contribution of James M. Hoover, a US missionary who had spent his life selflessly at Sibu.

Panorama of Hoover Memorial Garden. As a candle, he burned himself to brighten up the others. His dedication and sacrifices will be remembered for many years ahead, at least in the heart of the people of Sibu.

"A drop of water that influenced the valley of Rejang River. With a drop of blood, he served the people of Sibu. He is James M. Hoover, a missionary". That is how he is remembered, as been written in the garden.

Some of the history and biography of Hoover, printed on bronze plates (upper row). 1118 stars represents the total of the Foochow immigrants (lower left). Nine pillars represents the fruits of the Holy Spirits. He came not only brought the faith and Christianity, but the technologies as well, such as the first telegraph, the first round saw for timber industry, first ice making machine, first bicycle, first generator for electricity, first rice mill, first agriculture school, first convent school, and above all, the rubber trees that boost the Sibu's revenue.

To reach the memorial garden, you can drive, or go by taxi, or you can even walk there (if you have an umbrella, and not worry of getting sweaty). However, bear in mind that the garden is quite isolated with few visitors. Getting a taxi from the garden might be impossible, without a prayer.

Both Wong Nai Siong and Hoover Memorial gardens should be the only two attractions that transportation is required. Heading back to Sibu Town center, there are several spots that we should not omit.

Firstly, Sibu Town Square. The town square is the biggest in Malaysia, spanning from Wisma Sanyan to the two rivers. From the town square, we can in fact enjoy the view of the splitting point of two mighty rivers- Rejang River and Igan River. Rejang River is the longest river in Malaysia. What other things that we can do? We can take a short visit on Lau King Howe Hospital Memorial Museum, Rejang Port Authority Building (take a look from the outside), take a look at the statue of swans and horses, and perhaps, join the local activities and carnival, which will be held from time to time at the square (there was Ramadhan market held for the whole month of August 2011).

Panorama view of Sibu Town Square, from Wisma Sanyan.

Wisma Sanyan (middle) and RH Hotel are prominent from the town square.

The gate marks the starting point of the Corridor of Creativity (upper left). Lau King Howe Hospital Memorial Museum is located at the bank of the Rejang River (lower right). Rejang Port Authority carries a unique ship-shaped structure (upper right). The statues of horses and swans are located at the opposite sides of the town square.

As the town square is lack of trees and shading, an umbrella might be good to resist the blazing sun. Corridor of Creativity beside the town square, parallel with Island Road is a place prepared for Sibu people to show their creativity. However, the corridor is not well utilized.

Secondly, Masland Methodist Church, Hoover House, and Methodist Primary School. Masland Methodist Church, with the white outlook and the cross high above the ground, is one of the most beautiful churches in Sibu, which shows a strong Christianity influence in Sibu. Beside the church is the Hoover House, stands for the activities for the churches, and as a memorial of James Hoover. The Methodist Primary School is just located behind Hoover House. It was the very first primary school setup by Rev. and Mrs. Hoover. The old school building had long devoured by time. However, the location, remained. The church, the school, and Hoover House can be reached from town square by foot, say 10 minutes, maximum.

A new modern building was built on the site of its predecessor, carrying the same name- Hoover House (upper left). On one of the walls in Hoover House carved the phrase "The World is My Parish". That was the spirit that had lured the missionary to the Island of Borneo. Masland Methodist Church is located side by side to Hoover House (upper right). Photo at lower right shows a scene from Hoover Square.

A scene at Jalan Pulau, or Island Road, Sibu.

At the end of Island Road (starting from Sibu Town Square), we can see Sibu Central Market on our left and the Pagoda on our right. The pagoda is within the compound of Temple of Forever Peace- "Yong An Ting". We need some luck for us to access to the upper levels of the pagoda, as it is locked from public for most of the time.

Yong An Ting and the pagoda. Some refer Yong An Ting as "tua-pek-gong" temple.

Sibu Central Market is the biggest central market in Malaysia. Located at Channel Road, the market offers some surprises, range from the variety of the items for sell to the price. The market is extremely busy early in the morning, and getting lesser after the mid-day. The market is a must visit place in Sibu. Make sure that you don't miss the rattan-made products (getting lesser, and the price soars), sago products, raw paku and midin, durian and dabai (seasonal), and the most- Sibu world famous pottery and black pepper. The upper level of the central market is opened for mini retails and food stalls, which is less attractive than the market at the ground floor.

The outlook of Sibu Central Market, by Channel Road.

The ground floor of the market houses hundreds of the hawkers, with wide variety of items sold on their stalls.

One of the entrance of the market. From the point that we took this photo, turn left and you will be able to see the bus terminal and the express boat terminal.

What is Mulung?? (upper left). Mulung is unprocessed sago. Rice from Bario (upper middle), and paku fern. The rattan products and the pottery can be bought from the market, while the creativity can be seen from the way the chicken for sell are wrapped (middle row). Local mandarin and different types of durians are some of the must-try fruit in Sibu (durian is seasonal). Please try your best not to come out from the market with empty hand :-)

Sibu Express Terminal, is 5 minutes walk away (maximum 200m) from the another side of the market (if you enter the market on the pagoda side). Express terminal here is for the express boat, not buses as we commonly refer to. The express terminal is a place that you should stop and take a look for a while. Experience the hustle-bustle, and take a look on the faces of those who are waiting. Then, you will appreciate how lucky we are to be connected by roads. Many of the places in vicinity of Sibu can only be reached through the rivers. Sibu Express Terminal is located at Khoo Peng Loong Road, beside the taxi terminal and the local bus terminal.

The modern terminal for one of the most ancient mean of transportation- boat (upper left). The ticket counters with the departure times and destinations (upper right). The express boats by the terminal (lower left) and the waiting crowd at the terminal departure hall.

Another harbour in between the pagoda and the Sibu Express Terminal, for the slower vessels that commute with nearer destinations.

Two latest generation (3.0) express boats with an old predecessor (1.0) in the middle (upper left). Three hundred horse power, four stokes engine, one minute from 0 - 100 km/h... new specs make the motorboat a quick way of connecting people along the rivers (upper right). Motor launches, carriers, etc. (lower left). Orient Pandaw is the new tourist attraction that cruise along Rejang River.

Sibu District Taxi Station and bus station is located beside the express terminal. This place is in fact the regional transportation hub. Another taxi station is located at Wong Nai Siong Road.

The Rejang Esplanade is just next to the express terminal. Nicely landscaped but small. The beauty of the esplanade is in Hii Garden. "Hii", not the miss-spelled of "hi" or another form of "hello". Hii is a Chinese surname. Embedded in the esplanade, the garden is a part of several surname-themed gardens in Sibu. As Sibu strategically inferior to many other towns in Sarawak, so as the allocation for development. That's why the Chinese associations stood up to beautify their beloved town by building the gardens.

The square of Rejang Esplanade (upper left), a part of Hii Garden (upper right), the restaurant by the river (lower left) and the children playground.

We would recommend to see the Swan Statue as well. The swan was believed had saved Sibu from famine and starvation, by showing the people that sago is edible. Kingwood Hotel and Li Hua Hotel are just few steps away from the statue, on the another side of the esplanade.

The Swan Statue.

There is one place that you should not miss before you head back to your hotel- Sibu Heritage Centre. The heritage centre is a fusion show of history, cultural, and social-economy. The exhibition is arranged into a flow of stories. From the history of Sibu, ethnics, culture, economy, education and some of the religion and believes. We spent around one hour in the centre. The admission is free, photograph taking is prohibited. The centre is strategically located between Central Rd. and Wong Nai Siong Rd., around 300 meters away from Wisma Sanyan.

Eye catching sign of Sibu Heritage Centre surprised us by its exhibition, with numerous artifacts and exhibits, mostly donated by the locals. The heritage centre is wheel chair friendly.

Central Road, where Sibu Heritage Centre located. These two photos were taken in front of the centre, one to the left (with Premier Hotel at far back), and another to the right Masland Methodist at far back).

Night market is one of the attraction of Sibu. The night market is held every night. Be early, as the market will start closing around 9:30 pm. The location, the area surrounded by four roads- Channel, Bengkel, Central, and Lintang.

The location of the night market is a carpark area during day time.

Several parks which are popular to locals are Bukit Aup Park, Lakeside Park, and Forest Park. If you are about to stay several days in Sibu, then you might plan to visit some of those parks. We only had the time for Bukit Aup and Lakeside.

Bukit Aup (Aup Hill) Park is a few kilometers away from Sungai Merah. It used to be the biggest park in Sibu, where many people went there for leisure. However, without proper maintenance, the park now is deteriorated, consumed by time. The only plus for the park- scenery on the top of Aup Hill. As the park is very far from the town centre, a taxi should be the only mean of transport to bring you there, if you opt not to drive by your own. Taking bus is not advisable.

Bukit Aup Park with two different lakes (the lower is shown in upper row, while the upper lake is shown in lower left). The staircase leads to the top of a hill is not very well maintained. From what we can see from upper right, the water in the lake was dirty.

Lakeside Park is located nearby Sibu General Hospital. The center of the garden is a big lake, with several water activities provided. The good part of the park, the food. The food court at beside the lake provides up-to-standard food, and good view over the lake. During our last visit, it was cold rainy evening with the strong blowing wind. The feeling, good! Anyway, as far as we know, we need to go there by our own transport. Taxi might be a good idea, but you might need the same taxi to bring you back.

A nice open space with roof taking the motif of Melanau's hat beside the lake (upper left). A scene of the lake of Sibu Lakeside Park (upper right). The park is readied with water activities (lower left). The food at the food court by the lake is nice. However, it is quite far away from the town center.

In fact, all the attractions in Sibu Town center can be reached by foot, with each of them 5 - 10 minutes away from each other. The map of Sibu Town is available at Sibu Airport, or at any major hotels. Now, let us go to the accommodation and food in Sibu.

Take a look on our sharing about other places in Sarawak:

Accommodation & food in Sibu

Sibu International Airport is quite a distance away from the town, 30 km, the taxi will charge you RM 35, with the taxi coupon sold at the counter. The airport was under renovation. So, the scenes showed might look different upon your visit. If you opt to rent a car, well, two companies for you to choose- Kong Teck Car Rental and Team Leisure Travel Agency. The rate? Please visit the respective website of the respective company. As Sibu is not a big town, nor a tourists' magnet, do expect that the rate for the car rental might be a little bit higher than other places (low demand, no competition). Anyway, good negotiation skill might be a little bit helpful.

Kiosk for Kong Teck Car Rental is in the arrival hall (left). Team Leisure is just outside of the hall (middle). The construction is going on as we can see behind Team Leisure's booth. The booth for the taxi coupon is located far opposite of the arrival hall. As Sibu Airport is undergoing major renovation, the location of the booths might be scrambled in future.

The inter-city bus terminal is located at Pahlawan Road, around 3 km from the town center. However, there are many shops and eateries nearby. Some of them, in our opinion, are quite well. The best way to get to the town center from the terminal or via versa is by taking taxi or bus.

Hotel and accommodation are available mostly in the town center area. The world class, Kingwood and RH Hotel. Kingwood Hotel was the place where we hosted our wedding dinner. Other hotels of good choice are Tanahmas, Premier, Orchid and Garden with private carpark, while Sarawak Hotel, Phoenix Hotel, Kawan Hotel, Li Hua Hotel, and Zuhra are those without private carpark. Those without private carpark might require you to park your vehicles on the street, and of course, need to pay for the parking. The good directory for the hotels are available at Sarawak Tourism Board (go to "directory", "accommodation", and then from "sort town", choose Sibu). All the hotels listed here are within walking distance (10-20 minutes) from most of the attractions in Sibu town center. However, Premier Hotel, Tanahmas Hotel, RH Hotel, Kingwood Hotel, Li Hua Hotel, Garden Hotel, and Sarawak Hotel are closer to some of the hot spots in Sibu. Hotel Bahagia and Zuhra Hotel are some of the budget hotels with very good location.

RH Hotel has unbeatable location with few steps away from Sibu Square and connected to Sanyan shopping center through a sky-bridge (left). Anyway, the price might be a little bit higher than the others. Paramount Hotel is connected to Sibu Square through a small bridge. The view is ok, but the location is a little bit isolated (5 minutes walk to Sanyan).

Kingwood on the other hand, has a nice view over the longest river in Malaysia- the Rejang River (right). Make sure you make a request for river view room upon check in. Li Hua is located just beside Kingwood Hotel.

Premier, Tanahmas, and Garden Hotel are located within 50 meters to each other. Garden Hotel is located opposite of Premier Hotel.

Premier Hotel.

Kawan Hotel is located 15 minutes away from town center by foot. The location is quite isolated beside Lanang Road.

The following are the ranges of room rates for some of the hotels (note: in case of discrepancies of room rates, please take the information of the hotel's website as final):

Kingwood Hotel:
Tel: +6084-335888
- RH Hotel:
RM 260 (superior) - RM 4000++ (presidential). Tel: +6084-365888
- Premier Hotel:
RM 180 (single deluxe) - RM 900 (king suite). Tel: +6084-323222
- Tanahmas Hotel:
RM 245 (single superior) - RM 850 (pemainsuri suite). Tel: +6084- 333188
- Paramount Hotel:
RM 165 (standard room) - RM 550 (Paramount suite). Tel: +6084-331122
-Li Hua Hotel:
RM 88 - RM 300. Tel: +6084-324000
Garden Hotel:
RM 98 (single standard) - RM 160 (superior deluxe). Tel: +6084-317888
-Kawan Hotel:
Starting from RM 80++ (call to confirm). Tel: +6084-315888
-Orchid Hotel:
Starting from RM 60 ++ (call to confirm). Tel: +6084-331999
-Zuhra Hotel:
Starting from RM 58++. Tel: +084-310711
-Hotel Bahagia:
RM 55 (twin sharing) - RM 155 (family deluxe). Tel: +6084-331131
-Sarawak Hotel:
Tel: +084333455

The food is good, and and cheap in Sibu. Several local food and delicacies that we should not miss- "kampua", "char-kueh tiaw", "char-mee", laksa, "har-mee", "dian-bian-hu", "gom-bian", and "pom-bian" are some of them. Do you know what are these things have in common? All of them are made by flour.

Kampua is the water-boiled noodle, mixed with oil and fried onion (and some other seasoning). It is a simple but popular food in Sibu... not without a reason. Why don't you find out by trying? Kampua comes with different "flavors", such as the white kampua (left) and black kampua (darkened by soya sauces).

Kampua with wantan (left). Wantan is a kind of Chinese dumpling. Wantan in kampua seasoning is another unique dish in Sibu.

Porridge with side dishes (left). The price, RM3.50 (no joking). "Dian-bian-hu" is another unique dish in Sibu (please don't mistaken it as Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam). It is basically a dish made by mixed flour boiled at the edge of the wok. Nice dian-bian-hu is very hard to get nowadays in Sibu.

Laksa is available almost everywhere in Malaysia, but Sibu laksa has its own taste that we can't resist (left). Sibu har mee (or prawn noodle) is good, because the prawns used for the dish is freshwater prawns of the nearby rivers.

Gom-bian, char-dried bun made by flour and sesame is an authentic Foochow delicacy. The best way to eat the bun is to eat it fresh, when it is still hot, with some smell of charcoal.

Midin and paku are some authentic Borneo edible ferns, which is available throughout the restaurants.

Seafood- prawn, fish, crab, cuttlefish, shrimp, to jellyfish, mussel, shark fin, etc. are served in great taste, and most importantly, fairly low price.

As we write about food, the struggle whether to list the name and location of the shop is always there. And again, we made a negative decision. Anyway, if you know or had tried some nice food in Sibu, please share with us and other readers (about the name and location of the shop), you are most welcomed to leave a message as a comment.

For more information about Sibu (or whole Sarawak), you can always visit:
- Sibu Official Website
- Sarawak Tourism Board
- Tripadvisor
- Hotels in Sibu (with photos, but without rates)
- Back to Attractions in Sibu

Take a look on our sharing about the other places in Sarawak:

Friday, August 12, 2011

Perdana Park Putrajaya

Not more than a big nice garden, that was all we can say about the park. It is good for a afternoon jog or a family outing. But, if you are a foreign visitor, the park should not be your first priority, unless you are staying in Shangri-La Hotel Putrajaya. Without nice view on the top of the hill, or the reflection from the nicely landscaped Putrajaya lake, Perdana Park is inferior to many other parks and gardens in Putrajaya, such as Wawasan Park, Botanical Park, and Agriculture Heritage Park.

The broad walkway that spans to the heart of the park, where the New Millennium Point stands, is the center of the park.

New Millennium Point is located at the middle of the park.

However, there are something that the garden can offer. Firstly, with a blast of trees and shrubs, flowers and vines, the garden didn't lack of any of the sense of greenery. Secondly, the jogging track, well shaded and enough to soak our sportswear. Thirdly, the megalith garden, not impressive but offer a little bit of surprise, and last but not least, several playgrounds for kids.

One of the playgrounds for children (upper left). Well shaded jogging track by trees (upper right). Chairs are available, good for a sweet chat, or just stay quiet to listen to the chirping birds and blowing wind (lower left). Car park is ample, not only for the park's visitors, but for many conference participants at Shangri-La Hotel Putrajaya.

Pond and vines along the walkway.

Megalith garden filled with many megaliths. Ranged from ankle height to several feet tall, the stone garden offers some element of surprise to the first timer.

The focus of the children- the playground. They are several of them all together.

A view from the top of the hill, 50 m away from the New Millennium point.

The residential area can be seen from the hill. However, the overgrown trees blocked the nice continuous view from there.

The park is located at Presinct 2 of Putrajaya. A car is the most ideal way to reach there, while Nadi Putrajaya bus service is available from Putrajaya Central. The park is located beside Shangri-La Hotel Putrajaya. So, if you have the chance to visit or stay in the hotel, you may take a walk in the park, if you have nothing better to do. There is no vendor available. Therefore food and drink have to be prepared beforehand, to quench thirst and hunger.

Three good things about the park, on top of everything mentioned, good security (at least some patrols were sighted), and very clean toilets, and good maintenance.

More places in Putrajaya on our list: