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:


  1. Sarawak and Sabah are two great destiniation to spend your vacation .If you like hiking n have a love for nature ,these two destinations are a great place .

    What really deter tourist from visiting are their notoriously high crime rate .Actually i planned to visit these two states last yr ,but have to give up my plan due to safety concern .

    1. KL is recently listed as unsafe as well.

  2. Thank you for highlighting your concern about the crime. We were lucky enough for not getting into any trouble in these two states.

    Our personal experience, as long as we can keep alert all the time and keep to the tourism hotspots, we can keep away from many unpleasant experience in our trip.

  3. Never heard of high crime rate in Sarawak. Why do you say that?

    1. Dear friend, we need to answer this question from a perspective of relativity. If we say, Sarawak is high in crime, it has to be compared to another place in this world.

      As far as we knew, Sarawak is a safe place to travelers. Friendly people, picturesque nature, and rich culture. Crime rate, should be one of the last to worry about.

    2. Ever heard of Project IC ? I believe that's what he/she means . Lots of illegal immigrant mainly pinoy . That's what I heard . Then the recent Sabah Sipadan kidnapping incidents ect . Few years back there is the Sultan of Sulu sage .

    3. As far as we know, the incidents that you had referred to were happened in Sabah, not in Sarawak.

  4. Thanks for this great information, I'm impressed. After review your blog I really wish to visit the Sungai very soon. I also want to say thanks to Betty and Ling Shing who provide me very use full information about the culture and their residents.

  5. I am not a local Sibu, but I lived in Sibu for years. :) Now I am missing the Kampua Mee (the packet instant one is way off!).

    1. Kampua mee is really a unique food in Sibu. It is nice to be taken hot and fresh. We miss the noodle as well.