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Monday 24 September 2012

Discovering Sibu Historical Attractions

The entire Sibu Central town can be leisurely explore by walking. A number of Sibu's heritage attractions can be discovered within the town proper.

Sibu Heritage Centre

Sarawak Borneo sibu Heritage Centre 
This building has witnessed the transformation of Sarawak from a colony of the British to becoming an independent state by forming Malaysia in 1963. Sibu Heritage Centre was the original administration building of Sibu Municipal Council.  It was later refurbished as Sibu Heritage centre Museum. Its upper floor houses the Sibu heritage museum. The ground floor is a commercial belt. There is also a space for artwork exhibition.

Sibu Old Mosque (Masjid Lama Sibu)

This old mosque of Sibu has been here since 1883.Its first as a wooden structure was built by Tuan Haji Abdul Salam Minangkabau from Indonesia.

However, its structure was never changed; its original form remains intact.

Warriors Memorial site

Rosli Dhoby, born in Sibu, was an active member of one Sibu – based Malay Youth Movement (Gerakan Pemuda Melayu). On 3rd December, 1949 and at the age of 17 years Old, Rosli Dhoby led a group, codenamed the Rukun 13 (the Black Crow group).  They set off to assassinate the 2nd Gorvener of Sarawak, Mr. Duncan Steward. Rosli Dhoby and 3 others, namely Morshidi Sidek, Bujang Suntong and Awang Ramli Amit were arrested and hung. They were buried in Kuching on 2nd March, 1950. 46 years later, their remains were exhumed and brought back to Sibu.

They were re – buried at this Warriors Memorial Site on 2nd March, 1996. It is located next to the An-Nur Mosque at Jalan Awang Ramli Amit.

Oldest Muslim Cemetery (Sibu town Square phase 2)

This oldest Muslim cemetery site was estimated to have buried over 70 Muslims. However, the burial activity was stop during Japanese occupation in 1941. Over time, river bank erosion has caused some severe damages to the site. It was restored in 2003.

The two Angsana trees are said to be the temporary “Batu Nisan” or tombstones for one tomb. As most of the original tombstones were washed away, a memorial structure was later erected to commemorate it.

Lau King Howe Hospital Memorial Museum
Sarawak Borneo sibu Lau King HoweLau King Howe Hospital was built in the 1930’s as the first general hospital Sibu. Its founder, the late Mr. Lau king Howe, donated his personal wealth to set it up. In appreciation, the colonial government named it Lau King Howe Hospital.

In 1994, the hospital was moved to a new site at Jalan Oya. Since then, Sibu hospital, with its much bigger capacity and better facilities, has replaced Lau King Howe Hospital. However, the site of Lau King Howe Hospital is preserved and turned into Lau King Howe Memorial Museum. This is made possible with the joint efforts of Lau’s Clan Association, Sibu municipal Council and the Health Department.

Tua Pek Kong Temple

 Sarawak Borneo sibu Tua Pek Kong
Eng Ann Tua Pek Kong of Sibu was founded around 1870. From the original wooden structure of a Chinese temple. It was rebuilt in 1897 into Taoist architecture building. Most of its building materials were imported from China including the statue of the host deity, Lord Tua Pek Kong.

Like the other Tua Pek Kong temples in Sarawak, Eng Ann Teng Tua Pek Kong temple has met some major fire disasters in Sibu. But it did not suffer any damages. Even the Sibu big fire of March 8, 1928 which destroyed most of surrounding shop houses, left this temple unscathed.

Outskirts of Sibu
Ten minutes by road from the town center, the Sungai Merah Heritage Walk visits the site of the earliest Chinese settlements in Sibu. The pleasant walking trail along the river front (the water is really red, turning to yellow when the tide sets in) leads through a landscaped park to the Wong Nai Siong Memorial Garden, a site honouring the principal founder of Sibu. The Heritage Walk concludes with the James Hoover Memorial Park that commemorates the renowned Methodist missionary and educator who worked with Sibu's pioneering Foochow migrants from 1903 to the 1930s. Take a taxi or Sungei Merah Bus 1A.

James Hoover Memorial Square 

Sarawak Borneo sibu Hoover Square
This square is named after a great Methodist Missionary (from USA), Reverend James Matthew Hoover. Reverend Hoover was the first foreign pastor who served the Methodist Churches of Sibu. From 1903 to 1935, he had helped to build 41 churches and 40 schools all over Sibu. When the Fuzhou settlement pioneer, Mr. Wong Nai Siong, left Sibu in 1904, Rev. Hoover helped to manage the settlement. His contributions to the early development of Sibu were fondly and gratefully recognized.

In addition, he created history and modernized Sibu by being the first person to pioneer the use of the following items to Sibu:
  • The very first rubber seedlings (1904)
  • The very first steam launch
  • The very first rice huller (1906)
  • The very first girls' school (1911)
  • The very first generator (1912)
  • The very first agricultural school (1913)
  • The very first bicycle
  • The very first ice making machine
  • The very first circular saw
  • The very first wireless telegraph machine
Sibu is the largest port and commercial centre in the Rejang Basin and the gateway to Central Sarawak. Located at the confluence of the Rejang and Igan Rivers, approximately 130 km from the South China Sea, Sibu is a thriving modern town with a vibrant center and a bustling, crowded waterfront.

The residents of Sibu are predominantly Foochow Chinese, originating from the Fuzhou region of southern china, and the town is often referred to as New Fuzhou. However Sibu's ethnic mix is as varied as anywhere else in Borneo, with smaller proportions of other Chinese dialect groups - as well as Malays, Melanaus, Ibans and Orang Ulus - making the town their home.

Sibu is easily accessible by road from all parts of Sarawak. Direct air links connect Sibu to Kuala Lumpur and the major towns and cities in Sarawak and Sabah.

Sarawak... Where Adventure Lives  

Friday 14 September 2012

Explore Kuching Heritage in 2 hours

Take a quick look around Kuching and you will certainly notice a historic building or site, stately and unique, enchanting always; these are just some of the attractive charms of the city.  Singularly or clustered, these fascinating cultural and historic icons are found at almost every turn and step you take around the city.

The 2-hour (approx.) route introduces visitors to the historical precinct of old Kuching city, where featured buildings are closely located to each other.  Visitors may join the trail at any point along the Route, but are strongly encouraged to begin at the Sarawak Tourism Complex where the trail map of this self-guided walking tour can be obtained as well as useful brochures of the city, state and country can be obtained.

Conservation of the Old Kuching Courthouse of Adaptive Re-use as Sarawak Tourism Complex was completed in 2003. The project won several national awards for conservation. Descriptive plaques mounted on the individual block provide detailed historical information of the building.  The Old Kuching Courthouse is the first Brooke era administrative building which housed all the government functions under one roof. 
Sarawak Kuching Borneo Adventure - Our Doorway - Old Kuching Courthouse

This building, originally used as the medical headquarter, was one of the first public buildings of more than 2 stories high. Built with concrete frames and supported by bakau (mangrove timber) piling, it also had a concrete flat roof where occupants used to lounge and watch the setting sun, as fondly recalled through numerous writings of that era.  The building had been conserved and is currently used by the Museum Department as their Textile Museum.
Sarawak Kuching Borneo Adventure - Our Doorway - THE PAVILION
This temple was believed to have been built by the Chinese migrants from Kalimantan, Indonesia. In the olden days, this temple overlooked the mouth of the Kuching stream which ran between the temple and the Old Chinese Court (present Chinese History Museum), to the Sarawak River. Numerous additions and renovation works had been done over the original structure. The dominant dragon frieze was added to the retaining wall in the early 1980s.

There are two other temples in that area which are Guan Thian Siang Ti Temple (1889) and Kueh Seng Onn Temple (1895). Both located along the Carpenter Street.

Sarawak Kuching Borneo Adventure - Our Doorway - Tua Pek Kong

Declared open in 1912 by Rajah Charles Brooke, this single storey building was originally used by the Chinese community as a court to administer the laws and customs on marriage, divorce and probate. The Chinese court was dissolved in 1921. The Chinese Chamber of Commerce formed in 1930, used it as their office until 1990. Since 1993, the Sarawak Museum had set up its Chinese History Museum here, with interactive displays that traced the history of Chinese settlement in Sarawak and the contributions made for the development of Sarawak by the respective dialectal group.

Sarawak Kuching Borneo Adventure - Our Doorway - OLD CHINESE COURT

Fronting the Sarawak River, the Main Bazaar carries the distinction of being one of the oldest streets of Kuching.  Now, it is often referred to as an 'antique arcade' not only because of its old-fashioned facades but also for the variety of antiques and handicrafts outlets found here.
Sarawak Kuching Borneo Adventure - Our Doorway - MAIN BAZAAR

Across the Main Bazaar, situated across the Sarawak River, the fort was named after Ranee Margaret, the wife of Charles Brooke.  Strategically perched on top of a hill, with vantage points overlooking Kuching and the river, it was the ideal sentry point for the settlement. Unfortunately, it is currently not open to public (Sept 2012)
Sarawak Kuching Borneo Adventure - Our Doorway - FORT MARGHERITA
Sarawak Kuching Borneo Adventure - Our Doorway - THE ASTANA
This romantic structure standing across the river in its regal splendour was the private residence of the Rajah Charles Brooke, which was built as a bridal gift to his beloved wife, the Ranee Margeret.
Before the Astana was built on this site, James Brooke's first residence was called 'The Grove', which was later replaced by "the Government House' after a fire in 1857.

THE KUCHING WATERFRONT has undergone several transformations since 9th century, from a small settlement of modest ‘atap’ buildings, to a busy port with warehouses and wharves, and to the landscape riverside walk it is today. During the days of the Rajahs and the British colonials, boats would berth along the Sarawak River waterfront, lined with godowns, custom offices and markets. Travelers and cargo alike would embark and disembark at the wharves, making the waterfront a hive of activity during its glory days.

This is where the Sarawak Regatta is held annually. Sarawak Regatta has been a premier event with a distinct historical and cultural significant.  The tradition of holding the annual Regatta in the Sarawak River continued through the colonial period and into the post-Malaysia period.
Sarawak Kuching Borneo Adventure - Our Doorway - THE KUCHING WATERFRONT
Completed about the same time as the Fort Margherita in 1879, both forts served as sentry posts on each side of the Sarawak River. Built next to the first Kuching Prison (1877, demolished c.1930s), it served as a maximum-security detention centre. Adjacent to the Square Tower, is the landing point called Pengkalan Batu, where the Rajahs disembarked from the Astana to attend to administrative matters at the Old Kuching Courthouse. The Square Tower, which was later, converted to a dancing hall used by the Brooke’s officers and servants during most of the weekends when they were in Kuching.
Sarawak Kuching Borneo Adventure - Our Doorway - SQUARE TOWER

In its early days the majority of traders here were Indian migrants involved in trading textiles, brassware, spices and market goods. Today it is flanked by century old shophouses, where some had been renovated with modern designs. It used to be congested with vehicles loading and unloading wares before it was converted into a pedestrian mall in late 1980s. Still supplying textile and spices to the general population of Kuching, it is also lined with shops that supplies daily provisions, food and clothes stores with every available space stacked to the fullest.
Sarawak Kuching Borneo Adventure - Our Doorway - INDIA STREET
(Article courtesy of Sarawak Heritage Society)

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Spend a day at Lambir Hills National Park, Miri, Sarawak

Imagine yourself, an adventurer who wish to spend a day on jungle trekking, dipping in waterfalls, sighting of insects, wildlife and plants; but not having enough time to do so! How frustrated that can be, right?!  For that, Lambir Hills National Park, located in the northern region of Sarawak, is the ideal place for you - a nature lover dream-come-true experience.

Listed below are the highlights of the park:
  • Walk to the longest and toughest (within LNP) trail to the top of Bukit Lambir (465 metres) with a superb view of the rainforest.
  • A 22-metres high tree tower gives you a close-up view of the life of the rainforest canopy, especially its birds.
  • The famous 'Latak' waterfall cascades from the Lambir Hills, forming a large pool that are pleasant to swim after a hot trek.
  • There are a series of smaller waterfalls such as the Pantu and Nibong waterfall along the Pantu trail and Pancur, Tengkorong and the Dinding waterfall along the Bakam trail.
  • Recognized as the world’s most ecologically diverse area where in just 52 hectares of the park’s 7.000 hectares, 1,050 different species of tree, each supporting 1,200 species of insect life were recorded.
  • More than half of the park is covered with rich mixed dipterocarp forest where huge, tall dipterocarp trees such as Kapur, Meranti, Kempas and Selangan Batu can be marveled at.  Other forest types found are kerangas forest with smaller and shorter tress like rhu bukit and selunsur bukit, lower shrub, pitcher plants and orchids.
  • The four primary trails are Main, Pantu, Lepoh-Ridan and Bakam trail
  • The seven secondary trails are Latak, Nibong, Bukit Pantu, Pantu Waterfall, Summit, Tengkorong and Pancur Dinding
For those who are interested to stay overnight,  listed below are the types of accommodation offered at the park:

Hilltop  lodge (1 unit) – RM80. Per house, RM40 per room
2 rooms, fan  and shared bathroom and toilet

Forest lodge type 6 (2 unit) – RM 75 per house, RM50 per room
2 rooms, fan and attached bathroom

Forest lodge type 5 (2 unit) – RM 150 per house, RM 100 per room
2 rooms air-condition, shared bathrooms and toilet                                                         

New Chalet (4 unit) – RM 150 per house, RM100 per room
2 rooms, air-condition and attached bathroom

For reservation, please contact            
Lambir Hills National Park
Tel No: 085-471630
Fax No: 085-408030

Entrance fees:
Malaysian                                         Non-Malaysian
(Adult): RM10 per person                 RM20 per person
(Child): RM5 per person                   RM10 per person

How to get there?
Being only 30-km (about 30-40mins drive) away from Miri City, connected by the sealed Miri-Bintulu road, the Park is easily accessible by public transport. From Pujut Corner bus terminal, visitors can get onto the commercial bus that head for (Miri-Bintulu road).

4 units-New Chale

The existing Chalet

Public restroom

One of the many trails in the park - 4 primary and 7 secondary trails

The plank walk - Trails are clearly marked with 'red' bands painted on tree trunks

Latak waterfall

Latak waterfall - The biggest and the nearest from park headquarter

The park is a favourite weekend getaway for the locals

Authors & Photos: Yusup Labo & Mohd Amirul Bong

Saturday 1 September 2012

A longhouse made entirely out of ‘belian’ wood.

This the first thing that strikes a visitor upon entering the longhouse is how well standing the place is. Rumah (house) Nyuka was built in 1955 and the durability of the wood species certainly reflects its reputation. 

Another is the tinsel-like atmosphere inside it. Tinseltown? Tinselhouse? :-) Anyway, there is a certain 'green' message to this effort though. You see, all plastic stuff brought into the area are recycled and turned into permanent decorative stringers. Gives one the impression that it is Christmas throughout the year, doesn't it?

The inside view of Rumah Nyuka longhouse
Rumah Nyuka is 45-door long

The road approach to Rumah Nyuka longhouse
So where is it? It is located at Lubuk Lemba, Ulu Sarikei and 17 KM from Bayong junction (Betong/Sarikei highway). The nearest major town is Sibu, about 85-km away. This longhouse can be reached by land and  on a good road condition at that. For a change, travelling for a longhouse experience does not involve river travel. The scenic roller-coaster ride along the crest of the hills can be a fun experience.

There are 300 people from 45 families in this longhouse. Most of them reside in another row of longhouse behind the   house proper thus giving visitors a space for themselves. It is the first homestay program operator approved by Ministry of Tourism Malaysia in the Sarikei Division. 

The place can get quite chilly in the early morning, since it is located in a hilly region of the Sarikei Division. Another layer of long-sleeve shirt should give enough protection. But if you wish to challenge yourself, an early morning bath in the river should do wonders for your skin.

Sungai (river) Ulu Sarikei that flows right past the front of Rumah Nyuka. The caveat here is that the river may not be that clear after a continuous down pour. Nature's way of ridding excesses?

Another view of the common area of Rumah Nyuka
Enough space for visitors to have their own ... space!
Door hinge that pivots on a mortise and tendon joint
Seamless door hinge and maintenance free

A bench made of 'belian' wood
A solid looking bench made of 'belian' ironwood which probably needs 2-3 persons to lift it.

But there's more to Rumah Nyuka than the physical structure itself. How about being a rubber tapper for a morning? Wake up at 5am, tap, collect and then process them into sheets for drying. For fruit lovers, the best time to visit is November to December. Go 'dabai' collecting; a fruit popularly known as local olives. Or combine trekking with swimming at the two waterfalls in the vicinity.

The fun part is stomping the latex block into manageable thickness with your bare feet so that the solidified latex can be rolled through the mangle .

Wild durian they are called but 'Buah Isu' they are known locally as. Taste ... different :-)
Sg Pau waterfall, 30 minutes walk from the longhouse. The fitter ones will get rewarded with the majesty of the 5-storey Sg Munsoh waterfall; an hour's walk away. 
Simple food tastes delicious in a raw setting

How to get there
You can take private transport (car/van) from Sarikei town to this longhouse and the charge is not more than RM10 per person / one way. They journey will take approximately 40 minutes. Sarikei is the transit point for the sea-going passenger boat plying Kuching - Sibu on a daily basis.

There are two basic packages; daily and overnight; or customised package if you prefer. Here's the contact:

Mdm. Ikau Ak Aji
C/O Rh Nyuka Ak Itam, Lubuk Lemba
Ulu Sarikei, 96100 Sarikei
Tel: 019-4687518

By: Michael Lu
 Sarawak Tourism Board