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Pasar Sentral Sibu

This will be my second article about my birthplace, Sarawak. I intend to write more. Since this is the second article, let’s begin with a brief introduction and overview of its history.

Sarawak, nicknamed the Land of the Hornbills, is Malaysia’s largest state. It is also home to one of the world’s richest and most diverse ecosystems, boasting 27 ethnic groups and 45 languages and dialects.

I find the state of Sarawak interesting, historically. The English naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace visited Sarawak from November 1854 to January 1856, during which he collected thousands of biological specimens, including insects and orangutans, which he shipped back to England.

Interesting because Wallace considered his insect collection from Sarawak to be the most fruitful of his 12 years of tropical exploration. According to John van Wyhe, Southeast Asia was also where the idea of natural selection first came to Wallace in 1858.

I was born in Matu Daro, to be exact. That’s where my mother was first posted as a teacher and later met my late father, who was also a teacher. Matu Daro was under the Sibu district before Mukah was established.

Named after the rambutan fruit, Buah Sibau in the Iban language, Sibu was once a quiet trading village until the early 19th century. Its transformation started in 1901 with the arrival of Foochow settlers from southern China.

Now, Sibu has grown into the biggest port and commercial hub in the Rejang Basin, blossoming into a lively modern town. The majority of people in Sibu are Foochow Chinese, originating from the Fuzhou region of southern China. Because of this, Sibu is sometimes called New Fuzhou.

However, like many places in Borneo, Sibu is diverse, with smaller numbers of other Chinese dialect groups, as well as Malays, Melanaus, Ibans, and Orang Ulus, also residing in the town.

Now, back to Pasar Sentral Sibu. I remember going here with my siblings and cousins when we were small, probably 7 or 8 years old. We came to eat Mee Kempua. I also recall my mother asking me to accompany my grandfather to Pasar Sentral, which I did multiple times. We went by bus from our home in Kampung Dato.

Pasar Sentral Sibu is the largest daily market in Malaysia. Built in 1996 at a cost of RM12 million, Pasar Sentral aims to relocate small-scale vendors who conduct business along the riverbanks and alleyways in the city centre.

Conveniently situated opposite the Express Boat Passenger Terminal, the market houses more than 1000 stalls. These vendors are not only local residents of Sibu but also many who come from other districts such as Kapit and Mukah. They represent various races and ethnicities.

Another unique feature of Pasar Sentral Sibu is that live chicken vendors are required to wrap their sale animals with old newspapers. The use of old newspapers serves as disposable diapers and is changed regularly to ensure environmental cleanliness as well as the cleanliness of the chickens being sold.

Visiting Pasar Sentral Sibu was indeed a delightful experience. It brought back fond memories. If you’re planning a trip to Sibu, Pasar Sentral is a must-visit. The market has everything you’d expect and more, from food and fruits to handicrafts and everyday items. You’ll be spoiled for choice! Pictures taken on January 8, 2024. Reels on Instagram.


References:

Ling, H. Y., & Thock, K. P. (2015). The Economic Activities of Foochow in SiBu: Development and transformation. Journal of Chinese Literature and Culture, 3(2), 20–31. https://jpmm.um.edu.my/index.php/JCLC/article/view/13204

Tuen, A. A., & Das, I. (2007). Wallace in Sarawak—50 years later: Proceedings of an International Conference on Biogeography and Biodiversity. Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation. University Malaysia Sarawak, Kota Samarahan, Sarawak, Malaysia. Retrieved on, 04-04.

BorneoTalk (Vol. 70). (2023). Bumi Serasi.

Sarawak more to discover. (n.d.). https://sarawaktourism.com/

Alfred Russell Wallace the “forgotten” hero: Why is Darwin more famous than Wallace? (n.d.). NUS Press. https://nuspress.nus.edu.sg/blogs/news/55568197-alfred-russell-wallace-the-forgotten-hero-why-is-darwin-more-famous-than-wallace

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