Definitions

Sibu (town)

Sibu, Sarawak

Sibu is a town, and the capital of Sibu District (229.8 square kilometers) in Sibu Division, Sarawak, east Malaysia. It is located at the confluence of the Rajang and Igan Rivers, some 60 kilometers from the ocean. The population is dominated by Chinese especially the Fuzhou as well as indigenous Melanau, Malay, and Iban. The district population (per year 2008 census) is 25,5000.

There has been a marked increase in public buildings in recent years. Sibu now boasts the largest town square in Malaysia, and the tallest building in Sarawak - the Sanyan Tower ("Wisma Sanyan" in the official Malay language), a newly refurbished waterfront, and a large number of public parks. Sibu also has university-level courses offered by United College Sarawak, which has built a campus on the site of the old Sibu airport.

Sibu is the main tourist gateway to the Upper Rajang River, with its small riverine towns and its many Iban and Orang Ulu longhouses.

Sibu Jaya, located 25 km away, is being developed as a satellite town. Sibu airport, built during World War II, was relocated to its present site 23 kilometers from town near Sibu Jaya in 1994.

There is no known adjective for the people from Sibu, although there have been many unofficial suggestions: Siburian, Sibuian, Sibunite, Sibu-yan - none are officially recognised.

History

Sibu has a reputation as a rough, frontier town on the riverside. Even today, it is one of the most bustling towns in East Malaysia. It was originally called “New Foochow” after the Foochow(福州) immigrants from the Fujian province of China, who settled in Sibu in the early 20th century at the invitation of Rajah Charles Brooke. However, there were many ethnic groups immigrant from China at that time, such as Heng Hua(兴化), Hokkien(福建)and others. These people brings a lot of positive changes to Sibu town, putting effort to make a greater SIBU. The new settlement was located next to a small Melanau village that had been established in the 1850s. The first group of Chinese immigrants from Fuzhou,China , led by Pastor Wong Nai Siong (黄乃裳牧师), reached Sarawak in year 1900.

With the Rajang River becoming increasingly bustling with economic activity, Sibu served an important role in the Brooke administration as a trading centre between the coast and the vast upriver hinterland. Sibu continues to fulfil this role today.

Sibu Fort, which was built by Rajah Brooke in 1862, and once located at Race Course Road, no longer exists.

Tourism

Sibu played host to the Borneo Cultural Festival, a week-long celebration of food, music, and dances celebrating the diverse cultural background of the town in 2005. The latest, which is the Fifth BCF event will be kicking off on the second phase Sibu Town Square from 8th September 2006 till 16th September 2006.

In order to promote itself to tourists and for branding purpose, Sibu Municipal Council under the former Chairmanship of Datuk Robert Lau, adopted swan as the symbol of Sibu town. According to the Sibu Chinese community, when the early immigrants arrived in Sibu in the mid 19th century and early 20th century, the present Rajang River reminded them of Swan River in Fuzhou, China. However, due to the fact that such a bird is non-existent in the town (except for the numerous huge artificial swan statues) or anywhere in Malaysia, the majority of the Sibu community, especially the natives, feel that such a choice is too artificial and does not invoke any special or deep feeling toward the so-called "Symbol of Sibu"

The completion of RH Hotel and the current Kingwood Hotel's expansion project are to meet the tourism aspiration of the town. An 18-storey building (the right model in the picture) will be constructed next to the original site of the hotel.

Landmark

The first highrise building in Sibu is the Sarawak House hotel/shopping comples built in early 70s by a local group of businessmen. Among the interesting landmark in Sibu are Wisma Sanyan, Tua Pek Kong Temple and the Central Market. The Civic Centre Museum has a display of Sibu's history, and Melanau, Iban, Malay, and Chinese artifacts. The YMCA Resort is an outskirt resort getaway for camping and retreat.

Shopping

The Central Market is the biggest indoor market in Malaysia. It is home of hundreds of hawker stalls. The Pasar Malam (Night Market) is situated in the town centre. Local traders will usually set up their mobile stores at around 7pm-11pm. Items on display are general Malay and Chinese delicacies, clothing, daily necessities, handicrafts and others. The 28 -storey Wisma Sanyan, the tallest building in Sarawak has the biggest shopping center in Sibu. Wisma Sanyan houses Parkson, Giant, and many other shops. Other shopping complexes include Sarawak House (Premier departmental store), Medan Mall(Everise supermarket and Medan departmental store), Kin Orient Plaza(Sing Kwong), Farley , the new Sing Kwong (opposite Farley) and the newly opened Delta Mall. A new shopping mall----Daesim Mega Mall is under construction now .

Chinese cultural attractions

There are a few cultural attractions of the local Chinese community, especially the Foochows. The Sungai Merah Heritage Walk is a landscaped park situated in a township called Sungai Merah where the earliest Foochow settlers first landed when they arrived in 1902. The Foochow Centennial Celebration Building commemorates 100 years of Foochow immigration to Sibu. Another landmark of Sibu is the century old Tua Pek Kong Temple with Sibu’s landmark 7-storey pagoda. Sibu Gateway, which is located on Pedada Road and Kampung Nyabor Road, houses displays of the twelve Chinese zodiac animals.

Parks

Sibu has a few urban and suburban parks for the leisure activities of locals and tourists. Bukit Aup Jubilee Park, which is located 20 minutes away from Sibu town is a popular spot for sight-seeing, picnics, jogging, and relaxing. It has scenic views of the town, rivers and forests. Gu Tian Park is a landscaped park situated on Bukit Lima Road. It is built by the Gu Tian Community. Another park is Hoover Park, a suburban Christian park built by Methodist Church, Sibu and to be maintained by the town council. Being near Sungai Merah Heritage Walk, there are plans to integrate it into one integrated tourist destination in the future.

Sibu also has forest parks such as Bukit Lima Forest Park and Forestry Recreation Park. Bukit Lima Forest Park has a 2km plankwalk, which is ideal for jogging. The Forestry Recreation Park which covers 200 hectares of land at 18.5 km Ulu Oya Road, is managed by the Forestry Department. The park's facilities include a camping site, a 30-metre watch-tower, a cattle and deer farm, and a huge fish pond. A major attraction to be included soon is a butterfly farm.

Cuisine

Sibu is known for its delicious and affordable local cuisine. The more famous ones include:

  • "Kam Buan" noodles (干捞面) - available at almost all coffee shops and food stalls. The best kampua can be found at Sarawak Laksa - Mouth-watering Sarawak laksa at Aloha
  • "Diang Miang Ngu"(鼎边糊, similar to Taiwan's 鼎边銼)- a savoury soup is available at many stalls as a late night supper. A popular joint is in an alleyway by Jalan Blacksmith.
  • "Bien Niuk"(扁肉, also called wanton, 雲吞. It is known as 餛囤 on the Chinese mainland,while Taiwanese call it 炒手) - a meat dumpling soup.
  • "Kom Biang" (光饼)- a Foochow delicacy made with flour, baked in an oven and eaten either with or without meat and a special gravy. It is somewhat similar to a bagel. However, it can be either in a crisp or soft version. Nice soft kompia dipped in pork sauce can be sought from Chung Hua road and the Sunday Market at Pedada road.
  • "You Zhar Gui" (油炸桧, also called 油條 in Chinese) - deep fried twin dough batter often dipped in soup or chili sauce. It is also a great with porridge or "Bak Kut Teh"
  • "Bek Ting Yuok" (八珍药 in Chinese): The soup of eight essences - nice, sweet, tasty and nutritious Chinese soup made of at least eight types of Chinese herbal materials.

(note: the names are rendered in the Fuzhou dialect, which is often radically different from Standard Mandarin.)

Historical Excerpt

Excerpt from “Wanderings Among South Sea Savages” by H. Wilfrid Walke (available for download at http://www.gutenberg.org):

"There is a fort in Sibu, as indeed there is at most of the river places in Sarawak. The fort at Sibu was close to the Resident Dr. Hose's house and was attacked by Dayaks only a few years ago. Johnson, one of Dr. Hose's assistants, showed me a very long Dayak canoe capable of seating over one hundred men... The river at Sibu was of great width, over a mile across, in fact, and close to the bank is a Malay village, and a bazaar where the wily Chinaman does a thriving trade in the wild produce of the country, and makes huge profits out of the Dayaks and other natives on this river."

History of 7 Storey Pagoda Tua Peh Kong Temple

The History of the Sibu Eng Ann Teng Tua Peh Kong Temple can be dated back to earlier 1870. In the 1871 Sarawak Gazette, it was recorded that there was a small wooden Chinese temple in Sibu and that was the Tua Peh Kong Temple. In 1897, the temple was rebuilt into a typical Chinese temple designed with tiled roof, stone block floor and all the decorative purlin & fixtures which were imported from China. The State of Tua Peh Kong deity was specially sculptured and imported from Xiamen, China. After the building was completed, the list of donors and details of expenditure were recorded in two pieces of stone tablet which are stil well preserved in the temple.

On 8th March, 1928 Sibu town was destroyed by a big fire, but the temple was unscathed. This was a miracle.

In 1942, Japanese invaded and, occupied Sibu. In 1945, the Allied Forces bombarded Sibu. The town and the temple were severely destroyed but the state of the deity was unharmed. After the Second World War, the wooden structure temple was rebuilt.

In 1957, the temple was reconstructed into a concrete structure and was declared open by the then Governor of Sarawak, Sir Abell. It was a grand occasion for the Sibu Town as the British Royal dignitaries including the Resident attended the ceremony.

In 1979, renovation of both wings of the temple was again being carried out and the roof of temple was changed from belian wood into concrete with glazed roofing tiles; the ridge or roof and column were decorated with traditional dragon and phoenix statues. The renovated building was declared open in 1980.

In 1987, under the generous patronage of the State Government and the worshippers, the rear section of the temple was demolished and replaced by a 7-storey Pagoda for the worship of the Goddess of Mercy. This Pagoda building, flavored with traditional Chinese Pagoda Architecture, becomes a land mark of Sibu. The total expenditure of the building was RM1.5 millions and was declared open on 4th May 1989.

Thus, the temple which is a symbol of the sovereign and kindness of the deity for the worshipper also becomes a prime tourist attraction for the town.

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