Listen, people…

This is the 50th year of Sarawak in Malaysia and in this day and age of technology, it amazes me a great deal to know how little Malaysians and others know about the East Malaysian states, Sabah and Sarawak. In fact, at times, I get the impression that some think that Malaysia is West or Peninsula Malaysia alone and we’re a completely different country altogether.

A friend of mine shared his experience in Facebook about how he went to get something done over at the other side and a few days after he came back to Sarawak, he had a call from an officer there telling him that the forms were ready and he would have to go to the office to sign them. He told her that he had come back to Sarawak and she asked, “Bila encik akan datang ke Malaysia lagi?” (When are you coming to Malaysia again?)

Some of you may recall the frustrations I had had with people in the ministry deciding to hold something and fixing the schedules according to their whims and fancies and letting us know at the last minute…and worse, they may just change their minds and the dates anytime they feel like it, like the time when Melissa was about to leave for New Zealand for her studies. For one thing, it is more expensive for us to purchase air tickets at such short notice and we will have to pay through our noses to get our bookings changed (so much so that some people will just throw away the tickets and make fresh bookings). They seem to think that we are all in the peninsula and we can just hop on a bus or catch a train…or drive on their very nice highways anytime we like to get to where we need to go. Sometimes, I really feel like telling them, “Encik, tahu tak – ada laut di antara kita…Laut Cina Selatan!” Surely they do not expect us to swim over! Tsk! Tsk!

Anyway, I am from Sibu – a small town in the central region of the state of Sarawak…

Map of Sarawak

…along the Rejang River, the longest in Malaysia. If you look at the map, there to the north-east lie the Sultanate of Brunei and the state of Sabah. The Philippines would be to the north of the latter. You can also see the duty-free island – the Federal Territory of Labuan in the map, off the coast of Sabah.

And if you look at the little map in the top left hand corner, Malaysia is coloured green with Sabah and Sarawak to the north of the island of Borneo and Peninsula Malaysia to the south of Thailand (orange in colour). Singapore is there across the causeway at the southern tip of the peninsula but I guess it is too small to be seen.

To get to Sibu, you can fly direct via MAS from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (1 flight a day) or Air Asia from the LCCT (6 flights or more a day) in Sepang…or you can fly from JB (Senai, if I am not mistaken) via Air Asia – there is a flight every day from there. Otherwise, if you fly here from Singapore, you will have to stop in transit in Kuching…

*The State Assembly Building across the Sarawak River in Kuching*

I’m not too sure of the specific flights but I think you can use MAS, Air Asia, Tiger…and I think, Silk Air as well. Then you have a choice between MAS (or MasWings – depending on the time of day) or Air Asia to fly to Sibu, the Swan City…

The Swan, symbol of Sibu

It is not actually a city – just a town but it has its charm and beauty and attractions of its own…

Sibu town centre
*A glimpse at Sibu town centre from a distance*

You can read in this post here or this one perhaps…and all the rest by friends of mine or other bloggers who have been to Sibu that it is indeed worth a visit. Of course, if you are into the nightlife – all the clubbing and the boozing and all the girlie bars, perhaps you should just head on to Bali or go north to Thailand (though there may be a sprinkling of those here but I wouldn’t know as I do not go to such places, not anymore.)…or if you are into theme parks and casinos, we do not have those here either. The main attractions  here would be the food – you will find a lot that you cannot get elsewhere…and the way of life, the whole identity or image of the town which is so different from those in the peninsula with the influences by the large population of Malays and Indians there. I would say that Sibu is quintessentially Chinese – there are Chinese characters in the road and shop signs and everywhere…quite unlike the towns and cities on the other side of the South China Sea.

Perhaps you would like to venture to one of the smaller towns – an hour or two away by car. I would suggest Kanowit which is different in its own way, instead of Bintangor or Sarikei as these too are more Chinese…like smaller versions of Sibu so it may not be worth the effort of going all the way there.

And of course, ask anyone who has been here before – it’s the company that matters most…and with me here, you can be sure that I will go out of my way to make sure that you will not regret your trip here and it would be definitely worth the while…so much so that you will want to come again and again and again!

Author: suituapui

Ancient relic but very young at heart. Enjoys food and cooking...and travelling and being with friends.

26 thoughts on “Listen, people…”

  1. it still feels like sabah and sarawak is totally out of Malaysia for the friendly and non racist people in Borneo compared to the west here. I myself have been transformed into one… that’s sad right?

    Why? Don’t you have a mind of your own? But frankly, even here, the “winds of change” have changed the people here especially among the younger generation. Whatever it is, I guess there has been this paradigm shift from the colonial mindset of our time – the time when we were Sarawakians (or Sabahans) and all of us looked up to the orang putih.

  2. My dad told me that the tickets are RM 5xx now! That’s an insane price.

    We actually saw promo price RM 89 one way the moment it was announced and then before we could book, it was back to regular price so we’re taking MAS.

    I do like Sibu though, and we’re going back for elections to vote (well, for me anyway).

    I was planning on going over to KL next week – it was RM79…and a few days later, RM129…and including the taxes, it was over RM300. I guess with the other “purchases”, it will come up to almost RM400. MAS was around RM500 all the while…and between the two, I would choose MAS…and KLIA!!! No, thank you…no LCCT for me.

    1. Yeah, it ended up being more expensive than MAS so we chose MAS instead (RM 312 – cheaper price).

      Oh, you’re coming over next week! We’ll see you before elections then! 🙂

      Nope, I changed my mind… Not feeling up to it at the moment. 😦

  3. I’ll definitely visit Sibu and check it out. Been reading so much about it from you and those who visited.

    Come, come, come on over. Most welcome. Just let me know when you’ll be coming and I’ll take it from here.

  4. For me, it’s so near and yet so far. Used to follow my sister to Sibu quite often when I was young then. My BIL is from Binatang (now Bintangor). Been ages haven’t step foot into this beautiful town.

    It is definitely a whole lot different from the time when you were last here. The ugly duckling has turned into a beautiful swan…

  5. At least I know where Sabah and Sarawak is 🙂 All that from my Ilmu Alam/Geografi at school. Used to think of East Malaysia as “so far away” and when I went to university I met so many friendly Sabahans and Sarawakians. My first impression is you East Malaysians are a down to earth and friendly lot.

    Ilmu Alam??? Gee!!! You must be very old – eventually, it was called Geografi. I was teaching Ilmu Alam way back then and I would say that the subject content then was really very good. That is why I know a lot about West Malaysia…and those who were in school then would know a fair deal about Sarawak and Sabah. I don’t know what is in the syllabus now – other than the fact that the students had to do projects (for which they copied from one another and learnt nothing in the process).

    I had some friends when I was doing my specialist course in a college in KL in 1986 – they said that the Sarawakians in the uni would stick together, never mingled with the rest…and they would speak their own language that not one could understand. Then I asked them if they sounded like they were quarreling among themselves and they said yes…and I said those must be the Foochows from Sibu. We do tend to be a bit loud…hehehehehehe!!!! 😀

    1. Hey Arthur! How could you say that?!!!

      Phong Hong is about my age… we are in our 40s…. but she’s in the other half! 😀

      You’re in your 40’s. Nahhhhh!!!! Impossible! You’re so young – I would say late 20’s or at the most, early 30’s. Phong Hong, I wouldn’t know as I have never met her nor seen her photograph. 😉

  6. Some West Malaysians think we live in tree houses and I remembered telling one that we swing from house to house! Such ignorance.

    That is why many teachers are so scared to be posted here. I heard one turned up at the briefing in Kuching with a year’s supply of toilet rolls!!!

  7. To be fair, I think both West Malaysians and East Malaysians do have misconceptions about each other.

    I would not say solely misconceptions, but ignorance…yes! Many things that many here do not know, not just about West Malaysia but everything and everywhere in general. There is this sad thing about young people today – they are simply not interested in knowing things. I asked a girl (Straight A’s in the exam, mind you!!!) who had been to Melbourne to mark an X on a sketch map of Australia to show where it was and she was not able to do so….and to think that all the way during the flight, you can see the progress of your journey on a screen at the back of the seat in front for you!

  8. Thank you for making the effort to educate some of us. I understand your frustration on the ignorance and the great divide between East and West Malaysia for some people. Just like some Westerners thought Malaysia is either in Singapore or somewhere near Vietnam. You are the Tourism Ambassador for Sibu.

    I would not be surprised if you asked some of the locals here and they would not know a thing about West Malaysia either. Once I overheard one man telling some visitors from the peninsula that there are no mamak shops in Sibu and there are no Indians here…when there is one very nice nasi bryani/roti canai place right across the road from the hotel. I guess for some people, ignorance really is bliss!

  9. Hi Arthur. Thank you for sharing so much of your hometown with us. I will be visiting Sibu tomorrow as I am accompanying my kids and their school team for a competition. I am looking forward to checking out the makan places you have recommended. God Bless!

    Welcome, and good luck in the competition.

  10. well our country we pretty close huh
    no wonder why it resembles a lot!

    In fact, I think Sabah is nearer to your country than the West Malaysia.

  11. well if I were to travel someday! malaysia is my first destination
    cause i know there’s tons of friends to see there haha

    I’m sure you’d love it here.

  12. Federation of Malaya was formed in 1957. There was no Malaysia prior to 1963.

    Malaysia was only formed in 16-Sep-1963 when Federation of Malaya and Sarawak and Sabah and Singapore came together.

    It gets me mad when West Malaysian said we were 50 years old in 2008.

    Strictly speaking, therefore, August 31st should be Hari Kemerdekaan (Independence Day) and a public holiday for states in the peninsula only.

  13. One thing unique about Sibu. It does not matter where you are standing, you could be standing in the middle of the town, and you will see trees around.

    Indeed, and I remember how people were all against it when the late mayor embarked on the tree-planting programme. I know people burning stuff under the trees to kill them, and I hear there were some pouring kerosene down the roots too. Haters will hate, no matter what anyone does.

  14. As a West Malaysian, I admit that I used to think that peninsula = Malaysia. East Malaysia was an enigma. However, I married a Sarawakian and have been there numerous times since. I must say I understand being Malaysian more fully now.

    I’m sure you’re not the only one. Btw, welcome and thanks for dropping by…all the way from LA, California, I believe?

  15. Misconceptions and stereotypes are common to all of us. But those would not used as excuses for not to learn about other people and their cultures. Hope to visit Malaysia someday and drop by Sarawak to see the differences.

    Hear! Hear! Bet you will see a whole lot of similarities too! The root of the problem is people do not know and they just do not care and are not in the least bothered to know. Quite happy dwelling in their shell of ignorance.

  16. For old timers like us, we know where we are.. 🙂 but above all, we are still Malaysians..

    Have to get to know ourselves better to merit calling ourselves by that name…but then again, there are people even here in our small town of Sibu who do not know such and such a place exists here…like when I shared a photo of a memorial park on Facebook, so many said they did not know there was such a place in the town. I guess some people are way too comfortable wrapped in their cocoon of ignorance, not bothered that there are so many things around them that they don’t know. Sad, real sad.

  17. Me mountain tortoise, didn’t know have to fly over to Sibu, thought fly to Kuching or KK airport, then take coach over to Sibu, see how mountain tortoise i am….

    You can take a bus from Kuching to Sibu – RM40 one way, comfortable enough but 6-8 hours, I think. Not too sure if there are buses from KK but you can drive…and you have to go through Brunei to get to Sarawak. I hear it is not a pleasant drive.

    1. wow, 6-8 hrs, that’s a long journey…

      That is why we always fly…but the astronomical airfare isn’t helping one bit.

  18. Those of my age or older will know about Sabah and Sarawak as our geography syllabus covered the region in detail.. almost lar. Malaysians have this bad habit of wanting to visit other countries for holidays but bypass all the other states in their own country. Many from southern state never even step foot in the northern state apakan lagi Sabah and Sarawak. In NZ , they used to have a tourism slogan ” Don’t leave home till you have seen the country”.

    There are a few states that I would like to visit…but I have not had the chance to do so. I have not been to Kelantan & Trengganu…and Perlis…and Johore, I just passed through. Been to all the rest.

  19. that’s true, i have only a very vague knowledge about where sarawak’s cities are located. if you had given me a blank map of sarawak and asked me to point out where sibu is, i would have failed!

    You? I thought you’re some international media big shot, should be so very knowledgeable about everything? Never mind! You know now – just poke in the middle…of the map that is. LOL!!! 😀

  20. Sibu… Hopefully I get to visit Sibu soon~! Actually I wanted to visit East Malaysia!

    Welcome, welcome! Looking forward to your visit.

  21. “Encik, tahu tak – ada laut di antara kita…Laut Cina Selatan!” <—- LMAO!!!!

    Yalor!!! They do not seem to realise that. And have you seen my Facebook update today? They’ve done it again!!! Those pig-brained idiots!!!!

  22. So Arthur, you were born in Sibu? Your father or grandfather were from China?

    My grandfather…and my great-grandmother came from China, not too sure about my great-grandfather. My father and I were Sibu-born and raised.

All opinions expressed in my blog are solely my own, that is my prerogative - you may or may not agree, that is yours. To each his/her own. For food and other reviews, you may email me at

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