On the road to Sibu, through the verdant hills and countryside of Sarawak
I wrote earlier about taking my mom (during her recent visit from Honolulu) to the Sarawak Cultural Village here in Kuching. Chronologically though, Kuching wasn’t the first place she visited when she arrived in Malaysia. About a week before she arrived, our good friend Mike told us that he was going back to his hometown of Sibu for a few days, and invited us, including my mom, to come join him. After confirming with her, we accepted his invitation.
The only problem was, Mike requested we arrive in Sibu on Saturday night, and my mom was set to fly in to Kuching from Singapore at noon that very day. It would mean picking her up, bringing her home for a very brief stop, then heading back out in the early afternoon to make the 6 hour drive to meet Mike in Sarikei where we would have dinner before continuing on to Sibu. We left Kuching around 2 pm.
Smooth Sailing / Rough Riding
The main highway between Kuching and Sibu is a 2-lane road traveling around mountains, over hills, and through valleys. Some parts of the road are straight, narrow and smooth. The ride is enjoyable, even in our cramped little sub-compact Proton Saga. We were able to take in the sights of the farms, tiny villages, and far-ranging countryside – a welcome relief from Kuching’s urban crush.
Other parts of the road are not in such good condition. There are potholes and patches and lots and lots of bumps. In addition, there are slow-moving construction trucks, motorbikes weaving in and out of lanes, and fast-moving sedans eager to pass you at the drop of a hat. That part of driving is not so fun.
We made a few scheduled pit stops, including one at the Petronas gas station outside of Betong to top up the tank. Then came the unscheduled pit stop when Esther barfed all over herself, Mom, and half the backseat. Thank goodness she was only drinking water instead of milk – can you imagine riding in a car reeking of barf and curdled milk? Ugh.
Supper in Sarikei
Despite this, we made good time and actually got in to Sarikei around 8 pm. Mike and his friend Will met us in town and guided us to the Hung Kiew Kee Restaurant in the central business district of Sarikei town. Popularly known as “Ah Kow’s” (the name of the restaurant’s celebrated former chef), Hung Kiew Kee is a well-established Cantonese restaurant known for its seafood as well as its unique “gold coin” char siew.
Still feeling a bit shell-shocked from the long and arduous drive, we let Mike and Will do the ordering. For fish, they ordered a steamed river fish in soy sauce. For soup, we got an egg drop soup with mushrooms sea cucumber. I’m normally not a fan of sea cucumber, but this one was quite tender and tasty.
Steamed Fish and Egg Drop Soup with Sea Cucumber
We also got a big platter of steamed shrimp with ginger and scallions (our recipe here) – this one has sliced shiitake mushrooms and strips of chile peppers for extra kick. Mom couldn’t take the heat, unfortunately. For veg, we requested some stir-fried cangkuk manis (our recipe here). Mom really liked this dish.
Steamed Shrimp and Stir-fried Cangkuk Manis
Unfortunately, they didn’t have any “gold coin” char siew that evening; they only make it if it’s pre-ordered or if there’s a big banquet going on that day. It will have to wait until we return to Sarikei.
After dinner, Mike and Will guided us out of Sarikei and on for another hour until we reached Mike’s place in Sibu. We got settled in, showered, and slept; we had to get an early start the next morning.