We visit the largest covered market in Sarawak, if not all of Malaysia
Even after the previous day’s long and arduous trek from Kuching to Sarikei, culminating in a late night arrival in Sibu, we were still roused and readied for an early Sunday morning start. Our destination was the Sibu Central Market. It is the largest market in Sarawak in terms of vendors, eclipsing the Satok Sunday Market in Kuching which sprawls over several blocks.
The building is quite impressive. The main complex is a two-storey building stretching over a few city blocks. The ground floor is where all the marketing is done, while the upper floor is reserved for food courts and other small shops. Adjacent to it is a multi-storey parking garage. In between the two buildings is an open area where farmers from the various ethnic peoples display their produce on Saturdays.
We stepped in to the middle of the market mania to get ourselves oriented. Vendors stretch as far as the eye can see in both directions. Here is a video I took from our vantage point, showing a 360-degree view of the market. It’ll make your head spin!
Follow the Bell
We ran into a man who was vigorously and joyfully ringing a handbell while carrying a wicker basket and swiftly making his way between the rows of vendors.
We followed him out to a rally point where more people with baskets, carts and bells were gathering. They were all volunteers with the Sibu Benevolent Society, and they were there to collect food donations for the nursing home that they run. Each Sunday morning, they canvass the market, picking up whatever food is given to them by the vendors.
Fresh vegetables are always collected, as are fresh fish and sometimes meat. Sometimes, someone gets lucky at the lottery and buys some extra food from a vendor to be given to the Society. However much they are able to collect, everything is loaded up into a truck and taken back to the nursing home for the cooks to divvy up and use throughout the week. These cooks must be like Iron Chefs, since they don’t know what are the secret ingredients they have to use, week to week!
I can’t begin to describe to you about all the produce available at this market. Sibu and the surrounding land is a major farming area. Corn, beans, radishes, cucumbers, squashes, and leafy greens of different types are all on display here.
In addition to the vegetables, the market also sells tons of fresh fish. Sibu is a major port city situated near the mouth of the Rajang River. Seafood from the South China Sea, shellfish from nearby aqua-farms, and freshwater fish from upriver all find their way to this market. We bought a couple of the Sultan Fish (bottom picture) to take back with us.
In another section of the market are the meat vendors. Slaughtered and cleaned chickens sit on display, feet pointing straight into the air. Piles and piles of chicken pieces from feet to wings to whole heads cover the tables. And then, there was this sight:
That’s right. Live chickens, all in a row. Instead of cages, though, each chicken is neatly wrapped in some newspaper and tied by nylon string. You’d think they would be all making quite a ruckus, yet they are surprisingly docile. I’ve never seen anything like it!
I havent’ even scratched the surface of all you can see at the Sibu Central Market. It’s a truly amazing place to visit. If you ever get to Sibu, this is the place you must see.
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I am entering this post in the Muhibbah Malaysian Monday roundup for November.