Sibu is located in the heart of Sarawak, serving as an important gateway for trade between Malaysia and Indonesia. The city population stands at 163 thousand people with their historical sites preserved to reflect how significant these past traditions are today. While Sibu is not a popular travel destination, it has its own uniqueness that would certainly make it a worthwhile visit.
Housed in the former Sarawak Municipal Building, history buffs would adore this place, as one could learn about the rich history of Sibu in its early days, with stories of the migration of Chinese migrants from different dialect groups, besides being treated to seeing old photographs and cultural exhibits on different ethnic groups in Rejang, as well as the collection of fine antique artifacts like Chinese porcelain and clay vases. You would also be treated to special exhibitions like genuine skulls from Iban longhouses, as headhunting used to be a common thing in the Dayak culture, and taxidermied animals such as the Moon Rat, Orang Utan or Rhinoceros Hornbill. It is open daily from 9am to 5pm except for Mondays, and is definitely worth visiting.
The Bukit Lima Nature Reserve lies conveniently in the heart of town, in the midst of the Kampung Sentosa settlement. Besides owning jungle trails that are suitable for forest walks and running, the Bukit Lima Nature Reserve is also home to 39 species of birds, one can just come here to watch and admire rare birds like the flowerpeckers, sunbirds, and babblers. You could even catch a glimpse of the wildlife nearby like pangolins, the Giant Squirrel, the Plantain Squirrel, Treeshews, and the Sambar deer while going for a leisurely jog. The reserve is open daily from 8am to 5pm, including public holidays.
This is a must-visit for anyone coming to Sibu, as it is the first and only medical museum in Malaysia. The museum is dedicated to Lau King Howe, who has helped and impacted many lives ever since he moved to Sibu in 1915. What started out as an intention to help rubber plantation activities eventually became a lifelong purpose towards helping the people of Sibu and Rajang Valley. Lau King Howe is most known for donating most of his wealth to build a hospital. The Lau King Howe Hospital Museum features remnants of old medical equipment and old photographs with more detailed explanations of his story. Closed on Mondays, you can visit this museum on any other day of the week, from 9am to 5pm, and is only within 5 minutes from Sibu town.
Apart from the Sibu Heritage Centre, the Wong Nai Siong Garden is an excellent spot to soak in the history of Sibu, particularly stories of the Chinese Revolutionary leader, Wong Nai Siong, who led a large-scale migration of Foochow migrants to Sibu in 1901. The site is chosen as it is believed that that particular land was where they first stepped foot on. Located on Sungai Merah road, it is an approximate 20 to 25 minute car ride to get there from town. Visitors can also come here to stroll or explore the nearby night market.
This 17-year old temple is located just 20 minutes away from town, and is still a hidden gem in Sibu. It is so hidden, in fact, that even locals have not really heard of it either sometimes! Those that are lucky enough to step into this temple, however, have commented on how unique it is. Temples often emit a certain aura that silences visitors, but the Tiger Emperor Temple is on a whole other level. The entrance of the temple resembles that of a mouth of a tiger, alongside tiger statues guarding the sides of the temple. The temple is mainly tiger themed, and is said to have been built by a Chinese couple that wished to create a space for people to come worship their ancestors, similar to the people in China. Despite it being open 24-hours, it can be a little challenging to find.
Built in 2005, Lin’s Swan Garden is an enthralling place to visit, and is certainly a great spot for photo-taking! The highlight of this garden is the display of the statues of the 12 zodiac animals from the Chinese calendar, with a huge swan statue as the centrepiece. According to the locals, this display is a symbol of happiness and good luck to the residents. If you’re planning to stop by here, do note that it is next to the Sibu Getaway. Even if you can’t make it there, you would most likely still spot it, as every road in the city centre leads to this park.
Not only does this spot provide a glimpse into Malaysia’s diverse culture but it also provides an opportunity for locals and foreigners alike to experience what life was like before modernization. With interactive exhibits, beautiful sights and sounds of nature that surround you, the 1Malaysia Culture Village is a must-visit! Getting there usually takes less than an hour, and it is located just across Jubilee Park. You could opt to take a car there, or take bus number 3 instead.
The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and the way to a city’s heart is the food. Food is a huge part of every Malaysian, and the best place to discover the local delicacies is through the local market. Built in 1996 and located on Jalan Channel opposite of Express Boat Passenger Terminal, Sibu Central Market is the place to go to, as it is the pinnacle for fresh cooking ingredients, besides being the largest market in Sarawak, and the largest indoor market in Malaysia. Apart from fresh produce, there is an extensive range of stalls selling exotic fruits, jungle produce, and general handicrafts. Besides being open daily, you can come here for fresh and affordable ingredients as early as 5am, and it closes at 7pm. You may even spot Chinese hawkers selling live chickens, wrapped in tubes made of old newspapers. Just be sure to bring drinking water with you, as you will be doing quite a bit of walking.
Once hailed as the tallest building in Sarawak, Wisma Sanyan is a 125-meter one-stop centre that houses 120 retail shops, 22 office levels and 5 shopping levels, including local government offices and the Sarawak Municipal Council (SMC). Confluent in the Rajang and Igan rivers, this landmark has eventually become the largest town square with its wide space and is the official venue to host the annual Borneo Culture Festival. You can visit this place from 10am to 10pm, on any day of the week.
The Merah Heritage Walk is located beside the Sungai Merah (Red River), and is an old bazaar that is said to be the earliest settlement of the Chinese migrants in Sibu, particularly the Chinese Foochow. The moniker is certainly apt, as the heritage trail along the riverbank looks red occasionally, due to the iron content in the river. Thus, this is a unique place to stroll at, and certainly an interesting spot for photo-taking, especially when the sun sets! Just off this bustling market, visitors will find themselves walking along a riverfront trail, ending up at Wong Nai Siong Memorial Garden — a homage from the town founder himself. Walking here is certainly an experience one shouldn’t miss!
Sibu is a beautiful town in Sarawak that should be explored. It offers the perfect balance between nature and culture, so whether you’re looking for a relaxing getaway or want to soak up some of Malaysia’s unique history, this area has something for everyone.