Home to many Foo Chow delicacies, Sibu (Sarawak) is a town where one gets to find many delicious eats like Kompia, Kampua etc. Sibu is also the second largest town after Kuching (in the state of Sarawak). Thanks to the geographical location and right next to the Rajang river, Sibu is dominated by the bustling waterfront industrial trading activities such as transportation of timber, pepper and rubber. The town has a population of approximately 200,000 and most of them are descendants of Foo Chow... which explains on the availability of Foo Chow delicacies. There are many flights traveling to Sibu nowadays and AirAsia has launched a direct flight from Penang to Sibu recently. The Sibu Airport is approximately 30-minute drive away from Sibu town but due to the lack of public transportation, it is best to rent a car if you wish to explore the town (or neighboring towns).
Some tips from Ken:
- Book a hotel somewhere in the heart of town, we recommend either RH Hotel or Kingwood; the former one offers a more spacious room and strategically located right next to the landmark- Wisma Sanyan but the facilities are older. The latter one is closer to most tourist attractions like the Sibu Central Market or Tua Pek Kong Temple and has newer facilities but the service is less-attentive and usually busier with events (parking might be an issue if there are events in the hotel).
- Rent a car so you won't miss out any attractions in town; while those tourist attractions are accessible by foot, you get to venture further with a car. But if you are renting a car, do take note on the parking fee by local authorities. You need to get a parking coupon booklet if you don't want to get any parking summons.
- Start your day early- the Sibu folks usually start their day very early and you can start by exploring the Sibu Central Market or any hawker centre. There are limited activities after 7 pm so don't worry, you will get plenty of rest after sunset.
- Bring sufficient Cash- many shops are still on cash term, even if some may accept credit cards, there is usually minimum spending requirement. E-Wallets are not common in hawkers; as for others, those E-Wallets like Touch N Go and GrabPay are not commonly used (they use Sarawak Pay for your information).
- Check out Arthur's blog- the very experienced true blue Sibu resident knows where to get the best food in town, watch out for his recommendations (and mine below).
Bagged a couple of awards, Payung Cafe is a famous restaurant in Sibu; it started many years back as a restaurant specializes in Borneo cuisine but has since expanded its menu to offer more variety to include Western dishes and other South East Asian delights. Known to many by words of mouth- apart from its interesting menu offering, the restaurant insists not to use any MSG or reusable cooking oil; it only offers what is best in season and that being said, the consistency is there. There are many uncommon dishes (at least to us) with rather odd combination especially to West Malaysians but if you are visiting the town as a tourist, skip the Western menu and go straight to their Borneo dishes. A must try dish at Payung is its Payung Rojak with a variety of refreshing crunch and a generous sprinkle of the Torch Ginger, the Rojak sauce is sweet but not overly so. Belacan is not used and instead, Gula Apong is used, so it has a distinctive palm sugar flavor that works perfectly with crunchy vegetables and Peanuts. Equally interesting is the Belimbing Prawns- not the ordinary Starfruit but wild ones so the dish has a refreshing acidity to it... exquisite and hard to explain in words. Kacama Chicken is a Hakka dish most commonly found in Kuching, it uses a type of Herb to cook and its an acquired taste, not something that first-time taster would enjoy. Plan your visit in a group so that you get to try more dishes, the flavor combinations are unique and definitely a good novelty experience for West Malaysians.
A place not to be missed by dessert lovers- the Nica Plus offers a wide variety of sweet treats including Bingsu, Shaved Ice, Macarons, Cakes, Gelato etc; they do serve mains if you must know but the place is especially known for its desserts. The place is the perfect spot for afternoon tea where you get to enjoy some freshly baked cakes or refreshing-chilled sweet treats. On our visit, we had the Matcha Red Bean Bingsu and Rum N Raisins Mille Crepe. We were most amazed by its Bingsu, the texture was silky smooth and the flavor was spot on. There were hints of Condensed Milk but the overall concoction was good, not too sweet and perfect to cool us down under the sultry hot weather. Frankly speaking, we liked their Bingsu even more than some of the cafes in Penang. As for the Rum N Raisins Mille Crepe, we thought the texture was somewhat harder than expected... the flavor could be bolder either (but we are not complaining for the price).
A new commercial district slightly off the Sibu town centre, Hann's Residences has quite a lot of new restaurants/cafes to be explored and Flōs is one of the worth checking out ones. The cafe is sharing the same space as the floristry with plenty of fresh flowers on display... which gives the space a bright, relaxed vibe. There is also a lovely space surrounded by greens right outside the cafe for those who prefer a more outdoorsy ambiance. Flōs does not serve any main but a small selection of sweet treats like cakes, macarons as well as some beverages. One of the few places in Sibu where you can chill and relax over coffee and desserts.
Short Half-Day trip to Sarikei and Bintangor: