Sarikei is a town located about 105 km from Sibu. Sarikei is famous for its pineapples, which is cultivated here and exported. I drove down with Faye to sample the Asam Tom Yam Big Prawn Noodles over there (see previous post) and had an acute case of the post-lunch coma after the enormous serving was consumed and decided to stay the night before driving back early next morning.
Sarikei is a pretty small town by anyone’s standards and the main commercial area is concentrated around the pier (esplanade). There are only a few main roads in town and you’ll be hard pressed to lose your way around the town.
There is a gigantic 3.6 meter pineapple located at the Sarikei waterfront. This distinctive feature pays homage to the famous Sarikei pineapples, most of which is exported and is renowned for it’s sweet and juicy fruit.
The Sarikei pineapple replica is perhaps the most popular photo op available in this sleepy little town. There were a couple of other tourists taking photos with the prickly fruit too. I don’t know what the structure is made of but the thorny leaves are not very conducive to sitting, as I found out first hand.
Faye also wanted to take a photo with the famous Pineapple of Sarikei. Please, no jokes about inserting bromeliads where the sun don’t shine. ;)
I was feeling rather drowsy after lunch and didn’t feel like driving back home so I cruised around town for hotels to check into. I had seen a billboard on the road leading to Sarikei advertising King’s Inn and decided to spend the night there. It was a rather impulsive decision since we didn’t even bring a change of clothes (or even the basics like a toothbrush). I had an extra pair of pants and a spare pullover in my car from a road trip several months back and Faye elected to wear the shorts and T-shirt I was currently wearing at night so it worked out alright.
King’s Inn is newly renovated and has WiFi in every room. The proprietor of Glory Cafe recommended the place to us since it’s clean and relatively cheap. It cost us RM 40 for a double room. The occupancy rates are very high – we saw a FULL sign being put up as soon as we checked in.
The lobby at King’s Inn is smaller than my bedroom but it’s comfortable, with a couple of rattan lounge chairs and some reading material (mostly newspapers and magazines) on the shelf. There is also a water cooler and a chiller with sodas and snacks.
The room at King’s Inn is indeed clean and neat. This is pretty good by rural standards – there are no international class hotels over here, most of them are budget hostel accommodations and dodgy old inns. The only complaint I have is the desk between the single beds, which prevents the beds from being joined together. King’s Inn ran out of queen sized bedrooms so we had to go for a double single bed room.
The fittings in the hotel room is pretty standard – there’s a vanity mirror on a desk, a very small 14″ TV set, several cloth hangers and a plastic stool. It’s only RM 40 per night nett so it was alright with us since we’ll just be staying until 4 am before we have to drive back to Sibu. The room is clean and the air-conditioning is cold and that’s all that matters. :)
I crashed for about an hour due to excessive consumption of alcohol the previous night before waking up to go exploring around the small town. The last time I was here was back in 2002 so a good six years had passed since I have been in Sarikei. This is the Main Street of Sarikei town taken at dusk.
I would be remiss if I didn’t do a reenactment of the popular pose at the Sarikei Public Toilet that received critical acclaim (?) back in 2002. The photo is somewhere in the archives of sixthseal.com – this is our version of the “I was here” photo.
The Sarikei town clock is also another landmark in Sarikei. The town clock served an important function back in the days when wristwatches and cell phones weren’t available but no one probably bothers to look at it nowadays, except for the visitors. I took the liberty of squeezing myself into an empty waste disposal post. I don’t think that worked out very well for my shorts…
Sarikei Wharf Esplanade is another popular place to watch the sun set (and for lovebirds to gather at night). It’s conveniently located at the main row of shophouses in Sarikei town. You can take a leisurely stroll in the evening when the sun sets as the cool breeze coming in from the Rejang River makes it ideal for a nice walk down the wharf.
There is also a playground at the esplanade where the children play on the plastic swings and slides. It seems to be a very popular pastime among the families over here. I guess there’s nothing better to do on a lazy Sunday evening.
The other popular activity for locals is fishing by the pier. We saw quite a number of anglers whiling the time away at the wharf. I went to have a look and saw that the people here mostly use baited hooks instead of the jigging or popping method which is more popular with recreational fishing enthusiasts elsewhere.
We also went exploring at the local market and found a cache of pineapples. Pineapples are Sarikei’s claim to fame and the variant they cultivate is noted for its juiciness and sweet texture. It costs RM 4 for a kg of the fruit. One pineapple weighs about 1 kg or less, depending on the size. Sarikei’s pineapples is a must try if you ever come over – it’s delicious!
The local marketplace has received a makeover of sorts and is now painted in (rather garish) tribal designs. The taller building behind the market is an old Chinese operated hotel which has become rather run down since the glory days of Sarikei as a wharf town.
The difference is clear.
Sarikei also has numerous smaller jetties and docking bays made out of roughly bound timber. I found a little path opposite a place selling coffins (of all things) which led to a mangrove beach (it’s actually silt deposits from the river).
Jesus walks on water (with adidas trainers)
“Ye of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” – Matthew 14:31
Dusk came over pretty soon and we took a shower at the hotel before heading out for dinner. I had asked for recommendations from the receptionist at the inn we were staying at and she suggested checking out Sheraton Seafood Centre.
This is the steamed prawn with egg, which is flavored with chilli, ginger and Chinese red wine. It tasted absolutely fabulous! The prawns were so tender and juicy it came off the shell with just the gentlest of nudging from a chopstick.
This is deer meat cooked with dried chillis. I’m not sure about the legal status of deer as a protected species, but they serve it (as well as bats and other exotic wildlife). It’s good, tender and spicy.
This is sweet and sour pork which is one of our staples. It’s nothing to write home about – I’ve had better. We wanted sweet and sour fish but the proprietor (who is also the chef) advised against it since it would take a long time with the crowd at the place.
The meal cost us RM 40.20 inclusive of drinks. Faye paid for the dinner. That’s why I sayang her while posing for this photo. ;)
We saw a couple of bars and pubs around Sarikei and was intending to check out the interestingly named Fire before noticing the distinctive Guinness sign and neon blue lighting above Chicken King Restaurant. Chicken King Restaurant is er…emulating, shall we say, the KFC operational model and has almost the same menu items.
However, the second floor is al fresco (albeit covered) and offers a cafe style environment. I asked the proprietor and he told me it’s been open for six months and they serve a small selection of beer. It’s called Chicken King Cafe and is meant as a watering hole with a more relaxed ambiance.
The entire perimeter of the place is open and there are plenty of ceiling fans to provide adequate ventilation. There are various seating arrangements and a huge projection TV to attract customers but we were the only ones there.
The place affords a nice view of the main street of Sarikei, though it seems that this town becomes a bit of a ghost town after 10 pm. Perhaps it’s due to it being a Sunday, but the rural lifestyle seems to adhere to the sleep early, rise early philosophy.
We ordered a couple of beers to relax and chill out at the place before heading back to the hotel. The Guinness Stout is priced at RM 7 per bottle and the Tiger Beer is priced at RM 7 per bottle.
There is another pier opposite King’s Inn where we were staying and we saw a bit of man-on-man love going on at a secluded bench when we went for a night stroll. I was surprised to see such tolerance of GLBT relationships in a small, rural town. ;)
Despite our decidedly heterosexual orientation, the two male-male couples were kind enough to take a photo of us by the pier at night before we went back and hit the sack. I had to wake up at 4 am the next morning to drive back to Sibu in time for work.
Sarikei is a sleepy, quiet town that’s ideal for a weekend trip away from the city with friends and family. The hotels are cheap and the seafood and the pineapples are great! It just cost us a little more than RM 100 for the entire trip.
Note: You should be careful when driving back at night. There is a turn going into Durin before reaching Sibu and the 40 km of unpaved gravel road is seriously going to mess your car tires up. It took us 1 ½ hours to drive back due to a wrong turn into Durin. It takes MUCH longer for that detour and there are no road signs but if the marker jumps from Sibu – 100 km to Sibu – 50 km within a kilometer, you’re on the wrong road. Stick to the main road.