Sibu at evening, river side

" .. because to achieve greatness, a sacrifice is inevitable...".

That's what I believe. Still, I'm not trying to paint Sibu a negative impression. The great river, under the bright blue sky, is seen as brown. But when the sky is orange, it paints the river blue, as seen above near CityVine Riverfront, Upper Lanang. Such is a paradox captured in photography.

Due to logging activities, the river bank could no longer hold the earth and releases it as the river flows in the sea. This scenario is atypical to commercial logging areas. And can be saved. Whereas for Sibu, deposits of earth, coupled with the hard fact that the town is situated on the confluence of Rajang and Igan river, and despite great conservation effort by its governing council, has never been able to manifest a blue river. Maybe one day it will be.

Of late, Sibu has undergone tremendous economic boom in other areas as well. Timber is still here to stay. Other fledging markets, like oil palm plantation, manufacturing, shipbuilding and financial services will soon be complemented with nascent industries such as fisheries, aquaculture, horticulture, infrastructure development, tourism and K-economy. All parts and parcels to building a Modern City. (In measly part we play, we are bringing technology transfer into Sibu by offering e-marketing solutions to the business community.)

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We are from another part of Malaysia. See for yourself just how clear Sibu sky can be. In August 2005, KL cityscape was literally fogged to the house as a result of haze. But Sibu was out of fog's way. I took great pleasure (and neck-aches) admiring the bright blue sky.

The picture on the left is taken at Sibu Gateway Square. This location is surrounded by fast food restaurants such as KFC, McDonalds, Mitsu Shabu Shabu (Taiwanese-concept steamboat restaurant across the street), Sugar Bun and others; the Night Market, the Central Market, EON Bank, coffee shops, Tanahmas and Premier Hotel and Premier Supermarket.

On the right: Leonard woke up around 7 in the morning to catch a glimpse of its floating native market at Rejang Esplanade, but was clearly disappointed (see the hint of a storm that he purposely captured?). Even at this hour, the actions' all over (you'll need to wake up around 5 a.m.!). In the background is the seven-storey Goddess of Mercy's Pagoda, reputed to be more beautiful than its peers in South East Asia and Taiwan.

The Making Of A Modern Sibu One

Geographically, beneath Sibu and most part of Borneo are peat swamps. Peat swamps are formed as the accumulation of vegetation that is inhibited from decaying fully on waterlogged soils and occur in tropical regions and forested area (wiki it). Fed by high rainfall density, high humidity and low evaporation rate, the soil is soft and easily compressed. Agriculturally, peat swamps are useful for farmers as they can retain moisture and has the ability to slowly release nutrients to feed their plants over a period of time. Peat swamps can also serve as a natural flood mitigation whereby any overflow will be absorbed by the peat. However, when compressed, peat can become a source of fuel - carbon. In Ireland, it is produced in large-scale for domestic and industrial usage, for instance, smoke-dry the malted barley before they are used in Scotch whisky distillation. Whereas in Kalimantan, where the peat is drier thus the higher rate of oxidation, can become a major fire hazard and result in uncontrollable forest fire (ends when the peat is fully exhausted) as we have witnessed over the past few years.

Sibu, being located on lowland peat swamps and experiences frequent flooding (1 to 3 times a year), constantly challenges the brains behind the town development council. Sinking problem is evidently visible along the road leading to the new airport. As you drive by, you'll notice most of these houses are still standing, but some are already slumping to one side. The unlucky ones gave way to a heap like toppled Jenga blocks. Other important structures, like airport and hospital, have been relocated to their present areas to curb the sinking problem. Fundamentally, it takes a lot of effort and time; from mental to financial and management experience, before it can leave its old shell to emerge as a city. Rome was not built in one day.

We Built the Sibu City Two

Chinese claims a large chunk of pie of the town's population count. Out of this big pie, Foochows form a big community, followed by Hokkiens and a small number of Hakka, Teochew, Cantonese, Henghuas and other dialect groups. And almost 80% of these Chinese are Christians. Kind of unique by Malaysian standard. But everyone in Sibu contributes to achieving the city status. Communities from many associations would come out with financial sponsorship to develop gardens, parks and public amenities in the town in line with Sibu Municipal Council's vision. The church below, Sacred Heart Cathedral, is sponsored by Tiong family (RH Group). A Swan surrounded by 12 chinese horoscope animals were erected by Sibu Ling Association. Soon, there will be Sungei Merah Heritage Walk, Igan Bridge, Durin Bridge, new buildings and commercial centres. There are others, but if only someone can email me about these structures (I welcome stories and supporting facts). The SMC has also contributed a great deal by upgrading slum settlements, maintaining sinking-prone areas, offering resettlement schemes, environmental sanitation (on-going effort to eradicate aedes mosquitos and other vectors), and transforming the town into a street garden. Hopefully, these developments can attract job seekers into the town as well as turn it into one of tourists' favorite destinations.

The evolution is led by Sibu Barisan Nasional Visionary Development Team, headed by Minister of Infrastructure Development and Communications, YB Datuk Wong Soon Koh. They play a noble role in marking the progress.

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Did you know? The town has forty over churches to serve Methodists and Roman Catholics.

cross_church_sibu.jpg Shot by Leonard on a hot afternoon. At the same time, my colleagues and I were busy at an Sibu Motor & Lifestyle Show, which was hosted by Cityvine Holdings and held at Upper Lanang.


Side info: Not only is Sibu rich in natural resources, the town is widely regarded as the financial capital of Sarawak. Consolidation of both local and foreign banks have earned Sibu the reputation, and further strengthen by the fact that it is also the hometown to a number of millionaires, mainly timber tycoons. Well, most notably, Tan Sri Datuk Tiong Hiew King - a billionnaire regular in
Forbes' Southeast Asia 40 Richest list, the humble founder of RH Group.

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