So, i'm sitting in between a local MP and a big time property developer drinking bad red wine that passes as OK port. Slimy chickens feet are served followed by clear gloopy sea cucumbers - a delicacy that proves people will think anything tastes good if they are left in the middle of nowhere for long enough.
Sibu in Malaysian Sarawak is not in the middle of nowhere, but its having a good go at it.
The nearest decent sized town heading west is at least a 12 hours drive, the road in other direction leads to Brunei... if you can make it through the jungle. That jungle is dotted with villages and houses but generally, there isnt much there if you turn off the track untill you get down to Borneo.
Sibu is a bumbling, boiling town on the edge of an ambling river that sleepily makes its way out of the Sarawak jungle. Chinese coffee shops and busy, noisy food courts dot the corners of the town and down on the riverside the sleek river taxi boats lie looking like sleeping swans. These shoot up and down the river with their hulls reinforced to protect against debris from the logging upstream. With only a few roads around here, these ferries are the real transport for people around here, carrying village people from the many, hidden river villages to town for a few ringitt.
Upstream, there is deep jungle and untouched mountain tracks. Longhouses here are not a tourist attraction but a genuine community where families live together. The local museums and heritage centres recount the stories of the many local people of Malay and Dayak heritage, the Chinese settlers who came here a hundred years ago, The British Empire who tapped the rubber trees and also the stories of the Japanese invasions in WWII.
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