Holidays to Sibu, Borneo
Sibu is affectionately known as 'Swan City' from the legend that a flock of swans ended famine in the town. Although it’s a small inland town on the island of Borneo, it’s a major port where the mighty Rejang and Igan Rivers meet and have shaped its fortunes. Sibu has a distinctly Chinese feel to it, thanks to the early Chinese merchants that ran successful rubber and timber trades from here. Trade has been the cornerstone of Sibu, so much so that the 100-year-old Tua Pek Kong temple is dedicated to the patron saint of merchants. It’s worth a visit too - the temple has a seven-storey pagoda that has wonderful views of Sibu and the rivers.
The Rejang River is almost a mile wide at Sibu. It’s a busy stretch of water, with plenty of activity going on with ginormous ocean liners jostling alongside the tiny sampans and brightly coloured longboats. Most of the city’s hubbub is along the waterfront, so find a riverside spot at dusk to enjoy the sunset and enjoy people-watching
You’ll be itching to head off on a Rejang River adventure, but try and spend some time getting to know Sibu first. It has an indoor market that’s lively and colourful, selling tropical fruit and local handicrafts. As with most Malaysian towns, there’s also a good night market where you can peruse the stalls and brush up on your bartering skills. Channel Rick Stein and amble the streets with your hawker food in hand. 'Kam pua mee' is Sibu’s signature dish - thin noodles served with slices of roasted pork, chilli sauce and soya sauce - and it's lipsmackingly good.
Eventually, the Rejang River will beckon you and an express boat will take you upstream into the jungle. If water levels allow, you could go as far as the Pelagus Rapids, a two kilometre stretch of torrents and whirlpools that promises an exciting ride.
Large markets where you can bag a bargain
Journey upstream to the Pelagus Rapids
Map of Sibu
When to go to Sibu
Sibu's tropical climate means humidity and temperatures are high all year round. The driest time of the year is between May and August, when visitor levels are higher too.
This is the wettest month of the year, reaching up to 26 inches of rainfall.
The heavy rain has usually eased off by now and temperatures reach 30°C.
You might experience occasional showers, but it's a great time to get into the jungle and explore.
Temperatures continue to increase with overnight temperatures in the mid 20s, and high humidity. Explore the rainforest but leave your waterproofs at home.
Expect average daily highs of 32°C and a welcome drop in humidity.
Temperatures remain consistent and it's a great time to visit the nearby orangutan sanctuaries.
Rainfall is at its lowest in July so make the most of the sun and head for the beaches.
This is a peak time for visitors thanks to the great weather.
The rainy season returns, but temperatures remain around 30°C.
Rainy periods are more prolonged with heavier showers.
Rainy season is at a peak in November with the heaviest showers. Prepare to get wet wherever you go!
The rains will continue and the wildlife will disappear, but you can benefit from fewer visitors and better prices.