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the Rajang river

"It was my first boat trip along the Rajang River, which I only read about in the travel guides. So it was almost surreal to experience the sights and smells of this unique market. It was also my first trip to Sibu, the famous and mainly Fuzhou city, which has produced so many rich men in Malaysia.
It was the best way to see how other Malaysians live, especially those who live off the beaten track, ultimately giving me an enriching experience like never before."

Kapit is located 140 km upstream from Sibu along the Rajang River. There is only one practical way to reach Kapit from Sibu - a three-hour drive (depending on the water level) on the bullet-shaped express boats, traversing the waterways of the mighty Rajang, the longest river in the country, boating. The other is to hire a light plane to get to this really sleepy town in Sarawak.
The car is a third option (1h30), but the trip is as beautiful as over the river. This has been completed since 2020 and there are different times when people can use the road. Kapit can also be reached by a one-hour ride on the express boats from Song.

Kapit is the lively commercial and social center halfway upstream on the long Rajang River. Longhouses and logging camps are located in the wider area. It is thus an excellent base for visiting the nearby longhouses and for trips upstream.
Kapit (with a district of 15,595 square kilometers) is a river town with Iban cultures and traditions. This is where Sarawak's largest ethnic group is located, making up more than three-quarters of the state's population.
Although Kapit is not a big place, but it has a lot to offer. One of the attractions in the small town is the legendary Kapit Fort Sylvia. It is a historic landmark, named after the wife of Charles Vyner Brooke, who was Sarawak's second White Raja. The fort was built in the year 1880.



Another landmark is the Hock Leong Tieng Temple in Kapit, built in 1898. It is one of the oldest listed buildings in the city. The temple was built with materials and labor from China.
The Rumah Bundong is one of the oldest longhouses in Kapit. This is located 40 km from the city center. The 50-meter-high Wong Tinggi waterfall is an hour's walk from this longhouse.

You can get the best experience at the Pasar Teresang or Teresang Market. It is already open early in the morning and is located within walking distance of the passenger terminal. It is also known as wet market by the locals. A lot of fruits, vegetables and other foods are sold in the market. There are also fresh jungle products. Local ingredients. used by them in daily life can also be found there, they are 'tubu', 'riang' and 'rompo'. All of these fantastic ingredients are used to enhance the flavor of local dishes. Besides raw and fresh food, there are handicraft items for sale, which are sold in the market at affordable and reasonable prices.

Visiting the interesting Teresang Market in Kapit

The fine for selling wild animals or game meat without a license in the market is RM5,000, while buying wildlife trophies or game meat is subject to a fine of RM 2,000.
But no one raises an eyebrow about the sale of wild boar meat, as the species is not in danger of extinction and is therefore openly sold in most parts of Sabah and Sarawak.
Unsurprisingly, the local market didn't look thrilled, even with a stall with two mouse deer (kancil), two swamp otters, a porcupine and what looked like two sun bears.
I was also told that bats - live and smoked - were often sold in the market, but I didn't see them this time. We were shocked and quite alarmed, but they wouldn't show it.
Seeing the remains of a wild boar is one thing, but the availability of sun bear meat (or whatever looked like it) certainly crosses the line. The seller could tell us that we are tourists. He seemed friendly and tried to explain to me what these animals were, but I barely understood him.
Nearby was another trader who sold chopped pieces of the Borneo short-tailed python, which the Iban call ular ripong. It is known as python breitensteini or blood python, a subspecies of the python.
I've never eaten exotic meat before, and I don't intend to, but I've also learned not to judge natives who venture deep into the jungles to hunt such animals for their own consumption.
I saw many river fish, including the semah, lanjong and patin, but not the expensive empurau. I really thought I saw the largest catfish there. There were also stalls selling the soft-shelled tortoise or labi labi, and frogs caught in the jungles.
The visit to Teresang was an eye opener. I also tasted some jungle fruit, which I only saw for the first time.
The dabai is considered to be Sarawak's black olive, but they seemed bland to me, although others said they taste like avocado. The scientific name is Canarium Odontophyllum and they grow abundantly along river banks in Sibu, Kapit and the Sarikei area of ​​Sarawak. It is a seasonal and highly perishable fruit with a shelf life of two to three days.
I also saw a lot of mata kucing - the local variety of longan - which tasted better than the ones.
Another fruit that caught my attention was the belimbing merah, the Baccaurea Angulata.
Belimbing Merah got its name from the color and shape of the fruit. This red star fruit is also called 'red raspberry'. The whitish content of the fruit has the same color and taste as the rambai fruit , author Lindsay Gasik has aptly described. While I haven't seen and tried all of the jungle products, this was certainly a great trip for me.




   Ben van Wijnen


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