Sunday, April 09, 2006

View - Sarikei 2004, Rejang River

Sarikei-Bintagor-Sibu express (no aircon, free breeze); 1970's

Sarikei 2004 - bullet shaped, aircon express boats

Sarikei 2004 - Rejang River view 1

Sarikei 2004 - Rejang River view 2

If you combined Rejang River view 1 & 2, that's the view you would get when you travel towards Bintagor & Sibu along the river. You would enjoy salty river breezes (the best things in life are free) while your express boat cut through the muddy river. You would pass by village houses amongst the nipah plams and mangrove trees. The captain would skilfully avoid the huge floating logs from the lumberjacks while fishermen in sampan (small boats) held on for dear life from the wake of your express boat. The ticket conductor would struggle to stablise himself (in the moving boat) along the corridor between the benches & luggages to sell tickets. The kids would love the waves from passing boats as your boat went through a Disney ride. Most unforgettable would be the occasional whiff of Axe brand medicated oil from people who could even get motion sickness in a river ride.

In the 70's, Sarikei-Bintagor express boat trip (o.5hr) cost RM$4 while Sibu was RM$8 (1.5hr). With new & better roads cutting through virgin forests, the Sarikei-Bintagor-Sibu express boats dwindled in business in the 90's despite investing in high tech bullet shaped express boats equipped with video tape players & aircon. They changed routes to ply the smaller river towns like Rejang in the 2000's and this benefited the rural folks.

OK, quiz time. For your express boat ride, do you like free breeze or aircon?


Anonymous said...

Hey Daniel, I know this come a little too late but I just discover your blog. I prefer the free breeze. It's always too cold in aircon... no like. I remember my sister and I loved it when the other boat pass our boat and we are ready for the waves. And getting in and out of the express boat ride is always interesting.

Daniel Yiek said...

17 Sep 2009


SIBU: Express boats plying the mighty Rajang River will see a decline, if not a complete cessation, once the road linking Sibu and Kapit is finally realised.
The Chairman of Third, Sixth and Seventh Division Express Boat Association Lau Hieng Choon, Secretary Ling Kuok Hee and a Committee Member Ling Heng Seek are of the opinion that the (express boat) service here will definitely disappear.
"We are not facing a dilemma. The bare fact is that the express boat industry is a sunset industry. With the road system in place we are bound to be on the losing end. �
"In this time and age development is crucial and inevitable. We cannot stop the government from developing the country. �
They, however, said the inevitable disappearance of the express boat service was not a new experience to them. �
"We have experienced it before. After the road connecting Sibu, Sarikei and Bintangor was completed, boats plying the route ceased operation within half a year.
"And when Sibu was connected with Maradong after the completion of Maradong Bridge, the next day, the express boats stopped serving the route. Not that we did not want to provide the service, but there wasn't any passengers," they said.
The association has 152 members and each has at least an express boat.
"However, since the cessation of the Sibu-Sarikei/Bintangor service, many operators have either retired or ventured into other businesses.
"The golden era of express boats was in the 80s, with 51 express boats serving the Sibu-Sarikei/Bintangor route alone.
"You can imagine how busy the wharf was then. Every 15 minutes, there was an express boat leaving for Sarikei or Bintangor," they said. �
Yet, the service just stopped within half a year after the road link was completed.
"Water transport cannot compete with land transport. People with cars prefer using their own vehicles. They are not controlled by any schedule.
"Those without cars prefer to use buses because they are safer. One does not use water transport if there is an alternative because the latter is perceived to be more dangerous," they said.
On the fate of those express boats that used to ply the Sibu-Sarikei-Bintangor route, they said that they were either sold to operators in Cambodia, Burma, or Thailand. Others were moved elsewhere within the country like Langkawi and Pulau Ketam.
Express boats have served the people along the Rajang for about a century. It is the oldest mode of transport here, serving the people from Kuala Rejang, right up to Tanjung Manis, Sarikei, Bintangor, Sibu, Durin, Kanowit, Ng Tap, Ngemah, Song, Kapit, Putai, Pelagus, Belaga and Bakun.
On their future plans Lau, Ling Kuok Hee and Ling Heng Seek said: "We have our own plans. If there is no more business opportunity here, we may have to move our business to Vietnam, Burma, Thailand or Cambodia."
Meanwhile, Sibu Member of Parliament Datuk Robert Lau said the express boat service was still very popular at the moment because of the absence of roads leading to major towns like Song and Kapit, and in upper Baram up north.
"I have made a suggestion before that since AirAsia has already connected Sibu with the rest of Malaysia, perhaps they (the express boat business operators) should team up with AirAsia and local tour operators to provide tour package along the Rajang River.
He added that many tourists were eager to see unspoilt scenery along the riverbanks.
"That is why the Pandaw Cruise is getting very popular now," he said.

Saract said...

In the 1980s I used to take the express boat from Sarikei to Sibu to take piano lessons. Once I arrived in Sibu wharf submerged in flood.

I took an express boat from Sibu to Maradong in 1989, and then caught a bus, arrived in Sarikei covered in a layer of yellow dust! The only and one time for me! ;-)

Those were the express boat days! :-)

In 2008 I purposely passed by Sarikei from Kuching, wanting to take the express boat to Sibu but was disappointed to find that it no longer ran.

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