Having heard that the road to Serikin is tar sealed all the way already, I finally decided to drive and see for myself the much talked about shopping haven at the edge of the Indonesian border. My wife was already bugging me to go for ages. Her two unrepentant shopaholic sisters got wind of the trip and booked two seat in my car too.We went on a Saturday as the place only opens up on weekend mornings (Saturday and Sunday).
It was a sunny morning as we started from Kuching at about 8am. We took the new Batu Kawa road which bypasses Bau town. Bau is a very picturesque town and it is advised to detour (only 5km away) into this delightful township on the way back to Kuching The road signs are plentiful and do keep a sharp lookout, even if you are a newcomer, you can find his way. Do appoint one of your in-laws as co-navigator to share the blame in case you take a wrong turn.
After driving leisurely for about an hour, we entered the final junction into Serikin amidst verdant greenery and scenic limestone hills outcrops. In fact we just passed by the junctions to two of Kuching's popular attractions, the Wind Caves and the Fairy Caves less than half an hour drive away (but thats another story altogether).
Finally, we arrived at Serikin town. It was about 9.20 am. We had to queue up for almost 20 minutes just to enter the car parks with touts guarding the entrance, we paid the extortion, RM3.00 to them (just for peace of mind!). There were so many cars, easily in the hundreds and a I counted at least 12 big tour buses, and the place was all filled up haphazardly as there was no lines drawn on the ground, which is nothing more than a huge rough patch of open ground with patches of muddy puddles here and there. But like it or not we had to park here as parking elsewhere may end you up with a puncture tyre or a dented car. Finally we found a nice shade space which the previous occupant just vacated.
It was still considered early in the morning of a Saturday, the crowd was already streaming in. There was a carnival atmosphere as the crowd milled around the town and the "main street", which consist of two rows of wooden sheds/shops facing each other stretching for several hundred metres. The are sides lanes radiating from this "main street" lined with similar sheds or shops thus forming a mazed network of shopping lanes. I must say the ladies were like kids in a candy store.
There must have been several hundred shops and sheds here in all, and selling all manners of goods. Textiles and clothings shops are the majority here. The Indonesian kebayas and sarongs are selling at half the price one would have to pay in Kuching city area. For example, a complete set of kebaya with blouse and sarong and selendang (shawl) of very good quality sell for only about RM50.00! Sarong is about RM10.00 per piece.
There are shops selling curtains, carpets, t-shirt, pants, rattan furnitures, kitchen utensils, trinkets, fake Louis Vuitton handbags, replicas Rolex watches, antiques, fruits, foods, drink, "snake medicine" and I even saw a stall selling live leech ("can cure some skin disorders"). Some shops were so crowded I couldnt even enter! Bargaining is order of the day, and if you do not bargain, the vendors may think you are from another planet.
As the weather was hot and humid, I feel it is better to go earlier in the morning, say, leaving Kuching about 6.30am and arriving about 8.00 am, it would be cooler before the heat of the day make you sweat. Most of the traders there are Indonesians who had crossed over from the border bringing along their merchandise and had to haul back the unsold goods at the end of the day. But over time, I believe they have already rent some "store" here to save the hassle of transportation.
Finally, after an hour or so of shopping, sarongs kebayas, we quickly retreated to the shade of a coffee shop for some drinks. Watching as cars and busload of people continued to arrive. If not for the heat of the day, we would have stayed longer to hunt for more bargains. At 11.00 the ladies couldnt stand the heat anymore and rushed to comfort of our air-con car.
10 minutes out of Serikin is an interesting market stop selling jungles produces, vegetables and fruits. We stopped, as did scores of other cars and buses, for a look-see and tooked heaps of photos too. There was a lady selling live sago worms, wriggling disgustingly (to the ladies) and delightfully (to me), I took some photos and video shoot for all to enjoy!