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Finding the Unexpected at Serikin Market, Sarawak

Finding the Unexpected at Serikin Market, Sarawak

Most women like shopping, taking their sweet time to browse, try or look at almost the whole range of stuff available, before deciding to buy or not. Being a man myself, I was thus rather focused in my shopping expedition: go into shop, find target item, buy and leave. However, a trip to Serikin Market in the town of Serikin about 20 kilometres from Bau town or about 60 kilometres from Kuching City, Sarawak, could be an unexpected thrill.

On the first trip I made to Serikin Market, I was surprised to find locks of glossy long black hair, coiled and tied up nicely, being sold at one of the stalls in the market place. I would presume the real hair would be used for wig-making purposes. There were goat skins for sale too, which could be used as decorative rugs in the living room perhaps. But I did not fancy buying human hair or animal skin for any purposes.

The leisurely drive to Serikin town, a small rustic Dayak cum Bidayuh village, took an hour and half from Kuching City. Serikin was located near the border between Malaysia and Indonesia, referred to as the Sarawak-Kalimantan border. Serikin Market was started in 1992 as a channel for Indonesian traders to ply their wares to the locals, visitors and bargain hunters. The market consisted of a 3-kilometre stretch of stalls and simple huts constructed on the sides of a narrow road. The road was frequently traversed by people and vehicles, unsystematically as if there were no traffic lights or stop signs around. And there were none in fact. The parking fee was RM2.00 per entry, most reasonable. Nevertheless, during weekends when the crowds were at the highest, finding a parking spot at the Serikin Market would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

The first impression of Serikin Market was a myriad of colourful sights and sounds… there was a sense of chaos in the air, with rows of stalls and huts haphazardly set up and aligned along the roadside. It was also noisy with groups of traders, buyers, bystanders and pedestrians jabbering with each other, and price negotiations flying back and forth. The large amount of goods on display or placed for sale contributed to the cacophony of noise and confusion; but that was what made a trip to Serikin Market fun and exciting.

I could practically find almost anything under the sun at the Serikin Market, and at reasonable prices too… cheep, cheep, cheep as the little yellow chicks would chirp. Price haggling was common, even expected, and an enjoyable feat for bargain hunters and buyers. Even if you ended up not buying anything, there was no undue worry as the traders and sellers remained upbeat. After all, this was part and parcel of doing business for them. There were stalls selling assortments of fresh or packaged food items and titbits such as sweets, biscuits, local kuehs (cakes), spices, bottled honey syrups, fresh fruits and vegetables. The range of handicrafts for sale was mind-boggling. There were handicrafts made from multi-coloured beads or seashells or wood carvings. There were a lot of blinks, blinks: costume jewelleries from rings to earrings, bracelets and necklaces that dazzled the eyes.

Serikin Market would be a haven for antique collectors with its selection of old clocks, old cameras, old irons and old watches. There was other old stuff, some of which were not familiar to me. Some stalls were hawking potted or decorative plants and even guitars for the musically inclined. Also available were sunglasses, umbrellas, toys, household items from curtains to pots and pans, and handmade rattan furniture. Other stalls sold souvenir items such as keychain, which could be engraved; sports caps, t-shirts, and practical items like tissue-boxes.

For the men and women who liked shopping for clothes, there were a wide range of men and women’s apparels, plain or embroidered. There were shorts, pants, skirts, shirts, dresses, jackets and sarongs (large tube-style fabric with batik patterns). A variety of accessories were available as well to complement your wardrobe such as scarf, hats, handbags, perfumes. For the price paid on the goods, you would have to be satisfied with the “brands” as what you paid was what you received. The list of merchandize went on and on, including the goat skin and human hair! It was certainly an eye-opening experience for me at the Serikin Market. One sage advice I would impart to future visitors to the market place in Serikin town Aand do remember to bring your own shopping cart or a big sturdy bag because you will need it.

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