Many visitors to Kuching are unaware that Indonesia is actually only one hour’s drive away from Kuching and there is a little trading post right at the Sarawak-Indonesian border called Serikin. On weekdays, this little hamlet is a sleepy hollow where villagers and farmers go about their daily lives like any others, but come Saturday and Sunday, the whole place is transformed into a huge bustling market with practically all the customers coming all the way from Kuching.
Nobody knows for sure how or when this tiny and sleepy little hamlet suddenly mushroomed to become one of the top hunting ground for weekend bargainers from Kuching and beyond. Located in the direction of the Kuching – Batu Kawa- Bau road about an hour’s drive, and almost reaching the Indonesia border, Serikin is the buzz word for cheap merchandise hawked by Indonesians who cross the border with their goods during weekend. Perhaps the excitement is generated by the novelty of shopping on a border outpost with the distinct accent of Bahasa Indonesia, a language closely resembling the Bahasa Malaysia, spoken by the vendors.
The large number of outside shoppers is evidenced by the huge car parking space just outside the shopping area, with many tour buses and vans occupying it. Car park touts patrol the vast ground directing traffic and collect toll of RM3 for each vehicle. Most drivers are willing to part with this small sum for a peace of mind, after all this is almost no-man’s-land where the arms of the law seldom reach.
“Main street” Serikin is an alley about a few hundred metres long jam packed with wooden stalls lining on both sides. Among the popular merchandise are clothing like the sarongs, baju kebaya baju kurung (traditional Malay dress), imitation branded t-shirts, jeans, baseball caps, shoes, belts, watches, scarves, shawls. There are also household items like stoves, ovens, kitchen utensils, curtains, decorative items, rattan furnitures and rattan mats. Fruits and vegetables are also on sales here, with some exotic looking fruits not normally found in Sarawak. Some eating stalls at the entrance sell Kuching’s perennial favorite food like kolo mee and chicken rice (halal).
It can be a hot and sweaty experience shopping in this crowded market which is why it is advisable to reach the place early in the morning before the heat of the day takes over. Most travel agencies have this tour though many would prefer to rent a car and drive the scenic road where there are several tempting options to consider: a side trip to the bustling town of Bau for a nice lunch at the numerous food courts there, or a visit to the Fairy Caves and the Wind Caves, all of which are very near to Serikin.
There is a smaller vegetable market about 3 kilometres outside of Serikin where some interesting fruits and green are on sales by the local farmers. Sometimes there is even the fat wriggling sago worms or larvas, purportedly with medicinal values. This is a worthwhile place to stop before reaching Serikin or on the way back.