Cannot wait, cannot wait… Kanowit? (Travelogue Day 7)

The mermaid statue of Kanowit Town.

By D’Drift Team

SIBU, Mar 28: Today’s D’Drift Team excursion to Kapit, through Song, and on to Kanowit was a fun and informative one as we learned some unusual stories about the names of the three small towns.

Jessie Mangka, another Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) officer, joined the D’Drift Team today, and he entertained us greatly on the way to Kapit with his hilarious stories about the three towns that the locals had shared with him.

For Kanowit, local folklore has it that when Sarawak’s first Rajah, James Brooke, passed by the town and the locals asked him to stop by, Brooke was overheard replying, ‘cannot wait’, which the locals misheard as ‘kenowit’. So over time, ‘cannot wait’ became Kanowit and the locals began to refer to the town by that name and it stuck.

As we arrived in Kanowit, the D’Drift Team indeed could not wait to explore the sleepy town located within Sibu Division.

Local folklore aside, history tells that the town was named after the Kanowit, a Melanau ethnic group known as Rajang by the Ibans. Known as Kampung Bedil, the village where the Kanowit people live is a short trip by boat up the Rajang River from Kanowit Town.

Kanowit Hero Monument

Kanowit’s mysterious mermaid statue

The mermaid statue of Kanowit is definitely a tourist attraction of the sleepy town.

However, there was no information on why it was erected, or why was a mythical aquatic creature such as a mermaid chosen as the centre of attraction in a town further inland than Sibu from the South China Sea.

Just like a ‘song’ created the town of Song

Song got its name because, as one again local folklore would have it, Brooke overheard some locals ‘berpantun’ (reciting poetry) which sounded like singing, exclaiming ‘Ohhh… song.’ The villagers were overjoyed when Brooke said ‘song’ so they adopted it for their town.

However, Song was originally named by the Kayan people as ‘Long’ which means river stream. After the Kayan people were defeated by the Iban people, the Ibans decided to rename the place after an Iban warrior named Song who led them to victory against the Kayans.

Another version of the origin of the name Song came from the legend of the Melanau people. There was once a Melanau widow named Song who came from Nangka village, Sibu. She went to the present day Song river mouth for agriculture. Her relatives would frequently visit her. When they ask her which place she would like to go, she would say ‘to Rumah Song’ (her own home). Thus the area has been called Song since then.

The Song riverbank.

From ‘carpet’ to Kapit

As our friend from STB recounted to us, from stories he overheard from locals, for Kapit, when Brooke arrived in the town and saw a red carpet welcoming him, he exclaimed, ‘Oh wow, carpet’, to which the locals responded, ‘Apooo.. Kapit nama beri Tuan Rajah ke menua kitai’ (Oh my God… Tuan Rajah named our District as Kapit).

However, not much information was there on the actual history of how Kapit got its name.

From Sibu to Kapit by car, we took aroundtwo hours to arrive in the town. Kapit was crowded with cars and we had to drive around looking for parking places while enduring the traffic jam as it was rush hour.

We also noticed the roads were much narrower compared to those in Kuching, which made driving and parking a lot harder as some drivers would just park in the middle of the narrow road. It is high time that Kapit town increases the number of its parking lots to accommodate the large number of vehicles.

After managing to locate a parking spot, we walked around the town and stopped by to check out the Kapit Passengers Terminal where we noticed many express boats are now not in operation. Mostly those in operation are sampans (wooden boats) that the villagers use to cross to the other side where some of the remote longhouses are located.

Kapit Town has limited parking.
Only sampans can be seen now instead of express boats in Kapit.

D’Drift Team to visit Julau and Kabong

We will be resting in Sibu tonight and will proceed with our journey to Julau and Kabong tomorrow, seeking to visit Fort Brooke and Fort Charles. — DayakDaily