Barter still alive in Lachau

BLINK and you will miss Lachau, a quaint little bazaar situated midway between Serian and Sri Aman.

It’s a famous stopover for road travellers to other parts of Sarawak, tourists and locals alike.

There are only three rows of shophouses at the bazaar, mostly grocery stores and coffeeshops.

Business in Lachau stops at 4pm and the bazaar is completely quiet by then.

One unique trait at the bazaar is barter trading, still in use by the predominantly Iban population and their brethren from Kalimantan.

They bring along handcrafted items and crops for trade with shopkeepers for either general goods or a place to stay before making their way back.

Besides this, the Ibans sell handicraft such as woven baskets, traditional clothing, ikan salai (smoked fish) and crackers at the tiny marketplace. The prices, however, are much lower than in Kuching.

There is also a handicraft shop that sells warrior shields, parang (swords) and Iban antiquities like jewellery and jars.

The name Lachau often draws interest as it sounds similar to the word for male genitalia in Hokkien. But then again, funny names for places is nothing new in the state as in names like Binatang and Bau.

The bazaar was propelled into the media spotlight in 2005 when Santubong MP and Dewan Rakyat Deputy Speaker Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar called for a name change.

Before this, Simanggang was changed to Sri Aman while Binatang was renamed Bintangor.

For frequent traveller Alvin Ikom, the need to change the bazaar’s name should not arise.

“The location is strategic. Apart from being a welcoming stop for weary travellers, Lachau has essential amenities as well as clean public toilets and shower rooms. There is also a surau for Muslims to perform their prayers,” he said.

The 22-year-old from Betong said the bazaar played an important role in tourism as a host of travellers passed through it everyday.

Some pick up items from the vast array of souvenirs before heading to destinations such as Sarikei, Sibu, Bintulu, Miri and beyond.

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