Growing up with the legendary Satok Sunday Market

When I was smaller, the Satok Sunday Market used to be nothing special to me. Located just opposite the Satok Building, it was merely another market to me.

The place was always jammed packed with humans, and parking was extremely rare. My dad, had to turn the area several times to find a spot to park his van then, and even that was quite a walking distance for the fans of the market in my family; mum and my three sisters. On a bad day, parking illegally was the last option with me and dad sitting in the non-air conditioned van waiting for the girls to finish their ‘shopping’. There were times I’d have to follow reluctantly into the market because staying in the van was too humid if compared to the conditions under the hawker tents.

The Satok Sunday Market pulls the crowd everytime.
The Satok Sunday Market pulls the crowd everytime.

As I grew older and started attending lower secondary school, nothing much changed about the market, except that it became bigger and more crowded. However, compared to last time, I now had a favorite stall in the market because it had the one thing unavailable at local libraries. It had this comic series called ‘Jaguh Bolasepak’, and I was a fan of the series comic book. Reading the comic book was also ‘free’.

By then, I’d follow my mum to the market to help her with groceries, while never forgetting to grab a plastic of coconut juice and local cakes with mother browsing for vegetables and fruits, which she claimed to be much cheaper than other locations.

Over 1000 petty traders like this make the market their 'shop'
Over 1000 petty traders like this make the market their ‘shop’

After leaving secondary school, and entering university, the market remained at its location with no signs of slowing down. Business was good, and the market has grown up to be known nationwide. Even friends at my university in Johor knew about it. I remained a faithful goer, although not as frequent as before due to being ‘overseas’.

However, every time I did come back, my sisters who were already in their teens would be talking about what they could obtain in the market, and this includes several house pets like hamsters and rabbits which eventually made its way to our home.

When I decided to move out of my parents’ house to stay closer to work, I found that the Satok Sunday Market had a different use for me personally. Mum had shared plenty of her local recipes, saying that I should at least know how to cook my own favorite dishes. Well, she had a point then, and it was clearly a useful because I craved any of my favourite local dishes, I’d just need to cook them up myself.

Pork in tampoyak soup. This needs jungle produce to be original.
Pork in tampoyak soup. This needs jungle produce to be original.

These dishes were mostly traditional Bidayuh dishes, and like most of the other local Bidayuh dishes, it used jungle produce which was not popular in chain-supermarkets, or the local everyday wet market.

This was where the Satok Sunday Market came in. The market had so many petty traders that you could find practically anything you need.

The diversity found at the market is also not exclusive to the items sold, but it rubs on to those going to the markets with people of numerous ethnic backgrounds communicating with each other in all sorts of languages with many to my observation, picking up the local dialects.

Cheap fruits says mother, and she's not alone saying this.
Cheap fruits says mother, and she’s not alone saying this.

Well, the Satok Sunday Market had its last trade at its ‘old location’ last year with traders preparing to move to the new Medan Niaga Satok which is some ten minutes away by car. Like myself, I am sure many of us Kuching residents have fond memories of the old location, and and hence the slight dismay that a decision was made to move the iconic market away.

Burning Tower, Satok, Kubah Ria
The new Satok Medan Niaga has quite a view

Nonetheless, after a long hard thought, I believe that the move is for the better because the gem of the market was never in its location, but rather the fact that it became a one stop centre for everything, including the exchange of culture.

This can be replicated at the new location, and with better planning and facilities at the new Medan Niaga Satok, the Satok Sunday Market is set to be yet another legendary market, and this time, it comes with a magnificent river front, and the enigmatic Serapi mountain as a backdrop.

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