Monday, January 29, 2007

Scenes - Sarikei Repok Road Block 3 (Left)

Sarikei Repok Rd - Shop# 1-3, Block 3 Left, 2005
L-R: No. 11, 13, 15 Repok Road
Find the weighing machines and rubber sheets
Source: Petre.

locks 3 (counting from Rejang River) of Repok Road was in the centre of activities from the 1948-80s after the action moved from Wharf Road in the 1930-40s. It's at the intersection of Central Road and Repok Road at the first roundabout in Sarikei (also a common area for minor accidents - huh, who has the right of way?)

Block 3 Left and Right were completed in 1948 with similar architecture. Block 3 Right was burned down in 1990. They were two-storey blocks with an attic (no open windows). The attics can be accessed via a wooden staircase and are used as storerooms. The attics have sky light via glass panels. You can peep into the neighbours' attics because there's a gap between the walls and the roof.

Sarikei Repok Rd - L-R: No, 15, 17. Block 3 Left, 2006
Note the original windows with broken panes.
In the 60-70s, wooden doors were tied to the pillars after the shops opened.
Goods like biscuits tins were unloaded by throwing to a recipient on the 1st floor from a parked lorry.

Each shophouse has a back balcony for drying clothes and a back room on the 1st floor. The chimney (still exists today) rises from the kitchen below to the balcony. In the 50-70s, people burned chopped wood to cook in stoves made with earth. Even the rice was cooked by fire (no auto off). The kitchens were shared with chicken and ducks in cages that were in line for the next feast. The fighting cocks were the prized possessions. Block 3 Left and Block 4 Left have the luxury of the padang (field) as their backyard. Sometimes soccer balls were shot straight into the kitchen and sent cats and dogs fleeing or a kid howling.

In the middle of the shophouse was an open "sky well" where rain water was collected into a long 6 feet high reservoir. The top of the reservoir was used as an internal garden where flora and pets like fishes and birds were kept. When pipe water became common, the rain water was used for washing and laundry (on a washboard). A few fishes are reared in the reservoir to keep mosquitoes from breeding. Now most of the shops have built roofs over this sky well.

Sarikei Repok Road - No. 11, Block 3 Left, 2006
Nature takes its toll with plants staking claims.
The original patterned balcony is crumbling...

In the 1960s-mid 80s, these were the tenants (counting from Rejang River):
  • No. 11 Repok Road: Kim San (金山) kopitiam (coffeeshop). Foochow owned. Still there today. At the front was a pastry section selling roti (bread), muffins and roti-pau (buns) of 3 flavours - red bean, kaya (coconut jam) and coconut shavings. You could see an old man wearing homemade dark blue boxer shorts everyday (the defacto boxer shorts of the 1st and 2nd generation Chinese migrants).
  • No. 13 Repok Road: Kwong Ming 光明. Foochow owned. Sundry cum salted seafood shop. You would get the unmistakable smell as you traversed this store.
  • No. 15 Repok Road: One half was Eng Leong (永隆) sundry shop. Cantonese (Yip) owned. Yip Seng Lai started as a barber in the old days. His son, Yip Teck Soon, took over when he passed away. Yip Teck Soon passed away at a young age and his wife, Ms Lau Nien Chen, took over the business. It's popular for preserved fruits (plums, apricots, peaches, etc) distributed from Singapore. It's now operating from the new block at the end of the bus terminal.The other half was Culture 文化 bookstore (Foochow owned) where you could buy Borneo Bulletin papers, World Morning News Chinese tabloid and Sisters magazine. It's now operating from Block 4 Left.
  • No. 17 Repok Road: Nguong Aik 源益trader. Nguong Aik 源益 was the first shop to sell kom pia in Sarikei in their wooden shop house then.
Nguong Aik 源益 (17 Repok Road) from the Foochow family of Yii was known for their rubber sheets (the smell gave me a giddy feeling of "high") and peppercorns displayed at the front of the shop and dusty animal feed in gunny sacks in the 1960s-1970s. They have a huge weighing scale on the five-foot way of the shop front and the constant convoy of lorries for goods transport. The towkway's bungalow is just before Hua Tai Road.
  • No. 19 Repok Road: Half was Tai Siong 大祥. Foochow (Ngu) owned sundry shop. Quiet shop. The other half was Tung Seng 同生 textile.
  • No. 21 Repok Road: Hock Siong Kong 福祥康. Foochow (Ngu - not related to No. 19's Ngu) owned textile shop. Most Sarikei ladies know how to use a sewing machine (usually Singer brand). Upstairs was their Southern 南方 Hotel (now 4 storeys) which was popular with travelling towkays (businessmen) and night buskers that told fortune and sold miracle ointment between Block 3 Left and 4 Left.  (updated) No 21 Repok Rd was 1st owned and operated by a prominent Foochow, Wong Yek King, who was a Foochow kapitan before Wong Ngiong Hua. His business failed and the shop was sold to Ngu Ee King who started Hock Siong Kong 福祥康. Wong Yek King later led a group of Foochow to Simanggang (Sri Aman) . Ngu Ee King was into pepper farming. He was the father of Francis Ngu who operated Hock Siong Kong 福祥康 textile shop and Southern Hotel (now sold) at No. 21 Repok Road. Ngu Ee King was the chairman of the Sarikei Basketball Association in 1956. Francis Ngu was also active in the Basketball Association in the 1970s.

Do you recall the crowd surrounding the buskers and their oil lamps? Gong, gong, gong!!! Cure-all snake oil and satisfaction guaranteed.


Daniel Yiek said...

I pasted an email from a reader below. Yes, I will be in Sarikei for CNY...every year.;)

From : Mike (surname and email deleted)
Sent : Sunday, January 28, 2007 9:41 AM
To :
Subject : Hello

I thought it would be nice to set up contact with you after enjoy reading your wonderful effort in presenting the 'Sarikei Time capsule'.

Well! One more month to go and the Blog would celebrate its first anniversary. I join many others in thanking you for the continued effort.

I wonder if you are going back for CNY this year. If you do & if they do put up those lights again, then perhaps you would take a night photo of yourself but this time standing on the opposite of the road! Hey no copy & paste please!!!


Kanga said...

Aiyoh! all the vivid descriptions floored me!
As a young boy I used to get up & down the weighing scale.
Next to the concrete water collecting tank in shops was that squatting a-a-h-h(places even kings or queens have to go alone).
Throwing tins of biscuits up to the first floor looked easy until I tried once. I preferred to stay on the first floor to catch.
I thought I bought chicken rice in the front of Kim San shop the last time I visited this town!
Cure-all snake oil: that famous 'hai-gou-you'(sea-dog-oil)...I thought I recalled the seller said this (in Hokkien) "bitten by a dead snake! burnt by cold water! cut by a piece of paper! from the top to bottom and inside or outside your body, every where can apply!!!!"

Lidasar said...

In the early days those staying on the two block of shop houses with the padang as the backyard should recall the days where sometime in the early morning they could see a general practitioner ridding his horse on the padang. This Dr. operated from a clinic sharing the shop with the TCM & pharmacist called ‘Ang Ting Tong’? on Block 4 right. He kept two horses and in those days you would never heard of Dr.Yap then as I guess Dr.Yap was probably still a student then. I recall another general practitioner called Fatty Ling operating from the 2nd level of the last shop either Block 3 right or Block 4 right. From the name you could probably guess why he is called Fatty Ling.

Shop#3: Wen Hua (Culture) bookstore if you could remember the boss was once the MP for Sarikei district and Eng Leong is where you could find dry persimmon.

Daniel Yiek said...

ha!! Those weighing machines were "big" when I was a kid and I did the same thing as you - weighing for fun just about every day.

There's another ointment still popular in town called "Iron Hit" ("tiet ta you" in Mandarin). It works for bruises.

For Fatty Ling, I believe you are referring to the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) guy operating behind Sing Chuong restaurant at Block 3 Right (the burned down block). If I dont recall wrongly, he passed away with a heart attack on one of his daily early morning jog/walk. I used his TCM services (acupunture) before.

Dried persimmon ("see biang" In Cantonese)- Wash away the powder and pour hot water on it. The soft and sweet taste is awesome!

Kanga said...

Good recall! TCM guy Ling(Chun Sing??)and Dr. with 2 horses (Dr. Chen Li Liang???). I have been treated by both of them. May be that's why I am still alive today!!!!
Speaking of dry persimmon, it was a CNY must-have when I was young in Sarikei. ("See biang" is laboriously soften and flatten bit by bit with the thumb & index finger of both hands. My mum did that in China when she was young).
As for me, fate has taken me out of Sarikei, but nothing can take 'Sarikei' out of me!

lidasar said...

When Daniel mention about the back balcony & "sky well" of the shop houses it brings me back to the days when Sarikei had curfew due to communist insurgent in the late 60’s & early 70’s. One would have to climb over the balcony and “sky well” to visit neighbour and also to get their groceries. Everyone would be peeping through the windows when they heard a loud bang otherwise the town would be death quiet.

Kanga said...

To me the curfew etc during the 60's-70's emergency period were the troubled memories of my life in Sarikei. I have much of those in my mind. Everytime when I visit this blog and look at photos in that era I try to block my sad memories of that period. Perhaps if opportunities arise I'll discuss some of those I considered to be the 'low points'.

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