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