Sunday, November 18, 2007

Scenes - Sarikei Wharf Road Block 4

Sarikei Wharf Road, circa 1950-1960s.
View from Rejang River.

Sarikei had 6-7 Cantonese and Hokkien shops in 1910 when the first Foochow went there to search for agricultrural land. By 1914, Sarikei had become a popular Foochow settlement for growing pepper. (Source: 1). The Cantonese and Hokkiens chose the bank of Rejang River to set up shops. (Note: During the Brooke era in the 1800s, Sarikei village was at Sarikei River, not Rejang River).

Sarikei Wharf Road, 2007.
View from Block 4, next to police station.
L-R: No 21, 20, 19, 18, 17 Wharf Road

The earliest shophouses was in a row of attap (nipah palm) roofed shophouses with their front facing Wharf Road and the back of the shops facing the Rajang (Rejang) River. If you had ever swum at that part of the river bank, you would notice old broken ceramics at that particular section of the river bank and this was no coincidence. (Source: 2). Why was the back of the shops facing Rejang River? The river was likely a natural sewage system in the old days. Just dump everything into the river and let the river carry it away.

Sarikei, Wharf Road, Block 4, 2007.
Sarawak handicraft shop

Block 4, next to the current Police Station, was the first block of shophouses in Sarikei to be built after the row of attap shophouses by the river. It was likely wooden before the current row of cement shops. This cement Block 4 has a 1st floor balcony (different from block 1-3). Let's try to find out the pioneers or their next batch.

No 22 Wharf Road:
After the great Sibu fire in 1928, the Sibu branch of Kwong Lee Bank under Mr Lam Pak Kuang was moved to Sarikei until Sibu was rebuilt. Kwong Lee Bank, 廣利銀行, opened in Sarikei in 1937. Kwong Lee Bank moved from No. 5 Wharf Road to No. 22 Wharf Road after the war in the lates 1940s/early 1950s.

Kwong Lee Mortgage & Remittance Company was started by Mr. Lam Ting Yeu LAM Ji Chiew in 1905 in Kuching. It granted loans against the security of export commodities such as pepper, rubber and other indigenous products. It provided the services of remitting money of migrant Chinese to their families in South East China. It opened branches in Sibu (1923) and Singapore (1926). After the Depression on 26 Oct 1934, the company was converted into a public company under the name Kwong Lee Bank. It then opened in Sarikei (1937) and Binatang (1973). It was acquired by MUI group in 1982 and then it was acquired by Hong Leong Group Malaysia in 1994. (Source: 3).

Mr.Leong Ming Teck 梁明德 (can be seen in the Cantonese Association 1955 photo, 4th from L seated) was the bank manager in the 1950s. In those days banking can be very informal and if you were a towkay (boss) who suddenly needed cash urgently on a Sunday, you could simply call out Mr.Leong who was staying above Kwang Lee Bank. He would process the transaction and pass you the cash from the side window while wearing a sarong.

Kwong Lee Bank moved to the 1st shop of a new block next to Payang Puri Block in the 1970s. 金山代理商, Kim Sang trader (a Hokkien and ex-employee of Borneo Co Ltd ) took over the old shop and was known for its imported western products like butter, sugar cubes and bacon.

No. 21 Wharf Road:
益星號, Aik Seng. It used to wholesale and retail frozen, canned food and liquor.

Aik Seng coffeeshop now serves the best charcoal grilled roti bun that's served with butter and kaya (coconut based jam) and peanut butter. The Malay stall serves famous its mee kuah or lor mee (featured on TV) and laska.

No. 20 Wharf Road:
Orginally it was 锦福興 Kam Fook Hin, now it is 福興 at 17 Wharf Road. 锦福興 Kam Fook Hin is one of the pioneer shops in Sarikei.

Now this shop is Fong Seng, mainly a sundry shop (the owner was trader and goldsmith). Cantonese. In the old days, an apprentice worked at 廣合興 Kong Hup Heng (No 5 Wharf Road) for $1 per day after War World II. Later he went to China for a few months and came back to Sarikei to start a goldsmith com grocery shop at No.21 Wharf Road.

Later this was a bread shop. Does anyone know the name?

No. 19 Wharf Road:
興泉茶室, Hing Chuong, an old kopitiam (coffeeshop).

No. 18 Wharf Road:
新桃園 kopitiam

Sarikei Wharf Road, Block 4, 2007
L-R: No 22, 21, 20, 19, 18 Wharf Road

The Wharf Road section that's cut by Repok Road (facing the Sarikei Wharf Terminal 1 and stretching to the bus terminal) has been renamed Bank Road 銀行路 in memory of Kwong Lee Bank, the first bank in Sarikei.

Bank your cash flow by the flowing river bank. Cool.

(1) Chinese Immigration and Society in Sarawak 1868-1917 (Craig A Lockard); Sarawak Gazette, 1 March, 1948.
(2) Reader Lidasar
(3) Hong Leong Bank, Wikipedia
(4) Blog of the founder's relative


Ikan Sembilang said...

What a a timely coincidence! I’ve just discovered a very old photo of Sarikei Wharf Road, showing Blocks 4 & 3 and part of Block 2. I guess it could be taken in the 1940s or even earlier. Will make a copy and send it to Daniel soon.

Tuan Lokong said...

Remembered 2 months ago was in that Coffeeshop waiting for a relative. The end was the Furniture shop, bought some self there...

Lidasar said...

This is the oldest block standing in the town and if you want to see something older than you have to see them in Kuching. The 99 years lease is going to be expired starting from this block. Due to the long period this block changes hand and also changes in fortune. In the beginning this is the busy part of the town due to its proximity to the jetty and warehouse. I recall going down to Kwang Lee Bank to open my 1st bank account right at the last unit, no air con than. This bank was started by Cantonese in Kuching. After the manager Mr.Leong from Singapore the manger that follows is Mr.Lim (Ah Kwun) from Kuching who was related to the Bank's owner. If you could remember Ah Kwun's wife teaches in St.Anns in the 70s & 80s. By the way any of you know that in the 60s Chan Ko Ming was the manager for S&C bank?

Aik Seng had a fine collection of liquor, this Foochow coffee shop had operated for a long time and this is also where the boss of 明 星 started his apprentice before starting off in central Rd and their wives are sisters.
No.21 Wharf Rd, let me give some history to it instead of leaving it blank. This shop was once bought by Cantonese in the early day and operated under the name Fong Seng as a trading and goldsmiths.

So far most talk is on the Cantonese making the Foochow a bit out of place but let me do some recollection and put things back in perspective. Foochow started coming to Sarikei after the turn of the century but the biggest exodus probably came in the 30s.

The scenario would be like this, relatives in Sibu and surrounding towns would go down to their DO office to get the application approval on behalf of their China's relatives. These approved papers are then send back to China or hand carry if anyone would go back to their village in China. Foochow relatives travel to the port city to wait for the next vessel to Singapore where as Cantonese will have to start their journey to HK and wait for the next vessel to Singapore from HK. Upon arriving Singapore they will have to wait for the appropriate vessel to Rajang. The vessel will enter Rajang river mouth and being the 1st town with a DO Sarikei was where everyone will alight and get their papers verified. In those days you could see hundreds of new Foochow all wearing blue outfit with a Foochow hat alighting from the vessel and waiting for their turn to be verified. Siaw Ah Khoon the assistant DO those days would be the man busy over the new arrivals. Relatives from Sibu and surrounding town will come and receive them. Those who do not have valid papers can end up in Sibu's jail for two months.

The earliest prominent Foochow in Sarikei are the 黄 Wong who helped in the development of early Sarikei right after the turn of the century starting from rubber planting and begin trading. One of the most prominent Wong is the No.1 Wharf Rd that goes by the trade name Tong Aik who was also the developer of the 1st block at Wharf Rd and the behind block on Repok Rd Left in 1935. In the early days before 1935 your grandfather would probably head down to the small warehouse beside Chinese Chamber of Commerce to buy kerosene from the Wong, they would use the manual pump to draw the kerosene from container and not what you seen in normal petrol kiosk. They started the town 1st petrol kiosk Shell in front of their shop at Wharf Rd. Sibu's Shell kiosk is linked to them through family kinship. The piece of kumpung land which is closes to the old market was tendered by them but the head of the family died before the war. Cantonese trader & developer Kapitan Beng Lung builds two blocks on it, one next to the old market with the 1st shop 东方 coffee shop and the other is the right block on Repok Rd in 1946.

Another prominent Wong is Kapitan Wong Yong Hua who goes by the Shop name Hua Hin at No.7 Repok Rd, his old house was part of the Hua Tai garden. Mr.Wong was an active community leader, he hold position such as chairman of Sarikei's High school board. Another early Foochow is the Wong with shop name Soon Chiong at one of the wooden shops and later shifted down to No. 1 Repok Rd. Their old house and rubber farm was just behind the fire station 1st mile Repok Rd. In those early days Repok Rd wasn't build and they have to roll a Sampan via Nyelong River in between their farm and the town so you could imagine how early that was. The piece of land which was later developed into Nyelong Park was once belonging to them.

I use to fish ikan Sembilan in Sarikei but fishing trout is my hobby now and doing it here in the Tongariro River gives the most excitement, I would recommend anyone who comes to NZ.

stlau said...

I wonder if the bread shop could be called "San Hin" ??

Ikan Sembilang said...

If you click to enlarge the first picture, you can see the very first petrol station in Sarikei located in front of Block 3 shophouse no. 14 or 15. In the early days, the petrol tank was kept above the ground as there was no heavy machinery then to excavate and bury the tank in the ground. The Shell station constructed at a later date in front of Block 1 shophouse no.1 was the first to have an underground tank.

tuan lokong said...

I am trying to remember where was Hiap Soon General store in that picture above. It was somewhere along that rows. My last visit to that shop was in the mid 80s. Just then to be more clear he ia my uncle. I was not that closed to the family though. At that time we were staying in Oya Road.

Daniel Yiek said...

Great discussion!!!

Impressive inputs from Lidasar as usual.

Ikan Sembilang (thanks!) sent in an very very old pic of Wharf Rd. Stay tuned!

ST Lau,
The bread shop was not San Hin (which was at No 6 Wharf Rd, Block 2).

Tuan Lokong,
Hiap Soon is at No. 14 Wharf Road, Block 3). All the other 3 Wharf Rd blocks will be featured in the future posts after I have finished my research and finding the Chinese characters for the shop names.

For those readers who can't read Chinese characters (Indian, Malays, Ibans and some Chinese), the English pronounciation of the shop names are often the dialect pronounciation (not the pinyin pronouciation of the Chinese characters).

willchua said...

Daniel, Thanks for commenting at my blog. I am a frequent reader of your blog too. :)

TuanLokong said...

Great well in those days we used only to have normal camera. So the print had gone missing in our movement of life. I will too try to look for any old pictures and scan them to be send to you.

Yes I suggest we could also include Jakar in discussions later. Anybody have idea about a theatre along the Sarikei/Jakar road? I forgot it was Tai Kwong or what not sure anymore.

Daniel Yiek said...

Tuan Lokong,
You can either scan or just use digital camera (close range mode at 1MB per picture) to take pics of the old pics.

Jakar, the town with the pepper icon, will be included in future.
Tai Kwong has been featured (click cinema at sidebar) before but I don't have old pics from the 1970s. Does anyone have them?

Saiee Driss said...

After reading through you capsule, I would suggest that ius be edited and printed into a book form.

There are a numbert of such book about Kuching bny Ho Ah Choon.

stephenchen said...

really informative about sarikei... i support it to be edit and print for future generation reference.....

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