Monday, April 14, 2008

Scenes - Sarikei Bank Road Shop Block

After World War II, when you stepped off the Sarikei wharf (now Terminal 1), you would face this old block of post war shop house in Bank Road. Bank Road commemorates Kwong Lee Bank (No. 22 Wharf Road; the 1st bank in Sarikei; established in 1937). It's not named after Rejang river "bank" because the Chinese name translates into a financial bank.

Sarikei Bank Road Shop Block, Feb 2007.
Left-Right: No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Find the traditional pattern of the balcony.
View from Clock Tower

Wong Koh Chiong 黄可川 of Thong Aik 益 shop at No.1 Wharf Road tendered a piece of Malay kampung (village) land at this location but he passed away before World War II. After the war, Cantonese contractor and kapitan, 邱炳浓 Khoo Peng Loong, built this block and completed it in 1946. Each unit costs RM$16,000. (source: reader Lidasar)

Now let us try to trace the pioneers or at least the 2nd and 3rd batch of folks that occupied this block.

Picture of which X Wharf Workers Union? Baram? 1960.
Source: Sarikei Wharf Workers Union, 1st Floor, No. 1 Bank Road.
Click to enlarge. Click back arrow to come back.

No. 1 Bank Road: Eastern Cafe 東方茶室
Eastern Cafe was started by a Foochow named Law Kah Tung 劉家桐. His older brother, Law Kah Hung aka Lau Kong Hung 劉家凰 operated Kiew Lok cafe 僑樂園茶室 (No. 9 Repok Road). In the 1970s, Eastern Cafe sold apples and pears for those visiting relatives to and fro Binatang (Bintangor) and Sibu by express boats. Apples and pears were luxury items then and sometimes the apples your relatives bought could become powdery (ie not crunchy) due to its long display in the tropical heat.

Later another branch, New Eastern Cafe 新東方茶室, opened across Repok Road at No. 1 Wharf Road and is operated by another extended family of Law. In 2008, Eastern Cafe was been replaced by Wang Wang Cafe 旺旺 and is operated by an extended family of Law (he used to sell fruits in front of Eastern Cafe).

Behind Eastern Cafe was an old-style shop (Nem Sim) facing Repok Road with barbers which had cut the hair of many adults and wailing kids with a mini "lawn mower". Click "barber" label.

If you walked up the worn out wooden stairs last year, upstairs was the Sarikei Wharf Workers Union. It appeared as if time had stood still..old mahjong tables and chairs, an old caretaker in white singlet reading Chinese newspapers and the nice view of the busy wharf from a different angle. There were old dusty pictures hanging from the wall using the traditional way. Can someone read the Chinese characters on the left and bottom of the frame? It said some X Wharf Union had presented this picture to the Sarikei Wharf Workers Union in 1960 壹玖陆零 in old Chinese financial numerals (bottom of frame).

In mid 2007, the 1st floor had been torn down for renovation. Unfortunately, the traditional pattern (made of 4 hearts) of the balcony had not been preserved or incorporated into the renovated facade.

Sarikei Bank Road Shop Block, Feb 2007.
Left-Right: No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
View from Rejang Esplanade Park

No. 2 Bank Road: 裕成號, Chop Yu Seng and 協記 Hiap Kee
This unit used to be owned by 黄天隆 of No. 9 Repok Road.

裕成號, Chop Yu Seng is a retail store owned by the Foochow family of Siah (). Siah Hieng Ming (薛賢明 the grandpa) came from Min Chiang, PRC and settled as a rubber tapper in Sibu. He eventually saved enough money to come to Sarikei and bought this shop. Currently the eldest son of Siah Hieng Ming, the third child in the family is taking care of the shop.

協記 Hiap Kee is a confectioner owned by teh Foochow family of 黃楨泰 and is known for its kom pia and peanut candy. Mr Wong, the towkay (manager) of San Hin 三興 was a worker for Hiap Kee confectioner before he started his pastry shop at No. 6 Wharf Road. They were related.

Sarikei No. 3 Bank Road, 1956 ad.
The road in Chinese was wrongly stated "Wharf Road".
Source: Ease Chen

Sarikei No. 3 Bank Road, 1974 ad.
Find the 4-digit telephone number.
Source: Ease Chen

Sarikei No. 3 Bank Road, 1975 ad.
Source: Ease Chen

No. 3 Bank Road: Ngo Ho 五和號
Updated: Ngo Ho 五和號 is operated by the Foochow family of Ling 林亦喬 and specialises in the export and import of local products like rubber and pepper, fertilisers and also sells groceries. It is still in operation today. One of the current operators (one of the sons) has a PhD in agriculture and prefers the simple life in Sarikei.

No. 4 Bank Road: Tai Hing 大興
Before Tai Hing, Cantonese Chen Chow Fu 陳潮富 operated a shop (sundry cum exports business) of his own at No. 4 Bank Road. It was previously owned by Khoo Peng Loong 邱炳農. Chen Ma Chan 陳買長 , his close relative, worked with him.

Tai Hing 大興 was a kopitiam (coffeshop) operated by Law Kah Hing 劉家興, younger brother of Law Kah Tung 劉家桐 of Eastern Cafe at No.1 Bank Road. Sarikei owes its kopitiam culture to the extended Law family who operated and still operates many cafes in Sarikei.

Tai Hing is now an electrical appliance store.

Sarikei No.5 Bank Road, 1975 ad.
Source: Ease Chen

No. 5 Bank Road: 寶聯有限公司 Borneo
This store specialises in hardware, machinery and even paints.

In the late 1960s to 1970s, you could have your kopi-O (black coffee) at Eastern Cafe and stroll to the express boat to Sibu only when it had started horning for the last call. They would always U-turn for you if you wave frantically after the boat had left the wharf. Those were the sounds, smells and sights of Sarikei then.


Daniel Yiek said...

Can someone identify the X workers Union in the 1960 picture. I don't think it's Sarikei.

Please comment on the history of the shops and their owners. The comments will not be just for the sake of commenting because this time capsule is for future generations to cherish.

We have 60-65 readers a day now as per the counters

Kanga said...

Ngo Hoe is still operating as Ngo Hoe. One of the current operator (one of the sons)has a PhD in agriculture and prefers the simple life in Sarikei. He is a good friend and my source of info whenever I visit Sarikei.

In the early 60's my Mum used to sell rumbutans in front of the Eastern Cafe.

Still today this area is full of life early in the morning and quiets down in the afternoon.

As to the "X", is it Baram Wharf Workers Union? photo presented to Sarikei Wharf Union may be?

Daniel Yiek said...

Pls advise what dialect is the family running Ngo Hoe. Hokkien? Foochow? Surname Ling?

Andysan said...

How you doing? Eastern Cafe was founded by my grandpa, Law Kah Tung 劉家桐 around 50s. Then, my parents took over around 70s. After my father passed away in 2007, my cousin who used to sell fruits in front of our shop, took over our business and replaced the name with Wang Wang Cafe. The New Eastern Cafe across the street is owned by my uncle.

lidasar said...

This block is a good place for business, a choice location in Sarikei. Kapitan Khoo Peng Loong use to own an unit on this block. The 1st unit that was used by Eastern Café belongs to Tong Aik, not sure now. So can you imagine Tong Aik owning both the left and right of the starting point of Repok Rd? 廣合興 once operated a 2nd shop from this roll, if memory didn't fail me it could be No.4 Bank Rd but it didn't last and this could also be the unit owned by Kapitan Khoo then.

Daniel Yiek said...

Thanks for commenting. How is your grandpa from Eastern Cafe (Law Kah Tung 劉家桐) related to Lau Kong Hung 劉家凰 who operated Kiew Lok cafe 僑樂園茶室 (No. 9 Repok Road)?

Andysan said...

My grandpa was the pioneer of opening Kopitiam for Law's family. Law Kah Hung (my grandpa's older brother ) could be the 2nd restaurant then followed by Tai Hing (Law Kah Hing, my grandpa younger brother ) on No. 4 Bank Road. We have 2 New Eastern Cafes, 88 Cafe, 99 Cafe, Wang Wang Cafe and etc...


Kanga said...


Ngo Hoe owner is Foochow and surname Ling is correct.

lidasar said...

Oh yes it trigger of my memory bud immediately after reading Kanga's comment. I recall another lady Mrs.Yip selling rambutans in front of Eastern Café in those old days. The wife of Yip Siong and the daughter-in-law of Sage Seng whom I introduced earlier. Sage Seng is Mr.Yip Seng whom the Cantonese trusted very much in those early days. Mrs.Yip is a big & tall lady from China Wuhan or somewhere and she was very friendly to me when I was a kid, every time she would smile and call me TowKayKia. Her image of the soft and gentle character always struck my mind until now. Mind you she once taught at Kwang Chien primary when she first came to our town following her husband. Mr.Yip Siong and his brother were KMT soldiers back in China then and story of how he escaped the communist hiding in a coffin before heading down Sarikei then. These sons of Sage Seng were very learned young men of old Sarikei, very good in command of mandarin and literature.

sarawakiana said...


I am impressed that Sarikei has a good crop of learned, caring ,people who love to swap historical knowledge.

From this strong oral tradition (now called blogging) we will have a strong basis of accurate and authentic history, double checked and crossed checked for accuracy....Daniel Yiek - well done!!

Daniel Yiek said...

Thanks for the kind words.

I think Sarikei folks try harder because our small town does not have well documented history or books like Kuching or Sibu.

I'm very impressed with the Sibu History book done by the Sibu Chinese Cultural Society. My only feedback on that book: It has lots of facts and old pics but lacks a story telling approach which will attract more and younger readers.

Shi Zheng said...

Hi daniel,

裕成號 was a shop own by Siah(薛) family. My grandfather came from Min Chiang PRC and has settled as a rubber tapper in Sibu and had eventually able to save enough money to come to Sarikei and bought the shop lot at No.2 Bank Road. I do not know my grandfathers name in chinese but the romanised version is Siah Hieng Ming.

Currently my Father is taking care of the shop (the eldest son, third child in the family). We are from the foochow bloodline.

Shi Zheng said...

sorry for the grammar mistake... 裕成號 IS a shop own by Siah(薛) family

Daniel Yiek said...

Shi Zheng
Thanks for completing the puzzle. Will update the post.

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