Saturday, June 21, 2008

Scenes - Sarikei Repok Road Block 2 (Right)

Sarikei Repok Road Block 2 Right, 2007
R-L: No. 2, 4, 6, 8, 10
Find the 45-year old Three-leg branded sun shade at No. 6 (middle)
View from Rejang River

After World War II, Block 2 Right Repok Road (viewed and counted from Rejang River) was completed in 1946 by developer cum Cantonese kapitan, Khoo Peng Loong. The 60-year leasehold land was formerly old kampung (Malay village) houses and each shop was sold for about $16,000. (Source: 1)

Now let us try to trace the pioneers or the 2nd generation of this block.

No. 2 Repok Road, 1956 ad.
Note double digit telephone # 42.
Source: Ease Chen

No. 2 Repok Road, 1974 ad
Source: Ease Chen

No. 2 Repok Road
Hwa Chiong Goldsmith 華章金鋪

In the old days and even now, gold has been one of the most popular long term investment. It was also a status symbol. You may recall the older generation with gold fillings in their teeth. This block had 2 goldsmith shops. You could observe goldsmiths at work who would put on a magnifying lens to one eye while the other squinted. One hand would be holding a high temperature flame that was connected to a gas tank while the other hand held a metal pincer that worked on the gold accessory.

Does anyone know the history of this shop?

No. 2 Repok Road, 1974 ad
Source: Ease Chen

No. 2 Repok Road
New Style Tailor 新時代

The other half of the shop was a tailor shop owned by the (Cantonese) Chan family. Tailor shops often display their Singer sewing machines with their workers hard at work. The tailor would have a measuring tape hanging on his shoulders and stacks of clothing materials in their showcase. The Chan family now stay at the 1st terrace unit at Friendship Road. The old father and one of the sons (Ah Heng) now farm on their land. The other sons are doing other jobs.

No. 4 Repok Road, 1956 ad
Source: Ease Chen

No. 4 Repok Road, 1960 ad
Telephone # 87
Source: Ease Chen

No. 4 Repok Road

This was occupied by Chee Kong 濟康 before Kwong Hing Goldsmith 光興金鋪 and later Chuong Sing 金成 apparels moved in. Chee Kong sold Chinese and western medicine, alcohols, picture frames and apparels.

No. 4 Repok Road, 1974 ad
Source: Ease Chen

One of the Hakka pioneers is 张乐天 Chong who came to Sare to farm pepper and later moved to Sarikei to operate a medical hall at the row of attap roofed wooden shops at Wharf Road (1910-1920s).

张乐天 was better known as one of the founders and the first principal of Kwang Chien 廣建 primary school in 1927. 张乐天 knew Chinese classic literature and that helped in his academic contribution to Kwang Chien primary school. In the mid 1950s, he enjoyed playing mahjong at the Cantonese Association.

The shop moved to several shops including No. 11 Wharf Road before he bought No. 4 Repok Road. 张乐天, a grandpa, would put on a China hat and cycled from his 2nd mile Repok Road home to his son's shop at No. 4 Repok Road every morning. He would bring betel leaves to be sold with slaked lime called kapo, tobacco and betel nut. Customers would chew on them to get stimulation.

The shop also sold alcohol at 20 cent per tiny cup to alcoholics who could drop by a few times a day to get high. The shop also sold ice balls where a wooden ice shaver in front of the shop made ice shavings that was cupped into a ball with bare hands before pouring coloured sugar syrup and carnation milk.

The turn of fortune for the family came on the 1962 trip to Singapore while sending the eldest son, Chong Siew Fai, to England to study law. While in Singapore, the shop owner (2nd generation Chong) was introduced to the "Three-leg" brand of medicated products by a Hakka friend and returned with the agency rights. The "Three-leg" brand helped built up a fortune by selling headache powder that is made of acetylsalicylic acid and "rhino horn" cooling water. The 45-year-old sun shade with ad given by the Three-leg company is still hanging in front of the shop. (Source: 1)

Upstairs was the former DAP (Democratic Action Party) office headed by Chong Siew Fai's younger brother, lawyer Chong Siew Chang (now in Kuching). Siew Chang's son, Chong Chieng Jen, is the current DAP MP for Kuching.

Wong Tou Choon (first chairman of Sarikei District Council) had brother, Dr. Wong Tou Fu, who worked in the old wooden hospital by Nyelong River. In the early 1980s, Dr Wong started a clinic at No. 4 Repok Road after the Iban doctor, Dr Jawai Masing, moved out. Dr Wong had his medical studies and training in China. (Source: Reader 45rpm)

No. 6 Repok Road, 1967 ad
Source: Ease Chen

No. 6 Repok Road, 1974 ad
Source: Ease Chen

No 6 Repok Road
Heng Cheong 恆昌

While the Chongs were at No. 11 Wharf Road, they shared the other half of the shop with Heng Chiong. Heng Chiong is at No. 6 Repok Road while the Chongs bought No. 4 Repok Road so they became neighbours again.

Heng Chiong started as a partnership between a young Hokkien from Kapit and a Cantonese at No. 11 Wharf Rd. The business were expanded to a full shop at No. 6 Repok Road with many additional partners especially the Cantonese including the Chongs who were one of the smaller partners. The business did well through the years but the partnership didn't last and so it eventually ended up with the Hokkien family from Kapit again. They are one of the active developers of new shop houses in Sarikei now.

Sarikei Repok Road Block 2 Right, 2007
L-R: No. 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 (not shown)
View from Central Road junction
Why the bright yellow?!! Related to the yellow taxi?

No. 8 Repok Road
San Nging & Co 生源 (Cantonese)

Does anyone know the history of this shop?

No. 10 Repok Road
Hai Ping Café 海濱

The airy corner shops of Sarikei are often used as coffeshops (kopitiam). Next to No. 10 Repok Road is a shed for booking the yellow and red taxis so you can see a lot of taxi uncles resting at the cafe while waiting for their business. Sarikei taxis do not cruise the streets for passengers so you need to know where to find them. The other coffeeshop with taxi uncles is at the end of Bank Road bus terminal, next to the Sungei Merah bus ticket shed.

Sarikei Repok Road Block 2 Right & Bank Road Block, 2007
View from Central Road junction
The palm trees stood at the location of the original roundabout

Block 2 Right was good for retail therapy and getting high. You could tailor make a shirt, shop for gold, groceries, apparels and medicated products, consult a lawyer, enjoy a cuppa, an ice ball or make your teeth red with betel nut chewing.

1) Reader Lidasar.


Daniel Yiek said...

This post took 4.5 hours to put together to make it flow as a story...rather than just facts. Can someone find me those 2 Chinese characters X in the post?

Thanks to Lidasar's nice stories. ;)

Enjoy the history! History is not boring, right?

Tuan Lokong said...

Thanks guys yes it cheers us up reading it. The second last picture is a furniture shop, used to buy some furnitures there. :) And at the blind left is the Traffic Police Station...

Ikan Sembilang said...


Here are the Chinese characters you are looking for : 济康,华章. Chee Kong should be 济康 and not the other way around.
A lawyer blogger from Kuching had written a touching personal tribute to Chong Siew Fai. Anyone interested to read about it can visit her blog at

In the most difficult moments of his life after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, Siew Fai did not become very pei chek or languish in despair and self-pity. Instead, he maintained a positive attitude and moved on with his life. This is really something that we can all learn from this prominent son of Sarikei!

lidasar said...

San Nging & Co 生源 is the family business of the Cantonese Lee family, now the 3rd generation has a big ice cream factory in Sarikei. The 1st generation Mr.Lee Looi stated off as a partnership at Wharf Rd by the shop name Kong Hua Lung 廣華隆 1930s where later 生發 Seng Huat kopitiam took over until now. In those early days you just have to walk opposite to the shop in the evening to have chicken porridge by earliest Cantonese porridge seller Lam Hwie. Eating porridge by the road side is very safe because you can't find vehicle in town. 廣華隆Kong Hua Lung went belly up before the war and after the war Mr.Lee Looi started 南隆 Nan Leong at the new location which is No 8 Repok Rd with several partners, 南隆 was doing good business as price of pepper kept rocking like the price of oil now. 1st generation Mr.Lee send for his adult son probably age 26 from China and this 2nd generation Mr.Lee Sim Kong actually spend the war in Canton home district before he first came to Sarikei. The father advised him to take up tailoring from a relative in Binatang but he refused and settled at a village called Puitai operating a small tuck shop trading with Ibans and farmers, he planted pepper too. In the beginning there wasn't any road and traveling between Sarikei to Puitai must via Nyelong River by boat. When business of 南隆 was in trouble in the 1960s the knight that came to the rescues was non other than Mr.Lee Sim Kong and thus 生源 story at No 8 Repok Rd until the 1990s.

華章 金鋪 was started by a Foochow from Sibu and he had a worker who married his daughter and became the son-in-law. This towkay plays snooker and later he went to Semaggan (Sematan?) to start another shop. While he is away his son-in-law took over the business but years later he returned with an Iban wife and a young daugther. So the son-in-law had to make way, he moved to next shop No 4 Repok Rd and started 光興金鋪. Chee Kong 濟康 was the family business of the Chong family (mostly 2nd generation) of old Sarikei, the shop was bought by the 2nd generation Mr.Chong. When the 2nd generation Mr.Chong retires the shop was rented half to 光興金鋪 and the other half to Iban Dr. Jawei Masing. The 3rd generation Mr.Chong (3rd son) the lawyer set up office on the 2nd floor and was involve in politics starting with SUPP follow by DAP. When Dr. J Masing left the place was taken up by one Dr.Wong who worked at the 1st wooden hospital by Neylong River before.

Sarawakiana said...

Dear Daniel and all your supporters,

I am touched by the unity and cooperation shown by the prominent readers involved in the Sarikei Time Capsule.

Chia are a great group and I have been following the exciting history of Sarawak like a huge fan....

It is fascinating how you can piece together the history of one Road. In Sibu, every road would have a similar history, particularly Blacksmith Road.

God bless your good hearts.

Nelson said...

keep it up! I hope that Sarikei can have some sort of 'museum' to showcase everything about sarikei from history to f00d.

Kanga said...

As I read about this block of shops and gazed at the photos: flash back! my dad was an accounting bookeeper in one of these shops, my mum was(for years) a good friend of one of the lady towkay in another shop. I went to school with a family member of the coffee shop owner. And I provided tution for a brother and sister of the family in the fourth shop!
Back to the present, the last two times I went back to Sarikei, I bought two badminton rackets from No.2 Repok road. It spans 50 over years!

45rpm said...

Lidasar, I think you make a mistake. The old Cantonese shop at Wharf Rd started by Mr.Lee Looi & partners should be 廣和隆 Kong Ho Lung and not 廣華隆 Kong Hua Lung.

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