Monday, March 30, 2009

Scenes - Sarikei Bank Road No. 1

Sarikei Bank Road Block, Feb 2007
No. 1 is at the left

Cantonese entrepreneur and kapitan, 邱炳浓 Khoo Peng Loong, built this block and completed it in 1946. Each unit cost RM$16,000. (source: Reader Lidasar). What can you buy with RM$16K today?

Sarikei Bank Road No. 1, Feb 2007
The wooden stairs

If you walked up the creaky stairs in 2007, you would notice that the wooden steps had a concave worn out look from 60 years of heavy human traffic.

Sarikei Bank Road No. 1, Feb 2007
Original wooden doors of Eastern Cafe

At the top of the stairs, you could find these pair of wooden doors that belonged to Eastern Cafe 東方茶室 of the old No.1 Bank Road. In the old days, when the shop opened in the early morning, the swinging doors would be removed and tied to the shop pillars outside.

Sarikei Bank Road No. 1, Oct 2007

Upstairs was the Sarikei Wharf Workers Union. It appeared as if time had stood still with old mahjong tables and chairs, an old caretaker in white singlet reading Chinese newspapers and the nice view of the busy Terminal 1 wharf from a different angle. There were old dusty pictures hanging from the wall using the traditional way. Now this memory is gone with the dust.

Sarikei Bank Road No. 1, Oct 2007

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 due to its longer than desired exposure in the tropical heat. With refrigeration nowadays, this problem is no longer an issue.

Sarikei Bank Road No. 1, Feb 2008

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 replaced by Wang Wang Cafe 旺旺 and is operated by an extended family of Law who used to sell fruits in front of Eastern Cafe. If there's any error in the history, please correct me.

Sarikei Bank Road No. 1, Feb 2008

Behind Eastern Cafe was an old-style shop facing Repok Road with barbers which had cut the hair of many adults and wailing kids with a mini "lawn mower". This shop is still operating but is now halved in size. Go and have a trim!

Sarikei Bank Road No. 1, Jan 2009

The renovation started in mid 2007 and is now complete. The renovation is nice but it could be even nicer if the traditional pattern (made of 4 hearts) of the balcony had been conserved and incorporated into the renovated facade.

In Singapore, such shop houses also conserve the wooden windows. They put a glass layer in the window hole to enable air conditioning. They look modern and yet traditional. Why does Singapore conserve such buildings? Well, as a society gets more affluent, people long for their roots and heritage. They search for something that they can relate to; something to anchor their identity to the place they call home.

Sarikei Bank Road No. 1, Jan 2009

The old world charm of the historic No.1 Bank Road is now gone with the wind.


Anonymous said...

That's such a shame to lose the historical building. Whoever did the renovation did a bad job and who ever in city hall approved the "renovation" need to be fired.

The right term for refinished old building is historical restoration. It's a big deal here in old city where I live, San Francisco. The architect should bring the old building back to its original charm without destroying any old detail.

sarawakiana said...

Some one should tell the political parties how NOT to redevelop old towns and cities in Sarawak.

So tasteless and should be preserved and conserved and not sold to the highest bidder.

We must never "prostitute" historical development and human achievement.

Unfortunately many politicians think they can do everything and perhaps even more than superman ???

Ikan Sembilang said...

Anonymous & Sarawakiana

If you think that the renovation of the Eastern Café shophouse is bad or tasteless, just wait until you see a recent photo of Fort Alice in Sri Aman at It is really depressing to see our heritage building with a history of more than 140 years in such a dilapidated and ruinous state. Apparently, the building must have been left to rot for years and nobody seems to care! While the Singapore Government has done an excellent job in conserving their old buildings, our politicians apparently have very different interests and priorities concerning our historical heritage.

justin said...

I agree with all about renovation and preservation.
I wish more architects will standup and protect our heritage.
Miri is now a modern city. No tourists want to see that. Those I come across are disappointed. the Technology Park is just too much and already "not so pop".
They want to see flora and fauna. So they said"why only pictures?"

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