This block is arguably best known for its medicine man but there are more than just pills and traditional herbs there. Let's peel back the onion and find the stories behind this block.
The wooden blocks at Repok Road were slowly replaced by concrete ones in stages as can be seen in old pictures: Block 2L (1935), Block 2R (1946 after World War II), Block 4R (1953) and Block 5R (1953).
Between Block 4R and Block3R is a wide lane. A small tidbit stall plied its business there in the 1970s. In the evening, the owner simply locked up and wrapped a cloth around it.
The Heng Hua dialect group is reputed for their entrepreneurial skills in the transport and bicycle industry. Bicycles were a necessity in the old days so it was good business. Sin Hiap Hin 新協興 bicycle and blacksmith shop was apparently started by the same Mr Lau Tien Guan 劉天源,a Heng Hua, who also had a old wooden shop at Block 7R. He could repair bicycles, guns, organs, clocks and sewing machines. Later he had smelting and propellers added to his portfolio. Not to mention the heaps of durians that were sold there in the 1970s. Yes, durians in a bicycle shop.
Now King Cheong 金泉 sweets and biscuits store has replaced it and Tanjung Manis Hotel operates four storeys above it. On the side are Kung Trading, Goodwood photo shop and Pao Yu traditional barber (as featured in the Astro AEC show on Sarikei).
A strange combination of shops plied their trade here. A traditional barber (name?) on the right and San Hoo 珊瑚 ("coral" if translated literally) book store on the left. San Hoo was operated a Foochow. The store was not well lit and sold a bare supply of school books, exercise books and sports equipment (table tennis, badminton, etc). They also specialised in electric carving of business stamps and repairs of fountain pens.
Now San Hoo (L) and Golden City 金城 goldsmith (R) operate there. Golden City replaced Dr Wong Hua Seh's clinic. Ngu's 吳Laser Acupuncture and Massage kneads your body on the first floor.
This is the only unit that still retains its original look with wooden windows on level 2 and the open air verandah with its classic diamond shapes on level 3. Let's hope the owner will keep this heritage.
Was this a blacksmith shop that banged through out the day called Hua Hin 華興?
Chik Chung 積春 goldsmith and Yang's 楊 Trading operated there in the 1990s. Chik Chung 積春 goldsmith (R) and Nan Wak Wateches & radio store (L) operate there now. Kiong Ann drug store does its business at the back entrance.
The Liang 梁 family with their traditional Chinese medicine chest of drawers had the most memorable store (Ang Ting Tong 安定堂) in this block. You could have your traditional herbs weighed using a aged scale and wrapped in pink paper. Granpa Liang was a licensed dentist who passed away before War World II and grandma Liang started this pharmacy. The Liang family are Hakka (updated).
Later their son, William, spruced up the store with air-con to sell both western and Chinese herbs in the 1990s- 2008. William dressed up in a white pharmacist coat (the first to do so in Sarikei) and many locals would bypass the doctors to buy non prescriptive medicine from him for minor problems. William pharmacy had been sold to a Mr Lee after the Liang family migrated to Australia.
A general practitioner operated on the left. Name 黃道夫? This doctor was the popular one before Dr Yap came into the scene. He owned two horses which he rode around the padang (now Civic Center) early every morning.
In the late 1970s, the clinic was replaced by Foochow apparel stores, Wan Soon 萬順 and Ta Soon 大順. Now only Wan Soon remains. A Vodafon hanphone centre is at the back entrance.
What were the original stores here? Half was a shoe store operated by a Mr Sii, the younger brother of the more famous Mr Su Hing Leh. What was the other half? (updated)
In the 1990s, a mini supermarket Hong Ta 宏達 sold its wares there. Now Tian Xin 天聲 kopitiam serves its food and beverages there with both front and back entrances open.
A corner shop often have 3-4 tenants that come and go to share the lower rentals of the small "holes in the wall". In the 1990s, there was Wan Kang 萬康 medicine store, 南越 South Vietnam watch store and Ngee Hin 藝興 tailor (who opened a koiptiam at Block 5R in the late 1970s-mid 1990s under the same name. Before the tailor shop, he sold watches.)
Now a new batch of tenants have taken over. From the back L-R: Huong Hong biscuit shop, Tung Seng joss sticks, Wang Hing handphone shop (closed down) , x, x, x, x, 123 handphone shop.