December 21, 2009

Bintulu's Blue Terendak Inspired Roofs

In the history of Sarawak Bintulu claims  the fame of being the place for the first meeting of the Sarawak legislature on Sept 8 1867. This meeting place - a plain wooden building- was gazetted as the General Council until 1903.

Apart from this Bintulu was a very small river side town servicing the small population of the Kemena River and its hinterland until it started to boom in the 1990's. And from then there was no stopping.

I often stop by on my homeward journey to Sibu and see the changes for myself in the last few years since the road from Miri to Sibu is better.

However throughout the 1990's I  also had the opportunity to visit Bintulu  and in particular the Bintulu schools as a teacher trainer supervising my own trainees. I found most of  the schools bursting at the seams. Some of them continued to have wooden classrooms with chairs which were half a century old! But they were better than the plastic chairs which broke easily.  I would always choose an old wooden but very sturdy chair to sit on at the back as I observe the practical. And in the evenings I would walk along the five foot way  in the town and enjoy the slow small town life - shopkeepers wearing sleeveless Chinese singlets and Chinese women wearing their comfortable blouses and loose trousers.Some of the mothers would be feeding mouthfuls of rice to their young children.

In corner shops I could pick up a bowl of dry noodles (kampua mee) and nice cup of Kopi (made from freshly ground coffee). And every where there would be  noises of fairly high decibels originating from loud voices and cars rumbling along the streets interjected by a bit of coughing and loud crackling and clearing of the throat and then followed by the grand finale of skilful spitting .

In recent years Bintulu has changed a great deal which amazes even someone like me - a not so frequent traveller. New buildings have sprung up - in the old town folks' language words like "mall" and "water front" intersperse with "clinic" and "bus stop". "Night clubs" have been replaced by "pubs". But there is not one decent book shop where one can pick up a good map or a good book to read during the long long boat ride up the river. At bus stops people tend to play with their handphones rather than read a good book.

One of the most interesting buildings in Bintulu is the twin blue roofed buildings of the Wet and Dry Market and the Native Tamu situated next to the Kemena River. I often wonder why the colour blue is chosen for its roof. Is it to replicate the Blue Mosque of Istanbul? What is behind the choice of the colour?

I like the space(padang) offered by the town council next to the market. Most towns have a grand town square in front of the Resident's office. But this spacious padang is adjacent to a market and in front of a huge multi million ringgit Chinese temple. There is indeed a huge open space for the public to linger in the evenings to enjoy some "chill time". The esplanade or promenade also provides the space for keen fishermen to cast their net or line. A long stretch of pathway starts near the kampong and express wharf and ends fairly near the old Bintulu Hospital (now the town polyclinic). At least the Bintulu town continues to have a good river frontage. I believe if I ever chose Bintulu as a retirement place (being the riverine person that I am)  I would be jogging along this particular and splendid stretch of esplanade every evening - rain or shine!

The roof of this Wet and Dry Market and the next building (the Tamu) are designed from  the terendak conical hat shape of the Melanaus. These cool, colourful Terendak hatss are made of palm or biru leaves sewn on to umbrella frames of rattan and coloured bamboo. The crowns are made of bamboo to fit the wearer’s head.

On a rainy day ( the day I took this photo of the tamu) one felt so close to nature watching the people hurrying to their boats and cars. However the coldness of the concrete open space reminds one of social distance and foreigness and strangeness one can experience in a bigger city too.

With such a rich cultural heritage architects in Sarawak indeed has a wide choice of designs. Inspiration can come from a great range : from common to mystical and rare shapes.

1. The Wet and Dry Market and the Tamu buildings : Architect - Lankie Simbas . (from PCK)
2. Notes on Chinese Temple : Bintulu Chinese Temple flyer


Ann said...

I had a photo of a mosque in West Maalaysia, It was also blue.

What an indepth knowledge you have, Mr. Wiltshire would have been proud of you.

I never went to Bintulu. I almost went once to visiti my sister Margaret. But my duaghter came down with Chicken pox while we were in Sibu.

QuaChee said...

its interesting to note where the roof of the building was inspired from :)

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Ann
That's a nice mosque from Paloh. The Luak Mosque has a blue mosaic dome too.

Should one day go to Bintulu. Is Margaret there?

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi QuaChee
Nice of you to visit....yes many buildings in Asia have unique roofs.....

Anonymous said...

Hi there

I have never looked at Bintulu from the historical point of is my LNG town!! and I hope it will become an industrial city with lots of jobs for young strong professionals.


Daniel Yiek said...

If u didnt mention it, I wont have related the roof to the Melanau hat!

wenn said...

indeed very creative.

Bengbeng said...

Merry Christmas to you and yr family.

Uncle Lee said...

Hi Sarawakania, I can imagine how much Sibu has changed. Last time I was there in the '70's and early '80s.
Wow, very interesting learn history and of Sibu here.
You sure know your geography and history.
Wishing you the best of Seasons greetings, Lee.

pck said...

The building in your photo is the Dry and Wet Market; Tamu is the one behind it. It was designed by the late Bidayuh architect, Lamkie Simbas. The original idea to have a roof that looks like terendak came from Hijjas Kasturi and CM.
Merry X'mas & Happy New Year

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Justin
Thanks for visiting. Of course Bintulu will always be the LNG town that we value!! I hope that it will continue to boom and help people get good jobs.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Yes...beautiful top isn't it? The Eastwood Valley Resort and Golf Course in Miri has many of these terendak atop its restaurants....very interesting to photograph too.

I think there will be more in the future. Recently a Christmas tree in Sibu was decorated with these hats.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your dear family.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thanks for your tip- I stand corrected. Oh yes I have heard of the late L. Simbas. Will read up more about him. I have some very good Bidayuh friends in Miri here too. Both Hijjas and the CM have been very influential in the designs of buildings in Sarawak!!

From where can I photograph the tops of these twin buildings apart from a heli? Would appreciate the info.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Uncle Lee
Didn't know you visited Sibu in the 70's and 80's! I am sure you were well entertained.

Sibu and Bintulu have changed a great deal since then. Sibu in particular.

But the people are still warm and hospitable. And the food still unique and interesting. Sibu has a huge building called Sanyan Tower now opening out to a huge public square and the Lau King Howe Hospital is now a mini museum.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Wenn

Thanks for visiting!

Hope one day you will visit Sarawak again.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

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