January 30, 2010

2010 Blacksmith Road of Sibu

I had wanted to write about "Blacksmith Road" for sometime. Before writing I wished that its name would never be changed to Jalan Tukang Besi! But my fears became reality when I went back to Sibu recently. Indeed the name has been changed and the new generation would never know that the road was once called in English "Blacksmith Road".(see above photo by Wong Meng Lei)

However the name "Blacksmith Road" will remain in the minds and  hearts  of my generation for a long long time.

That's where I spent most of my primary school days : afternoon classes meant we had some extra money for a chendol. When we had an aunt visiting we could have an extra bowl of noodles (without meat which was cheaper). When grandma from Sg. Maaw came we could watch two or three movies in one weekend in the Lido or the Rex! And of course all Foochows would have their wedding feasts catered for in Hock Chu Leu. How I loved the siew mai there. And at times I would just sit in front of the Chiu Nai Ding Clinic and watch the WORLD go by.

Blacksmith Road was a happening place then!! And I think it is still that special place in Sibu.

This road has such a special place in my heart.

Jalan Tukang Besi? The Hit Iron (Literal translation) Road?

It  seems strange now to read the name in Bahasa Malaysia. But as I walked along it last week I still have the same nostalgic feelings. I had that special longing to see an old friend or two popping up at corners. Sadly  most of the familiar faces have all gone. And the Beatles' "In My Life" kept playing in my mind. Yes  there are places I remember....but most have gone.....I have loved them all.....

This is the famous Hock Chu Lou (which literally means Mansion where Foochows Gather Together)According to my sources it has been around since the 1930's. I think it should be part of our Foochow Heritage Site.

This is the Goldsmith  Tieng Aik Shop which was established by the Sii family. After old Mrs. Sii handed over the shop to the son the shop operated for a while until very recently when the shop changed its signboard I suppose. The characters have almost the same pronunciation. One of the Sii daughters went to school with me like all her other siblings and so did her  nieces and nephews. Her own children went to the Methodist School too.

(The Chinese came to South East Asia with three "knives" only - scissors - choppers or cleavers - and razors and they prospered)

This men's tailor shop has been making trousers (western style or Ang Mo Koh - have you ever wondered why?) since I was a little girl. Still there and the smell of the wool is still there as I remember it when I visited it last week. The sewing machines are still the same. But the old towkay has left this world and the new one does not know me. We have allowed a whole library of knowledge slipped through.

By the way I was told that if the shop name starts with "Kwong" than the towkay is a Cantonese. If the shop name starts with "Hock" then it belongs to a Foochow.

When I was just "one bale of material tall" I liked to put my cheeks against the wool all rolled up and standing in the shop  and feel the tingling on the skin. If I remained silent I could listen to the gossips exchanging between my grandmother and the other ladies standing along the five foot way.May be that was how I got all the stories recorded in my brain.

This is the Tian Bien Hoo Shop (so Pauline from Kanowit if you are reading this...go to Blacksmith Road Sibu and look for Hin Wuong  at the back and along an alley..) which has been run by the same family for three generations. The grand father was assistant to the original tian bien hoo towkay Mr. Yew.  Here the fish balls are always fresh. The rice flour used is of good quality. And how I love the fusion of dried squid and lily bulbs in the soup!! A dash or two of ground pepper will bring you to gourmets' heaven.

This is the alley leading to the Hing Wuong Tian Bian Hoo shop. Motor cycles have replaced bicycles today. Just before going to the shop we little girls had to count our coins all tied up in our handkerchiefs first. Did we have enough?

Tian Bian Hoo is no longer just enjoyed by the Foochows only. These two Iban ladies who sell langsat (a backyard home grown fruit ) are enjoying a quick brunch. They are cheerful customers like all the rest who patronise this shop and the operators are very friendly and courteous. Very 1Sarawak. Not halal though so cannot claim 1Malaysia.

Wan Hin is now a coffee shop. It claimed to be the earliest Kompia makers of Sibu. It was actually the Toh Family's Biscuit Shop and their biscuits and kompia were famous up and down the Rajang Valley.

The proprietors were very kind people who sold the "seconds" of kompia ( not flat and beautiful ones) at a lower price. Those who did not mind would buy them - more for their hungry children. Today most people would choose and choose the best for their children and for themselves. How time has changed.

Hope these photos will provide some nostalgia for those who are not going back to Sibu for the Chinese New Year.

p/s Thanks Meng Lei for providing the first two photos.


Uncle Lee said...

Hi Sarawakiana, always a pleasure drop by as I learn interesting facts from your eloquent postings, especially I love Sabah and Sarawak.

I guess most of the road names now have been changed. Pity...as some as you mentioned brings back memories.
I for one only remember the old names in KL, Penang...
Love your pics, tells a thousand words.
Have a nice day, Lee.

Daniel Yiek said...

Nice pic of Iban ladies with baskets in kopitiam

Ann said...

Thank you CY,

I haven't had CNY in Sibu since 1974. Thank you for bringing me along Blacksmith Rd.

I also remember the book store, owned by mr. kwang and mr. Lau's parent in law.

Behind, that bookstore, was the bus station, my aunty Ngieng's family ran a hairdressing salon.

Do you remember the Heng Hua Bicycle shop? Goh Teck Mei was my classmate, she is now in Canada.

Those Foochow deep fried eggs, I even learnt to eat from Hock Chu Lau.

Strange, I never learnt to like the TIEM PIEM HOO though I went with my Foochow friends to eat the bowls of piping hot gruel. I think I know how to make them myself just looking at them.

To me , the best kampua was the coffee shop at the Island road and Blacksmith junction.30 cts was what my parents could afford.

What about that hole in fence that lead to the lane next to Lido cinema?

Ah Ngao said...

we have our lorong Blacksmith in Kuching which is adjacent to Carpenter Street. once a while i eat Tiem Piem Hoo too,becoz its not oily but normally i excludes the black fungus.i noticed that those kopitiams near the center of Sibu town which are dirty but yet,plenty of customers.one of my cousin is the towkayneo of that kopitiam(dirty yet so many people).

[SK] said...

yeah, it's sad to see many of the road/streets has been named something else so irrelevant.. at least "tukang besi" is just a translation for blacksmith, and i see chinese on the road sign, which i would not find any in KL..

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Uncle Lee
I understand your situation. Many roads have change of names. One road in Sibu has three name changes. The powers that be will continue to take delight in this I am sure. Road directions get changed to very often too. Even GPS get confused.
Hope you will be able to make that Sabah and Sarawak trip soon.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Daniel
Thanks...I love different races mingling happily. I try my best to take happy shots.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Uncle Lee
Pardon me.....my lack of politeness...Have a good Sunday!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Ann
Thanks. Blacksmith Road is just so easy to say (even through the teeth)
I wonder how the road was so named. How many blacksmiths were there on this road?
I remember the bus station where we had or chendol.
One day I will write about the bookstores of Sibu when I have the photos. Chien Fong has moved a little to the middle of the road.
The bicycle/outboard engine shop called Heng Ang belonging to the Goh family was a top shop. The eldest son was on the Rich and and FAmous list going around with celebrities. I remember he took some film stars to Kapit. That was news!
Goh Kwong Ging the sister goes to the same church with me now. Will ask...
The corner coffee shop Ting Nguk Huong is now a motor cycle shop. I remember it very well...
The whole in the fence has long gone but my daughters did go through them. Remember the canteen operators? The son has lots of stories to tell. Will visit him one day. The Lido is now Sun Lun Tyre Building.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Ah Ngao
All the Blacksmith Roads in the world are actually very old roads with historical backgrounds. Like the one in Malacca which attracts tourists. It is very colourful there.
I must visit the Blacksmith Road of Kuching when I next visit.
Yeah in Sibu business is due to relationship and good taste...not so much the cleanliness of the shop I think. Strategic position of the kopitiam is important too.
But may be in the near future things will change. But I feel that the quality of the food is the most important factor. Best wishes to your towkayneo cousin.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thanks for visiting.
Yes Sarawak still have Chinese translation. BM is on the top as it is the national language.

In Brunei Jawi is used. In Wales Welsh is used so even an English man can get lost looking for road names.

China is still good. We won't get lost because English is used there especially when we cnnot read Chinese.

Bengbeng said...

even my dad was surprised to see the chinese characters on road signs...

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Bengbeng

Yeah I am surprised too...because in the past there were only romanised words on the signs.

I think KLIA is very good with all the different major languages in the PA system. Good for Malaysia!

Borneo Falcon said...

Looking at your post, you might have known my mother or aunt since you know so much about Tieng Aik shop. That shop used to belongs to my grandmother then my uncle (whom you refer as towkay's son). The shop had been sold and own by other owner now. No longer the Sii/Su family anymore.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hello Borneo Falcon

what a small world indeed! I know your aunt Ai Kiong (Mrs. Chai). And it must be your grandmother who was so pretty. We call her Tian Ik Towkayneo. Ai Kiong's husband was in the same class as my husband in Tanjong Lobang.

Nice to know you!

I stand corrected then...and edit my writing....Thanks.

Borneo Falcon said...

Ha....Ha.... Ai Kiong is my mother. What a small world indeed.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

This is wonderful indeed Borneo Falcon....Say hi to her for me and tell her how we met up in Cyberspace. We two would not have imagined a century ago that her son would meet her OLD friend in this way.....isn't it amazing?

I must tell my Tanjong Friends about Stephen Txai/Chai and his family now!!


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