June 14, 2010

A 50's Shop in Kuala Belait

Snuggled in the two rows of shops in Kuala Belait is one lovely old shop with the essence of the 50's life : kapok - Anchor cottons for crochet and even very old XL sized (of those days) school boys trousers made in Singapore. Many of the textiles are directly imported from Singapore like in the old days and the labels are still in English. This is the kind of shop I can "lepak" for hours because the shop keepers are kind and hospitable.

The young student looking after the shop asked me to look at the floor - she said "the floor is antique - just cement - no tiles". She definitely has the eye of an archiver and historian!! We had a small chat and then her grandfather came in . He still has a lot of enthusiasm for life and a great memory of things and activities of olden days.

I had another goal before coming to the shop : I was looking for Twin Sisters' florida water to cool some prickly heat rashes and dropped by the shop. He told me that the original Florida Water is now only available in Hong Kong. The ones he is selling is from China and very cheap.

The towkay (80 + year old Hakka) had a good chat with me. His grand daughter now a Form Five student was helping to "man" the shop. She has time to do her maths homework in between customers.

He gave me the opportunity to record some history of the shop.

Kapok for making pillows in the tropics (I like the smell of sundried pillows when I hit the bed) in plastic bags right up above the cabinets near the ceiling. The natural fibre is better than the foam for those who are allergic to rubber and other synthetic materials.

Glass cabinets of yester years...These are popular in Sarawak as well as in Brunei.

This little cabinet must have seen lots of cash flowing in since 1953. Today a modern cash register sits on top of the Miri-made wooden cash desk. (a locked drawer) and a little cupboard below. This kihd of standard shop cupboard to keep cash is not found any more. As regard feng shui - if a good one is made...fortune often is related to it...A towkay will never part with this.

The glass cabinets were made in Miri and the wood is excellent. Made in 1953 these glass panels and cabinets were brought from Miri and have never seen any damage since then. The cotton materials remain some of the best and original textiles in KB.

School boys' pants - This is marked XL size....How small boys were then.

Anchor cotton still available here. All the markings on the box and info - still in English.

This is one of the few shops still having ceiling fans and is without air conditioning. But the shop is cool enough and it gives me a lot of "restful" moments.

Thanks for the memories.


The Observer said...

You definitely can find a lot of things in a store like this. I'm sure modern stores today don't order similar items. I'd still prefer going to a store like this to look for things than to go to a shop in Ampang with a snooty owner who's reluctant to attend to anyone. :)

Twin Sisters' florida water a must like the ubat chap kaki tiga for some people!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi...I heard this florida water (Twin Sister) can be found in Melaka...at about RM16.00 or more...Must be made in Hong Kong!! What about trying to find it in Penang?

Very good for after dinner cold towels in Chinese restuarants.

Nope it is for external use only. Like a cologne.

Ann said...

Looks like High Street. Always run by the Hakkas,

My mum made her own Kapok mattresses. They are coming by some greenies.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Yes Ann
Many textile shops are run by Hakkas because they have the Singapore contacts!! If I remember correctly.

I am sure the greenies like kapok very much...Today the rubber sheets are 7.30 ringgit per kg...must check the price of kapok...

Your mum must have been great!!

Sunflower said...

Which store is this, what name?

Last time I was home in KB, I was upset to see some of the old stores were so run down and some had nothing much to offer. The good old glory days had gone. So sad.

Not had a kapok pillow for so long I nearly forgotten about them.

Twin sisters cologne is a dying brand in Hong Kong. I can still remember having this at home all the time. Lovely stuff.

Sunflower said...

The twin sister florida water in Chinese is 双妹嚜花露水 made by 广生堂 in HK.

No sure if they still make the talc powder in a square solid block.

Anyone still remember 雪花膏 'snow flower cream' of the old days?

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Sunflower
This is the Joo Foh (I promised the Old Towkay I would not publish his photo or the shop front with the banner).
There are still some ..soon I would be posting the Hainam coffee shop run by my towkay neo friend Keng Nam Hong (in the middle. Her cakes and bakchang are very good. And of course her chicken rice.Her brothers operate coffee shops in Limbang.
I do love the Win Sister Florida cologne.

Haven seen the snow flower cream for ages!! The Body Shop and KFC have taken over some of the shops now....Old style seems to be out. The third generation is not returning to KB. sigh.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Sunflower....I will continue to look out for both the Twin Sister talc and the Snow Flower cream...may be in Sandakan!!

Sometimes we cannot but wish that time will stand still!

Sunflower said...

Used to love browsing in those haberdashery stores.

I can't remember using Joo Fah much. I used to like 和生(not sure English name Hoo Seng?), same block as Keng Nam Hong next to the 2 supermarkets (not sure if still there). Another store I like (end shop, can't remember the name) further down another block towards the harbour.

I know Keng Nam Hong, glad it is still there. The son probably now the towkay was my classmate. Used to buy dousa bau and dabau a lot from Keng Nam Hong for afternoon tea and breakfast.

The world is really small!

My family used to run the glass merchant store in KB for over 40 years. Now (my brother) has moved to work from home only.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Sunflower
Nice of you to come back to me again.
I love haberdashery stores too as my 7th aunt in Sibu owned one of the best High Street shops. I loved her cotton sections (with the small flowers etc) I will check out Hoo Seng...The end shop is still there which sells beautiful and expensive American cotton for quilting etc. Upstairs there is a nice antique and deco shop now ...next to the curtain outlet..

The sister operates Keng Nam Hong now. I will post her photo and I am sure you will recognise her. I asked her to pose for me...

Ah Ngao said...

got such a shop at Carpenter street in Kuching too.runs by the Cantonese and was even featured in Astro last year

Bengbeng said...

this place is so full of character unlike modern stores

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Ah Ngao
It does show that people still love to walk down memory lane and revisit their past. I did joke with the Towkay that he is actually contributing to the society by having this living museum!! He lets the shop run and is not really making a profit according to him. Bless his heart.
May be one day Astro will feature this shop and other shops in Brunei too.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Yes I feel that every nook and corner has a story to tell. And if cabinets can hear and speak they have lots to gossip about!! hehehehe

Ann said...

You mean the Hazeline snow or SUE FA GOH is gone? May be next time you go to Singapore, you may find some in People's Park.

I was too young to use the SUE FA GOH, but my oldest sis did. her friend's mum sold them, and pssst! there is a Real McCoy and the fake stuff. So she sold the real stuff to my sis but she had to buy by tens. My mum was complaining what kind of friend,

Ann said...

I googled and found your old blog. Very interesting.

The square pack of foundation powder, I remember that,

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ooops I didn't know that Sue Fah Gou is Hazeline snow...The original came from India...but nowadays it seems to be made by someone else (e.g. Thailand) and the Chinese words are no longer there....so I am not sure about its qualities...

Not sure now what is original and what is not....

Sarawakiana@2 said...


the square box of white powder with the beautiful lady is still around. It is good for making silverware nice and glittering again. I love its Nyonya fragrance...

Tan Cherlyn said...

Im fr spore, sellin hazeline 100g.


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