May 9, 2011

Double Deck River Motor Launch and Far East Super Market of Sibu

These two photos will remind all my Sibu born peers how life was like in the 1950's and early 60's....I was just too happy beyond words to find an old photo of Sin Kapit (the motor launch which plied between Kapit and Sibu) in a friend's well kept album. Sin in Chinese means New. There would have been MV Kapit before the newer one was built.

While travelling was confined to the main means offered by the Rajang River the idea of the modern Supermarket had made its inroads into the life of the town folks of Sibu by the 50's..

We travelled to Kapit and Kanowit in this kind of double decker motor launch or wooden boat. My mother had a first cousin (Mr. Lau Pang Su) living in Kapit. He had two daughters studying in the Methodist School in Sibu and they were my seniors. Another uncle also worked in Kapit. Later many of my Foochow relatives found work in the timber camps. A cousin was DMO of Kapit after she graduated from MU's Medical Faculty in 1973. The motor launches were being phased out by smaller fast speed expresses slowly by then.

 I remember visiting the  Kapit Methodist School and the School for the Blind operated by the Methodist Church twice. And a group of students from the Methodist School organised a work camp to build a fishpond for the primary school and the church there in 1968. We even performed a very good play. I still have the script of the play in my scrap book.

My grandmother took my youngest uncle to Kapit for treatment. The Christ Hospital then was the best hospital in Sarawak. A trip to Kapit to visit my father's sister who for a short while was part of the Christ Hospital because her husband was a medical doctor there was a real adventure for most of us. I can still remember how wonderfully she cooked for all of us. Her fried noodles were memorable. Today she is still gracious and loving and she still enjoys good food.

A boat ticket  then cost only Straits Dollar 1.00. I remember what a treat it was to have one relative buying a ticket for another. Methodist Missionaries like Rev and Mrs. Baughman would travel in this kind of motor launch. And I am sure Evelyn Fong would somehow remember that. Another family the Manurungs also used to travel in them. Later they moved to Sibu and we became family friends.

( Now it is RM25 for one single journey to Kapit by the local fast express bullet boats.)

The upper deck was like the sleeping area where mothers carefully hanged their babies' "cradle" or "nyuk/sarong hammock". A trip to Kapit then required an overnight stay in this kind of boat. We would arrive early in the morning in misty Kapit.

(Translation :Sole Agent for Chinese Coral Brand Cigarettes for Sarawak,Brunei)

Far East Agencies Super Market - note how the word was split then into Super Market. Today it is supermarket as a single word.

 We really felt that Far East was more superior than other shops....Note the visit of the Governor too to the supermarket The photo is remarkable as it encapsulates the lifestyle of the day. The dates are properly inscribed.

At the side of the super market, were a few modern tables (different from the kopitiam tables and chairs) where we could sit to enjoy a very trendy dessert - Magnolia Ice Cream.....I had my first ever Magnolia ice cream topped with a glaced cherry here. I felt good sitting on the chair because people could see us having ice cream from the glass windows. If you look at the second picture in the advertisement you can understand what I mean. I love the people with their bicycles. In fact one man on the left was looking through the glass window.

Mrs. Wong the towkay neo was pretty in her huge skirt and a red belt which was the fashion of the day.

And a challenge to my Miri friends.....Make a guess who the late Mr. Wong Sie Kong was!!

Cheers for the day....


Daniel Yiek said...

Classic. Double like.

Ghosty Nana said...

Late Wong Sie Kong was the boss of Far East Supermarket

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thanks....for the double like...hehehehe

Sarawakiana@2 said...

ghosty are right....but he has another connection...the Miri connection.....
The third connection - his father has a road named after him in Sg. Merah!!

Anonymous said...

So nostalgic. The supermarket looks very spacious and colonial. Superior even by today standard!! I think i know where the building is at Blacksmith Road. That was in 1960 before Malaysia!!!

Anonymous said...

wasnt that supermarket was located directly opposite the old SUDC along the side entrance to old King Hua cinema?Then later it was moved to Ramin way close to the Esso petrol station.That supermarket was once doing a roaring trade ...serving mostly to the British and Australian soldiers serving in Sarawak.Ronnie(Cheng cheng) ws the eldest son .

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear anonymous...I think you would also remember that it was the first "shop" having air conditioning. In the evenings I liked to go there..Ladies in those days (especially the rich ones) wore skirts with the stiff netting under skirts...these were called "can can" skirt...the trendy style of the day...

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Anonymous...
this shop first occupied the Hock Hua Bank building at the side....yes...right across the SUDC building. Most of us would borrow books and then get a treat (ice cream) ..We were so sek chui also because my father and Mr. Wong were good when they chatted I had a chance to look at all the goodies...Mr. Wong had many nice looking sons who inherit their mother's fair skin......Ronnie and Diong Sing...and then there's this little cute boy who is now very famous in Miri....hahahahahah

Ann said...

Hi CY,

The rate your are producing old photos, you are making me a seasoned thief.

I never quite enjoyed these double decker boats.My Ah Kung and Wai Kung lived up river, and chuck chuck chuck, I hated the petrol fumes. I wrote about this in my Borneo boaok so i better not blog too much.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Ann
Old photos are meant to be shared by those who love them...yes interestingly Catherine Chan (any relative?) also mentioned that she did not enjoy the river boats. Her father taught in a school near Kanowit. She is my FB friend and a wonderful junior in the teaching field.

You are allowed to steal in this premises. hahahahaha

Anonymous said...

Hi Sarawakiana
Mr Wong had 3 sons whom i happened to know those 2 eldest...but the third son got married at such an early age tho....hve not seen any of them for the last thirty odd years.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Anonymous...only Diong Sing is in Sibu now. They have gone elsewhere . Ronnie is in Brunei.Are you from Sibu town and now residing elsewhere?

Anonymous said...

Hi Sarawakiana
I was born and bred in Sibu and been a student of Sacred Heart School till i am residing in Australia and been so nice to be able to catch up any news about sibu and with any Siburians too.
Sure Ronnie is still around?

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Anonymous
Yes I am quite sure...about R.Wong.

I was on the same plane with a Catholic nun today flying into felt quite looked like a scene in a movie.....
Hope you pop up here every now and then...God bless.

Ann said...

Catherine is my second cousin. We share the same great grandpa. She is Mary's sister. (U mean Catherine Mioew Liang?) teaching in Methodist school?Her Dad is Kok Fei's bro.

Remember the merry go round playground equipment. Tell her she must have been traumatized by us.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Yeah ra bi.....such close relatives. I see her quite often in Sibu...She is a lovely English teacher.I will ask her about the playground equipment. On facebook she is Catherine Stephen...want to add her? She is one girl who is appreciative of her friends....

Anonymous said...

Hi, is Mr. Lau pang Su from kapit still alive? If not do u know his next of kin that I can contact. Was in kapit some time back and know Lau had an old car that I'm interested in. My email is

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Indeed it is a treasured photo of my late grandfather's super market!

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