November 30, 2011

Andrew Sii - He Celebrated a Life with Songs!!

Andrew Sii was a little shy cherubic angelic child as a student.

And then his powerful voice "conquered" the world. No one could fill the post of Musical Director of the Sarawak Chinese Annual Conference of Methodist Churches better than him. He had won international prizes for with his voice and conducted many concerts for Sibu and Malaysia.  For that the people of Sibu must remember him.

Andrew leaves behind a great following of singers and music lovers not only in Sibu but Asia. He leaves behind his beloved wife (Lau Kung Mih ) and three sons.

My uncle Lau Pang Hung (Kung Mih's father) and his family especially would be saddened by his departure.

" Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” (启示录Revelation14:13) Quoting Dr. Tie King Tai (another cousin)

Group photo
Family photo of Andrew and his parents in law and his lovely sons and wife.

Fabulous Singers

His 2011 Concert - Ref : Wong Meng Lei's "A Warm Night". (There was a power stoppage but the concert went on..

A beautiful candle has burned out in our midst.

But God truly loves Andrew Sii.

In this time of grief his family and dear ones would need all the prayer support and sympathies. These photos photos have been "grabbed" from his album.

Brief Translation of the orbituary from the Chinese Newspaper
Home address: ( Sibu)Gambier Road 11B.1 Lane 5A
Home tel : 084-335298
Sii (Household) Chuong Yung (elder) - origins = Fujian China Ming Ching 2nd District How Loong .
On 29th Nov 2011 at 11.55 left this world. He breathed his last at the Rajang Medical Centre. He is with God now. Born on 8th July 1960 he lived on earth for 52 years.

His funeral will be on 2nd Dec at 7.30 with a prayer service at his home and burial at Mile 10 Oya Road.

A post funeral lunch will be held at 12 noon at Peking Restaurant for friends and relatives.

To all business friends..relatives and Christian brothers and sisters

Wife : Lau Kung Mih
Sons: Sii How Kai
Sii How Peng
Sii How Hung

(This orbituary is courtesy of Wong Meng Lei who scanned it from the Chinese Newspapers..In Miri we do not have the same news as Sibu...hence my contribution here for all Methodist friends of Miri and beyond..)

November 29, 2011

The Private Maternity Clinics of Sibu in the 1950's - 1970's

"Where were you born?"

You can be asked this question in your Form Five Oral English Examination as a warming up activity before the real exams start.

How would you answer it?

These were  some of the answers I obtained when I was an Oral English Examiner:

"In a long boat."
"In the padi field."
"At home."
"In the longhouse."
"In a bus."
"In an aeroplane."
"In the hospital."
"In Sibu..."

The last answer would be typical of those born in the 50's and 60's when we were trained by our teachers to answer "In which town were you born?"

And this brings me back to the time of Jesus when the Jews had to be born in their ancestors' villages and also return to their home town for registration.

This also applied to the Chinese and Koreans during the many regimes of their history...Children had to be born in their parents' hometown to facilitate demographic documentation.

Today with all the modern mobility and technology one can be born any where in the world. No doubt one day we could even have children born in MARS - another planet.

Many of my FB friends were born here - People's Maternity Clinic. The first private Maternity Clinic in Sibu operated by Mrs. Koh Yik Keng or Madam Wong the eldest daughter of Dr. Wong Chii Hua of Tong San Road.
Many were born here. It is also possible that many Sibu-ians had three generations born in the same hospital (The Lau King Howe Hospital) This hospital was closed when the Sibu Government Hospital was constructed in Oya Road in the 1980's. It was very inconvenient at first for the downriver and upriver people who came by boat but in  a way the geographical factors or obstacles were removed when the Rajang was not longer used as the main means of transportation. Today at extra costs every could DRIVE or TAKE the bus to the Sibu Hospital. I still remember many people rowed their boats to the LKH and carried their sick and their very pregnant relatives to the hospital. Hospital orderlies were ever so helpful then in helping these humble people up the jelutong or jetty.
Advertisement in Chinese - People's Maternity Clinic of Sibu (a scanned photo of a 1960 photo which is very faded)
another popular private clinic - Tai Tong operated by a company which employed two dedicated midwives - Madam Maria Wong and Madam Marian Wong. The father of the two sisters was the popular Foochow doctor Dr. Wong Chi Hua.

I have no photo of the Lau Fong Fei Maternity Clinic where two of my children were born.

Perhaps one day I would be able to get better photos for you.

One of my school mates had easy birth and two of her children were too excited to see the world. They both arrived in their father's Mercedes. So they could have answered the question :where were you born?"

Answer :"In a Mercedes."

November 28, 2011

Pink Rice Cup Cake

Pink rice cup cakes would always bring me back to the days when the most "happening place" in Sibu was the Tua Pek Kong Wharf where the local villagers would arrive as early as 6 in Sibu to do some buying and selling.

I would be receiving my grandmother and other relatives and in those "days of no family car" as a representative of my parents. I would accompany my grandmother and walked all the l km (only) to my home in Kampong Nyabor. The other relatives would do their shopping and selling of the rubber sheets or ducks or chickens. Grandma would stay one or two nights. (Foochows always say...stay two or three nights..never the meaning would be "pass the night".)

But before doing so my relatives would have a Foochow breakfast at Moi Suong Coffee Shop as a treat for themselves and especially for my grandma. A bowl of bian niik would be a must for her. However if she wanted fish balls we would have to go to another coffee shop called Lok Tien Yuen or Garden of Heavenly Happiness. I love that name...

And one of the tempting and sumptious cakes I would pick up would be the pink rice cup cake or Huat Koh..or Fatt Koh. As a child the pink colour was attractive and I would choose it for its sweet taste too. I would eat it instead of a hard boiled egg or a Toast with Butter from the charcoal stove. I must have developed my sweet tooth from this cake!! Indeed most Foochow cakes are more savoury than sweet.

The beauty of this cake is the cracked top which is actually the scientific result of rice flour mixed with the right proportion of raising agent and the correct steaming temperature. Its special text is a honest proportion of the ingredients. Any cheating would cause the cake to be sticky and lumpy......My grandmother used to say you can even tell the character of the maker from the Huat Koh...Do you agree?

Today the Fatt Koh is smaller and is in a paper cup...To some people it is very easy to make. But to be honest..making a good fatt koh is an honest thing to do...One must never cheat with the ingredients because by doing so the quality of the Merng Goh (Fatt Koh) would deterioriate and there is no Fatt ( or merng) in the cake.....

Many people try to use Eno or 7 up or baking soda and so many other ingredients to make it puff up or double its size...but there is a trick in using traditional raising agent...and the cake will not be sticky or lumpy...I hope I can catch the traditional recipe soon. I often wonder how our ancestors knew so much science to make the cake rise so well....

These Fatt Koh come in pink and white ...and they really look lovely on a marble table inside the traditional Foochow marble table "food glass case which has a lid that opens upwards ". Eating one every now and then would take me back 50 years to the early and honest days of my Foochow people in Sibu....

P/s I would like to have a photo of the traditional glass case for kuih on marble tables in coffee shop. Any one knows what I am hankering for? Even better I would like to buy one....

November 26, 2011

A Bornean Rural Library - Baruk Style

In many parts of the world one can see Round Houses. In Borneo the Bidayuh also has their special community hall called the Baruk which is circular in shape.

In a recent road trip I had the opportunity to visit Mt. Singai which is in Bidayuh "country" of Sarawak...And I had my first real encounter with this magnificient Rural Library (Perpustakaan Desa) in the shape of a Baruk - the traditional Bidayuh Round House which was once used as community hall for warriors to display their trophies as well as a very egalitarian meeting place for the whole community. In this way the Bidayuh professed their classless society and remained harmonious and united.

The Bidayuhs also live in longhouses but their round house is their architectural pride. Parts of the roof can be opened like shutters. The original roof was made of atap or leaves (You can still find several of these original Baruk in parts of First Division of Sarawak). The opening of shutters on the roof let in breeze and the sunlight.

This kind of building structure is truly GREEN and environmentally friendly.

Main door way of the Baruk
Baruk from the side. I am sure like the Mongolians the Bidayuhs can easily dismantle this Baruk and move it piece by piece to another site.
The Government Rural Library of Bau
Cement Water Tank
Side view of the building with traditional supporting poles. According to the historical documents available a house like this was traditionally built without a single nail. Twines and ropes made of natural fibre would bind the wood together.  The Baruk is usually built 1.5 metres about the ground. Sometimes this was used a the community's granary besides many other functions. It is no easy for anyone to climb into the building...Look at the shutters (white) and see how easily it can be opened upwards.

so now when a rural district library is housed in a Baruk it thus becomes the most unique library in the world!! A Round House which is a House of Knowledge!!

What a wonderful and intelligent idea. It  kindly portrays the Bidayuh egalitarian philosophy that knowledge is for all to share.

To me a Baruk is a good symbol for "No Child Left Behind" policy of egalitarian education. 

November 25, 2011

Small Things Matter

What are the small things which matter in your life?'s my list:

1. tug boats - they pull bigger ships slowly

2. Zaccheus - a small man who climbed a sycamore tree

3. tongue - without it we cannot eat

4. small mustard seed - our faith is like a mustard seed. It can grow bigger.

5. A smile - it makes the whole world brighter

6. A small boy with 5 loaves and 2 fishes - he helped to feed thousands

7. The bamboo shoot - small but can grow into a wonderful plant of thousand uses!!

8. Two cents worth - we often use this phrase....

9. A gentle touch - it heals many wounds more than you realize

10. A tear drop - an emotional expression

November 24, 2011

Life on the Rajang

The Mighty Rajang is 360 miles or 563 km long. It is the longest river in Malaysia.

And it is life giving as well as the best means of transport for the people living and working along its banks. It is not huge like the Huang He or the Ganges but it is equally important and well loved.

If you have heard of Borneo you would have heard of the Rajang - home of the Iban Headhunters or the Melanau people or the Chinese who created a town out of a swamp in 1901.

Kapit originated as fort or garrison town created by the Brooke Rule in 1880. The lovely  Fort Sylvia has attracted many tourists in recent years..

In the 1960's it was normal for a student to return home from Tanjong Lobang in Miri or Three Rivers in Mukah to catch a movie in Sibu (as a holiday treat)- after a two day boat journey- and then stay the night in the motor launch with blessings from the boat owner. Early the next day the motor launch would chug its way up the Rajang to Kanowit or Song or Kapit making a whole day and whole night trip. From Miri to Kapit then would take more than five days by water transport for a poor student. Friendly shop keepers in Kapit would offer free lodging in their store room.

Today a trip to Kapit from Sibu is roughly  3- 4 hours with the new special speed limit and also the power of the express boat.

What is life on the Rajang today ? View these photos...

A red clotton head piece which might be used as cloth belt is a clear indication that this man is a wharf labourer or Kak Koh. Kapit wharf still has many of these helpful and strong men. A wharf labourer is no longer the special job of a Chinese. He might be an Iban or a Malay and of course Chinese. This profession is a very ancient profession from the time there were ships plying from one place to another - especially in China.

A clock face is  very practical way of helping the illiterate to know what time the express boat will leave. This one leaves at 1.45 p.m. The small prints provide other information in English and Chinese. Usually from Kapit to Sibu in the morning..and from Sibu back to Kapit in the afternoon. You can always catch an "earlier express" or a "later express" to Kapit from Sibu. They seldom provide ETA so a traveller would have to ask more detail questions. The Jagaruan (boat captain) could tell you. If you ask just any other person do not be surprise when you get an answer like.."I am blur lah!" Please don't be offended by the answer because it only implies "I am sorry I don't really know." In Bahasa Malaysia "Kabur lah".
Well soon you will be picking up a bit of Manglish like this " Hope you don't go to Kapit and be blur blur." "Give the porter some kopi-o(tips) if he helps you carry your barang (luggage)."

30 years cars in Kapit. Today people  have the means to own some very luxurious cars and lots of Kancil of course. A man lifting a tyre from the express boat. Life styles have changed in many ways.
A  man lifting his own boxes and walk up the hundreds of steps from the express to  Kapit.
The ubiquitous plastic bag which can be seen even at Heathrow and here in Kapit.
A woman driving a longboat to welcome home a son or daughter. From the Express to the Long boat is a normal riverine activity every day!! An outboard engine with 40 horsepower is the dream of many Iban women. I too would like to own one.
Basket of Hard Boiled eggs ..for sale..Good whole some food for the journey
A lady hawker trying to make a few ringgit selling soft drinks and hard boiled eggs on board an express.
Gasoline!! In plastic jerry cans or drums....
Two express boats berthed side by side providing an alley way for boys to meet is a girl trying out her mobile...Signals are good!!

The Mighty Rajang will continue to be the lifeline of the people. We simply love the Rajang!!

This post is dedicated to all my travel companions :
Grace W
Lisa K
Jessie K
Daniel  T
Alicia C.
Aaron H
Lina K
Keith C
P. Jonathan

and in a way to all those who travel by boat on the Rajang......

May God be with you always.

November 23, 2011

How do you call this new breed?

A cross breed of pigs from a wildboar father and a kampong or indigenous longhouse female pig

= i-boar

(i for Iban)

or a Kam - boar (Kam for kampong)

I don't think i- pig would be appropriate.

i- babi (also not so appropriate)..

i-khinsir (Iban word for pig)

So I would leave it to you readers to name the new cross breed today......

New generation of the better and more intelligent khinsir. Each pig is certified healthy by the local  vet department!!

November 22, 2011

Fu Chao Cafe of Oya Road

We were given a wonderful reception at the Three Pillars Farm in Oya Road when we made a special impromptu visit. Our main aim was to photograph the Wild Red Durian Flowers and the huge chillies which were growing in the farm. Even the rain and the growing darkness did not dampen our spirits.

At the end of the tour when it was nearly 7.30 and in total darkness we left for a delightful canteen operated by Mr.Wong's father-in-law. The cafe was called Fu Chao Cafe. It interestingly serves all people from all walks of life and especially the farm workers who work in Oya Road. It is similar to a roadside cafe in the USA where truck drivers would stop for a meal of burgers.

However  apart from serving the usual Kampua Mee earlier in the day this cafe is famous for its traditional Foochow Fried Noodles which is loved by most traditional Foochows who miss grandma's noodles. It is also a favourite item ordered by people from other racial backgrounds who enjoy fried noodles from different cuisines!!

Foochow Fried Noodles  - the best well fried noodles - with lots of fresh vegetables and a bit of pork. The secret of frying this noodle is the skill of frying the noodles without getting them stuck to the bottom of the kuali and having each noodle strand separated from each other. Any gluey and sticky balls of noodles would not be a compliment to the chef!!
Foochow Fried Kuey Tiaw with tomato sauce.
Owners of Three Pillars Farm Mr and Mrs. Wong and their daughter Miss Wong. Mr. Wong like his brothers is completely "white haired" a distinguishing feature of the Wong brothers. Miss Wong is an excellent baker!!
Fresh midin - very delicious - and organic and so crispily fresh.
Hot Foochow onion and egg drop soup!! On a rainy day this is the best soup to share with  good friends and family.
This reminds me of my very resourceful grandmother who was very hospitable to any passersby who was stranded in our village. He or she would be invited to stay over night. If we did not have meat or chicken on the table at any moment my grandmother would be able to produce a few new eggs from the hens and lots of spring onions from the garden. This egg drop soup is so welcoming !! It goes well with salted fish and may be a can of braised bamboo. A feast for a tired traveller!!

All of a sudden I felt that I really missed my grandmother and her home in Ah Nang Chong and how she treated the passersby so cordially. It goes without saying that aroma of a special dish brings back special memories. And this soup does it to me all the time.

And so it is a temporary good bye to Three Pillars' Farm...and I am sure we will be back again. (Photo from Three Pillars' Farm blog)
Thanks to the Wong Family.

November 21, 2011

Hidden Dangers in Miri

I am not a rocket scientist or a road engineer. But I know what can be very dangerous when I see one or even when it is on paper. Call it a woman's sixth sense or intuition.

So allow a woman to point out one hidden danger in Miri.

Look at the statistics -  more than 20 cars have been struck by this hidden danger in Miri (recorded by a proprietor in the area) in one year. That is more than enough proof that these steel bars or rods or whatever you call them are dangerous.

Then aesthetically speaking...a major road to a shopping centre should be pretty and attractive. This small lane is more or less like a back lane for unloading and loading. And very often cars stop to let beautiful passengers off to enter the nice restaurants because of lack of parking space of the esteemed restaurant. When it rains cars queue up in this area because of the bottlenecking situation..and the roundable (which should facilitate smooth flow of traffic) is jammed up to Boulevard Shopping centre!! One can't say and forgive all the time..."This is Miri...."

Personally I think the width of the major road leading to this particular shopping centre is really too small. A small car like mine trying to be more on the left side of the road to give space to huge Harrier the size of a lorry will definitely hit the steel bar or whatever you call it!! Is it for safety? Is it to prevent cars parking here? If it is the latter..please just put some yellow lines or a huge sign board at eye level....Now are we seeing eye to eye? Well if the authorities insist then RAISE the Bar to eye level...and I think lots of young men would be sitting there in the evenings to admire the beautiful ladies passing by like the Italian men in Milan!! They really do that in style .

Well if MMC is so can always put a CCTV at that corner...Not long ago a huge Mercedes also has a punctured tyre...( according to a very good source). The Merc had to limp to the nearest garage. We all know that it is not easy to take out a tyre from a Merc. And a villager cannot do that easily. Not even the best of tyre thieves. What a waste of the important man's time!!

Can you see this bar from your car?
Try knocking your KNEE against this sharp end....
And I think a wheel chair would not like to meet this "fiend".
A very helpful Iban man helping an old lady with her punctured tyre. I think a tyre shop in this shopping centre would be a winner!!
Beyond repair...RM200 gone from the pension or hard earned salary...No more treats this month in the  Resort City. They often say...Budget Pecah Sudah!! Like the tyre!!
More of these in Miri please!! And don't drive absent mindedly at any time in Miri...Yeah..don't drink and drive..don't  answer your handphone...Can Nokia please make a gadget to tell callers that the phone owner is driving and cannot come to the phone because he/she is driving? Nokia..please help drivers who are driving in a dangerous town.

How best do we make Miri a better city?

I believe we have to give due considerations to the comfort and safety of our citizens - and even more so their pockets.. A city is supposed to be very civilized and well managed with no hidden dangers lurking in the roads - in the centre or at the sides...

November 20, 2011

Fish Roe Any One?

Growing up in Sibu in those days meant that we had some of the best fish in the world when money allowed the purchases. And having uncles who were fishermen also helped because we could get bargains or even free fish.

I remember my father would also bring terubok and the females with lots of roe in them. Black pomfret also gave us a lot of fish roe. But the best are from mackerel or ma kah...and we often only had the fish eggs which could be bought separately in those days for 1 or 2 dollars only.

AT that time we have not heard of caviar of course.

this trip to Kuching gave me an extra new perception. New fish and new types of marketing strategy in selling of the fresh fish roe!!

Now it is not advisable for me to enjoy these fish roe any be health-conscious one must avoid lots of food...

But it is good to remember the old days and walk down memory lane with siblings !!

Satok Road Market - which will be moved across the bridge soon.....has this special fish  with its stomach opened up to show its roe...
Five of them in a plate with all the stomachs opened. This feature is rather unique in Sarawak. I do not think there is any other place in the world showing fish roe in this way...Correct me if I am wrong.
Many men believe in eating fish roe to keep their maleness healthy.

November 18, 2011

Guzheng (Chinese Zither)

My very talented Sibu friend Yang Yi Fang is a well known Sibu journalist/author. One hidden talent she has is her skills on the GuZheng. At one time she taught several students this instrument in order to perpectuate traditional Chinese music and of course for the love of music.

I was once very keen to take up this instrument because my good doctor told me that it was a good instrument to play to "soothe the soul" but it was a daunting task because I could not find a Guzheng teacher in Miri at that particular time.

When I visited her she was so kind as to give a solo performance for me and I was really thrilled. That became a very memorable part of my hometown visit - listening to Guzheng played just for myself - few people would have that kind of privilege.

Guzheng music can help transport you to another world and help you to reflect more.


The Chinese character for "zheng"() is composed of two parts: the upper part means "bamboo"() and the lower part is "argue" (). According to a legend, there was a master of se (), 25-stringed zither, who had two talented daughters who loved playing the instrument. Now there came a time that the master became too old, and wanted to pass his instrument over to one of them. However, both daughters wanted to have it. The master felt very sad that he had only one instrument, and in the end, out of desperate, he decided to split the instrument into two - one got 12 strings, and the other 13. To his amazement, the new instrument sounds mellow and even more beautiful than its original. The happy master gave the new instrument a new name "zheng" by making up the character with the symbolisms representing "bamboo" and "argue". The word "zheng", the name of this instrument, pronounces the same as the word "zheng" which means "argue" or "dispute". The origin of the Chinese character representing this instrument seems to indicate that the early version of the instrument was made of bamboo, which is different from that of today. However, this legend, though it might be true according to the origin of the Chinese character for this instrument, should not be taken too seriously. It might well be the case that the character  is just "borrowed" here for the name of instrument  due to the fact that its pronunciation is a closer imitation of the sound the instrument produces. It is very common is Chinese literature, particularly in ancient poems, to described the sound of the guzheng as "zheng zheng", similar to the case of pipa.(

Today the Guzheng has a new position in any good orchestra be it western or eastern. The CCTV and other medium (e.g. Youtube) have helped increased its popularity and more and more young people are taking up the instrument.

For me its music will always remind me of the pure water which used to flow down the Rajang River...bringing life to the people. Its music will always encourage me to live better and be stronger!! It  also reminds me of how hard my ancestors worked to turn formidable terrain into cultivated and bountiful gardens!!

Sibu Tales : Making Bah Gui from Scratch

The pioneering families of Sibu Foochows continued to practise the  adoption of girls from poor families who become their maids (slaves). ...