December 2, 2011

Demolition of 1950's Wooden Shophouses of Bekenu

Bekenu (also known as Bekenu Bazaar or Bakenu) is a small fishing town near Miri, in Sarawak, Malaysia. It takes about 40 minutes to drive from Miri to the small bazaar from Miri using the new coastal road.


If you drive from Kuching it will take you about 8 hours as the distance is approximately 870.6 kilometres .

The town has a few rows of shophouses(some wooden and more concrete ones now)  a fish market, several places to eat, and a pleasant esplanade which lies beside the small river named Sibuti. The town square faces the river, and on the opposite bank are a few Chinese homes and a large Malay kampong.

Many of the wooden shophouses date from the 1930s. Although some were built in 1950's. Even the present( and still in great use )godown is old and run down dating from the 1930's.

The most serious recent flood in Bekenu was in 1962 when shops were flooded up to the first floor and people had to be rescued by fishermen in rowing boats.

People from Miri and as far as Brunei would drive to Bekenu during the weekends to buy fresh fish and vegetables. A few local Chinese restaurants serve jungle fare and exotic meat. In fact some people actually drive for 40 minutes or less just to have a good lunch in Bekenu.

The reason why Bekenu is fairly thriving is because there are many villages around this area. There are also many primary schools in the Sibuti district of which Bekenu is the major bazaar.

Interestingly the locals are of Kedayan descent a special group of bumiputras only found in Sarawak. They are good agriculturalists and fishermen. The women are also known for their innovative basketry skills and food gathering. Their home made belacan sell well and so are the vegetables they gather from the jungle. They are experts in the gathering of nipah shoots and making of nipah sugar (gula apong). You should not be surprised by the sago worms they sell in the tamu. Besides many of the Kedayan women also make some of the best kuihs (cakes) by using gula apong and coconut milk. Most of their cakes are hygienically wrapped in organic leaves in different shapes and sizes.

They are also well versed with jungle herbs and cures. If you need a head ache cure they will promote their jungle leaves and you might even be introduced to their rattan shoots e.g. laris which may help you lower your blood sugar!!


These are the kampongs you may come across:-

Kampung Kuala Satap 1.9 kilometres (1.2 mi) north
Kampung Lusong 1.9 kilometres (1.2 mi) north
Kampung Jangalas 2.6 kilometres (1.6 mi) northwest
Kampung Ajau 2.6 kilometres (1.6 mi) northeast
Kampung Tengah 3.7 kilometres (2.3 mi) west
Kampung Sinop 3.7 kilometres (2.3 mi) east
Kampung Padang 3.7 kilometres (2.3 mi) north
Kampung Sungi Tiris 3.7 kilometres (2.3 mi) south

However what is very intriguing is the social milieu of the bazaar and the people who gather there. Bekenu  originated because the Brooke Government established a small administrative district office on top of a hill overlooking the "kuala" or mouth of the Bekenu river to keep the "peace" and to collect some customs and excise. In those early days there were already many fishing villages along the \coast and the river banks.

The first shops must have thus been established in the 1930's when Miri and Marudi were already flourishing.

Later a rural district council was established to provide some social services.

In the 1990's Bekenu became a thriving palm oil growth point. Today the little township is packed with 4x4 Hilux and other brand names and planters discuss crop prices and government policies in the few Malay and Chinese owned Kopitiam which still have the essence of old time kedai. The lingua franca here has been a mixture of Iban and Malay. Almost all the Chinese shopkeepers and their children speak great Iban and Malay. Cultural mix is the order of the day .

Last week when I took a few friends to Bekenu I was pleasantly surprised that a transformation was being initiated. The first row of wooden shop houses from the District Office has been earmarked for demolition and I was told that the new block of concrete and modern shop houses would be completed within ten months probably in term for the National Day celebration in 2012!!!


First shop from the landward side. Note the wooden wall on the first floor.
L


One of the oldest shops in Bekenu.


the ubiquitous Singer signboard. Water level reached the signboards on the first floor in 1962 flood.



the Town Square and its lovely trees where many villagers would enjoy looking at  people and waiting for family and friends. A delightful place to catch up with friends too. Not the New York Central Park but it is still a central park!! I will miss it if one day it is taken off for progress and development. A part of the special atmosphere of Bekenu will be left only in the minds of those who love Bekenu.

31 comments:

Daniel Yiek said...

Disappearing indeed.

Even Singer has diversified its trade from its sewing machine days.

Engkilili is still a nice old town on the way from KCH to SRK

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Daniel..the old charms and the old feel...are all going/disappearing..and for old Sarawak hand like me I feel that time is slipping by .

The young will only have the modern malls to lepak in...No character at all...Call it dehumanisation....

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Daniel..the clock is ticking..come to Miri and see the surrounding areas before the invasive oil palms over take the beautiful age old historical buildings!! In less than 2 years I can predict that there will be a new Bekenu and the Hajis will be shaking their heads and finding themselves to "acclimatise" to cuppacino..instead of Kopi-o-cina. (and paying RM 9.90 instead of 90 sen)....

Anonymous said...

Like any other smaller towns in Sarawak, the old parts are disappearing fast, all in the name of development! A little correction needed - the road distance from Kuching to Bekenu should be round 870km instead of 477km.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thank you Anonymous!
Thanks for the correction.

Ann said...

progress, thAT'S WHAT DEVELOPERS ALL OVER THE WORLD WANT TO DO.

Ann said...

A time of renewal, seeds, that is what it is.

Anonymous said...

Agree that Sim Motor is one of them. There are older ones like "Chop Ban Siang", "Sim Swee Moh", "Sin Hin" within that demolished shop houses.

Anonymous said...

The 1st settlers in Bekenu Sibuti are the "Bakung/Bahung", "Daleh", & "Miriek". Most place names in and around Bekenu come from either one of these entnic group.

The following Places are nemed after Bahung/Bakong Vocab

Tusen (Tusan).....meening Step

Opak (Opak) ...... A kind of palm

Selenyau ( Selanyau) Enau Palm

Subeik (Subak) ... Bemban..weaving of tikar bemban

Setab (Satap)...River bank

Sefurau (Sepurau).....A place(River) where they trap fish

The oldest village in Bekenu which is commonly known as "Sebutai" is the old Sibuti @ Kg Rancah-rahcah (Across river)

The earliest Kedayan came only immediately before Japanese Occupation with their 1st Settlement @ Kg Bungai led by Haji De Gapar & His wife, both of whom hailed from Brunei.

Later followed by another group of approx. 17 Kedayans who landed around Kpg Terhad area. From there they spread to Kg Sesam, Selanyau, Tiris & Kelulit.

There is one Chinese who married a local Bahung girl by the name of "Nga" who came very much earlier than those chinese who settled in Bekenu Bazaar. "Nga" was divorced with one male child whom the father (Chinese) brought back to China..presumably...Hong Kong.....Arif Lee, a hong kong star also has native ascendent from North Borneo... Hahahaha........

Anonymous said...

Never heard of Kpg Ajau in Bekenu Sibuti

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ann..while on one hand we shall miss the old wooden shops..on the other hand we have to allow progress to take place..Yes you are right..we have to move forward!! And every body wants it. But for me..one can strike a balance..keep some of the old..and keep the new ones coming!!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Anonymous..thanks for the great contribution..something we cannot even find in books!!

Anonymous said...

You can find book/articles about the ethnic Bahung/Bakong, Daleh & Miriek of Bekenu Sibuti in Sarawak Muzium Achive/Library. The History was compiled by BADAMI (BA=BAHUNG, DA=DALEK, MI=MIRIEK) ASSOCIATION sometimes in the 80's

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Anonymous..thanks..this is really very exciting for me as I long to do indepth studies on the local people..The world out there is so thirsty for new knowledge from our part of the world. Thanks for the explanation of Badami..I have some good friends amongst the Mirieks. But I am not sure if I have met a Bahung and a Dalek..This is great!! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Yes, teacher, I can see developments catch up so fast in Batu Niah, Bekenu etc... I used to be there from year 1985-1988 and well, the teachers were not well looked after then by the govt lol. The quarters were like chicken coop. I still have all those photos!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Anonymous...yes I remember all those years I was a teacher trainer in MPS (Now IGP) I saw terrible conditions in Marudi and Long Lama...and I did stay with some girl students in Bekenu because I had to observe them at 7 a.m.!! So sorry for the young teachers who had to live with very basic facilities..I had the same experience as a temprorary teacher in Sedaya before...

Anonymous said...

Good experience Sarawakiani :)......get assimilated to local condition then.

Riding a motor bike (Dual purpose scrambler) during wet season, u get soaked in Mud.

During dry season, cloud of thick dust billowed..... Reaching Miri well powdered in dust, hair iron wooled, nostril filled with few grams of dust paste.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Anonymous..you have really described the conditions perfectly!! I am sure many others who have experienced this would be amused by your writing!! Thank you so much. God bless.

Anonymous said...

O gosh, our case, even in the bus, our hair were stiff and hardened when disembared!!!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Anonymous..the only time I ever had hair all caked in dust was a trip through Oya Road many years ago...For the first time I knew what sand and mud tasted like..and we ran out of drinking water!! Those days no R and R stations and no bottled water!! Now 40 years later I still hear the same stories but different parts of Sarawak and malaysia maybe...

My first bus ride was in Sibu..from town to Sungei Merah..and I remember the chairs were made of wood and parts of the bus were made of wood too...I was so worried I would be taken to the cemetery!! So frightening!!

Anonymous said...

Swakian: Great experience boarding a bus with wooden seat!!!. I thought i remember boarding a wooden bus on numerous ocassion and did saw some wooden lorries around the main towns of Swak ..in the 60's

Oya ....vividly can remember.

After 40yrs...same stories...Swak state isnt poor. It has so much natural resources such as oil gas timbers coal and vast areas of fertile land to offer. These wealth did not get to the rakyat in ways it should be.

The excuse is that the state is geographically wide and so much money is needed to build basic infrastructure.

The question here is that some of the state leaders who lead the state for more than 30 yrs have achieved a super rich status surpassing many rich businessman in the west and keep the people in a sorry state.

UNDP reported that Swakian ranked 2nd poorest in Malaysia in term of poverty.

But Swakian are proud that they have super rich state leaders...just cant understand that mentality.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Anonymous
Thanks for your comments..I am sorry about the state of affairs in Sarawak..but different politicians have been telling us that we in Sarawak are still very very rich...and no mention of the poor at all...complacency? or something is under the carpet?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous
Im quiet exicited some of ur knwledge about Bekenu..Im originated from Kpg Ranchah2..i claimed to be half Daleh and half Mirek..im able to talk both dialect and understands Bahung..my concerns which lead me to this blog is just for 1 reason..im eager to know and discover the origins,history and maybe some evidence of the Daleh/Dalek/Dalik existence around..or at least i know 'Who is Daleik?'..hope to hear from you or whoever have the idea soon..

Anonymous said...

The Kedayans may came later than the former tribes such as Daliek which is believed to be the first, then the Bakongs/Bahongs. The Mirieks perhaps have been there in between. What interesting to know that the Kedayans maintained the original name of the places eventhough they pronounce it slightly different for example Setap became Satap, Berajeh (Badamis for crocodile) became Beraya etc. The Kedayans also brought Islam to local tribes. I have read a written document by Sather which told us that before the arrival of the Kedayans or during the first mass migration of the Kedayans from Brunei and Labuan, local tribes Badamis still live in a longhouse and slightly after the arrival of the Kedayans they converted into Islam. However, the Kedayans also believed (few) have been there earlier than thought since in the middle of 19 century Sibuti has been a center of Brunei Prince Pangeran Sulaiman Damit defence against Raja Aban from Tinjar who attacked Sibuti. By the way, most of Sibuti Kedayans were mix Daliek or Bahong or Miriek in their bloods esp. who came from Satap, Kawang, Danau, Rancah2, Rambai etc areas. Assimilation or shared cultures were not unusual amongst these tribes. For example, I was stunned when I read an article about the Mirieks traditional cloth after conversion to Islam so similar to those of Kedayans :- the jacket (kebaya) or baju kurung in black, which decorated with bells as brocade and on the sleeves sides. The Kedayans called it Baju Kubamban (bells). Based of my late grandpa stories the Badamis long house in the past can be found in Nusah area, and Jangalas area. Even the Mirieks in Bakam area used to live in a long house. I am mixed Kedayans, Dalieks-Bahongs and Iban. hehe

Anonymous said...

I think some of the Kedayans came earlier than thought. Since in the 1870s the Bruneians made Sibuti as their capital under the rule of Pangeran Sulaiman Damit, and due to the refused of the Badamis to be ruled by Brunei ( Bakongs leader made a pact with the Tataus panglima Orang Kaya Tinggang against these Bruneians ) there a thought that there must be few Kedayans live in Sibuti. Then there are some stories that Penghulu Abdul Gapor used to be the Penuroh (Bruneians tax collecter) which lead him has some knowledge of the new land. However there were some confussion, Haji Abdul Gapor (as mentioned by Sandin lived the same era of Badamis leader Orang Kaya Damong) or Haji Abdul Gapar as the pioneers of these mass migration? Under the rule of Pangeran Sulaiman Damit, Sibuti was attacked by the Orang Ulu from Baram under the Raja Aban Jau of Tinjar sometime in the 1876. In the 1880s all Sibuti businesses with the Sarawak Kingdom must be approved and signed by the Pangeran Mat'alam and the main exports was the gutta perca. Even when Sibuti were taken by Kingdom of Sarawak by the end of 1880s, the King Charles Brooke made a decree that Sibuti land was for the local Malays (Badamis), the Kedayans, the Melanaus even for the Dusuns which never been there. The migration of the Ibans was refused by the Rajah. Only after his death sometime in the 1920, the new Rajah approved with the condition of the must have approval from local tribes the Badamis and the Kedayans. Later in the 1920s the Mirieks leader Orang Kaya Janai said the Ibans must not built any settlements below the sungai Bakas since that was the Kedayans area.

Anonymous said...

According to Sather, the Kedayans have been living and resettled in Sibuti before the cession of Sibuti from Brunei to Sarawak, and the mass migration happend early 1900s. However, I think some researcher forget about Zubaidah and her families who fled from Brunei due to the force by the sultan to be his concubine. This stories not from Sibuti itself but from elderly Kedayan in Brunei.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes ago when I was still a young boys, every hari raya during the visit to Kuala Satap graveyard, I always read an epitaph of an old stone batu nisan belong to Orang Kaya Jenang dated 1899, the first Bakong muslims to be buried there. Interesting to know that from my reading, some of the Bakongs were actually Penans convert to Islam. It is said that the earliest Sibutis were the Penans, follows by the Dalek, then the Bakong and the Kedayans. The Mirieks were at Beraya area - islamised around 1918s by the Kedayans due to the intermarried. There are writing that these Mirieks of Beraya buried their dead inside a jars. The same goes to Miri town, the earliest tribes there were the Mirieks and the Kedayans. I mean the town center not included the Pujut, Lutong area. Sarawak Anual Report wrote in 1910, Miri town center consist 2 Chinese shops, 1 Arab/Indian Muslim shop, at the sea side few Mirieks houses and at the land side few Kedayans houses. Interesting to know then.

ninest123 said...

louboutin pas cher, replica watches, polo ralph lauren outlet, chanel handbags, oakley sunglasses, nike air max, nike air max, ugg boots, kate spade outlet, prada handbags, ray ban sunglasses, christian louboutin outlet, replica watches, prada outlet, ralph lauren pas cher, air max, tiffany and co, tiffany jewelry, oakley sunglasses, oakley sunglasses, nike free, louis vuitton outlet, longchamp, louis vuitton, ray ban sunglasses, gucci outlet, louboutin shoes, nike outlet, oakley sunglasses, ugg boots, ray ban sunglasses, louis vuitton outlet, air jordan pas cher, nike free, longchamp outlet, nike roshe run, louboutin, michael kors, louboutin outlet, polo ralph lauren outlet, cheap oakley sunglasses, louis vuitton, burberry, sac longchamp, louis vuitton, longchamp outlet, tory burch outlet, uggs on sale, longchamp pas cher, jordan shoes

ninest123 said...

michael kors outlet, replica handbags, air force, michael kors, coach outlet, michael kors, hollister pas cher, true religion jeans, burberry, nike free run uk, converse pas cher, new balance pas cher, lululemon, abercrombie and fitch, sac guess, ralph lauren uk, vanessa bruno, nike blazer, michael kors outlet, michael kors outlet, true religion jeans, ray ban uk, north face, nike air max, nike air max, michael kors outlet, tn pas cher, kate spade handbags, lacoste pas cher, coach purses, true religion jeans, ugg boots, nike roshe, nike air max, true religion outlet, hogan, michael kors, ugg boots, ray ban pas cher, oakley pas cher, hollister, timberland, michael kors outlet, mulberry, hermes, vans pas cher, coach outlet, michael kors, burberry outlet online, north face

ninest123 said...

p90x workout, instyler, hollister, longchamp, bottega veneta, herve leger, s5 cases, nike trainers, celine handbags, iphone 6s cases, ghd, ipad cases, valentino shoes, birkin bag, hollister, baseball bats, iphone cases, wedding dresses, nfl jerseys, vans shoes, ralph lauren, nike roshe, ferragamo shoes, beats by dre, babyliss, soccer shoes, north face outlet, mont blanc, jimmy choo shoes, lululemon, iphone 6 cases, chi flat iron, mac cosmetics, north face outlet, new balance, nike huarache, oakley, giuseppe zanotti, asics running shoes, nike air max, timberland boots, abercrombie and fitch, soccer jerseys, mcm handbags, insanity workout, iphone 5s cases, louboutin, iphone 6s plus cases, reebok shoes, iphone 6 plus cases

ninest123 said...

sac louis vuitton pas cher, swarovski, juicy couture outlet, swarovski crystal, replica watches, coach outlet, louis vuitton, thomas sabo, doudoune canada goose, louis vuitton, converse, supra shoes, moncler, hollister, converse outlet, canada goose, canada goose uk, toms shoes, pandora jewelry, pandora charms, wedding dresses, canada goose, ray ban, juicy couture outlet, canada goose outlet, links of london, canada goose outlet, moncler, moncler, moncler, pandora charms, karen millen, hollister, pandora jewelry, ugg,uggs,uggs canada, louis vuitton, moncler, ugg,ugg australia,ugg italia, ugg boots uk, moncler, gucci, louis vuitton, lancel, bottes ugg, nike air max, moncler outlet, barbour jackets, marc jacobs, ugg pas cher, vans, canada goose, montre pas cher, moncler

Nang Chong Stories: My Ngie Goong Donated a Piece of Land

The Lau Clan of Sibu. Headed by Lau Kah Tii (Headman). 1933. Photo most probably taken by Rev. Hoover who was a good friend of the family....