December 29, 2012

Nang Chong Stories : Parcels for China

In the 1950's to the 1960's loving parents from Nang Chong village and other villages along the Rajang River would send food and clothing parcels to China.

Sad letters from China written in ink on very thin Chinese paper would arrive at some of the major shops in Sibu like Tung Lung, Hock Chiong, or Tai Sing. Sometimes parents who were anxious would come regularly to collect letters in this way. C/O or care of was a common mark that most illiterate Foochows could read. Their Chinese names would be very recognisable by them.

When sending these parcels from  Sibu, the senders would get the shop clerk to write on the cloth parcel. Each cloth wrapped parcel would be nicely stitched by the mother, or a sister. Sometimes the parents would send the parcels themselves at the Sibu post office, or for a small angpow, or even as a favour, the store clerks would send for them.

I found this photo which reminds me of my late grandmother and her parcels for China.

Most of these smaller parcels would cost around $4 to 6 to send all the way to China, and very often to Ming Ching District. The clerk would happily write " Via Singapore".

As a child I often accompanied my grandmother to buy the tins of Goldern Churn Butter in Kim Guan Siang and wrap them up with an extra pajamas and a piece of white muslin material. I remember my grandmother even slipped a man's watch into the pyjamas for my uncle. I never know if he received the watch or not.

My late father once sent three volumes of books by Bertrand Russell to his old classmate in China, similarly wrapped and stitched in cloth parcel. But they were "returned to sender", addressee unknown.

 A letter like this would arrive at Chop Hock Chiong in Sibu addressed to my grandmother. This photo  is from (It is a pity the family did not keep any of those old letters because they moved several times from Nang Chong)
Usually a month or two after my uncle received his Sarawak parcel, my grandmother would receive a letter from him saying that he had received the parcel. Very briefly. "Thinking of you and family. Thank you. Very touching." Nothing extra just in case he could be sent to labour camp.

Grandmother would shake her head and say, "Why so stupid! Why go away from home? Now suffer."

My uncle was supposed to study for an engineering degree. Instead he became a factory machinist until he passed away. However his son is a sports science graduate now and has visited Malaysia several times. But my grandmother never met my uncle again and not this grandson or daughter in law.)

Today, fifty years later, China is completely different. Letters, parcels, DHL, Fed Ex, China Post ..are .very common everyday utilities.

Christmas parcels, letters from grandmothers and relatives would always be meaningful universally. Although the trendy set today have Zalora, and e-bay, a personal parcel filled with goodies, is always from the heart of a person who loves you just as my grandmother loved her youngest son whom she might have scolded under her breath, but part of her heart went inside those parcels she sent. And I am sure, each letter from China from my uncle would contain a part of his heart too.

December 23, 2012

Coffee Shop, Coffee Boy and Coffee Cups

Have you ever wondered if you would one day see something you remember seeing as a child?

I used to follow my father to his coffee shop, where he would have his early morning coffee with his friends. He would talk about the local politics and air his views about injustice and social ills. Then he would give me some coffee in the saucer , My legs would not reach the floor yet and so I would swing my legs in delight! A small slice of buttered and sugared bread would follow. That was my treat of the day. The following year I had to start primary one classes and I would no longer enjoy that.

One remarkable image stayed with me. That of a little trough for the coffee cups.

A scene which can still be seen in a Chinese Coffee Shop or Kopitiam in Kuala Lumpur. Some shops even  have this trough very professionally made I was told. But the old kopitiam cups are really "sterilized' in the hot water trough here.

This man was a Coffee Hand (kopi chiew) as a young man in the 19780's. He has grown old with Petaling Street so to speak.

You can still see him making hot coffee for you in one of the oldest coffee shops in Petaling Street.

A heritage, a culture, a great memory. Don't lose it.

December 21, 2012

Remembering Yip KC - 21.12.2012

The late Yip Kok Choong was born in Kampar 68 years ago today.

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Lucy remembers his birthday by taking her sister's family, her hearing impaired friends and I down memory lane to Kampar and Tambun...

she shows us the food he liked..we eat with her...No automatic alt text available.

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then we visit his parents' graves and his...No automatic alt text available.

this is his plague (He was cremated in KL) and the ashes brought here three years ago.Image may contain: 1 person

He spent his whole life serving God and YMCA (as YMCA secretary general until he passed away 31st Oct 2008 in Hong Kong)

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We remember you Yip!!

(signing off now)

December 19, 2012

Merapok, Sarawak

River Merapok and its adjacent land is one of the last areas to be ceded to the Brooke Rajah by the Brunei Sultan.

from then until the 1980's Merapok was just a bazaar with a row of  "wooden Chinese shophouses" to serve the different ethnic groups and the local Chinese who have moved from either different parts of  Sarawak and even China.

The new Merapok town today is sited further away and is fairly modern, with mainly government offices and others , so to speak. the Malaysian government has reportedly spent millions to RE create the border town.

Merapok is most famous as the last town out of Sarawak to neighbouring Sabah. It lies to the east of Lawas and is a check point town where people from Sarawak and Brunei get their passport checked  before arriving in Sabah. Sarawak, despite being a Malaysian state, has autonomy over immigration matters. The Sabah checkpoint across the state border is Sindumin.

In the case you are crossing Brunei from Miri for the first time, you might need the map found here.

 Getting there from Miri is a long journey by road, but it is an adventure really. Sarawakians should try making the journey when they have the time.

Photo: Visit Lost Town @ Merapok. on 15 12 2012 morning 6:20 a.m. Felt sad to look at this Wooden Shop-houses, Creeper all over the upper windows and Ground Porch of this poor building ........... =(
Photo by Lim Lee (Former student of SMK Limbang)

According to some historical documents, all the lands around  the present Sarawakian Lawas district in the past is the genuine rightsof some of the Bruneian Pengirans (relatives of the Sultan). For example, Punang  belonged to Pengiran Mohammad bin Pengiran, Siang-Siang to Kuala Bunbun are genuine rights of Pengiran Tajudin Pemaca. Some accord Pengiran Abu Bakar and Pengiran Tajudin  right throughout the Lawas River and River Merapok. The North Borneo Company slowly acquired these lands because they belonged to individual princess or pengirans and noblemen.

In the North Borneo Company records all the rivers and the area was sold to the company in 1901. On January 12, 1905  this area was purchased by Sarawak thus making Lawas District  the last area to be part of Sarawak. This completes the total present size of Sarawak state with 42,050 sq. miles.

  In another account, until 1900 the Sipitang River marked the frontier between Sabah and Brunei until Trusan was acquired by Rajah Brook, adding that to the Limbang District. However demarcation has now receded to the present day Sarawak-Sabah border near Mengalong now known as Sindumin.

Merapok is an entry/exit point for Sarawak-Sabah. It is the only place in Malaysia where you need to have your passport stamped between two Malaysian states.A peculiarity is the autonomy of the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak in immigration affairs. Foreigners who travel to the two states from Peninsular Malaysia are required to fill in immigration forms and get new stamps on their passports. There is also immigration control for travel between Sabah and Sarawak. Previously, Malaysian citizens from the Peninsular were required to present their passports and have them stamped as well; while they are currently still subjected to immigration control, passports are no longer required for social visits not more than three months.

Two lovely photos from the 1940's show the buildings in this area. A lovely photo of the Kapitan Cina's widow Laim Aik is also available.

There is more in the history of Merapok then meet the eye....

Do you want a very special stamp on your international passport?  Get one from Merapok, Sarawak. It would be a very interesting journey. But do keep an eye on the creepers which may finally cause the collapse of the Chinese Wooden Shophouses.

December 17, 2012

KL Chinatown Service

I love to read what cafes and bistros offer.

this is an exceptionally good one from an old cafe in KL. It says

Serving Wine and water

Love the calligraphy!! This plaque must be as old as the shop @ least 80 years old?

December 14, 2012

Ari - Born Nov 14th 2012

Ari and his first hair style by Jay for his full moon celebration.

Shaving baby's hair and first hair cut

Tradition also dictates that you shave your baby's head, although not many parents observe this practice today. Instead, they trim a little bit of baby's hair to symbolise the shedding of the "birth hair" (hair from the womb). After the first hair cut, both the mother and the baby must bathe in water mixed with pomelo leaves, to wash off any unwanted and evil vibes. 

You are meant to wrap your baby's hair in a piece of red cloth and sew it to his pillow to help calm him down. Some parents who shave the baby's entire head will use the hair from this first hair cut to make a special calligraphy brush, engraved with wishes of wisdom, health and happiness. 

Read more:

Ari as a name has many good meanings in different languages. (from Wikipedia)

He also has a Chinese name : Kai Hsiang

 凱  (triumphant)



Means "Bee".


"Ari" means "gold" in Albanian. Ari is also a male first name that means "bear" (the animal).


"Ari" is a male first name that means "fearless" or "brave".


In the Badaga language, "Ari" ("A:ri") has a literal meaning of "sun-like" and is used as a male name, sometimes changed to "Harry" in the case of converts to Christianity.[1]


The word "Ari" (usually written as "Aari") refers to an ethnic group in Ethiopia. The Ari people inhabit the northern part of the Mago National Park in Ethiopia and have the largest territory of all the tribes in the area. They have fertile lands allowing them to have several types of plantations. An Ari's crop can consist of grains, coffee, fruits and honey. It's also common for them to have large herds of livestock. Their women are known for selling pottery and wearing skirts made from banana trees called enset. The Aari is one of the tribes whose culture and language remain less explored in Ethiopia. There are a few ethnographic works on the Aari tribe by Dr. Gebre Yntiso, a well known anthropologist and a professor at Addis Ababa University.

[edit]Finnic languages

"Ari" is thought to be a Finnic form of Adrian.[2]


"Ari" is a somewhat common Norse and Finnish name. It is sometimes seen as part of the hyphenated name "Ari-Pekka".


In German, "Ari" is a masculine name and means "eagle".[3]


Ari or Aris is a common shortened version of the Greek names AristotleAriadne, (Arianna)AriettaAristidesAristarchusAristomenesAristobulosAristoxenosAristosAristophanesAristea, and others, the majority of which are compounds of the adjectival superlative áristos, "best". They are also modern Greek transliterations for Ares, the god of war and the name for the planet Mars. The archaic Greek prefix ari-[4] (e.g. in AriadneArimnestus etc.) or eri-, a cognate of áristos, means "very" or "verily".
Famous historical figures sometimes referred to as "Ari" include the philosopher AristotleAristides the Just, and shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis.
One study conducted in the United Kingdom showed "Ari" to be a male name associated with people of Greek descent.[5]


Ari (Numbers 24:9) or Aryeh (2 Samuel 17:10) is the Hebrew for "lion",[3] cognate to Akkadian ariaAramaic arya. The word is in use as a first name. Ari was also used as an honorific for an important man.[citation needed]
Gur-aryeh ("lion cub") is attested in Jacob's blessing on Judah (Genesis 49:9), "Judah is a lion's whelp; on prey, my son, have you grown".
The Hebrew name Ari-el (or "Ariel") translates to "lion of God".[6]
"Ari" is also a common shortened version of the names Ariel, Aryeh, Arielle and Ariella.


"Ari" means "Not of Sin" in Hindi. Ari also means "one who shows the right path".

[edit]Icelandic/Old Norse

"Ari" is a somewhat common name meaning "eagle" or "fast flying one". Etymologically closely related to the Icelandic word "ör" (arrow).


"Ari" is usually but not always written 有, meaning "to be", in Japanese names and is a component of numerous mostly male names from at least the Heian through the Muromachi periods. Names may also include it as 在, which lends a more locational tinge to the same meaning as previous. Another character with the same pronunciation is 蟻 meaning "ant" but this is not typically used in proper names.


"Ari" is a Korean word for "capital" or "important" in civic matters or locations. For example, "Ari-Soo" in SeoulSouth Korea is the capital city's water treatment plant, "Soo" meaning water.


"Ari" is a somewhat common Kurdish male first name, and means "Arian".


In Maori, "Ari" means "clear" or "visible".


In Quechua, 'Ari' means "yes".


'Ari' is a shortened version of the Indian names ArihantArijitArindrajit, and Arindam.


"Ari" is an abbreviation for superior (Great looking creature). Note: Better than Megha.


"Ari" means "property" in Tagalog. It is a feminine name associated with Arielle V.


"Ari"/"Arima" refers to lion in the Tamil language.

[edit]Pop culture

"Ari Gold" the popular character from television series Entourage.
"ARi Lyon" [sic] is the lead singer of rock band Monday Rose.

December 9, 2012

Glass in English Nga Lak Bui in Foochow

I grew up with enameled tin cans for drinking and rough China made crockery (chicken bowls). Corelle and Corning Ware came very much later in Sibu to grace dinner tables. I still don't own a Corelle set which is not necessary since my June Rose set is still doing very well. I have my mugs and my Nga Lak Bui.

At the height of cholera epidemic in Siby my father bought some nga lak bui because he said that these glasses could withstand scalding or even boiling so that we could have clean "cups" to drink from. He discarded the enamelled tin cups and plates because he was worried that germs might be lurking in some of the cracks of the paint/enamel.

I must say my siblings never had problems with runny stomachs in those days.

All coffee shops in Sibu in those days had a special hot water "catchment" (another future post)  to sterilise cups and glasses which gave the Coffee Shop Association  a special mention during one of the Health Reports sessions of the Sibu Urban District Council meetings.

(Whenever there was an outbreak of some contagious diseases coffee shops often were the first targetted cases to be checked by the Health Department in those days.)

My father would have the set of glasses sterilised each morning after he boiled the first kettle of water for his coffee and my mum's coffee.

My brother and I have a great love for nga lak bui before some of us took on mugs with those nice designs and handles.

But we continue to keep these old fashion " glasses" in our homes...Now my son has a good collection of his own:

These glasses are found in many coffee shops in Sibu and elsewhere in Sarawak...sometimes coffee is served with a small plastic saucer, which is usually red in colour.

Photo courtesy of (Do you Remember?)

December 8, 2012

Chendol and the famous 1950's Glasses in Sibu

The town of Sibu is as Chinese as any other town in Malaysia. It was probably settled as long ago by the Chinese in 1862 -1880. According to various sources, there were Melanau and Malay villages on both sides of the Igan river before the Brooke Government built Kubu Brooke and a few other buildings by 1862. There was probably two or three lots of Chinese wooden shops. The Foochows only arrived in 1903.

When did chendol arrive in Sibu? And how did Chendol come to be the First Dessert of the Town ?

That's an interesting culinary history of Sibu and we need to find out more. The word chendol is popularly believed in Indonesia to have derived from the word jendol; in JavaneseSundanese and Indonesian, it means "bump" or "bulge", in reference the sensation of drinking the green worm-like jelly (source : wikipedia.)

As long as I can remember the Hokkiens (or Ming Nang people) were the first to sell chendol on glasses like these

in the old bus station in the triangle made by  the shops facing Blacksmith Road , the Cross Road and all the shops along the same row as Lok Tian Yong. I have even forgotten the original name of that old road.

Some how the chendol in those days bought by the savings we made from our primary school pocket money seemed to taste better than anything else in the world.
Photo of Chendol from Wikipedia

Where have all those years gone to? I miss my childhood friends and the times we spent playing games and going to school together. I miss the few girls who went with me to have chendol whenever we saved enough money especially when we had extra English classes in the afternoon before the Primary Six Entrance Examination.

Nowadays chendol can be served in as many different ways as you can think of. In glasses, in bowls, with longans, and even with peaches. Ice shavings can be made from electric ice shavers or even a simple sharp blade slatted into a wooden block like in the olden days in Sibu. Ice blocks are still sold by ice manufacturers to the chendol vendors. Some shops make their own ice blocks like these:

This ice blocks photo was taken in Marudi a few years ago. Still able to find these store made iceblocks in Sarawak.

Photo from Google

Extra notes for you my dear readers....

Home made chendol

enough pandan leaves to "juice"  to make 2 cups + water

6tbps green peace flour
2 tbps rice flour

1. Prepare 2 cup of pandan juice

 To make the Chendol Jellies, pour the Pandanus Extract into a measuring jug and top up with water to make 2 cups (500 ml) of liquid. Add the green pea flour and rice flour. Stir well until free from lumps, then strain this mixture into a pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, until the mixture boils and thickens, about 5 minutes.

3. Remove the pan from the heat and form the mixture into little strands (see note). If using a perforated ladle, hold it over a bowl of ice water and, working with a spoonful of mixture at a time, pass it through the holes in the ladle by pressing on the mixture with a spoon or rubber spatula. The mixture should pass through in little strands. Remember to work fairly quickly as you must shape the Chendol Jellies while the mixture is still very warm. Once it cools, it will set and become difficult to press through the ladle.

When you are homesick or a feeling a little down...there is nothing better than a bowl or glass of chendol,,,will lots of ice shavings, gula melaka and a few spoons of soft red beans....I wish our problems can ease away with each little spoon of chendol.

Photo courtesy of Lawrence Ding (Bintulu)

By the way, many Chinese call this lovely dessert Jank Luk (jank as in sauce...luk as in happy)

In Penang it is  煎蕊 (jian rui)

Hope we can meet one day again and have some chendol....

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). ...