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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Government Rest Houses





This picture shows the Kuala Lipis Rest House. The Sibu Government Rest House was a little smaller but the architectural design was more or less the same. Unfortunately I never took a photo of the Sibu Government Rest House. In those long ago days I thought that government buildings would last forever being significant as they were, like the Sarawak Museum in Kuching.

If you should visit Kuala Lipis one day, I would suggest you stay in the Rest House and enjoy some very nostalgic times and a bit of historical touch. And you would also get a feel of what it is to stay in a Government Rest House. We had one for perhaps more than 100 years but because of Sibu's development, and as it was very much in the way it was demolished.

Since the time of Frank Swettenham, the British Colonial government had built Government Rest Houses in very select and prime lands in almost every major towns in Malaya, Sarawak, Sabah and Singapore to provide accomodation for government officers on their travelling duties. This was to ensure that the British government officers could be given the best of home cooked meals and the cleanest accomodation possible in those five star hotel-less days.

Every Government Rest House would be equipped with two to three well appointed rooms, all with attached bathrooms, ceiling fans and wide windows for the best comfort afforded in an equitorial climate. These rest houses being built in the early 20th centuries would have the usual white bathroom ceramic tiles and good wooden French windows. Adjacent to the rest house would be the servants' quarters in which would live the house boy, the cook and their families. In the main house a clerk would attend to the visitor and a very old style black telephone would be placed on top of the huge receptionist's desk. Next to it would be the dining room and a nice comfortable sitting room with well cushioned rattan chairs. A huge grandfather clock would be the main adornment in the room.

Food would be very well prepared at the correct time. Breakfast would be fresh eggs fried or boiled served with bacon, ham and toasts. The cutleries would be very very British, and napkins , freshly ironed, white and starched, often placed in a nice silver napkin ring. Sometimes the dining table would even have fresh flowers cut from the garden. For many years, the Sibu Rest House had the services of the Kuek family. The friendly Mr. Kuek spoke excellent English and Malay. His wife must have cooked all the nice food for the itinerant visitors. I am sure the family would have a treasure chest of stories to tell.

Thus for many years government officers enjoyed this kind of outstation accomodation and after 1957, the government rest houses continue to serve the local counterparts.

The Sibu government rest house, situated just opposite the Rajang Port Authority, and its land is now part of the Sanyan Complex, continued to be a good place of accomodation. Education officers travelling from Kapit, Kanowit and even Sarikei used to stay there will their families. Service continued to be good but unfortunately the entire concept of government rest houses some how deteriorated to nothing when the last of the rest houses in Sarawak and Sabah were bull dozed.

A few post colonial officers had expressed opinions that when the final brick was broken up,the unique image of an efficient,well focussed,intelligent and honest British government servant on His/Her Majesty's Service also disappeared with it.

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