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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Long Bridge of Sibu



















This photo of houses on stilts on a river in Bacoor, Cavite, Philippines is courtesy of Chris Gregerson. (Check www.cgstock.com ) The houses on stilts remind me of those simple wodden houses by the riverside of the Rejang known as Long Bridge in Sibu in the 50's and 60's. Any one travelling from Sibu to Kapit or from Sibu to Kapit by the slow wooden motor launches in those days would have seen similar houses on stilts. I am hoping that one day someone will send me a photo of the original Long Bridge to illustrate my posting. Or alternatively, I could get a painting of Long Bridge of those long ago days.

The black and white photos are really old photos of the original Long Bridge of Sibu. They evoke the mystery and the untold stories of the people living in this very unique area of Sibu.

Long Bridge or Tong Keor or Tiing Geor in Sibu was a well known place for a long long time until it cleared up and a sort of urban development started in the 1970's. The developers were far sighted enough to start dumping a lot of soil to reclaim the riverside land. In this way, Sibu started to expand towards Lanang Road, following the Rejang River eastern bank.

Today the Long Bridge Road is still there but three storeyed concrete shop houses have replaced the wooden houses and two big hotels (Rinwood and Lee Hua) form part of the vicinity.

But what was Long Bridge exactly? Many people today would say that it was just cheap housing built by some businessmen for their coolies but later one home was added after another. And slowly what was originally just some construction workers' huts became a river side residential area, and businesses started with a little retail or kedai runcit here and there. A few women took in sewing and washing. Some of the women hired themselves out as house maids and even cleaners for the local hotels and shops. the houses were built on both sides of a long belian bridge which was built on stilts and the houses which were also on stilts were kept well above the tides. Perhaps on the big floods of 58 and 63 went into these homes.

Some houses even sold beer and the open spaces were good meeting places for men who had no where else to go. About one hundred or more families must have lived there. Many children grew up and moved on, while the elderly stayed on. It did become a special colony by itself, with its own character and its own community rules.

What was very interesting was how many Hokkiens and Foochows and some other indigenous people lived well together in that place. I remember that some of the Sibu trishaw drivers lived there as in the evenings one could see that their trishaws parked outside the "main bridge". But I also know a few families who had prospered because they worked hard as washerwomen, cold storage workers and saved enough money by living in cheap houses. These owners later acquired good businesses and some of them even migrated overseas. They made money selling off their wooden houses to their friends who in turn rented out these houses to new migrants who have moved into Sibu. It was not exactly the homes of hopeless urban dwellers. Later these families benefitted from the urban development and were given the three storeyed shop houses by the developers.

What were very interesting about the place? It was a place where photographers, both foreign and local, found intriguing and unforgettable. Many great photos were taken of the place. The plank walks, the houses when the tide was up, the rusty and sad looking zinc roofing, the washing hanging out under the sun for drying,the muddy tin and plastic covered river bed when the tide was out, and even sunset over the last few houses seemed romantic enough to beckon the adventurous photographers.

A decrepit (to many) place but home to some of the Long Bridge afficiandos,it was part and parcel of urban development and unknowingly had helped the town of Sibu itself develop . It had served its purposes of providing dirt cheap housing for migrant workers, a safe haven for homeless people, and a convenient shelter for the earliest rural-urban migrants. Many transient labourers who helped with the piling work of housing construction, the digging of drains and even government projects, lived in rooms there if and when the towkays could not provide them with adequate housing. Sometimes two or three families would live together in a unit, leaving so little room for other social functions, except just eating, sleeping and a little cooking. It was just a kind of existence, not living.


The long bridge which was actually an L-shape belian plank walk on stilts with its wooden houses would always be a pictureque and historical part of Sibu for many of us.

Note from Alison Buda "Today, what remains is the Long Bridge road and the long bridge cafe that reminds people of its existence long time ago."

More Notes : So do walk down memory lane when you visit Sibu, by having a little sight seeing tour of the place.

It is quite near the Window of Sibu and is opposite the Catholic High School and the
Sacred Heart Church.

21 memories:

AlisonBuda said...

Sarawakiana,

i guess you have mixed up long bridge with mission road. The former is not a red light district but the later is. i know of YBs who had grown and many successful people who had grown up in the long bridge houses.

the houses on both sides of the long plank walk are with no. and supplied with proper electricvty and water. in fact the owners becomes very rich when the land was developed.

The long bridge is actually a L-shape belian plank walk on stilts.

The plank runs paralle to a small stream that drained into the rejang river. however, the small stream becomes bigger over time and soon riverine boats could navigate into the stream.

Today, what remains is the Long Bridge road and the long bridge cafe that reminds people of its existence long time ago.

AlisonBuda said...

The Long Bridge houses were initially owned by the Hokkien but later there were a few Foochow families and even a Cantonese family. There was a foochow married to an Iban. Most of the wooden houses on silt were one storey but there are a few double-storey houses, including one owned by a Foochow family. Long Bridge was established during the 2nd Rajah Brooke's era. I believe those Hokkien from Kerto were from long bridge also.

AlisonBuda said...

sarawakiana,

Perhaps, you might be able to draw a sketch of early Sibu including where Sacred heart and St Elizabeth were located and also Mission Road and Long bridge. that will be very enlightening to those born after such places were destroyed including me.

sarawakiana said...

Alison, It seems that my info on Long Bridge (even though I lived on the next lane for more than a year was not so accurate.

Remember there was a road called Ang Jui Kow (Red Water Stream). several prominent families have come frome there too.]
You might know it better than I.

Thanks for the info. Am sure many people are in terested in Long Bridge. I hope some of the descendants could write in if they know this blog.

AlisonBuda said...

Sarawakiana,

Some of your info are accurate and it is an interesting article. The road now called Long Bridge is actually the Long bridge proper as neighbouring areas such as Mission Road were also sometimes misstakenly called Long Bridge as well.

Yes, I remember the Ang Chiu Kau. The small channel I refer to is not Ang Chi Kau.

And Chiu Kau is common in and around Sibu due to the peat swamp. You also have one at Mile 5 as well as the famous Sungei merah.

The red or tea coloration of the water is due to the peat swamp. The organic or biological material dissolved in the water (humic acid) and caused the colour.

Scientifically speaking, such water is harmful when mixed with chlorine as it can form a carcinogenic compound and not good for consumption.

Long bridge used to be longer and stretches into Lanang Road Lane 1. However, when Lanang Road Lane 1 was developed, the plank walk was earth-filled to make way for road (ie Lanang Road Lane 1). Many of the existing major roads in Sibu town were once upon a time plank walk.

In fact much of Sibu town in the early days were linked with such plank walk. I remember I saw an old photo of plank walk along Kampong Nyabor Road that continued into the malay kampongs but they were among the earliest to be demolished to make way for concrete buildings. I understand from older people that such plank walk were also common around Sacred Heart and St Elizabeth's Convent School before the two schools' belian buildings were replaced by concrete buildings (remember there were also two great fire in Sibu). In fact, Long bridge is the remnant of the early days Sibu which is what makes it interesting to the tourists.

Do you remember there was an old lady selling fried yam cake in one of the houses near Ang Chiu Kau? I miss her yam cake.

Hope someone will write more on Long Bridge.

Alison

AlisonBuda said...

The Long Bridge area was developed by Hock Peng Realty Sdn Bhd. owned by a Sibu Hokkien.

you mentioned about Rinwood hotel but it should be Kingswood hotel. The other hotel, Li Hua is owned by Hock Peng.

AlisonBuda said...

The Long Bridge area was developed by Hock Peng Realty Sdn Bhd. owned by a Sibu Hokkien.

you mentioned about Rinwood hotel but it should be Kingswood hotel. The other hotel, Li Hua is owned by Hock Peng.

AlisonBuda said...

Once upon a time, it is very likely that ramin can be found in original forest (peat swamp forest) which is the present day Sibu town before they were destroyed.

sarawakiana said...

Thanks for the info.

I must call my cousin who is from Ang Chiu Kow. Now she has a flat in Lanang Road Lane 1, where I used to live for a while.

I do stand corrected - it is Kingwood Hotel owned by Dato Hii Yii Peng and family. The hotel in Miri is Rinwood.

Names in Sarawak are interesting. xxxwood is a flavour of the month for some time. Then it is Everise, Surewise,etc.

Someone on that would make people smile.

Yes, indeed, Sibu had so many plankwalks....and belian is a wonderful wood. A wonder wood!!

Gaharuman said...

Sarawakiana,
Do you remember an eldery lady who sold fried yam cake at Ang Chiu Kau?

I remember I bought some from her a few decades ago and it was delicious. I have never tasted the same yam cake again. I miss her yam cake. I also remember her gouse was titling to one side!

sarawakiana said...

sorry I can't remember the yam cake. Foochow yam cake must be made from the best ping long wow and the freshest rice flour, with lots of pork fat,pepper,well pounded dried prawns and fried onions. It should be spongy yet well formed.

One cannot stinch on the ingredients. My third aunt living in Lucky Road (Originally Sixth District - lurk kiih) makes the best wow kuih.

rubberseeds said...

Hi Chang Yi, indeed it is a very interesting article. The comments too are interesting and informative. My recent entry in my blog www.rubberseeds.blogspot.com also carried a short story on Maju Road which was exactly where the red light distrct was.

sarawakiana said...

Thank you. Your blog is very interesting and I will visit from time to time to refresh my own memories. Some of your photos trigger many memories.

Thanks again.

Gaharuman said...

Sarawakiana,

Where did you get the phoyos of Long Bridge. I am really nostalgic over them. Note that thw roof are not made of zinc but belian shingles. Zinc are only used later for the extension and repair.

Gaharuman said...

How nice of this author to write about this almost forgotten place. I grew up there until it was replaced by shophouses.

Yes. The families living there were quite mixed but getting along together very well. Despite the less than perfect environment, this place has produced many professionals like doctors, engineers, accountants, etc.. even politicians.

We didn't go to swimming pool to swim. During high tide, you just jump into the stream along the bridge or you can even swim along the banks of Rejang River. Almost everyone living there knows how to swim, especially the children.

Catholic High School became our playground. We have our basket ball games there almost every evening and at times get chased away by the Principal for trespassing. We also played marbles there and I remember I even learn about bicycle riding there.

We played kites during evenings and come night time, a few of the elders (in their 20s) always sit at a corner of the bridge facing the river playing guitars, never missing the 'Let It Be' by the Beatles. The trend was to have T-shirts printed with icons like Beatles and Bruce Lee.

There are people bringing all sorts of thing to sell from door to door, including barbers on bicycles. I remember an old lady (must be in her 70s) selling 'Yew Chan Kueh' - much like the scene described by someone in this site here. We went for the sweet Soy Source, lots of it, so that we can drink it after we finished the Kueh. The poor old lady always tried to stop us but without success. I really feel guilty every time I think of it as I can imagine it must have caused the poor old lady hardship as she needed the soy source to sell her 'Yew Chan Kueh'.

This place certainly brings great childhood memory to those who lived there. I still have in my mind a mental picture of the place though quite vague. Many years ago, I saw an article published in the Newspaper with some pictures. When I looked at the them, I was puzzled as to how I could ride bicycle on that narrow, uneven stretch of wooden planks, day in day out, without any mis-happenings.

I really wish someone can put up the photos somewhere.

Sarawakiana said...

Thank you. I read this too when a friend called me to read ST. Nice of this person to respond in this way.
I think Long Bridge will not be easily forgotten by the former residents in the same way I won't forget Kampong Nyabor or Blacksmith Road.

thanks again.

Sarawakiana said...

What were the living skills of those days? "walk on logs" to get on to motor launches or long boats, cycle on three feet wide plank walks or wooden bridges,going up long hoses on the notched one pole staircase,and looking bare foot in the mud for snails for lunch, picking driftwood for fire while swimming in the Rejang. There was no fear.

thanks for the beautiful memories.

JC said...

Yeah, I too grew up as a kid in Long Bridge. I miss it too especially all my childhood friends.
I wonder where they are and whether they remember me too.

Sarawakiana said...

Dear JC,
May be the LongBridge Residents can start a Club and get all the elders to come for a reunion!! I would really like to see that!!

I lived in Lanang Lane 1 for about 2 years.

God bless you and all Long Bridge People.

Guitar-Shelter said...

I had had livd in Sibu throughout my childhood and young adult days so I remembered very cleary all its places until 1975 when I left for overseas. When I went back for holidays years later plenty has changed. Without the Long Bridge, Ang Chiu Kau, and the rest of good old Sibu, Sibu will never be the same anymore. I now live in North America.

I Am Sarawakiana said...

Dear Guitar-shelter
It is good to read some historical documents about our old home town.

Nostalgia is good for our well being.

Thoughts of home are often feel good.

All the best to you. Things change.

 

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