Sunday, July 13, 2008

Home Made Jetties (Toh Tau)

This kind of jetty can only be found along smaller rivers in Sarawak now. This photo was taken recently in Bekenu. It reminds me of the jetty that my uncle had many years ago in Ah Nang Chong. We used to wash our clothes and bathe very safely on the platform drawing water from the river. Note that oil drums are used to make the floating pontoon. In the olden days we used logs we caught from the river. Very nostalgic scene.

In the upper reaches of a river a home can be built next to a river ford or karangan. A jetty would not be necessary.

But in the middle valley where the river is wide and the river deep like in Sibu a jetty is necessary.

A jetty or "toh tau" (head of a road) was built by the home owner who lived next to the river bank along the Rejang River. These little jetties were unmistakenly home-made and simple structures. They looked beautiful from afar and were the landmarks for the Foochows who travelled along the river. Some were so well made that they were the talk of the people and they lasted.

Jetties lasted in those days because the motor launches and pedal boats and even the motorised long boats and speed boats could not in any way create enough waves to break the jetties apart.

My grandmother's jetty was a popular one because many people would used it. They came from the villages beyond the river banks. Also, the Nan Chong Cooperative and another little sundry shop, which operated from one wing of my grandmother's house, were the main attractions for people to stop by or land at the jetty. All the jetties along the river would be named after the owners except a few more famous ones like Lee Hua Jetty, Kwong Hua Jetty, Twenty Four Acres (Nieh Si Gak),Hak Choon Huong,etc.

These jetties were built to make it easier for people using the motor launches to land or to get into them. Speed boats and long boats could be tied to them easily. Berthing by the jetties was simple and no charges were incurred. It was so neighbourly at that time.

The best time for me ever was two or three of those motor launches berthed together tied with red cloth and bantings. That was the mark of a Foochow wedding. The motor launches were ready to bring the parties to Sibu for a fine ceremony and banquet.

I used to remember all their names. But as so many years have passed, I have forgotten most of the names. I am wondering if any one has written down all the names. Furthermore these jetties have long gone. Washed away by the powerful express boats.

An extra-ordinary way of life has in a way been "washed away".

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