Monday, April 16, 2012

Our World: Old wooden boat in Borneo

To the children growing up in Sarawak, Borneo, along the 350 miles long Rejang River, "Sing Hai Ching" will give a pang of nostalgia. These river queens used to ply up and down the river, picking up passengers and goods. Unfortunately, they were forced to retire and give way to the aeroplane looking type of express boats. This royalty  is now relegated to pick up goods from Bintangor to Tanjong Manis, a tiny town at the sea.

To me, there are great memories as well as not so good ones, which make me dislike water journies. But as you read from the thread from Facebook, it is great that people remember the good times.

Sibu town is 90 miles from the sea, my paternal grandparents lived 5 miles up the river,  my maternal grand parents lived up in Durin which used to take hours to reach. Then when my dad returned from England in 1959, he taught in Kanowit Government Secondary school. I went in these double decker boats a lot of times. 

We shared it with the natives with their fighting roosters, machete aka parangs, and dogs. The boat went chucg chug chug, expelling a lot of unburnt engine smoke, and I would get a headache. The men upstairs operated their "floating Casinos". We learnt not only the games, but also the flowery obscene language of all races of Sarawak. The space is stuffy, full of smoke because they shut all the windows. I guess, they didn't want anyone to know they were gambling illegally.

My Ah Tai, my mum's grandma had one of these double decker ones, plying up and down the Rejang River, from Durin to collect unpolished rice to polish in her mill. Then in Durin, she had her mill. We were very proud of her.

I paste some of the threads of some of the Kai Chung students and teachers of Francis's Facebook. Francis kindly let me post these two posts.

  • Jenny Yau-Peng Chew Chen Francis, still plying? or was it one of the old photos? would be nice to pay a visit!

  • Chen Francis Still plying, but carrying food & ration to Tg. Manis instead of passengers . The photo was taken this morning at Bintangor.

  • owned by my classmate's father before

  • ..lets go this one if they ply us from Sibu to Bintangor

  • Ann Chin  Courting couples can sit right one top. This happened when we had school trip up to Kapit. The BF and GF were on top of the boat, the naughty boys were teasing them.

  • how to get to the top? no thanks, at the edge not too bad, pretend to be the titanic will be cool!

  • I am all for it.Wow after all these years she/he is still plying I am totally impressed.....

  • Haha!a slow boat to China! I think I need  to bring my sleeping bag and portable loo!

  • hehehe, me too...maybe they no longer ply passengers across because most people are driving these days and it is only an hr drive or less.

  •  If you are coming to our reunion we will go on it again and make it part of our  itinerary.
  • Sure, would be nice for a visit.

  • have you not been on these boats before, you don't need your portaloo. They have a box like toilet at the back. There is no roof. We used to sit at the Rejang river bank at my grand pa's place. We look at the boats ply up and down Rejang River. The box comes up to a man's chest, ad we could see the man standing there. Woman squat, so you don't see. There is no need to flush.
  • .too detail Ann! I don't remember going into one of the toilet on the boat

  • You don't need to go to the toilet just to Binatang, but if you go for long trips to Kanowit or Kapit, you need to go, When you need to go., even if there are boys sitting on the roof and can see you. That is why I don't really like boats. even now.

  • , I have been on one when I was real little and that boat belongs to Anthonias's dad

  •  I remember those cubicles of these boats.

  • Rejang River could be swift, need life jackets. I guess the spare tires hanging from the boat can be used as swim ring....ha ha

    According to the boat owner, it is around 60 years old

  • That was not the original boat. The one I recalled when I was in lower secondary was very different. The owner might have upgraded a few times though retaining the name
  • Ann Chin In those days, there were no life boats or lie jackets. If there were, chances were they would be stolen.

    The Reunion of Kai Chung School, aka Lau Peng Yu, July 7, 2012,  is initiated by Jenny Yaw Peng and  Mag Yaw Lee. Francis is doing his part as a local here in Bintangor, knowing that a lot of our long lost friends & ex-teachers are coming back to this beautiful small hometown. 

    Please contact on their Facebook:



Reader Wil said...

My father was a sailor. He sailed from Java to China and Japan and back to Java. That's why we lived in Indonesia. Every fifth year we had to go to Holland for a year. Of course we travelled by boat. It took us a month to arrive in Rotterdam. Those ships were like hotels and our cabins were like hotel rooms with our own bathroom. I did this voyage four times, and I only remember the last time when I was twelve in December 1945. We arrived in Amsterdam in January 1946.
Thanks for sharing your post.

Reader Wil said...

My father was the Chief engineer on board of a merchant ship. We went to Holland when I was five and back to Indonesia when I was six and after the war back to Holland by Dutch ships of either De Rotterdamse Lloyd or De Holland- Amerika Lijn.
You asked what I thought about the Titanic movies and documentary. Well I hate it. It is so terrible that so many people drowned. What do you think?
My dad sailed during the entire war and saw many a ship being torpedoed and sinking rapidly. He survived, but was traumatised.