Getting a new sifu. and a new bike.

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First encounter

The weather here is hot. Coastal weather; where the heat of the sun on it’s cloudless day are scorching hot as if a lit charcoal brought close to your hand and when it rains, seems to last forever, as if rain is the only thing that could come from the sky.

The Keith Haring bundle T-shirt (with a small pocket on the left chest) that I was wearing starts to from patches of sweats. My T-short was damp, especially in the collar, chest and armpit area. My boxer shorts starts to cling on my thighs and crotch, amplifying my discomfort under the cruel hot sun.

It is by no means dampen my spirit, pun all intended. As I walk along the row of shop by Jalan Padungan, looking around the Chinese dominated commerce area by the town that I am sure that I will stumble upon a bicycle shop or two. The postage cost for me to get my pimped up bike here is just too expensive; RM 300 something. By Poslaju. There is no other channels; the dimensions of the way I paced my bike in the box makes it a pariah to be accepted by any other means; it is too large for both ship or air delivery: too wide.

I figure that I might as well buy a new one. By the current price level of bicycles; RM300 could only get me a moderate quality, China-produce bikes; there is just no way that I could find any substitute that is on par with the one I have at home. I have heard enough of how shabby those bikes are.

The shop was what you will normally see in small towns; shops with musky smell that tell many stories; floors stained by layers and layers of greases from bikes that some might not be around anymore, melted to make other things. The uncle, that I presume t be the boss, was sitting on his office: an office table as old as the shop itself, that though fit the age of the things around it, provides a balance of order around the tools and bicycle parts strewn inside the shop. Things are arranged carelessly inside the shop, there are a little sense of order that is strangely found amidst those chaos. The table provides the balance of order.

The uncle was on the phone. He was obviously infuriated; he was pissed off with the person on the other end of the line for not being professionally ethical in doing business. I walked around the shop, avoiding any eye contact and he partially ignored me, thinking that I might be a tourist passerby looking around without the intention of actually purchasing anything.

“What do you want?”, he spoke to me in Mandarin, shutting the receiver end of the phone while still keeping his ear glued on the other end, obviously not finished with his conversation but was already annoyed with the stranger going round and round in his shop, looking at the same things over and over again. I gestured to him to go on with his tele-conversation, I knew that this is not the best time. I spent another few minutes, hoping that he would finish his conversation but he didn’t.

Oh well, there could be many shops around here anyway, I thought to myself, and left the store. I won’t be coming here again.

Second encounter

I was out at Kuching again, with Hana this time. I bring here around Jalan Padungan, as I really like the fusion between old and new (conceptually) shops there. The trendy pubs and the stylish cafes there sharing the same row with motorcycle spareparts and fresh fruits shops. I like it there more than the tourist oriented Main Bazaar- shops selling souvenirs, souvenirs and more souvenirs. It is as if the other shops at Main Bazaar do not have a chance to shine and were just drowned in the sea of souvenir (and Gambir and Kek Lapis Sarawak stalls) shops.

I found myself still having a soft spot for the shop that I have visited last week. I just want to show Farhana how awesomely retro the shop is; with some of its displays that are clearly in the same spot as they were placed 10 or 20 years ago untouched. That you know that you could find some rare bicycle parts that are no longer produced if you ask or find hard enough, hidden somewhere in the crooks and crannies in the shop. I was sure, though, that we will just look around there and I have totally no intention to buy anything from there. Just a peek and then we go.

I told Farhana, after we had Belachan Bihun at Song Kheng Hai which is just behind the bicycle shop actually, that there is this cool shop selling retro bikes used during our grandfathers’ era. But I warn her that the owner might be snobbish though, judging from my past experience. We went there with a metal preparation that we might be scolded for gau gau charn, mou pong chan (Cantonese, literally: Fool around (but) not buy anything; usually refers to people who walk into a shop and look through the merchandise but not buying anything). Imagine the surprise when we are greeted with a smiling face (though I must admit, I smiled first, rather involuntarily, probably it was my reflex of self-defense mechanism).

We were looking through the bikes; the same bikes that I have seen a week ago but now as I shut off my intention to buy anything from this shop, I lost all interest on all his stuffs.

“Yes?”, he asked, as Hana and me giving the Ooohs and Aaahs admiring one solid black bike there (mostly Hana, later I was influenced though: her telling me how it reminds her of the Tok Wan’s bicycle and how it makes her missing her grandfather more, looking at the bike, together with the fact that she did not see him for very long). It is a beauty, I suspected that the boss knew it and purposively placed it on the front side of the shop just to attract customers in. Just like why the place the fengshui waving cat in their shops; to bring in business.

I asked whether the bike is for sale.

“It is, are you interested to buy?”, he asked me suspiciously, knowing that youngsters my age usually ask for fun anyway, wasting his time and energy. I say yes, I am but he swiftly suggested that I buy one of the mountain bikes that he is selling there.-

“I sell it for RM 300. With that price you can get a decent mountain bike that I have back there you know. Hell, I didn’t even give a slight peek to those; everybody knows that the best goods are always placed in front of the shop, not those hidden or placed among others in a packed, space-saving way. The good stuff is here, right in front of me, enjoying the luxury of attention and space on the front side of the shop.

“No, I am not interested in those bikes, I am interested in this”, showing that black beauty while Hana still admiring the bike, caressing it with mouth gaping wide open, almost drooling. Then I explain with my cukup-cukup makan Mandarin with lots of struggle, that I actually have a “modern” bike at home but as it was too expensive to bring it here, I decide to get a new bike here. That I am looking for something different from the bike that I have already own, a different second bike and how much that I like bikes and that this one that he have here really fits my search.

Then it was his turn to talk, the been there, done that, seen it all, old timer’s talk. I knew the drill and I knew that there were a lot of interesting stories and things to learn from a guy his age. I do what a youngster like me should do in that situation. I kept my mouth shut and listen intently to his stories, with mild paraphrasing and nodding, metaphorically as fuel for him to go on.

“Bikes like these are good, they are built to last”, he said. “I have a friend who told me that he used to carry a huge gunny of pepper in between his legs as he was riding this type of bike, resting the gunny on it’s frame- I think that if you do that with any of these new bikes, the frame will give way to the weight in no time”. “Just look at this”, he said and then both of us and Farhana (nodding and smiling without understanding a single word I was having with the uncle) look at the beauty in front of us. I proceed to jentik the bicycle frame, producing the solid steel frame signifying the thickness of the things they used to make the bike.

“Bikes like this is slight heavier that the modern ones”, he said after I tried to lift up the bike with my hands in front of him. “But when it comes to durability, they win hands down”. I knew what he was saying, but I act amazed, just to make him feel happy selling it to me.

Upon inquiry, he told me that as long as he is around (still alive), there will be spareparts for my bicycle. I have to ask, most of the parts for these beauty cease to exist in many places, finding the parts would be a big challenge. Just as all good art and heritage, he claimed that none of his children wants to continue his business. “Young people nowadays want an easy life, they don’t want that makes their hands dirty all the time like this!” before proceed telling me what his kids are doing.

After we had our talk with the sifu, we left, while both of us having the bicycle on our mind. Hana seconded me if I were to get the bike, saying that RM300 is a bargain for a beauty like that. Suddenly we are afraid that if we do not get it now, the bicycle would be bought by other customers.

We turned back to the shop, after walking a few meters away. I placed a deposit and the uncles gave me two Saturday duration for me to get the bike or the money would be forfeited.

I went and claimed the bikes a few days later, on Tuesday, yesterday.

I can’t wait that long, the bike was waiting for me to pick it up.

I never feel like stopping the bike when I’m riding it and have been a happy man since my first ride on it.

Unfortunately, with the good news came a bad one: the camera that my father gave me when I came here kaputted on me. Here is how the bike looks like, perceived by the now fucked up kaput Sony camera. Sigh. I only had it for a few weeks and the stupid camera is doing this to me. DSC-T3 quality.


Look at the pictures, it bleeds. The bike at its (supposedly) full glory.


Look at the brakes..gorgeous.  But the pictures, damn.


Gosh…the picture are really fucked up.



Written by yuenkokleong

September 13, 2007 at 2:18 am

Posted in Days at Sarawak

One Response

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  1. I’m so sorry about the camera, dearie. Worry not so much about it as we’ll think of something to replace that ol’ cam. Besides, that only means you get to (or have to) write things more to describe your days there. As much as I’m a sucker for pictures (visual person), I also love reading your elaborate arty words because that’s your niche, hunney. Don’t be sad, ya, I’ll help as much as I can ^_^


    September 13, 2007 at 11:14 pm

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