Monday, September 3, 2012


It was the day of the Hungry Ghost Festival.

Everybody were preparing for the  long weekend ahead and in the Merdeka mood.

A  fire broke out along Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock. 

We noticed the thick smoke billowing from the shophouse in front of our building. I immediately  guessed it to be the shophouses opposite Maybank where I used to get my lunch.
My thoughts immediately turned to the couple  who had throughout these years cooked lunch for those working around this area. I prayed that they and the coffeeshop owners are not  hurt. 

By the time I got down  to have a look, there was a huge crowd.  The staff from the nearby banks have been evacuated and I can see some people trying to remove their goods from the grounds floor of the shops.

The fire at its peak- thick billowing smoke and scorching heat- and everybody is trying to get the perfect picture.

The firemen came and were waiting to get the water supply- either the water pressure is too low or could not locate the fire hydrant while the fire kept spreading!.

Just a trickle

Powerful surges finally.

By the time they were able to control the fire, the 2 buildings were already destroyed.  These 2 buildings must have been more than 100 years old.

See the beautiful decorative craving on the wall.

 The coffee shop.

The fire started from upstairs of this new shop.

The eerily  quiet and aftermath of the fire- debris everywhere.

The cause of the fire was a gas tank explosion.  The shop has infact just been rented after being vacant for more than 1 year.  The landowner - a lady of 77 years old was killed when she could not escaped.  The other casualty is her son who jumped and fell with a broken spine.

Yesterday news reported that the heritage buildings around Jalan Sultan were being defaced by graffiti.  

In fact many more buildings around the Medan Pasar/Leboh Ampang area are more the 100 years old.

I felt sad that these buildings which  could have been protected by the Government as heritage site are being destroyed by fire in this instant case,  while some are also being mutilated/torn down/renovated the original facade by unscrupulous landowners/tenants. You only have to take a walk around this area to see the numerous business taken over by the foreigners. Are the businesses legal or what?   One of the shopfront even sell beef with the head and hooves and all in full view along the busiest road in this commercial business centre!   Come down on a weekend and you will be the foreigner in your own country!  Well,  enough being said about that issue. Let's hope the Government do something before all these heritage buildings are destroyed. 

I can sympathise with the foreigners wanting to make a livelihood in this country.  But what about our own people?   Yesterday, I saw the coffeeshop owners and the other vendors around  discussing their future.  I can see the bleak hope and despair and worry in their faces. 

Uncle and aunty had decided to give up cooking.  I really appreciate their hard work,making sure the foods are ready before lunchtime. Their food are freshly cooked and served hot!   On certain days, uncle's legs are giving him pain and yet he limped around to pack the lunches.  Both of them reached the coffee shop by 7.00 am. and by 8.00 am. the queue is already waiting for their economy fried meehoon and mee and then its on to the lunchtime crowds.

This is the 2nd generation of Chee Cheong Fun seller. His father had passed away of heart attack when he was still a young teen.  He and his mother took over the business from then on.  They set up their stall in front of the coffee shop every morning and business was brisk with the walk-in customers as well as those waiting to "ta-pao" their breakfast back to the office. They started selling again this morning and business is only limited to takeaway now and they said the bulk of the income is gone now.

 He is at  a loss what to do with his cakes now.

Soft and fluffy Chiffon cakes

This young man make these fresh cakes - nothing fancy- plain butter/chocolate cake and orange/coffee chiffon cake. Every morning, he bring his supply to the Pau Vendor in the coffee shop who helped him to sell them.
The Pau vendor is also another victim of this fire.  Even though he sells those commercially-made paus and dimsums, business was good especially in the morning.  This afternoon he was sitting under the tree selling those canned drinks and the cakes.

This deli  has been established since 1989.   Initially they were selling sandwiches, cakes and pastry and coffee.  It had changed hands since and now its Malaysian favourites- Assam laksa and western-style set lunches.  The owner has lost  his business while the staff have lost their livelihood.

What about the coffeeshop owners themselves?  The hustle and bustle of morning breakfast and  lunch are over for them now. They are still undecided whether they intends to start over again.  They are worried about the  rental-  they were paying RM5,900.00 and now who knows?

Well, looks like for the time being, I will have to hang up my "steel bowl" for lunch.   

My collegue and me were always joking about our "steel bowls" - be it referring to our lunch  or our jobs! (p.s. I mean after all our bosses are over 60 years they might want to retire!). Life is indeed unpredictable.         


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