Could Kanowit become a ghost town?

By Patricia Hului
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This shoplot was built in the 1930s.

In the year 1851, Charles Brooke built a fort out of bamboo and timber in Kanowit, naming it after his sister, Emma.

The beginnings of Kanowit town began to grow around Fort Emma, and since then it has been witness to many historical events like the first and last time the Malay and Iban communities joined forces against the Brooke administration under Syarif Masahor of Mukah.

When the Borneo Post Adventure Team 6 (BAT6) visited Kanowit recently, I was reminded of a town in Disney’s movie ‘Cars’ called Radiator Springs. A popular stopover along the old US Route 66, it quickly became a ghost town after Interstate 40 was built as it bypassed the town.

Kanowit, a humble riverside town, might share the same fate with Radiator Springs once Kanowit Bridge is completed.

The bridge costing RM50 million involves the construction of a 2.6km road from the Durin/Kanowit road junction to Kanowit/Poi road.

Once complete, it will connect residents of Kapit and Song with Kanowit town and later straight on to Sibu. The chances that Kanowit will be no longer be a stopover town are quite high.

For now, however, the town still enjoys regular visitors from places like Dap or Majau who come via express boat.

While we were there, the coffeeshops were packed full of customers during lunchtime, indicating that the route was still well-used by travellers from Song and Kapit.

For us, we had lunch at a kopitiam owned by Chua Kie Soon, whom BAT5 had visited previously and were first introduced to GS-tea, a unique concoction with eight kinds of sour fruits.

After lunch the team proceeded to Kanowit bridge, the link between Kapit and Kanowit where construction was ongoing.

Despite a signboard stating the bridge was expected to be completed by June 2017, there is a possibility that the bridge will be complete ahead of schedule.


The junction to Kanowit with Durin bridge in the background


We bought local pastries like egg sponge cakes (top) and ‘chu nu piang’ in Sibu to snack on the road before heading to Kanowit.


We noticed a few houses located along the road to Kanowit did not have proper garbage bins to dispose their waste. Instead, they had makeshift platforms where they put their rubbish on top, presumably to prevent dogs scavenging through it.


The centre of Kanowit town.


The road to Sibu from Kanowit bridge.



The Kanowit bridge still in construction.


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