Convenient shortcuts

Entrance to new walkway from Jalan Trus
If you work in the city, you will probably know how convenient it is to walk to City Square through a convenient covered walkway that leads directly into Level 2 of the mall.  Built adjacent to the Public Bank Tower, its smooth pavement, covered path and overhead bridge gives pedestrians an all-weather quick link between Jalan Wong Ah Fook and Jalan Trus.  

But long before this modern walkway existed, commuters between these two main roads and beyond used another convenient shortcut.

A reader of My Johor page, who is now a teacher, told me that as a schoolgirl, she lived in Jalan Lumba Kuda’s infamous Fifteen-storey Flats.  It was a landmark residential area, home to hundreds of families who lived and worked both in Johor Bahru and across the nearby Causeway.  These flats have since been torn down and the land is now occupied by the sprawling Iskandar Customs Immigration & Quarantine complex. 

She reminisced with me on how she and her sisters used to walk from home to school in Jalan Yahya Awal, first across a bridge that spanned the railway tracks, through the bus terminal and Bazaar next to the former Johor Bahru wet market and then across busy Jalan Wong Ah Fook.  They will slip between the blocks of shops into a damp and dingy walkway that led to Jalan Trus and emerge almost directly opposite the present Menara Ansar.

Entrance to old walkway from Jalan Trus
She and many schoolchildren who lived in town would then walk from Jalan Trus that linked to Jalan Gertak Merah and head for schools in Jalan Abdul Rahman Andak, Jalan Ayer Molek, Jalan Ngee Heng and Jalan Yahya Awal. 

If you tried this route by car today, you will notice that it’s an up-hill climb most of the way up so just think of how schoolchildren of yesteryears used to lug their schoolbags to walk this distance to and fro daily and in all kinds of weather.  For townsfolk, Bas Sekolah or school buses was unheard of and schoolchildren would stoically make their way to school and back safely each school day.

It was a time when parents entrusted school kids to the streets, knowing that they would be safe among other commuters and pedestrians.  There were fewer vehicles then and consequently less pollution and traffic hazards but the town’s school-going children were a special sisterhood or brotherhood who looked out for one other.  So even if there was the occasional drunkard, druggie or pervert lurking around, these street-wise children knew how to avoid or confront them. 

Midway on the quaint, old walkway
between Jalan Trus and Jalan Wong Ah Fook
The shops in the Bazaar stocked merchandise ranging from cloth, colour threads to Manila cardboard so it’s a handy one-stop shopping area for any urgent art and craft needs. 

One of the favourite hang-outs in the Bazaar must be the food stalls at “Round Table,” so named probably because of its round tables where patrons would sit to enjoy refreshing ice-kacang and spicy rojak.  Today, this bustling Bazaar, bus terminal and wet market are gone and the ultra modern City Square now stands in their place. 

So if you are in the city, make it a point to check out this ancient open-air walkway between Jalan Wong Ah Fook and Jalan Trus and see for yourself how it still provides a convenient alternative shortcut for shoppers, office workers and pilgrims to the Johor Ancient Chinese Temple.  And when you step on those old flagstones, worn smooth by the footsteps of generations of pedestrians, remember you are actually on one of Johor Bahru’s charming historical trails.  

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Johor Streets in July 2009

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10/04/2011

    Thanks Peggy! I recalled how my dad used to hold my tiny hands walking across this old walkway after visiting Dr Ho's Jalan Trus clinic to Sungei Segget bus stops to take the Alec bus home in Century Garden back in the mid-70s.