New sights on old streets

An anniversary celebration is a good reason to get together and the 90th anniversary of our alma mater is even a better reason for a reunion of former schoolmates.

Our friends at school's 90th anniversary celebration
Months ahead of the grand celebration planned with 90 banquet tables in a local restaurant, tickets were sold out.  With last minute registrations, the organisers went all out to get the restaurant to fit another three tables into the ballroom for the celebration.

My schoolmates and I talked about this special event when we met during our annual Lunar New Year gatherings and everyone indicated their interest to come for the school’s anniversary celebration scheduled in August.  Through email exchanges, 28 confirmed attending and I went ahead to secure our tickets for the banquet.

Friends at Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, JB
Friends, who have moved away from Johor Baru to live abroad and in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Kota Kinabalu, made their way back to JB for this grand reunion.  While some had to leave immediately after the banquet, some decided to stay for the weekend.

When they came back for annual festivals, most of them would be preoccupied with family events but this time when they were here for our school’s anniversary celebration, these girls were ready to spend more time together.

Knowing that the banquet dinner would end late on a Saturday night, I suggested to have a slow start the next day and meet for lunch before exploring new sights in familiar old roads.  It was an open invitation to all who wanted to venture out for a walk to see what’s happening in the area that was developing into an interesting heritage quarter.

Buz Walker-Teach with the girls at Eh He Gallery
Some of our friends already had plans for lunch but they agreed to meet later for dinner.  But a bunch who were keen to rediscover this part of JB, jumped at the opportunity for a walkabout in Jalan Tan Hiok Nee and Jalan Dhoby!

I thought that it was good for my friends to start by enjoying the art displayed in the Johor Architectural Sketches Exhibition which was then on in Eh He Gallery, to get a glimpse of some buildings and sites familiar to them.  And I was right!

They just couldn’t help admiring the sketches of the two different artists who interpreted the details of JB’s old buildings so distinctly and beautifully.  And while we were enjoying the exhibits, who should walked into the gallery?  It was none other than Buz Walker-Teach, one of the artists being exhibited here!

Signage at the corner of Jalan Tan Hiok Nee and Jalan Pahang
It was my pleasure to introduce my friends to Buz and I guess, it was his pleasure to show them some of his work and share his thoughts about those sketches.

Then we trekked upstairs to experience the aural exhibit at the Classic Accents Art House as well as the art by some of the artists in the Eh He team.  And who should walk in while were there?  It was Yap Leong, Eh He’s Art Director, and he was delighted to share some highlights of the exhibits with my friends.

It was good to surround ourselves with so much creativity but it was time to fill our stomachs so we made our way out into the afternoon sun.  Hiap Joo, the traditional charcoal bakery was closed that day so we walked up the road towards the iconic Red House at the corner of Jalan Pahang and Jalan Tan Hiok Nee.

Outside The Replacement Lodge & Kitchen, Jalan Dhoby
We discussed lunch options in the area and as we rounded the corner to Jalan Dhoby, I made a beeline for The Replacement Lodge & Kitchen and the rest followed me towards its whitewashed façade.  It looked like we were not the only late lunch guests because the café was crowded!

Once we made our request for a table, we sat outside while they cleared and set it for us.  I was recently introduced to the menu in this little café and I thought it would be just nice to have a meal and coffee while waiting for Elizabeth to join us.

She came along shortly and after we enjoyed our meal, we headed back to Jalan Tan Hiok Nee.  All of them have not been to the JB Chinese Heritage Museum and I suppose this was a good time for a tour. 

Eric Tan [Right] replying to queries from my friends
Along the way, we popped into Evangelione where Hwee Ling, our friend who is a doll collector, met with JB’s doll maker, Yeo Mei Ying.  It was fascinating to see some of her unique handmade creations and miniature doll’s house, clothes and shoes!

Then we went across the road to look at the art displayed in Art52Gallery.  Eric Tan was happy to show us some of the new work by artist, Grace Lim – who happens to be his wife – and answered my question about that persistent little cat which appears in most of her paintings!

My friends with the team at Pockets
At the JB Chinese Heritage Museum, I pointed to the guest book and asked my friends to sign in with their comments after the tour.  At the counter, I met David, the curator, who was with an assistant who collected fees from my friends and issued the tickets but David waived the fees for me.  I laughed when he said that he should be paying me because he’s aware that I not only often bring visitors to the museum, I also give them a guided tour!

After we completed the museum tour, my friends took time to write in their comments in the guest book.  Just next door, we discovered Pockets, a specialty shop with an eclectic collection of interesting but useable items.  The young men manning the shop were probably just as curious about our group and when I introduced myself, they were clearly familiar with My Johor Stories!

The group with Jeffery Yong [Left] outside Pockets
Jeffery Yong and his associates at Pockets asked that we take a photo together and we happily obliged and posed for a shot with these young men…

All this fun is making us thirsty and Table for Two, a few doors down the road seemed like a cosy café for a drink.  Once we were assured that they have tables for more than two people, we fitted ourselves around two small tables.  It was amusing to discover that their menu even offered nostalgic Coke floats and iced-lemon tea thirst quenchers!

Time has simply flown by while we explored the new sights on these old streets and reminisced of a bygone era.  It was just so long ago when we were students who walked these roads to go to the public library, a building that was situated at the current site of the City Council Office, next to the main Post Office. 

A drink at Table for Two, Jalan Tan Hiok Nee
Our favourite stopovers along Jalan Ibrahim must be Johor Central Book Store, Ee H’ng provision shop that had a café that served ice-cream and refreshing ice-kacang and Kerala Restaurant for a quick snack of freshly made dosai.  All these no longer exist here.

This interesting and informative day together culminated with a dinner rendezvous where we continued to reminisce of the good old – bad old days and caught up with each other on our lives, families and careers in KL, Singapore and elsewhere.  

Catching up over dinner at Pot's Industries, Jalan Skudai, JB
It warmed our hearts that the bonds of friendship formed in our youth, remains a firm foundation for the special relationship we treasure now and for always.

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