I STILL remember that day in 2004 when news spread that an icon of Kuching and indeed Sarawak, the Satok Suspension Bridge or Jambatan Gantung as many of us knew it, had collapsed.
I was one of many Kuching folk who drove to where the bridge once stood to stare in disbelief. So many of us did the same that it was quite hard to find a place to park.
The area was packed out for quite awhile and weeks, and perhaps months, after, some people still drove to mourn its collapse. I remember friends from out of town actually scheduled time specifically to see what was no longer there!
It was strange I guess for most of us to feel so sad that the bridge built in 1926 during the reign of Rajah Vyner Brooke was gone. I am not sure what we expected to see, but I guess we all needed to see the empty section with our own eyes.
If memory serves correctly, before the bridge fell pedestrians were no longer allowed on it, although the odd angler would still insist on trying their luck from there.
Even when we could still cross the bridge, most of us hadn’t done so for years.
I used to cross the bridge as a child whenever any visitors dropped by our place. It was like a treat as we would take our guests across the bridge to admire the view of the Sarawak River and my parents would reminisce of the days when they used to walk across it or cycle on their way to Red Bridge in Matang for picnics!
Even the younger kids who never walked across it would remember admiring it from the Tun Abdul Rahman Ya’kub bridge as they crossed to Petra Jaya and listened to stories of their elders’ memories of it.
I suppose that is why its collapse affected so many of us. It played a part in our childhood memories or that of our youth.
Recent news that the Public Works Department (JKR) is going to restore this icon really sparked my interest.
The plan is to rebuild it as close as possible to the original designs, and when reopened it would remain for pedestrians only.
That’s such a great plan because it will mean operators can put the Satok Bridge back on tourism itineraries.
Although it would not be the bridge of 1926, it will still be great for new generations of Kuching folk and Sarawakians to have their own memories of the new bridge and to be able to share in the memories of their elders.
How The Star reported it:
Restoration of iconic Satok pedestrian bridge to be done by JKR after study, says Tourism Minister
By YU JI
KUCHING: Sitting in Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg’s case file for this week is an old photo of the Satok pedestrian bridge — or more famously known as jambatan gantung.
In the photo’s caption, taken from Facebook, a tourist had several days ago written: “This reminds me of Europe. Who knew this was Satok!”
The bridge, one of the first suspension bridges in Sarawak when it was build in 1926, broke on October 7, 2004. A heritage of Sarawak River — and indeed to the state — Johari said the pedestrian bridge would be rebuilt.
“The Public Works Department (JKR) is planning (on its restoration). It’s being studied how we are going to do it. We are looking for funds,” Johari told a press conference here yesterday.
“I really want to solve this ‘problem’ quite fast. We are getting more tourists; next year is going to be a big year of us,” he added, referring to the 50th anniversary since the formation of Malaysia — when Sarawak, Sabah, Singapore and Malaya merged to form the country.
“By then, we hope to get the aviation policy sorted out, and things (like the bridge) hopefully will be part of the attractions.”
Johari said he had thought for “quite some time” about what to do with the broken suspension bridge. He said it would be rebuilt as close as possible to the original designs, and would remain its usage for pedestrians only.
“I agree with the Facebook user’s comment. The photo I saw from the archive was taken from an angle where you see the pedestrian and concrete bridge side by side. I thought of Budapest in Hungary when I saw the photo. I know most Sarawakians of the older generation, including me, have memories about the bridge.”
The minister was speaking at a press conference after an earth- breaking ceremony for the building of three marinas along Sarawak River.
Johari was prompted to speak about the bridge when towards the end of the question-and-answer session with reporters, a local community leader, Kassim Daud, stood up to say he wanted to “suggest something” to the minister.
“I am a long-time resident of Kuching. The Government spends a lot of money to build new things, but we should maintain old structures also. This (Satok) bridge should be rebuilt. I remember another minister who promised to rebuild it, but that had not been done,” Kassim said.
For the community leader, the bridge was a meeting point among friends when he was young.
“We did a lot of “acting” along that bridge. We had so much fun. It also cost us nothing to walk across Sarawak River. I really think it should be restored. My other suggestion is that the railings should be higher to prevent accidents.”