I can't let this week go past without this diversion to talk about the demolition of one of KL's most beautiful buildings, Bok House. I feel very emotional about the way an important heritage building is torn down because of the commercial value of the land. (Also see Elizabeth Wong's posts here and here and Dr. Rais'
You do of course, know the romantic legend of the house, right? If not here it is. (An adaptation of info from Badan Warisan).
Chua Cheng Bok arrived as a penniless immigrant from China with no education, and got a job in shop selling spices, but then decided to move into a business of his own.
At night, after his day job was done, he went to “Red Light Corner” at the junction of Ampang which was lit at night to prevent any traffic colliding in the dark, and there he mended bicycles and carriage.
Later he heard of an Englishman up country whose tin mine was going bust and who was about to sack his workers and return to England, and Chua bought over the mine. (Later when he was rich he voluntarily paid the Englishman a pension for the rest of his life.)
The story goes that Chua fell in love with the daughter of a rich man who lived in a big mansion on Jalan Ampang, but the father turned him down because of his humble origins.
Eventually he built a mansion just across the road, more beautiful and grander than that of the man who had rebuffed him. Perhaps it was to spite him. Perhaps (and I like to think this) it was to remind the daughter daily of his love for her.
The company that Chua founded was called Cycle and Carriage, after his humble beginnings in KL. Some of you may have heard of it!
The house was later used as a restaurant - Le Coq d'Or. I went to eat there a couple of times, and while the food didn't delight (steaks, chicken chop - not terribly well cooked ... but I loved the bombe alaska with sparklers embeded in it, which was a birthday treat!)
But it was the ambience of the place that delighted - the statues in the hallway, the sweeping central staircase, the very gothic light fittings, the age-stained oil paintings, the bathrooms with their imported British sanitary ware and one of the most ingenious showers I've ever seen (pipes sprayed water at the bather from every direction!) It was a museum piece, and one that should have been preserved. This photograph by Azrul Kevin Abullah* is sadly captioned "probably one of last times sunlight fell inside this house" is perhaps the most fitting memorial to a piece of KL's history now gone forever.
*His account of the house as it used to be, and more photos here.