Friday, June 27, 2008

The Chinese Clogs - Cha Gia

Wasn't it some years ago when one could see the ladies carrying their rattan weaved baskets (in various forms and fashion) - talking about being green, in their dainty samfoo and walking to the Chinatown wet market. Wearing clogs, but of course.

Once there was a very picturesque shop selling clogs at Temple Street. When the streets were wet and dirty, the common shared kitchen in the houses in Chinatown wet and dirty as well, clogs reined. Clogs of all sizes for kids who started walking to the adults where there are different ones with different colours and designs. The ladies had their shapely hour-glass ones while the macho men might their tongkang (bumboat) lookalikes with tire rubber(?) for cover their feet.

And then, more tourists visited his shop than customers. And I suppose flashes from the cameras irritated the poor guy trying to earn a living that he declared - no photography! That was before the days when forms at 400 was considered the most sensitive ones and not to mention the digital cameras of today where flash is hardly necessary. Well, not for glamour photos anyway.

As the wet and dirty streets of morning market in Chinatown - that spanned Temple Street, Smith Street, Trengganu St, Pagoda Street and Sago Street too - became dry as the stalls were moved into the basement of the Chinatown complex, and the fashion of samfoo, and rattan baskets fade, the days of the humble clogs were too numbered. But actually, the wet market that had gone "underground" was still as wet and dirty and even slippery, and requires that "platform" shoe!

Today, getting a pair of the clogs is not as easy and walking to Temple Street to get one. I heard that long long ago, there was also one at Telok Ayer, run by a grandmother of a friend. But for many less than modern homes, the clogs are still useful. One could still pairs of them in the bathrooms. Gone were the days when in a typical common kitchen - visit the Chinatown Heritage museum to have a good feel of the kitche, alas, there were no signs of the clogs, I think - of such multi-family homes, there would be at least some 4 pairs of clogs, one for father, one for mother and perhaps, two for the kids, and they just shared even though the family size grew. There were just no space for so many pairs in the kitchen, a wet kitchen actually.

For the tourists, they would have to contend with the small souvenir ones that is still being sold in a small stall along Sago St. Perhaps, there are some bigger ones .. alas, they could be priced comparably to the designer ones.

Perhaps, one day, Chinatown might decide to have a catwalk of ladies in samfoo and clogs. Or would the fashion return? (^^)