Ask anybody from Johor Bahru, most often lovingly referred to as JB, where or rather what is Sungai Segget, you would most likely be directed in the direction of JB’s main thoroughfare of Jalan Wong Ah Fook and to what looks like a very large drain flowing to the Straits of Tebrau.
That ‘very large drain’, for all sense and purpose, is the ‘notorious’ Sungai Segget and the reason behind its ‘notoriety’ can only be convincingly communicated by someone who would now be in their fifties and older.
The main thoroughfare of JB, Jalan Wong Ah Fook, is home to many of JB’s landmarks, landmarks that have defined the JB skyline going back to the early days of the last millenium. One is them is now famously known as City Square or CS, as the young folks would call it nowadays.
For the uninitiated, CS is a very large mall (by JB and anywhere else’s standards), complemented with an office tower atop what is universally agreed to be the priciest and choiciest piece of real estate in the city of JB.
In my childhood days, I remember going to the famous Pasar Besar of JB with my dad, located on that spot on what is now CS. It was always an early morning trip, for the Pasar Besar does its business very early in the morning and by lunchtime, would be almost deserted except for the few stalls upstairs. My dad would be the purchaser and I would be his ever trustee bag(s) carrier.
The Pasar Besar (or the Main Market) was a two-storied building with the downstairs section being the ‘wet’ section (and it was literally wet almost all of the time) for what is primarily vegetables, fish and poultry products. Upstairs was the ‘dry’ section selling beef, mutton, spices, condiments and the likes as well as coconut produce and one of the best morning wake-up call of the day, the smell of some of the most aromatic coffee beans being grounded according to the patrons’ specifications and to top it all, a special section cordoned off specially for patrons to sit down and, having done the household shopping for the day, rest to the joys of down-to-earth breakfast fare on offer. No frills, no thrills, just plain ole’ yummy.
Next to the main building was a bazaar offering what all bazaars offer. Like a maze, the bazaar also offered young dating couples many a choice location for dates, under the guise of enjoying some shaved ice delicacies and ice cream under those large beach umbrellas put into place with the help of cement blocks. Malls and supermarkets were a novelty then and going to the mall and shop at the supermarket was akin to an outing and a status symbol of sorts. Hence, the ever so reliance of the normal folks on the Pasar Besar and rely on it we did.
Back in those days, all drains lead to Sungai Segget and that being the case especially with the waste from the market, it is not hard to imagine the abundance of food on offer to the overwhelming joy of the rodent community. The growth of the rodent community was so pronounced that one day it was heavily rumoured that a large member of the slithering community has made Sungai Segget its home. It was never confirmed though, but as they say, there’s no smoke without fire.
What made Sungai Segget ‘notorious’ was the fact that Sungai Segget’s water levels was also influenced by the tides of the Straits of Tebrau. The mix between salt water and waste water does make for a very potent stink bomb especially when the tide is out. and a stink that made Sungai Segget well known throughout the country back then.
So notorious was Sungai Segget’s reputation that the authorities was forced to spend millions on efforts to spruce up the areas surrounding Sungai Segget but to no avail. The latest in the series of these sprucing and beautification attempts has just been unveiled, and this time, by the looks of it, hope is rekindled to ensure Sungai Segget’s ‘notoriety’ will be a thing of the past.
Note : All images used are by Shah Said, @ all rights reserved