As we commemorate one of the four great Chinese festivals my mind goes back to the days when Miri was just a fishing village with the ingredients of first trading just beginning to firm up. It was told that gongs were beaten to announce the arrival of this first Chinese trader each time he arrived at
Who was this first Chinese trader who arrived in Miri and started business? How did he trade? Did he use barter trading? Did he use cash of some kind? Did he prosper and settle down in Miri and marry and have children? Who are his descendants today?
An old Malay elder who was also the old Tua Kampong of Miri in the 50's used to tell this story:
Before the Oil Men came to Miri in 1910 the first Chinese Trader in Miri was called Ah Chong.
He was very much welcome by the Miriek villagers who lived in
Ah Chong seized the trading opportunity and took risks to establish his own niche here. He came by his own little rowing boat as
This first trader supplied all the necessary and daily necessities. Whenever he arrived bringing these goods and wishing to trade with the fishermen the villagers would beat their gongs to inform the others of his arrival.
On entering the Miri River he carried out his business on a small stream by the road which was later named Malay Street (Now the Centre Point of Miri). This area shown in the photo above could be the area where Ah Chong used to trade.
As the years went by the population of the fishing village increased with some inflow of Chinese and Arab traders . Several brought their families and settled down in this area.
A few shops sprang up including a pawn shop and an Arab shop. A gambling den was also part and parcel of the growing town ship.
More and more immigrants arrived having been attracted by the discovery of oil on Canada Hill. By the time the Oil Company was fully established there was already a bazaar consisting of a row of shops. the Oil Company Headquarters definitely enlarged the little town .
The stream has now disappeared due to urban development but the spot where Ah Chong first traded must have been the little space between the Angsana Road (the road is still there) and the Tamu Muhibbah .
According to a source "To commemorate the first trader who came to trade with the fishermen the Government named a street in Miri Town Puchong Road after Ah Chong. Puchong Road runs parallel with the stream where Ah Chong carried out his business..."
As we look up to the moon tonight let us remember how lonely Ah Chong must have been when he came along to Miri to eek out a living and having hopes of having a prosperous life.
Today the Puchong Road is no longer there. It has been renamed Padang Road (source: I contacted a good friend ). Thanks to him I have part of the story here for you.
Nowadays this area is the ever popular bus terminus for Miri. And where did Ah Chong actually live? Did he live in Claudetown? or somewhere else? How big was his rowing boat? Did he have a bigger boat and came on shore with a smaller boat?
Some mooncakes for Ah Chong!!