September 22, 2010

Puchong Road of Miri

Today is the Moon Cake Festival for the people of Chinese ethnic origin. And hopefully the weather will be good enough for a full moon for all to appreciate. Moon cakes would be eaten throughout the day and those who adhere to ancestral worship would burn joss sticks . And in the evening lanterns would be carried around by children from house to house to mark the occasion. Some temples even stage an opera to entertain their followers. In most Chinese areas there will be lots of noise and celebration.

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 the village.

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 the village at the mouth of river Miri which was safe from the monsoon winds and further protected by a treacherous sand bar at the mouth of the river. Big ships could not sail up the Miri River as a result. The Rajah Brooke had his eyes on Claudetown (Marudi) and perhaps was planning to make it a big town as he did with Sibu. (London is also further up River Thames and not at its mouth)

Ah Chong seized the trading opportunity and took risks to establish his own niche here. He came by his own little rowing boat as the village was not on the trade route of the bigger boats which sailed from Kuala Baram to Marudi (then called Claudetown) which was the main trading centre in the northern region of Brooke Sarawak.

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.

Caption for the photo above :The Pelita Tunku viewed from Angsana Road. Puchong or Padang Road is between the Pelita Tunku and the Old Court Houses and runs next to the MMC Padang right up to Malay Street or Centre Point Area.

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!!


Bengbeng said...

i really wish u could have taken us around the last time we met i.e. the Borneo Tropical Rainforest thingy.. i know next to nothing abt Miri except that it is a place where u live :) a guided tour from u would b invaluable :)

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Bengbeng
Yes..I wish we had gone around and I can show you the nooks and crooks of is a very interesting place if one is interested in details and in getting close to people....I have yet to write about the Mirieks...Please come again...We have lelapan here...

sintaicharles said...

Great blog.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thanks Charles!! ?We should all try to write about our road names and other places of Miri.

sintaicharles said...

I know very little of them. It's interesting to get to know their history.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Yes...we must be interested in the real history of the past...people's stories are the most interesting.

Anonymous said...

Great someone is helping me to remember things Miri!!
Old man/avid reader .

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Anonymous
Thanks for dropping by...we can always help each other have good memories...and develop a powerful and good memory.

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