Translated by DOMINIC LOH
Sin Chew Daily
BAGAN HAILAM, Port Klang -- Many people may wonder where Bagan Hailam (the Hainanese Village) is. Actually, the village is located at the estuary of Klang River.
If you take a boat from Port Klang, turning right will bring you to Pulau Ketam and Sungai Lima, while a left turn will bring you to Bagan Hailam.
To get to this tiny fishing village adjoining the famous Northport, you either need to take a boat or drive past the industrial estates.
According to Oi Koon Drama Society's secretary Fu Xiangmin, the boat ride from Port Klang to Bagan Hailam used to cost only a meagre 5 sen each way, increased gradually to 30.sen and now one ringgit.
Steeped in history, Bagan Hailam has left behind a glorious chapter in the country's fishing history.
Some 40 fishermen dwelled in this village as early as in 1916, working hard to make a living from the open sea. The fishermen sent their catch to the market in Port Klang, and various businesses thrived here, in particular coffee shops and eateries.
Unfortunately, the good times didn't last forever, and the village has since gone into steady decline.
Today, we don't see fishermen going out to the sea to catch fish and fishing-related businesses are on the verge of winding up. Even the only school in the village, SRJK (C) Wu Teck, has been relocated to Bukit Tinggi 3.
Used to be a semi-subsidised primary school, Wu Teck was built on stilts beside the fishing village, and a thick layer of mud would accumulate underneath the school building whenever the tide recedes.
Back in those years, villagers rented a dilapidated wooden house and hired teachers to organise classes so that their children could get education. The teachers used the local dialect, Hainanese, to teach the students.
Across the sea from Port Klang, Bagan Hailam saw the arrival of first batch of Hainanese people hailing from China about a hundred years ago.
These Hainanese sailed to peninsular Malaya in 1913, some of them ending up fishermen in Port Klang, with around 40 choosing to stay at Bagan Hailam.
Owing to the Japanese invasion of China, many people escaped to Malaya in 1940, and Bagan Hailam saw a sudden surge in population to around 2,000.
Although these newcomers were unwelcome there, they insisted to stay on, and built their makeshift thatched houses on the swampy land beside the PKA Building today. They were later evicted by the government and moved over to the opposite bank of the river.
Thanks to the concerted effort of local residents, a new fishing village of merely 60 simple houses was christened, and was named Bagan Hailam because all the residents then were of Hainanese origins.