Thursday, January 12, 2017

Tranquillity in Bagan Hailam

Hailam Choon is Hokkien for Hainanese Village. This one sits on stilts by the banks
of the North Port of Port Klang.
PORT Klang's Hailam Choon (or Hainanese Village in Hokkien) is a century-old riverine village at the North Port of Klang. Known locally as Bagan Hailam, this village comprising cluster of wooden houses built on stilts and linked by concrete walkways, sits on the banks of the Klang Riverover looking the estuary.

This is one of the temples in the village. The concrete
structure sits on a boardwalk of timber

  Built along the swampland that was once filled with mangrove trees, this village is believed to be set up by the Hainanese immigrants in the 1900s. It used to be accessible only by rowboats from the opposite bank, where the Royal Selangor Yacht club now is. However in the 1980s, with the development of the North Port, tarred roads were built in to the area to cater to the logistical needs of the many industries set up here.
  According to a villager in his 60s, who came to watch me capture this tranquil estuary at the back of one of the temples here, Bagan Hailam was a thriving fishing community from the 1960s to the 1980s.
  "There were many houses here those days," he lamented. "We have three temples and come each festival to mark the birthday of their resident sages, people would come by the boatloads to pay homage or watch Chinese opera." He pointed out that during its heyday, there were almost 2,000 inhabitants in the village. Bagan Hailam even had its own Chinese primary school, SJKC Wu Teck, set up about a centuryago. The school had since moved to Bukit Tinggi in 2011, leaving an empty shell of the asbestos-roofed timber building as a stark reminder of dwindling populace.
  I was told that most families who had made their fortunes during Bagan Hailam's better years had moved on. Some of them had either sold "ancestral homes" or rented these homes to mostly immigrants working in nearby industries. Very few of the descendants of the original families still fish for a living.
  "Even the children of those now staying here have moved elsewhere," the man said.
  There are several seafood restaurants operating at the back of the houses here, fighting for survival with the bigger eateries that sit along the esplanade. I was told that the prices in Bagan Hailam are quite reasonable.
That's the Selangor Yacht Club at right
  Along the lower reaches of Bagan Hailam are commercially operated fishing ponds that draw a good crowd of anglers, especially during the weekends. On the other side of Bagan Hailam, along the road fronting the channel, is a recreational esplanade area known as Tanjung Harapan or Cape of Hope. This stretch is very popular with weekenders, particularly recreational anglers who are just happy to wet their lines.
  The currents along this stretch can be very strong and unpredictable, an angler friend says. At certain times of the year, the king tide can bring the waves right up to the road, he warned. Perhaps this was why Tanjung Harapan was once known among boatmen as Tanjung Gila, to describe its unpredictable temperament.
  BAGAN Hailam was thrown into the limelight on June 20, 1992, when a chemical tanker MV Chong Hong III, caught fire and exploded while discharging xylene at a chemical complex nearby. The incident, which claimed 13 lives, took place about 100m from Bagan Hailam and this had caused a mass evacuation of the villagers. The villagers were relocated temporarily by the authorities in case the fire spread to a fuel depot nearby. However, a number of villagers braved the fiery threat by staying back in the village to guard their homes from potential looters.

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