ASEAN is changing rapidly -sometimes beyond recognition- and many of the region’s traditional icons are disappearing. Such as trishaws… A story from the New Strait Times and Pahang Tourism about the last trishaw in Kuantan, the provincial capital city of Pahang…
In the past, Ahmad Osman would join hordes of other trishaw riders for the National Day celebration in the state capital. But now, the 63-year-old is the last of his kind in the city. His peers have since moved on to other jobs which offer a fixed income. Ahmad still remembers the good old days of Merdeka past when he and other trishaw riders would be highly-sought after during the August 31 parade. He said that in the past, he and his friends would decorate their trishaws with Jalur Gemilang of various sizes.
“Those days, we (trishaw riders) would receive invitations to participate in the Merdeka parade in front of the Teruntum Complex. Everyone would be excited. Apart from dressing up the trishaws with the national flag, we would also be busy repainting the rides. “The trishaw riders’ association used to own a building along Jalan Besar; that was where we used to gather in the evenings to decorate the vehicles,” he said. Ahmad said it seemed like only yesterday that the trishaw riders still took pride of place in the parade.
“I guess I have to accept the fact that those wonderful years have gone,” he said wistfully. Ahmad acknowledged that the heydays of the trishaw business is long gone and its popularity has dwindled, leaving him as the only one still pedaling on. “Those were the good old days when the streets here were filled with colourful trishaws. Hotel operators often hired our services to bring tourists around town. The tourism office would also regularly invite us to participate in parades and cultural activities. “People used to queue up for our services. The 1998 economic crisis and the drop in demand forced many riders to gradually quit; also, most trishaw riders were well past their youth,” said Ahmad.
However, the years have done little to dampen his nationalistic pride. Ahmad still takes the trouble to decorate his trishaw with the colours of the Jalur Gemilang in preparation for each Merdeka. Ahmad, a father of two, said although his income is not much these days, he still gets calls for his services. “Sometimes, schools will rent my trishaw for when one of their staff retires.
They would rent it for several hours and provide a lorry to carry it into the school compound.” He hopes that the trishaw can be promoted as a tourism product, in anticipation of ‘Visit Pahang Year’ in 2017. “Maybe the tourism council can look into ways to revive the trishaw as part of the promotions for Visit Pahang Year. I’m not sure how it can be done but I’m prepared to assist if required.”