Friday, August 21, 2009
Kopitiam Kong Thai Lai
This is Tan Sri Loh Boon Siew's favorite table....
The old name sign board, Kong Thai Lai
The frontage of an ordinary kopitiam
Kedai Kopi Kong Thai Lai
Kopitiam Kong Thai Lai is an typical Penang coffee shop, Hainan style. It looks ordinary. What is so famous about this coffee shop?
It is located at a pre-war double storey shop at Hutton Lane, Penang. A walking distance from the T junction of Penang Road and Campbell Street. This coffee shop served the best kopi-o(black coffee or coffee without addition of milk). The shop is famous not only because of its coffee, but because of the story or history of its relationship with the famous personality, the late Tan Sri Loh Boon Siew, the richest man in Penang and the founder of Honda Motor.
Tan Sri Loh was a regular customer of the coffee shop. His favorite table was the first table when you enter the shop. It is an ordinary wooden table. Why not the marble top table at the center, or the tables at the corners? I believed it was his favorite because it has the view of the street, overlooking the activities of the street. May be the location of the table will provide him inspiration for his business venture, may be it will remind him of the memory of his old days as motor apprentice at Maxwell Road, where he frequently having kopi-o at an old coffee shop at the end of a hard day.
When we visited the shop, the table was occupied. Hay, what is the feeling of sitting at the table, where the late Tan Sri Loh had sat. Feel like a billionaire?
Tan Sri Loh frequently visit the kopitiam was because he still cherish his time relaxing at the coffee shop, when he was an ordinary person. May be the coffee shop was the place he make his first decision, that lead to his successful business career. He still want to be an ordinary person, the feeling and to regain the ordinary life that he had lost when become billionaire. He just want to be an ordinary person at the kopitiam.......
The life of billionaire is lonely, and an ordinary person is much better where you can talk of anything in the kopitiam. The favorite past time for old Penang resident is sipping cofee in kopitiam, talking about local politic, comment on international affair, the latest news in town, or just bullshit all the way...... nobody care, people just listen... with the same goal of passing time...
An ordinary life, that was what Tan Sri Loh lost , after become a rich man....... he may be lonely......he need simple friendly relationship...... at kopitiam, like you and me, an ordinary person,ordinary Penanglang(Penang people).. ...
Loh Boon Siew(1915-1995)
Tan Sri Dato' Loh Boon Siew 1915-1995 (Chinese: 駱文秀) also known as “Mr Honda” was a Penangite tycoon and the first sole distributor of Honda motorcycles in Malaysia.
Boon Siew was born in Hui-An, Fujian province of China(中國福建省惠安縣赤石鄉). He spent his childhood collecting pig dung (then used as fuel) to make a living. At age 12, he arrived in Penang in a small boat from China with 5 friends namely Loh Poh Heng and Loh Say Bee. He could speak only Hokkien (Min Nan) and had virtually no formal education. He worked as an apprentice car mechanic (earning three dollars monthly) upon his arrival. It is said that Boon Siew's sifu used to hit him in the head whenever he did something wrong. He stayed in a ‘coolie keng’ (workers' quarters) at 4, Katz Street, Penang and he supplemented his income by washing buses at night for 10 cents per vehicle.
At age 18, Boon Siew purchased 11 buses using his $2,000 in savings. He reconditioned the buses and sold them for $12,000. Next, he used the money he earned to buy another 39 buses. In 1942, during WWII, all his hard-earned money was confiscated by the invading Japanese army. But Boon Siew did not give up. After WWII ended in 1945 and the Japanese were defeated, he started selling bicycles, tyres and motorcycle accessories, and soon he expanded his business to used cars, transports and buses(Yellow Bus Company).
In the 1950s, Boon Siew made his first of many forays into property development with his friends Say Bee and Poh Heng by building residential villas in Taman Saw Kit in Penang. Today, his work is continued by his Boon Siew Group and new residential areas are currently being built in Casa Permai 2.
In 1958, Boon Siew noticed the widespread popularity of the Honda Super Cub motorbike which just introduce in Japan. He believed that this low-cost, high-efficiency machine would find a similarly receptive market in the rapidly urbanizing areas of Malaysia. Boon Siew arranged to meet with Mr. Soichiro Honda, the bike's creator, and quickly convinced him to set up a Honda subsidiary in Malaysia.
Not surprisingly, the first Malaysian Honda showroom was set up on Pitt Street in Penang, very near the home of Boon Siew. As a sign of their deepening bond of trust and respect, the Japanese Honda Motor Co Ltd soon appointed Boon Siew the sole distributor for Honda motorbikes in the country just as the historic first 50 units of Honda 4-stroke cub were being imported into Malaysia.
A factory was built in Penang to assemble the Honda Cub and the Honda motorcycle assembled in Malaysia was renamed the Boon Siew Honda. The Honda Cub became the best selling motorcycles in Malaysia and Boon Siew was recognised as the first person to bring the Honda Cub motorcycles into Southeast Asia. The popular Cantonese word Cub仔, which means "small (Honda) Cub" and is now a generic for small underbone motorcycles in Malaysia, originates from the Honda Cub.
In 1963, Tan Sri Loh listed his companies as Oriental Holdings Berhad. In 1970, he further ventured into plantation after acquiring estates formerly owned by Jardine Matheson.IN 1978, he ventured into Hotel sector by building a 40 rooms motel at Batu Ferringhi, Penang. Today the hotel venture has expanded ,it is now known as Bayview International Hotel & Resorts. In 1980s, the company ventured into manufacturing of the car components for export market in Thailand.
Tan Sri Loh died in his sleep at the age of 79 on Feb 16, 1995.
So you want to sit at the table, where Tan Sri Loh once sit ?
Places after his names:
- Jalan Loh Boon Siew( 骆文秀路)is named after Tan Sri Loh Boon Siew. It is a road between Burmah Road and Jalan Padang Victoria. Near Westland Primary School and Chinese Recreation Club(or CRC).
- Boon Siew Flat in Tanjong Bunga,
- Wisma Boon Siew, Butterworth.
- Boon Siew Group, a pioneer developer in Penang, is named after the late Tan Sri Dato' Loh Boon Siew.
- The Loh Boon Siew Scholarships from the Loh Boon Siew Benevolence Sdn Bhd
He contributed much to Lam Wah Ee Hospital and Penang Old Folks Home. He was the largest donor.
駱文秀路 王國的起點 傳奇一生成典範
1. Tan Sri Loh Boon Siew: the life and times of a fire dragon(2006), by Raymond Flower, Winston Lim, Cheng Yean Loh (Dato'.), published by SNP Editions.