Hardly any angpows now

Kong (black T-shirt) lamenting his woes to his fellow trishaw riders at Armenian Street in George Town, Penang. —Photos: LIM BENG TATT and CHAN BOON KAI/The Star

CHINESE New Year is one of the festive seasons where trishaw riders are able to earn extra money from angpows given by their customers.

Some riders have even received angpows worth hundreds of ringgit during the festival in previous years.

However, all that has changed due to the dwindling number of tourists as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and movement control order (MCO).

A trishaw rider, who wished to be known as Kong, 58, said he used to make an extra RM400 during Chinese New Year from the angpows he received from his customers.

“It depends on luck but I used to get at least an angpow a day during the festival.

“Chinese customers, especially those from China and Singapore, will usually give us angpows on top of the fee.

“We can get at least two to three trips a day.

“When there are tourists, there is hope for us, ” he said when met in Armenian Street, George Town, on Thursday.

A trishaw rider having a snooze as there are no customers along Penang Road.A trishaw rider having a snooze as there are no customers along Penang Road.

In line with the celebration, Kong said he used to decorate his trishaw with flowers and lanterns.

“Some riders even play Chinese New Year songs on their mini sound system just for the feel of it.

“Our business has been badly affected due to the pandemic and MCO.

“Many of us depend solely on this business to survive, ” he said, adding that he has been a trishaw rider for over 30 years.

For Khar Hooi Beng, 67, Chinese New Year is the time of the year where he can earn extra income due to the increase in number of tourists and the angpows he received from his customers.

“Some customers will give us angpows as a token of appreciation.

“We can easily get between two and three trips a day as there are many international tourists here for the festival.

“Since there is no cruise arrival now, our business has worsened, ” he said.

A row of empty trishaws parked along a once busy section of George Town.A row of empty trishaws parked along a once busy section of George Town.

Penang Trishaw Riders Association president Abdul Latiff Mohd, 74, said trishaw riders used to earn a lot more money during Chinese New Year as it is one of their peak business seasons.

“Our customers will usually give us more money during the festive season.

“We have a lot of tourists, both local and international, during the Chinese New Year period.

“Sometimes, we even get angpows ranging from RM10 to RM50 from our customers.

“However, the number of angpows has decreased last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We really hope that the virus can be contained soon so that interstate and international travels will be allowed again, ” he said.

Abdul Latiff also urged the government to include trishaw riders in the Perlindungan Ekonomi dan Rakyat Malaysia (Permai) assistance package, which was announced on Jan 18.

“There is a one-off financial assistance of RM500 for tourist guides as well as drivers of taxis, school buses, tour buses, rental cars and e-hailing vehicles.

“We are also in the tourism industry but why are there no allocations for us?” he questioned.

On Thursday, Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow announced a one-off special financial assistance of RM200 to trishaw riders.

“A total of 288 trishaw riders have been identified with an estimated allocation of RM57,600, ” he said.

In George Town, Penang, most trishaw riders operate at the Esplanade, Penang Road, Komtar and the heritage enclave in Armenian Street.

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