Moiyan to Mauritius

My Koung Koung was encouraged to go to Mauritius by his own mother. He already had a sister who was established in Mauritius, and there were not many opportunities for him in Moiyan at that time. He had a job, but was paid only in food, lodging and one set of clothes per year.

So in 1936, at the age of 18, he set off with a group of about 100 people, for the island of Mauritius. They were taken by a guide who had briefed them about life in Mauritius; that there were many sugar plantations and that they would see Indian and Creole people when they arrived.

They took a riverboat from Moiyan to Swatow 汕頭 : 汕头 Shàntóu : San(1?) têu(2), a journey that took two days. From Swatow a bigger boat took them to Hong Kong (one day). They spent 2-3 days in Hong Kong and had to purchase their boat tickets for the passage to Mauritius. Below you can see that he took the SS Bontekoe, owned by the Dutch company Koninklijke Paketvaart Maatschappij (KPM) (Royal Packet Navigation Company). The cost of his passage from Hong Kong to Mauritius was HK$125.

It is not very clear on this scanned copy, but perhaps you can just make out the words 'Mui Yuen' listed as his Native Place.

I am pleased to have found some information about the 1936 Sailing Schedule for the SS Bontekoe. This image (below) is from the collection of Björn Larsson, who kindly allows others to feature his work on their websites. Thank you Björn Larsson! You can find out about other sailing schedules on his Maritime Timetable Images website. Do note that he does not have any passenger lists unless otherwise stated on the website, so please do not contact him with this type of query.

(If you are interested, he also has a website for his first interest, which is in Airline Timetable Images).

I wonder whether Koung Koung was given a copy of this? Perhaps not, since he would have been a 3rd class passenger and would not have been able to read it anyway!

Thanks again to Björn for emailing me the details of the sailing schedule (below). You can see that after the Bontekoe left Hong Kong, she called at Bangkok, Singapore, Batavia (now Jakarta) and Rodriguez, before arriving in Mauritius. She then went on to other destinations in East Africa and the Indian Ocean, before heading back to Asia. Koung Koung claims that they stopped off in India on the way, but perhaps he was mistaken and meant Indonesia (previously known as the East Indies)? 

On board the ship, they slept in bunkbeds and apparently ate Chinese food, which must have been a relief for a young boy on his first trip ever away from home! Koung Koung made new friends on board and for the most part the sailing was uneventful. Only before Rodrigues did they hit a storm - might this explain why his date of arrival is registered as March 24th, instead of the 23rd as was scheduled?

So one can calculate that the journey from Hong Kong had taken 26 days, assuming the date of arrival to be accurate. So began Koung Koung's new life in Mauritius.


A few photos from the SS Bontekoe during a slightly earlier period - 1924.

All taken from Wikimedia Commons and all seven photos licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Attribution: Tropenmuseum of the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT)

File: COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM

Een bemanningsld van de SS Bontekoe op de brug bij Makassar TMnr 60014368.jpg

A crewman of the SS Bontekoe on the bridge at Makassar

Date: 1924

Source: Tropenmuseum

Author: Unknown


File: COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM

Een dansfeest aan boord van K.P.M schip de S.S Bontekoe TMnr 60014345.jpg

A dance party aboard the KPM ship SS Bontekoe

Date: 5 October 1924

Source: Tropenmuseum

Author: Unknown

I'm guessing that even if these were still happening in 1936, Koung Koung wouldn't have taken part in them!!!


File: COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM

Het dek van de S.S Bontekoe nabij Paleleh TMnr 60014349.jpg

The deck of the SS Bontekoe, near Paleleh

Date: 1924

Source: Tropenmuseum

Author: Unknown


File: COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM

Het laden van kolen door arbeiders in het laadruim van de SS Bontekoe TMnr 60014371.jpg

The loading of coal by workers into the hold of the SS Bontekoe

Date: 12 October 1924

Source: Tropenmuseum

Author: Unknown


File:COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM

Het laden van sapi's aan boord van de KPM-stomer S.S. Bontekoe te Ampenan op Lombok TMnr 60014403.jpg

Loading cattle aboard the KPM steamer SS Bontekoe at Ampenan on Lombok [island]

Date: 24 October 1924

Source: Tropenmuseum

Author: Unknown


File: COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM

Karbouwen aan boord van de SS Bontekoe TMnr 60014380.jpg

Buffalo aboard the SS Bontekoe

Date: 1924

Source: Tropenmuseum

Author: Unknown


File: COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM

S.S. 'Bontekoe' in de baai van Gorontalo Celebes TMnr 10007901.jpg

SS Bontekoe in the bay at Gorontalo, Celebes (now Sulawesi)

Date: Unknown

Source: Tropenmuseum

Author: Unknown

I have to admit that the SS Bontekoe was a lot sturdier than I had imagined!