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Standing Strong for More Than 50 Years Aji – Iconic Bartender of Kota Kinabalu

Aji heritage
What is Heritage? It is a priceless benefaction, an inheritance. And why is it important? When something is being passed down, its history, values and significance is a passed down as well – thus a
heritage must be treasured and protected. Not only it becomes our responsibility to guard it, we must also appreciate it and enjoy every bit of its attributes and characteristics. In Sabah, we have many heritages. We are all very fortunate to be able to have the things that stood against time, and still lives to this very day. These businesses have survived for 50 years and more, so let’s look into its fascinating history.




Standing Strong for More Than 50 Years

The Heritage Enterprises of Sabah          Aji – Iconic Bartender  of Kota Kinabalu

The history of Tong Hing Group is unquestionably compelling and inspiring – but one cannot hear about Tong Hing Group without knowing about a man named Aji. His story is just as amazing and riveting, as he had worked for the company itself since way back in its golden days! Mr.Chai Yu Sin, or Aji, the name he is infamously known for, may be the oldest bartender in the whole South East Asia. Coming from humble beginnings, Aji joined Gardenia Restaurant in 1959 as a waiter when it was under the management of Tong Hing Group. Nothing held him back in his passion for learning, and Aji worked hard in improving English communcation, knowledge, and skills throughout his employment with the restaurant
His efforts proved to be triumphant when he eventually became a busboy, then a cashier, a barback and finally a position that earns him as an iconic figure in Kota Kinabalu – a bartender. Like fine wine, his experience matured and expanded over the years, which can be evident when you take a sip of the quality and exquisite wonder that is his concoction of cocktails.
In his time as a bartender, Aji has served those of royalty and greatness – the Queen Elizabeth of England, Prince Phillip, legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, Lady Mountbatten, and Sabah’s first two Chief Ministers Tun Datu Haji Mustapha bin Datu Harun as well as Tun Muhammad Fuad Stephens has all been his patrons. He has seen the coming and going of many memorable moments in his working journey as a bartender, in turn making him part of valuable history in Sabah. Aji exciting life were also features in the documentary video name Heart of Gaya Street by William Chiang.
With Aji perhaps we can learn a thing or two, when asked why or what makes him stay with the
company for that long? He says my boss ( referring to the late Datuk Wong Tze Fatt) was a very good
boss, besides I enjoy and love my job. Because of this job I got to know a lot of friends from around
the world. A few of overseas friends frequently come over here to pay me a visit, some of them are
the people I met in the 1950s and it can be emotional sometime he added. “all the years that I’ved
been spent in these company is been a good memories to me”.
Basically he learn the art of cocktails from the scratch, A Singaporean colleague taught him about the drinks and Cocktails Mix. He also read the art of being a good bartender through Books. As for the English language, he learned and improved it throughout the employment with the Restaurant.
He leaves us a quote to ponder..
“If Your Head Is Small , Don’t Wear A Big Head
Otherwise the Wind Will Blow It Away”
Tong Hing Supermarket
Tong Hing began as a coffee shop located on Bond Street in the 1920s that was run by Mr. Wong Toon Hiong. At age 5, his son Wong Tze Fatt and other family members joined him in 1926. Datuk Wong had a great vision, and labor of his passion, tenacity and willingness to learn is evident in how big the Tong Hing Holdings expanded today. The history of Tong Hing Supermarket and Datuk Wong goes, he had learned how to run the coffee shop and how to do accounts from his father. Back in the day, because it was located nearby a railway station, the shop was thriving with customers. And a time after that, the shop changed to a grocery store. Datuk Wong’s father passed on in 1943, and that was when he took over the shop. After the war, Jesselton (Kota Kinabalu) was established into the capital town of Sabah, earning prestige in which the shop then became Tong Hing Supermarket in 1959.
For more info:
Address: No. 55, Gaya Street, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.
Telephone: +6088 230 300
Business Hour: Open until 9:00AM to 9:00PM
                             Every Monday to Sunday
Yuit Cheong Coffee Shop


One of the oldest coffee shops in town, Kedai Kopi Yuit Cheong has stood for over a century. The history of how Kedai Kopi Yuit Cheong became what it is today is nothing short of awe-inspiring and incredible. Yuit Cheong was first built on Gaya Island in 1896. A fire destroyed the shops on Gaya Island in 1897, including Yuit Cheong, causing them to relocate to Jesselton, a town we now know as Kota Kinabalu. Then, Yuit Cheong’s proprietor . was Leong Kah Cheng, and they sold grocery goods as well back then. It was then taken over by Leong Kah Ching.

How Yuit Cheong Coffee Shop started off was when a cook from the Shantung Province missed his ship when he was sight-seeing in town. He then sought help from Shang Chau (a family member of the owners of Yuit Cheong) after having nowhere to go. And when he was at Yuit Cheong Coffee Shop, he noticed that the workers needed more refined teachings on baking. The cook then taught the workers very valuable bakery skills that they use to this day. This in turn attracted big crowds then who wished for delicious fresh bread made with quality at Yuit Cheong Coffee Shop. Needless to say, the shop became instantly famous after that! Yuit Cheong relocated permanently to Jalan Pantai in 1969, where they reside today and is run by Leong Che Chen, aged 86. Handed down by three of their family generations, Yuit Cheong Coffee Shop witnessed the great changes and growth of Sabah over the past 100 years through the rule of colonial government, Japanese Occupation, Chartered Company and the formation of Malaysia on September 19, 1963.

For more info:
Address: Lot 50, Jalan Pantai, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.
New Teo Seng


When walking at Gaya Street, New Teo Seng (Chop Teo Seng) is a shop you definitely won’t miss. Reminiscent of the 1950s, the shop retained its looks which adds a vintage appeal to it. New Teo Seng was originally located in front of the Horizon Hotel Kota Kinabalu. The shop sold multipurpose items as well as hardware items back in the day, and later offers household food items. To this day, they still maintain their wholesale distribution of grocery supplies to the outskirts of Kota Kinabalu like they did in the past. The family that owns New Teo Seng (Chop Teo Seng) is of Teo-chew descendent, and was run by Mr Chua Chang Teo. He was a sailor from China, who often make stops at Singapore and the land of Borneo. And now his daughter, Mdm Chua, who is now aged 61 years old together with her son Edmund Fung is slowly rebranding the shop into a souvenir shop for tourists and locals alike.

For more info:

Address: No. 118, Gaya Street, Kota Kinabalu



Hiap Aun Hardware Shop


The origins of Hiap Aun Hardware Shop was that they actually sold grocery goods in the past, and was located opposite Horizon Hotel Kota Kinabalu. This hardware shop is now managed by twin brothers Mr Oh, which they took over from their parents in the 1980s. After evolving into a hardware shop, they now sell reasonable priced hardware materials; you can also find some old advertising posters remaining in the shop still intact. The twin brothers now enjoy Harley Davidson bikes, where you can see one displayed in their shop!


For more info:

Address: No. 40, Jalan Pantai, Kota Kinabalu





Coffee Shops in Sabah have mainly been built by mostly the Hainanese people ever since the establishment of the country up until now. Opened by a former teacher Matthey Leong in 1962, the heritage shop FORTUNE has been the must-go visit and became culture for the local folks as well as working people nearby to have their breakfast here. Customers from their golden age still visit this coffee shop and seen in their faces is them reminiscing its glory days. For tourists that want to witness the “glory” of this shop, should be here before 9.00am during the breakfast hours. Cheap ready cooked noodles and stuffed tofu is the rewarding meal served here along with aromatic local coffee, Teh Tarik, and a sandwich made with Hainan bread with sweet coconut cream and margarine. The motion and sound of FORTUNE is an atmosphere worth every second. The family shop is now run by the eldest son in the family, and we hope the shop would go on for another century. In the afternoon, the famous and delicious Satay stall begins to barbeque chicken and beef meat in skewers.


For more info:

Address: Lot 53, Jalan Pantai, Beach Street