Have been to Pekan many times since my last posting on Royal Pekan. And time does apparently fly when you suddenly realize that that post was five years ago, way back in 2012.
(Please see Royal Pekan).
Looking back at what I had posted then, we had apparently visited quite a number of interesting places in and around Pekan, namely the Pulau Keladi Cultural Village (which was the childhood residence of Tun Abdul Razak, the 2nd Prime Minister of Malaysia and who also happens to be the father of the current Prime Minister, Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib), the Istana Abu Bakar (Abu Bakar Palace, the royal residence of the reigning Sultan), and the Royal Pahang Polo Club, amongst others.
Back then, we could not venture into the Sultan Abu Bakar Museum as it was undergoing renovations.
But as the museum adopted an ‘open space’ concept, we made do with the exhibits on show on the grounds of the museum.
But before there was the museum, there was a palace and it was called Istana Kota Beram and it was, at one time, the official residence of the late Sultan of Pahang, DYMM Al Marhum Sultan Abu Bakar Riayatuddin Muazzam Shah.
It began life as a two-storey building and made of wood. Built in 1888, it served as the official residence of the first British Resident of Pahang, Sir John Pickersgill Rodger KCMG, who himself makes for an interesting read.
As a matter of interest, the role of a British Resident is akin to being an ‘advisor’ to the reigning Sultan, and whose ‘advice’ are given, even when not sought.
Apparently, Sir JP Rodger was not only the first British Resident of Pahang but prior to his posting to Pahang, he was the British Resident to Selangor, having succeeded Sir Frank Athelstane Swettenham. When he left Selangor to take up the post as the British Resident to Pahang, he was in turn succeeded by Sir William Edward Maxwell.
His was succeeded in Pahang by Sir Hugh Clifford, and went on to re-assume the position of Resident of Selangor before being appointed as the British Resident to Perak.
He was succeeded as Resident of Perak by Sir Ernest Woodford Birch, who happens to be the son of James Wheeler Woodford Birch (or more famously known as JWW Birch), the first British Resident of Perak and whose claim to fame was to be the first British Resident in the Malay States to be assassinated.
JWW Birch’s assassination was the catalyst AND the excuse to up British influence in the Malay states, which includes political intervention, depending from which side of the divide you are from.
Why the digress? The names mentioned eg Sir Hugh Clifford, Sir Frank Swettenham, JWW Birch et al had left footprints in the historical annals of Malaysia.
For example, the assassination of JWW Birch led to long lasting British ‘interventions’ in the Malay States and ultimately, colonisation of the Malays states until independence in 1957.
Back to Istana Kota Beram, the two-storey wooden building was designated as the official residence of the British Residents to Pahang.
The wooden building eventually got replaced with a brick and mortar building in 1929 and as a sign of the times, it was converted into the military headquarters of the Japanese Imperial armed forces during World War II, which does not come as a surprise bearing in mind the circumstances at that moment in time.
It was only in 1948 that the then reigning Sultan of Pahang, DYMM Al Marhum Sultan Abu Bakar Riayatuddin Muazzam Shah made the building his official residence and re-named it Istana Kota Beram. An extension was added in 1954 and this extension was named ‘Balairung Seri’.
In Malay customs, the ‘Balairung Seri’ is normally where the Sultan grants audience to community leaders to discuss matters pertaining to the people under his rule.
DYMM Al Marhum Sultan Abu Bakar passed away in 1974 but not before efforts were underway to have a museum to exhibit important artefacts and exhibits of the State of Pahang, available for public viewing.
The proposal to have such a museum was mooted by Tun Abdul Razak, the 2nd Prime Minister of Malaysia and a son of Pekan itself.
It is also a matter of interest that Tun Abdul Razak himself was a nobleman and chieftain of Pahang, and being one of the ‘Orang Besar Empat’ of Pahang, a very major one at that.
Istana Kota Beram was converted into a museum and named after DYMM Al Marhum Sultan Abu Bakar, in honour of the late Sultan Abu Bakar, who had actually made Istana Kota Beram as his official palace of residence.
The Sultan Abu Bakar Museum was officially declared open in October 1976 by DYMM Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah, son and successor to DYMM Al Marhum Sultan Abu Bakar.
The museum housed many an exhibit related to not only the Royal Family of Pahang but also to the different communities that calls Pahang, home.
Weaponry of days of old, portraits of members of the Royal Family, articles of clothing, adornments and awards are just some of the exhibits made available for public viewing.
There are even exhibits that are testimony to the advent of Islam to the state, wood carvings, skin covered drums with some of these artefacts dating back a bit.
All these artefacts and exhibits are housed in two separate buildings linked by a covered walkway connecting the two buildings on the upper floor, with the temperature in both buildings kept cool to maintain the artefacts in good condition.
As we were making our way out through the courtyard lined with giant replicas of hilts used to adorn the ‘Keris’, we were told by helpful staff of the museum of the new museum next door : the Sultan Abdullah Mosque museum.
Inaugurated in 2016, it was opened to the public after three years of renovation works . We however passed the opportunity to explore that museum, opting to explore it the next time we are in Pekan again. Too much of a good thing only spoils the fun, as they say.
Making our way to the car park, we again passed by the exhibits on show. Imaginatively and creatively placed on the grounds of the museum, it never ceases to amaze us the creativity and ingenuity of the local tribes people of Pahang : from pieces of wood, horses graze, elephants trumpets and cranes wade by the water’s edge.
Very creative that. Very.
How to get there
By road :
via Kuantan (the capital of Pahang) from points north of Kuantan on the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia,
via Muadzam Shah from points south via Mersing as well as via Segamat, and
via the Gambang exit via the East Coast Expressway.
Closed on Mondays ;
Tuesday – Sunday : 9.30 am to 5.00 pm (except Fridays)
Fridays : 9.30 am – 12.15 pm ; 2.45pm – 5.00 pm
Malaysians : RM5.00 (Adults)
Non Malaysians : RM15.00 (Adults)
All images were immortalized using a smartphone camera and are the copyright property of Nachmeinemeinung.
Date : 2 December 2017