Category Archives: Culture

Royal Pekan Revisited : The Sultan Abu Bakar Museum

Sultan Abu Bakar Museum - Entrance
Entrance to the Sultan Abu Bakar Museum. (@ all rights reserved)

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.

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Wooden cranes wading by the water’s edge. (@ all rights reserved)

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.

Wooden Elephant
The wooden elephant of the Sultan Abu Bakar Museum. (@ all rights reserved)

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

Wooden Horses
The Wooden Horses of Sultan Abu Bakar Museum, Pekan, Pahang (@ all rights reserved)

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.

Exhibit - Museum Sultan Abu Bakar, Pekan
A metallic exhibit of the Sultan Abu Bakar Museum. (@ all rights reserved)

 

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.

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View inside the museum, as you walk up the staircase. (@ all rights reserved)

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.

Sultan Abu Bakar of Pahang - A Portrait
The portrait of DYMM Al Marhum Sultan Abu Bakar Riayatuddin Muazzam Shah of Negeri Pahang Darul Makmur (@ all rights reserved)

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.

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An assembly of Keris adorning the wall of the museum. The Keris is a weapon indigenous to the Malays and can be found almost everywhere in the Nusantara. The Malays of old would wear his Keris in the same manner as a Samurai would wear the Katana, the samurai short sword. Today, it most oft makes an appearance during weddings, worn by the Groom as part of his attire. (@ all rights reserved).

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.

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Assortment of exhibits at the Museum Sultan Abu Bakar of Pekan, Pahang. (@ all rights reserved)

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.

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Portrait of DYMM Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah ibni Al Marhum Sultan Abu Bakar Riayatuddin Muazzam Shah (@ all rights reserved)

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.

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The Ladies of the Pahang Royal Family (@ all rights reserved)

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.

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A replica of the Hilt of The Keris. (@ all rights reserved)

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.

Opening Hours

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

Entry Fee

Malaysians            : RM5.00 (Adults)

Non Malaysians    : RM15.00 (Adults)

Images

All images were immortalized using a smartphone camera and are the copyright property of Nachmeinemeinung.

 

Date : 2 December 2017

 

 

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The Mah Meri Of Carey Island

This way to the Mah Meri Cultural Village. The Mah Meri welcome board has the Mah Meri saying which roughly means 'If People Are Willing to Come, then we are willing to be good hosts'.
This way to the Mah Meri Cultural Village. The Mah Meri welcome board has the Mah Meri saying ‘Hak Lebak Jug Rumput, Hemak Tibak He Sambut’, which is roughly translated as ‘If People Are Willing to Come, then we are willing to be good hosts’. (@ all rights reserved)

I have heard of the Mah Meri tribe of indigenous people ever since I started work in Shah Alam back in the 1980s.

Back then, at almost every cultural function, be it at state-level or federal-level, the Mah Meri of Carey Island were always present to grace the event with their cultural dances.

Welcome to the Mah Meri Cultural Village. It was officially opened in (@ all rights reserved)
Welcome to the Mah Meri Cultural Village. It was officially opened in 2011 and is still open for business today. However, the Village needs sprucing up, increased publicity and professional management. (@ all rights reserved)

I have never set foot on Carey Island. Looking back, a combination of ‘poor’ excuses was the main reason why I never made it to Carey Island til date.

But the time has come for me to rectify that sorry state of affairs.

The grounds of the Mah Meri Cultural Village. The Village is well looked after. (@ all rights reserved)

The grounds of the Mah Meri Cultural Village. (@ all rights reserved)Despite it being a long Christmas weekend, I had decided not to travel back to my home town of Johor Bahru, as I would have normally done otherwise.

The Panga is made from wood and long leaves and is used as an altar. It is used by members of the Mah Meri to place offerings for the departed. (@ all rights reserved)
The Panga is made from wood and long leaves and is used as an altar. It is used by members of the Mah Meri to place offerings for the departed. (@ all rights reserved)

The thought of all that traffic, with its more than its fair share of F1 wannabees, Malaysians or otherwise, weaving in and out of traffic, just did not appeal to me.

So instead, my wife and son number 2 made the journey up north, to keep me company for the duration of the holiday break.

As for me, I was determined to make that long-awaited trip to Carey Island and try to get to know the Mah Meri tribe etc etc, as if I can do just that with one visit.

It was a journey into the unknown really. At least for me that is.

The 'Balai' or the spirit house, is used by the 'Bomoh' whenever a spirit healing ritual is done. (@ all rights reserved)
The ‘Balai’ or the spirit house, is used by the ‘Bomoh’ whenever a spirit healing ritual is done. (@ all rights reserved)

And with my wife as navigator and Son No.2 as 3rd Officer, we got into the car and before we know it, we were already on the South Klang Valley Expressway (or SKVE) heading towards Carey Island.

The use of the Balai in the healing of the 'sick' is described in this narrative. (@ all rights reserved)
The use of the Balai in the healing of the ‘sick’ is described in this narrative. (@ all rights reserved)

The first reality check for me was that it did not take long to get to Carey Island.

Second, Carey Island is no more an island. I was half expecting to get on a ferry to cross over from the mainland to Carey Island.

But that was not the case.

An sample of the Mah Meri's well known prowess in wood carvings. The Mah Meri's wood carvings tend to be of spirits from the spirit world. (@ all rights reserved)
A sample of the Mah Meri’s well-known prowess in wood carvings. The Mah Meri’s wood carvings tend to be of spirits from the spirit world. (@ all rights reserved)

I did mention that Carey Island is now no more an island, didn’t I?

Well, apparently, Carey Island was an island in the old days and yes, you have to cross a body of water (not that large apparently) to get from the mainland to Carey Island.

A visit to the Mah Meri Cultural Village is an education in itself. The narrative here narrates the origins of the Orang Asli (or the indigenous people) and the different groups. (@ all rights reserved)
A visit to the Mah Meri Cultural Village is an education in itself. The narrative here, in Bahasa Malaysia,  narrates the origins of the Orang Asli (or the indigenous people) and the different groups. (@ all rights reserved)
In English (@ all rights reserved)
In English (@ all rights reserved)

But with progress came a bridge.

That as well as the presence of several large oil palm plantations., making the transportation of either oil palm fruits or processed palm oil, so much the easier.

The bridge must have been so nondescript that I barely noticed it, and assumed that it was just another bridge.

Silly me.

Maybe the authorities should put up a signboard to say ‘You are now entering Carey Island’ or something like that, to tell us Carey Island first-timers that we have finally reached Carey Island.

Admittedly, I have not done any research before making the trip to Carey Island and therefore, I would not know what to expect nor where to go on Carey Island or what is there of interest at Carey Island EXCEPT for the existence of a Mah Meri Cultural Village.

We found the Mah Meri Cultural Village with no problems at all, without the aid of Waze or Google Maps. Ample signboards will direct you there, safe and sound.

A visit to the cultural village, as I found out to my delight, is that they do not only display cultural artifacts but also describe the origins and beliefs of the Mah Meri.

The story on the origins of the Mah Meri. (@ all rights reserved)
The story on the origins of the Mah Meri. (@ all rights reserved)

Historically, it is said that the Mah Meri were originally from Kota Linggi in Johor Lama.

When the then Sultan Mahmud or better known as Sultan Mahmud Mangkat di Julang, was assassinated whilst being palanquined to the local mosque for Friday prayers, the exodus of the Mah Meri from Johor Lama began, to avoid getting dragged into the ensuing power struggles following the Sultan’s assassination.

Exhibits on display at the Mah Meri Cultural Village's gallery. (@ all rights reserved)
Exhibits on display at the Mah Meri Cultural Village’s gallery. (@ all rights reserved)

Their journey ended when the Mah Meri finally settled in the Klang / Carey Island area, where they can be found til today.

Reading through the materials on show, the Mah Meri happens to be a sub tribe of the Senoi indigenous people.

The Senoi happens to be just one of the three main tribes with the other two being the Negrito and the Melayu Proto.

All in all, there are in total three (3) main tribes, made up of eighteen (18) sub tribes.

A wood carving of a spirit from the Mah Maeri's realm of spirits. (@ all rights reserved)
A wood carving of a spirit from the Mah Meri’s realm of spirits. (@ all rights reserved)

Mah Meri literally means ‘people of the jungle’ : Mah meaning ‘people’ and Meri meaning ‘jungle’.

However, Mah Meri can also be said to be ‘people of the sea’ as they mainly tend to reside near the shores of the sea or by the edges of the rivers.

It may be a bit confusing but there it is.

The Mah Meri are said to be mainly animists. Living in the jungle or by the riverbanks or by the waterfronts, it is not a surprise that they have strong belief and links to the spirit world.

Some of the wood carvings of the Mah Meri, which is evidence of the Mah Meri's woodcraftmanship.
Some of the wood carvings of the Mah Meri, which is evidence of the Mah Meri’s woodcraftmanship.

For any community that lay claims to strong links with the spirit world, the shaman or ‘bomoh’ is a key member of that local community.

Especially whenever there are illnesses, unexplained or otherwise. And the Mah Meri is just that.

The Mah Meri are also very good wood carvers and many of their wood carvings have found a place in display cabinets around the world, never mind the country.

However, it is to be noted that, as with any communities who professes strong linkages to the spirit world, many of these wood carvings tend to portray different members of the spirit world, with some of these carvings can be found to be on display on the grounds of the cultural village.

More samples of the different wood carvings of the Mah Meri. These wood carvings are, most often than not, of spirits of the jungle and of the spirit world, according to the Mah Mari. (@ all rights reserved)
More samples of the different wood carvings of the Mah Meri. These wood carvings are, most often than not, of spirits of the jungle and of the spirit world, according to the Mah Meri. (@ all rights reserved)

A word of warning though. For those who are easily impressionable, beware, for these carvings can be quite descriptive.

Apparently, there is a lot more to discover at Carey Island. But we leave that for our next trip to the island, which is no more an island but is still named as an island.

Go figure.

 

Date : 12 February 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

Muzium Negeri Terengganu (The Terengganu State Museum)

The Terengganu State Museum (@ all rights reserved)
The brochure for the Terengganu State Museum

My wife and I have this thing about museums. Some I like, some she likes, some we both like and some we both don’t like.

I guess it got something to do with the museum itself – the concept, the layout, the museum’s choice of exhibits, its ambience and that little unquantifiable thing called ‘the X-factor’ that makes or break a museum for visitors to the museum.

When we were in Kuala Terengganu or KT as it is more commonly known, recently, it came to our knowledge that the Terengganu State Museum is located nearby at a place called Kg Bukit Losong, Paloh, which is actually in KT itself.

Why the big deal about the museum? Well, when we last there in 1996, the Terengganu museum had yet to officially exist then.

Map - Terengganu
Map – Terengganu

And being a museum, it could be said to be the place where one can get a crash course in local history ; a fun and very interesting way to learn about all things local.

As we made our way there, we discovered that not far from the museum itself, is another of KT’s tourist attractions namely the Taman Tamaddun Islam (literally translated as The Islamic Civilization Park).

For the uninitiated, the main attraction as far as Taman Tamaddun Islam is concerned is the famed Crystal Mosque. But that is another story and another post.

Entrance ticket to the Terengganu State Museum (@ all rights reserved)
Entrance ticket to the Terengganu State Museum.

Since it is our very intention to make our stay in KT this time around as memorable and enjoyable as it can possibly be, and to take the opportunity to explore what the transformed KT had to offer, we made plans to visit the Terengganu State Museum first and, weather permitting, amongst others, the Taman Tamaddun Islam later.

After making our way to the museum and parking our car in the more than ample parking lot, we made our way to the museum’s entrance proper.

As we made our way towards the museum’s entrance, it dawned on us that this museum is HUGE and IMPRESSIVE.

Layout of the Terengganu State Museum. (@ all rights reserved)
Layout of the Terengganu State Museum. (@ all rights reserved)

One could not help but notice that a lot of effort and expense had been invested to make this museum live up to its status as THE state museum.

The landscape is tastefully done, with the pathway leading to the museum’s entrance preparing the visitor for what should be a fun day at the museum.

We paid the entrance fees at RM10 per adult (circa USD2.50-USD3.00), took a complimentary copy of the museum’s brochure and started our exploration of what is the Terengganu State Museum.

Approaching the Terengganu State Museum's from the side. (@ all rights reserved)
Approaching the Terengganu State Museum’s from the side. (@ all rights reserved)

Reading from the bits of trivia that is the brochure, it was stated  that the museum was designed by a well-known Malaysian architect, YM Raja Dato’ Kamarul Bahrin Shah, who also happens to be related to the royal family of Terengganu himself.

The museum was officiated on 20 April 1996 by the late Sultan of Terengganu, AlMarhum Sultan Mahmud AlMuktafi Billah Shah and is built on 23 hectares of land.

Local Malay architecture forms the basis for the design of the museum, with the concept based on the local architecture of the ‘Rumah Tele’ or ‘Rumah Bujang Serambi’.

Terengganu State Museum - Side View (@ all rights reserved)
Terengganu State Museum – Side View. (@ all rights reserved)

The museum itself is made up of nine different galleries : the Royal Gallery, the Historical Gallery, the Textile Gallery, the Islamic Gallery, the Handicraft Gallery, the Natural Resources Gallery, the Shipping and Trading Gallery, and the Fisheries and Marine Parks Gallery.

My favourites in any museum that I have visited have always been the history of the state, how it came to be, its politics, its administration, the personalities who helped shaped the state, its weaponry and its culture.

The Batu Bersurat of Terengganu. About 700 years old, it is evidence of the presence of Islam in the state of Terengganu, earlier than the Melaka Sultanate. (@ all rights reserved)
The ‘Batu Bersurat’ of Terengganu. About 700 years old, it is evidence of the presence of Islam in the state of Terengganu, earlier than the Melaka Sultanate. (@ all rights reserved)

Luckily for me, as in all museums, every exhibit on display is accompanied by a narrative.

The quality of the narratives is of great importance as it plays a big role in getting first-time visitors like me to understand the story these exhibits want to tell, and tells you why they were chosen as exhibits in the first place.

The centrepiece of the Terengganu State Museum has to be the ‘Batu Bersurat’. Literally, it means ‘Lettered Stone’. But in reality, the ‘Batu Bersurat’ is of great significance to the history of the state of Terengganu.

The ‘Batu Bersurat’ was discovered in Kuala Berang, Hulu Terengganu (the interior part of the state) in 1887.

Estimated at 700 years old, the ‘Batu Bersurat’ narrates the position of Islam and application of Islamic laws in Terengganu state. The narration is written in Malay using the Jawi script which is based on Arabic characters.

The potraits of some of the Chief Ministers of Terengganu. (@ all righst reserved)
The potraits of some of the Chief Ministers of Terengganu. (@ all righst reserved)

The significance of ‘Batu Bersurat’, which often escapes everyone’s attention, is that being 700 years old, it dates back to circa 1326.

Regardless of its exact age, it establishes that Islam had already came to that part of the world well before the Melaka Sultanate came into being circa 1400.

If anything, that is what you would call a very important piece of history.

There are other interesting exhibits as well, amongst them are the potraits of all the Chief Ministers of the State of Terengganu dating back to the first Chief Minister of the state,

Thats a long array of potraits, many of whom have long departed except for the recent few, who apparently are still active in politics.

Then there are the exhibits with pictures of Terengganu from days gone by. It would not be surprising if some of the exhibits are actually pictures contributed by the Royal Family of Terengganu itself.

The Textile Gallery, telling the story of Terengganu's textile industry. (@ all rights reserved)
The Textile Gallery, telling the story of Terengganu’s textile industry. (@ all rights reserved)

The state of Terengganu is famous for its textiles. Terengganu batik and songket is very much sought after and can fetch quite a good price in the market for practitioners of the craft.

Worn at both official functions and festivities, Terengganu batik and songket is a must have. When you can afford it, that is.

Knowing the contribution of textiles to the state of Terengganu, economically and culturally, the museum’s Textile Gallery narrates and exhibits the development and the history of the textile industry in the state of Terengganu.

Brassware is another form of handicraft that is synonymous with the state. People come from far and wide to Terengganu, just to get good quality brasswares.

These are just some of the exhibits that you can find at the Terengganu State Museum and they are many more other interesting exhibits, depending on one’s interests.

The fish pond, adding to the serene and tranquil to the Terengganu State Museum complex. (@ all rights reserved)
The fish pond, adding to the serene and tranquil of the Terengganu State Museum complex. (@ all rights reserved)

All in all, it has been a very educational and fun visit, exploring the Terengganu State Museum. It is money well invested by the State Government, the Terengganu State Museum, with the chosen exhibits showcasing the glory of Terengganu’s history and culture (including its arts and crafts) for all to see and admire.

Definitely worth its entrance fee and definitely worth another visit.

 

Date : 13 June 2015

The Istana Kesultanan Melaka Museum

Coat of Arms of the State of Melaka (source : melaka.gov.my)
Coat of Arms of the State of Melaka
(source : melaka.gov.my)

Truth be told, in one of those moments of self-doubt (or was it self discovery), when I wanted to discover what I wanted to actually do with my life, I enrolled in a tourist guide course organised jointly by the powers that be. That was in 1990.

I ended that course as a licensed tourist guide, permitted to conduct tours in both English and Deutsch (German). Licensed, mind you, and with that said, it does not necessarily mean that I was an active one.

Istana Kesultanan Melaka - A replica of the grand palace of the 6th Sultan of Melaka and officially designated as a museum. (@ all rights reserved)
Istana Kesultanan Melaka – Officially opened on 17 July 1986, a replica of the grand palace of the 6th Sultan of Melaka and officially designated as a museum.
(@ all rights reserved)

One of the core subjects that we had to learn of was the Melaka Sultanate and its history.

For me, that was a breeze. I have a natural passion for history and aside from the dates (other than 1511 that is), I know the history of Melaka (its legends, its myths, whatever you may wish to call it) like a child knowing his or her favourite story by heart. Or bedtime reading for that matter.

Main entrance to the Istana Kesultanan Melaka museum. (@ all rights reserved)
Main entrance to the Istana Kesultanan Melaka museum.
(@ all rights reserved)

The course required us to go on a field trip to Melaka. That proved to be of great joy to me, to see for myself the remnants of Melaka of yesteryear, because believe it or not, that was the first time I was ACTUALLY in Melaka. Previously, I sort of passed through, not really having the time to explore Melaka.

One of the places that we visited then was the Muzium Istana Kesultanan Melaka. A mouthful for non-Malays to pronounce for a museum more commonly known as the Sultan of Melaka’s Palace or to use the Malay term, Istana Sultan Melaka (Istana is Malay for Palace and the term ‘Sultan’ needs no introduction nor clarification).

The Sultan of Melaka holding court. (@ all rights reserved)
The Sultan of Melaka holding court.
(@ all rights reserved)

Work on the replica commenced in 1984 with the replica palace, officially designated as a museum, official opened on July 17, 1986.

It has to be said that the palace that we visited, though also made of wood, is only a replica of the original version. The site that the replica palace itself is not the exact location of the Melaka Sultan’s great palace but is approximated, with the help of old manuscripts.

It must be said that the replica of the Sultan’s Palace is modelled on the grand palace of Sultan Mansur Shah who was the 6th Sultan of Melaka and was sovereign from 1456 – 1477. His reign has often been described as being the height of the Melaka Sultanate, one of them being Tome Pires who wrote Suma Oriental.

The upper floor of the Istana Kesultanan Melaka. (@ all rights reserved)
The upper floor of the Istana Kesultanan Melaka.
(@ all rights reserved)

The replica is not of the same size as the original, which is said to be far bigger than the replica. How much bigger, we can only speculate. But all the manuscripts agree, it was GRAND.

The original grand palace was destroyed during the cleansing of Melaka after its capture by the Portuguese in 1511 and with its destruction, the most important symbol of the Melaka Sultanate was erased and denied – please refer to Malaysia (Melaka) : The Kampung Hulu Mosque (https://shahscorner.wordpress.com/2014/09/01/malaysia-melaka-the-kampung-hulu-mosque).

A portrait of Tun Tuah, the legendary warrior of the Melaka Sultanate. (@ all rights reserved)
A potrait of Tun Tuah, the legendary warrior of the Melaka Sultanate.
(@ all rights reserved)

Replica it may be, it is, nevertheless, no less impressive especially if you allow yourself be taken back in time through the ages to when the great Melaka Sultans held court with that kingmaker extraordinaire Tun Perak (who counselled four different sovereigns), the ever loyal Tun Tuah and his sworn blood brothers Tun Jebat, Tun Kasturi, Tun Lekir and Tun Lekiu in attendance, together with other important high-ranking officials of the royal court, granting audience to trade and diplomatic delegations from lands as far as the Middle East, India, China and the Nusantara (the Malay / Indonesian archipelago).

Painting of the fire that burnt down the grand palace of the Sultan of Melaka, only to be replaced by another palace, grander than the one that burnt down. (@ all rights reserved)
Painting of the fire that burnt down the grand palace of the Sultan of Melaka, only to be replaced by another palace, grander than the one that burnt down.
(@ all rights reserved)

Imagine yourself, dressed in your best threads, being admitted into the grounds of the great palace of the Melaka Sultans, and as you make your way to the great palace, escorted of course, you take in the sounds, the sights and the smells of the royal grounds, the goings-on if you will, before arriving at the grand entrance of the great palace.

And imagine that as you make your way to the palace, escorted by the royal guards, you caught a glimpse of the vast gardens of the great palace, preceded by the many fragrances and scents  of the various flora and fauna, lovingly and carefully tended to by the palace gardeners.

Upon arrival at the entrance of the grand palace, you are then escorted to the anteroom where you’ll await your turn, nervously I might add, before being called and admitted to the royal court for an audience with the Sultan himself.

Sworn blood brothers, one killed by the other. Jebat dying in the arms of Tuah. (@ all rights reserved)
Sworn blood brothers, one killed by the other. Jebat dying in the arms of Tuah.
(@ all rights reserved)

And imagine that after your audience with the Sultan, as you make your way out of the palace grounds, you are again greeted by the sight of the royal gardens and your senses again assailed by the many colours and fragrances emanating from the royal gardens, adding another lasting impression to the many that had already being created, before you depart the royal grounds.

For history to come alive, a lot of imagination is and will be required. Otherwise the royal palace of the Melaka Sultans, replica as this one may be, will be just another royal household made of wood, as are the ruins of ancient castles in Europe be just buildings made of stone, as the castles of the great Japanese Daimyos be just buildings made of wood, as are the grand palaces of the Chinese Emperors be just big buildings with extraordinary decor and carvings.

And when that happens, it will be a pity. And a tragedy.

Entrance Ticket with Fee for adults at RM2.00 (approx. USD0.60). Opened every day 9.00am - 5.30pm. (@ all rights reserved)
Entrance Ticket with Fee for adults at RM2.00 (approx. USD0.60). Opened every day 9.00am – 5.30pm.
(@ all rights reserved)

The Istana Kesultanan Melaka musuem is opened every day from 9am – 5.30pm with entrance charges at RM2.00 (USD0.60) for adults and RM1.00 (USD0.30) for children (presumably under 12) and students.

 

Date : 9 May 2015

Kong Kong Laut – A Village Wedding

Plaque at Kampung Kong Kong Laut's jetty (@all rights resered)
Plaque at Kampung Kong Kong Laut’s jetty
(@all rights resered)

We were invited to a wedding reception recently, at a place called Kong Kong Laut. Kong Kong Laut is situated on the banks of one of the tributaries of Sungai Johor (or the Johor River), and not that a distance away from the town and port of Pasir Gudang.

The town of Pasir Gudang itself is on the outskirts of Johor Bahru (JB), and despite the short distance, the length of the journey, be it from Pasir Gudang to Johor Bahru or from Johor Bahru to Pasir Gudang, can be quite arduous as it depends very much on traffic and time of the day.

And that is by the Pasir Gudang Highway, which is normally plied by trucks transporting containers to and from the Port of Pasir Gudang.

But since it was a Sunday, traffic was not expected to be heavy and sure enough, as expected, it wasn’t and we got to Kong Kong Laut in good time.

Here comes the Groom. Groom arriving at the Bride's for the BERSANDING ceremony.
Here comes the Groom. Groom arriving at the Bride’s for the BERSANDING ceremony. (@ all rights reserved)

Wedding receptions, in my view, whether there are held at 5-star hotels or at the local community hall are all the same in that they are held to celebrate the couple dubbed ‘King and Queen for The Day’.

It’s also an occasion for joyous celebration and merriment as family members, friends and the basically the whole community, who may have not crossed paths for ages come together and amidst the merriment, get tucked in the sumptuous fare of the day whilst doing catch-up with each other.

For a Malay wedding, the standard fare would normally be nasi minyak (coloured rice cooked with ghee) with rendang daging (beef cooked with spice, desiccated coconut and coconut milk) with the usual side dishes.

Bytradition, the Groom is welcomed by the Bride's family with SILAT PENGANTIN, performed by exponents of the traditional Malay martial arts. (@ all rights reserved)
Bytradition, the Groom is welcomed by the Bride’s family with SILAT PENGANTIN, performed by exponents of the traditional Malay martial arts. (@ all rights reserved)

The wedding reception was for my sister-in-law’s younger sister, who when planning for the reception, decided not to do with the services of an official wedding planner.

And so, as is with such occasions, the matriarch of the family gets designated as the wedding planner of the day with all the other ladies in her family designated as her assistants and assigned specific duties e.g. attending to guests, ensuring the served fare is always replenished, drinks are always available etc etc etc.

The best part of wedding receptions not held at hotels is that the family of the bride and the groom do not have to worry about offending anyone, accidentally or on purpose, as ALL are invited, whether a formal invitation had been extended or not.

Of course, when ALL are invited, the logistics of cooked food, drinks and space can be a nightmare and is normally one on most occasions.

But as is with all wedding receptions of this nature, all is forgiven at the end of the day, for most, if not all, have had the experience of how bad that nightmare can be and do not wish it on anybody else, IF we can help it.

As is with these kind of weddings where almost the whole village gets invited in addition to family members, space is quite limited.

To overcome the problem of space, it is the convention that once you have had your share of the sumptuous spread, you are expected to make way for other guests.

And so we did, and before long, after making our goodbyes and thank yous, we were on our back to Johor Bahru. But not before making a short stop over at the village’s main centre of attraction – the area surrounding the wooden jetty of Kong Kong Laut.

View of the estuary from the jetty (@all rights reserved)
View of the estuary from the jetty
(@all rights reserved)

The wooden jetty of Kong Kong Laut serves as the business centre of the village, with eateries serving seafood fare as well as being the point of embarkation and disembarkation for they wanting for a spot of fishing at one of the many marine culture farms dotting the river.

The jetty also serves as as the drop-off point for produce from these farms to the different restaurants at the village centre.

In essence, Kong Kong Laut could be described as typical of any village or fishing settlement dotting the banks of Sungai Johor and the view from the jetty is no different to that from jetties at other villages.

View from the jetty (@all rights reserved)
View from the jetty
(@all rights reserved)

In most cases, there would be fish farms galore, thus confirming that Sungai Johor at least , if not all the rivers in Johor, are not toxic or polluted and are therefore presumably safe for marine life.

Their operators would normally live on these floating farms with these farms normally stocking up on mussels, shrimps as well as snappers and garoupas, to say the least.

These fish farms would also, on most occasions, double up as fishing spots for fishing enthusiasts. Of course, for these enthusiasts, the lines go away from the fish farms AND NOT towards the farms themselves.

Fish farm at Kampung Kong Kong Laut, a home at sea (@all rights reserved)
Fish farm at Kampung Kong Kong Laut, a home at sea
(@all rights reserved)

And since the fish farms’ operators also live on these farms, they also provide cooked food on order for these enthusiasts. Not a bad arrangement this.

There was a strong evening breeze coming in by the time we were strolling along the jetty. The tide was out and as we look down on the banks of the river, we could see small crabs darting from one opening to another.

One armed crabs (@ all rights reserved)
One armed crabs
(@ all rights reserved)

What captured our interest was that these crabs all had one claw much larger than the other. Scientifically, I have no idea of their name or even that they have a name.

But whatever their name may be, scientifically or otherwise, the sight of seeing these small crabs darting around with one claw as big as their little bodies, does make for a comical sight.

Mud skippers too made their appearance, as we caught them making their way back to the water’s edge. Small in size and covered in mud and slime, I can’t imagine ever swallowing any one of them alive as was reported from one location very up north in the country.

Even if you wash them in clean water with a sprinkling of vinegar, soy sauce, lime and freshly sliced onions, still no deal.

Fish farm doubling as fishing point (@all rights reserved)
Fish farm doubling as fishing point
(@all rights reserved)

The mud skippers must have sensed that we were not the mud skipper eating variety, and so they continued to skip to their hearts’ content.

It wasn’t long before we made our way back to Johor Bahru and that via the Pasir Gudang Highway. Traffic was still light and home was in matter of half an hour or so.

There’s another way to get to Kong Kong Laut and that is by the Senai Desaru Expressway (SDE). We have been to Kong Kong Laut via the SDE and admittedly, it makes for a faster journey. Not bad that.

Floating fish farms at the estuary off Kampung Kong Kong Laut (@all rights reserved)
Floating fish farms at the estuary off Kampung Kong Kong Laut
(@all rights reserved)

But by the Pasir Gudang Highway or by the Senai Desaru Expressway, one thing is for sure. A visit to one of these villages where life is at a leisurely pace as compared to the city (even for JB) is refreshing and does re-charge your batteries.

Maybe next time, we’ll stop over for a night or two, staying in one of those ‘homestays’. That should be interesting, never mind refreshing.

 

Date : 16 June 2014

Istana Lama Seri Menanti

Negeri Sembilan Coat of Arms (source : wikipedia.org)
Negeri Sembilan Coat of Arms
(source : wikipedia.org)

The state of Negeri Sembilan shares its borders with the other Malaysian states of Selangor, Melaka, Pahang and Johor. From the standpoint of a Malaysian namely me, myself and I, the state of Negeri Sembilan has always stood out from the rest, mainly for four reasons : it’s the spiritual home of the Minangkabau of Malaysia (as opposed to the Minangkabau of Sumatera, Indonesia), the horns of the buffalo, the Minangkabau dialect and of course, the practice of Adat Pepatih (as opposed to that of Adat Temenggung which is practiced almost everywhere else in Malaysia).

The name ‘Negeri Sembilan’ is literally translated as Nine States or Kingdoms, each kingdom, called a Nagari, having its own Ruler or Chieftain. When the individual Rulers or Chieftains collectively agreed to install Raja Melewar as the first Yamtuan Besar (similar in status to that of a Sultan) in 1773, from a layman’s point of view, it would not be wrong to say that the coming together of the entity that is now known as Negeri Sembilan is akin to the formation of a federation of nine separate kingdoms, with the Yamtuan Besar as Head of State.

Places of InterestNegeri Sembilan
Places of Interest
Negeri Sembilan

Upon Raja Melewar being installed as the Yamtuan Besar, he eventually made Seri Menanti his home and to this day, Seri Menanti has remained the royal seat of the HRH Yang Di Pertuan Besar of Negeri Sembilan, as the Yamtuan Besar is more popularly known today.

Location wise, Seri Menanti is about 40km from the state capital of Seremban (or as the locals would say in the local Minangkabau dialect, Soromban), and is situated in the district of Kuala Pilah (in Minangkabau dialect, Kolo Pilah). From the North South Expressway (NSE), you can get to Seri Menanti by exiting the NSE either at Simpang Ampat (if travelling from the South, and after exiting the NSE head for Tampin and then onwards to Kuala Pilah) or Senawang (when travelling from the North, after exiting the NSE, just follow the signboards heading towards Kuala Pilah). If you are like me (poor sense of direction et al, as my wife would always remind me), the general rule of following the signboards applies and if you stick with that, chances are you will get to Seri Menanti. Eventually.

Istana Lama Seri Menantinow The Royal Museum(@ all rights reserved)
Istana Lama Seri Menanti
now The Royal Museum
(@ all rights reserved)

Personally, I have never ever ventured this far in into, what we would call, Minangkabau country. True, I have friends who are from the state (Tampin, Batu Kikir, Seremban etc) but I never had any cause to venture in except to the state capital of Seremban and the seaside resort town of Port Dickson. Never been that adventurous, I have.

Until the day my son got admitted into the Kuala Pilah Beting campus of UiTM that is. And venture into Minangkabau country we did, and it was, as they say, an eye opener. Kuala Pilah’s cool weather (the plus side of being up in the high country), and what with the abundance of the local produce and fruits (often sold at the different road-side stalls at very attractive prices) as well as the local delicacies (try the kuah lomak cili api, it is guaranteed to give you that extra zing in your food! or even the local smoked buffalo meat or beef) make for some Kuala Pilah’s attractions.

Seri Menanti has been in our radar for quite some time now, ever since the day when we first made our way to Kuala Pilah. But somehow we never got around to making our way to Seri Menanti until our son informed us that this trip could be our last. Something about major misgivings with respect to his latest exams. My son, the pessimist.

Background of Istana Lama Seri Menanti(@ all rights reserved)
Background of Istana Lama Seri Menanti
(@ all rights reserved)

Seri Menanti is a very small town, if you can even call it that. According to local folklore, it was in the 15th century that Seri Menanti was first settled by the Minangkabau people who had ventured from their settlements at nearby Rembau.

The Istana Lama Seri Menanti(@all rights reserved)
The Istana Lama Seri Menanti
(@all rights reserved)

Amongst them was a Datuk Puteh of Pagar Ruyung, who according to local folklore, found three stalks of fresh green paddy and believing it to be a sign, named the place Padi Menanti (Padi being the Malay word for paddy) and promptly settled there. It was also believed that, over time, Padi Menanti became to be known as Seri Menanti and so it remained to this day.

Against a scenic backdrop of the cool highlands, you will find the majestic Istana Lama Seri Menanti. Four floors high, it was commissioned by HRH Yang di-Pertuan Besar Tuanku Muhammad Shah ibni AlMarhum Tuanku Antah (1888-1933) in 1902, with work on the palace finally completed in 1908.

Designed by two local Malay master craftsmen, Tukang Kahar and Tukang Taib (Tukang being equivalent to the German Meister), it is a palace made of timber and built WITHOUT the use of any metal nails. None whatsoever. Instead, hardwood rods were used to hold the timber together. Altogether, the palace has 99 posts (to represent 99 different warriors of the different clans, and just who they may be, I believe, may make for some interesting reading) including four posts which were 67 feet long.

View from belowThe Istana Lama Seri Menanti(@ all rights reserved)
View from below
The Istana Lama Seri Menanti
(@ all rights reserved)

From what can be seen of the old palace as it stands today, the old palace must have been a labour of love for Tukang Kahar and Tukang Taib. The old palace still stands strong today, and is magnificent to behold now as it must have been when it was first completed.

Today, the old palace has been converted into a museum i.e The Royal Museum of Seri Menanti, managed by the Museum Board of Negeri Sembilan. Inside the old palace which is now a museum, exhibits portraying the life of the current Yang Di Pertuan Besar of Negeri Sembilan, HRH Yang Di Pertuan Besar Tuanku Muhriz ibni AlMarhum Tuanku Munawir are on show.

Photograph taking is not allowed within the old palace, however. No surprises there. Nevertheless, as you walk within the old palace walls, going through the different exhibits, you cannot help but be taken in by a sense of history and wonder what life must have been like in Seri Menanti in the days of old; before, during and after the palace was built.

The back portion of The Istana Lama Seri Menanti(@ all rights reserved)
The back portion of The Istana Lama Seri Menanti
(@ all rights reserved)

Also notwithstanding, you would also get a crash course in the workings of Adat Perpatih as well as the history of Adat Perpatih. You will get to know names like Dato’ Pepatih Dato’ Nan Sebatang and Dato’ Bentara Putih Dato’ Katumanggungan and their significance, the story of the adult buffalo and the baby buffalo, the historical significance of the four Undangs and the Tunku Besar Tampin, and many more.

Makes for good and interesting reading, if you are into history that is. But even if you are not, the Istana Lama Seri Menanti (or The Royal Museum Seri Menanti, as it is known now) is still a place worth visiting, for various reasons : historically, architecturally, and culturally, to say the least.

As things stand, we will, in all probability, make a return trip to Istana Lama now the Royal Museum, as we further explore Kuala Pilah and its surrounding areas. Afterall, my son did make it through his exams.

 

Date : 12 December 2012