Category Archives: History

A Labour of Love, Kellie’s Castle

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Kellie’s Castle. Also known as Kellie’s Folly. A labour of labour of one William Kellie Smith. (@ all rights reserved)

Kellie’s Castle, which is sometimes known as Kellie’s Folly, is located in Batu Gajah, Perak.

Easily visible from the main road, it is essentially a mansion and was, more likely than not, a labour of love of one William Kellie Smith (1870-1926), a Scot by descent and a planter by occupation.

The mansion was never finished, owing more, it is said, to the sudden death of William Kellie Smith, in 1926, of pneumonia when on a business trip to Portugal.

William Kellie Smith (1870-1926) @ all rights reserved

And upon his death, his wife, who was then in Malaya, decided to pack up and return to Britain with both their son and daughter, never to return.

The man whose name it is given to the castle, William Kellie Smith, was born in Kellas, Moray Firth, Scotland.

At a young age of 20, he made his way to the then colonial Malaya in 1890, to work as a civil engineer.

He, however, made his money from a business venture with another Briton, clearing about 9000 hectares of forest in Batu Gajah.

Kellie’s Castle, as seen from across the stream separating it from the main road. (@ all rights reserved)

With his share of the profits, he bought for himself 1000 acres of jungle, cleared it and started planting rubber trees.

In addition, his business venture also included tin mining, from which he then went on to own the Kinta Kellas Tin Dredging Company.

With his fortune made, he returned to Scotland and married his sweetheart, Agnes. After their marriage, he then brought his young bride, Agnes, with him to Malaya in 1903, and in the following year, their daughter, Helen, was born.

The corridors of the unfinished Kellie’s Castle. Sighting of the ole’man himself have been reported, pacing the corridors of his beloved castle. (@ all rights reserved)

By all accounts, he was a successful businessman. In 1915, a further addition to his family, his son, Anthony, was born.

It was then that he decided to embark on building Kellie’s Castle.

It was a grandiose plan, Kellie’s Castle. The design had Scottish, Moorish and Tamilvanan Indian influences and for the purpose of building his castle, he brought in 70 craftsmen as well as building materials from India.

So grand was the design that it included what would have been the first elevator in the then Malaya, a watch tower, indoor tennis court as well as a rooftop courtyard for entertaining guests.

The stairways of the castle. Sightings too have been reported. (@ all rights reserved)

Apparently, it seemed that construction of the castle was not smooth sailing.

It was reported to be disrupted several times, with issues with finance and also when a virulent strain of Spanish flu struck his workmen.

The latter was so disruptive that when his Indian craftsmen approached him to have a temple built as a means to seek the good graces and intervention of the gods to help ward off the disease, he readily agreed and funded the construction of the temple himself.

The rooftop courtyard, included in the design, to entertain guests. (@ all rights reserved)

In recognition of his deed, his workmen included his statue amongst the pantheon of deities placed on the wall of the temple, of which the statue can be seen still, to this day.

With the passing of William Kellie Smith in 1926 and the return of his wife, Agnes, with their daughter Helen and son Anthony to Scotland, work on the castle came to a halt.

A pity really, cos looking at what’s left of Kellie’s Castle today, it would have been a grand sight should it have been completed. Really a pity.

The designated living room. (@ all rights reserved)

When touring the ruins of Kellie’s Castle and reading the informative plaques placed strategically amongst the ruins that is Kellie’s Castle, one cannot shake off the spooky and uneasy feeling of being watched even in the heat of day.

And no wonder. Over the years, Kellie’s Castle has gained a reputation of being haunted with sightings of the man himself been reported, walking the corridors of the castle as well as at strategic locations of the ruins.

The alcove at the designated prayer room. (@ all rights reserved)

The grounds of the castle itself is quite expansive and complements the castle.

And as earlier mentioned, had the construction of the castle be completed, it would have made for a grand sight.

A really grand sight. But as fate would have it, it was not meant to be.

The Tower of Kellie’s Castle (@ all rights reserved)

Today, Kellie’s Castle is maintained as a tourist attraction, primarily for what it could have been ie a fine stately home, built sometime in the colonial era.

Not only is it maintained as a tourist attraction, it has also been used as a setting for movies like Anna & The King (1999) and Skyline Cruisers (2000).

But it also has an added attraction and it is one that not many people will talk about BUT privately acknowledge. It has been claimed, as earlier mentioned, that the castle is haunted, with the man himself seen to be walking down the corridors of the castle.

Informative plaques placed strategically around the castle. (@ all rights reserved)

It may be true and it may not be true, but if you can feel the hairs down your spine standing up, even in broad daylight, then there may be some truth in it.

But as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Visit Kellie’s Castle yourself, tour the ruins and walk down the corridors of the castle and you decide.

As for us, it will probably be quite a while before we made another visit to Kellie’s Castle. If ever.

 

Date : 6 July 2017

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Jugra, A-Once-Upon-A-Time Royal Seat of Selangor

Welcome to Jugra. This signboard is located atop Bukit Jugra, facing the rivermouth coming in from the Straits of Melaka. (@ all rights reserved)
Welcome to Jugra. This signboard is located atop Bukit Jugra, facing the river mouth coming in from the Straits of Melaka. (@ all rights reserved)

There are several places in the state of Selangor, just by virtue of its name, fuels and captures your imagination.

The mere mention of its name makes you wonder as to the origin of the word and its meaning.

For me, Jugra is one of them. If pressed why, maybe it’s because as far as I know, there is no such Malay word. And that what fascinates me. I guess.

A bit of research shows that the town of Jugra is located in the district of Kuala Langat and was home to the royal family of Selangor during the reign of the 4th Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Abdul Samad.

After the passing of Sultan Abdul Samad, Jugra was also home to the 5th Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Alauddin Sulaiman Shah ibni AlMarhum Raja Muda Musa ibni AlMarhum Sultan Abdul Samad, who reigned from 1898 to 1938.

Sultan Abdul Samad ibni AlMarhum Tengku Abdullah, the 4th Sultan of Selangor. Taken circa 1890. (image sourced from Wikipedia / Lambert)
Sultan Abdul Samad ibni AlMarhum Tengku Abdullah, the 4th Sultan of Selangor. Taken circa 1890. (image sourced from Wikipedia / Lambert)

From what little research I was able to do, I would think it’d be safe to conclude that Jugra is to Sultan Abdul Samad as Sultan Abdul Samad is to Jugra. They were inseparable, it seems, and one can’t ever seem to mention one without making reference to the other.

Born in 1804, Tengku Abdul Samad ibni Tengku Abdullah ascended the throne of Selangor as the 4th Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Abdul Samad ibni Almarhum Tengku Abdullah in 1857.

His ascension to the throne of Selangor took place during a period of turmoil.

His predecessor, the 3rd Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Muhammad Shah, died in 1857, without appointing an official heir.

The grounds of Bukit Malawati, where Sultan Abdul Samad has his royal residence. (@ all rights reserved)
The grounds of Bukit Malawati, where Sultan Abdul Samad has his royal residence. (@ all rights reserved)

As is always the case whenever such an instance happens, it triggered a power struggle not only amongst members of the royal family but amongst state dignitaries and notables, as to who should ascend the throne and be installed as Sultan.

The power struggle that ensued did not seem to be able to reach a conclusion and before any further damage could be done, a consensus was reached, and that consensus had a name.

With a position atop Bukit Malawati, the royal residence is well protected. (@ all rights reserved)
With a position atop Bukit Malawati, the royal residence is well protected. (@ all rights reserved)

That name was Tengku Abdul Samad, who was not only a nephew of the late Sultan, Sultan Muhammad Shah but also happens to be the late Sultan’s son-in-law as well.

Sultan Abdul Samad made Jugra his royal seat and reigned from Jugra. His royal residence was at Bukit Malawati, where a visit to Bukit Malawati today will enable you to catch a glimpse of Selangor of the 19th century, from the displays available at a mini museum located on the grounds.

Bukit Malawati is a favourite tourist destination come the holidays, and it does offer a view to behold as well.

Keeping watch over Bukit Malawati, it seems. (@ all rights reserved)
Keeping watch over Bukit Malawati, it seems. (@ all rights reserved)

Oddly enough, one of the side attractions at the base and atop the hill is the number of long tail macaques roaming around.

The plaque narrating the significance of the Bukit Jugra Lighthouse. Its good that the plaque is there, otherwise most visitors would be in the dark to the significance of the Bukit Jugra Lighthouse. (@ all rights reserved)
The plaque narrating the significance of the Bukit Jugra Lighthouse. Its good that the plaque is there, otherwise most visitors would be in the dark to the significance of the Bukit Jugra Lighthouse. (@ all rights reserved)

They seem to be at ease with the hordes of people visiting Bukit Malawati and take their chances to grab an additional bite or two (of food that is) offered by visitors to Bukit Malawati.

As a first time visitor to Jugra, I also learnt that no visit to Jugra is ever complete without a visit to Bukit Jugra, the Sultan Abdul Samad Royal Mausoleum as well as to Istana Bandar.

Bukit Jugra is on top of a hilltop, facing the Straits of Melaka. As you make your way up the hill, you will pass by a big Chinese graveyard. By the looks of some of the graves, it has been there for quite a while.

The view of the river mouth as seen from Bukit Jugra. Great for defense preparations in the old days. (@ all rights reserved)
The view of the river mouth as seen from Bukit Jugra. Great for defense preparations in the old days. (@ all rights reserved)

As you reach the top of Bukit Jugra, you will be greeted with the sight of the lighthouse and as you look out towards the straits, you will be greeted with a clear sight of the river mouth.

The Lighthouse of Bukit Jugra, overlooking the river mouth leading to the Straits of Melaka. (@ all rights reserved)
The Lighthouse of Bukit Jugra, overlooking the river mouth leading to the Straits of Melaka. (@ all rights reserved)

The view of the river mouth made me look back to one of my earlier posts, when I made a visit to Johor Lama (Malaysia (Johor) : Teluk Sengat / Johor Lama ).

For me, the view from the palace atop the hill at Johor Lama is similar to the view offered from atop Bukit Jugra.

The view of from both the Johor Lama fort and the view from Bukit Jugra reminds you the importance of points of high elevations with regards to the defense of one’s position.

Another must-visit is the Sultan Abdul Samad Royal mausoleum. Some of you may wonder, why would you go visiting graves especially old graves of long ago royals?

The plaque describing the Sultan Abdul Samad Royal Mausoleum. The mausoleum housed not only the tombs of Sultan Abdul Samad but also of his family, notables and retainers. (@ all rights reserved)
The plaque describing the Sultan Abdul Samad Royal Mausoleum. The mausoleum housed not only the tombs of Sultan Abdul Samad but also of his family, notables and retainers. (@ all rights reserved)

Well, a visit to the Sultan Abdul Samad Royal Mausoleum gives you a glimpse of the lives of the royal family that is Sultan Abdul Samad’s.

The royal mausoleum itself is well maintained, with the royal tomb of Sultan Abdul Samad housed in a yellow structure, complete with a reminder to visitors not to perform figure worshipping rituals at the tomb of the Sultan as well as the other tombs in the Royal Mausoleum.

The plaque on the right reminds visitors to the royal tomb not to commit any untoward act of worshipping, as it is forbidden. Citing the Al Fatihah as prayer for the departed is, for Muslims visiting the tomb, commended. (@ all rights reserved)
The plaque on the right reminds visitors to the royal tomb not to commit any untoward act of worshipping, as it is forbidden. Citing the Al Fatihah as prayer for the departed is, for Muslims visiting the tomb, commended. (@ all rights reserved)

Whenever visiting these tombs of old (and new), normal and prudent practice would be to recite a Surah from The Holy Quran, Al Fatihah, as a prayer for the deceased.

Walking around the Royal Mausoleum, a look at the tombstones would also indicate the main Islamic influence during the period when the Sultan reigned, whether the main Islamic influence came from Aceh or Riau or some other centres of Islamic learning, as the tombstones would normally be of designs originating from these places.

Some of the tombs at the Sultan Abdul Samad Royal Mausoleum. The flattened heads of the tombstones indicate the deceased is a lady, whereas pointed tombstones indicate the deceased is a man. (@ all rights reserved).
Some of the tombs at the Sultan Abdul Samad Royal Mausoleum. The flattened heads of the tombstones indicate the deceased is a lady, whereas pointed tombstones indicate the deceased is a man. (@ all rights reserved).

To round-up this impromptu visit to Jugra, a visit to Istana Alaeddin or as its more commonly known as Istana Bandar, is a must.

Istana Bandar was built in 1898 and was the royal residence to Sultan Alauddin Sulaiman Shah ibni AlMarhum Raja Muda Musa ibni AlMarhum Sultan Abdul Samad, the 5th Sultan of Selangor, who succeeded his grandfather, Sultan Abdul Samad, when the latter passed in 1898.

The plaque describing Istana Alaeddin, also known as Istana Bandar, the royal residence of Sultan Alaeddin who succeeded Sultan Abdul Samad as the 5th Sultan of Selangor. Built in 1905, Sultan Alaeddin resided here for 33 years until his passing in 1938.
The plaque describing Istana Alaeddin, also known as Istana Bandar, the royal residence of Sultan Alaeddin who succeeded Sultan Abdul Samad as the 5th Sultan of Selangor. Built in 1899, Sultan Alaeddin resided here until his passing in 1938.

Sultan Alauddin Sulaiman Shah reigned from 1898 to 1938 when he too passed.

The palace where he made his royal residence may today have the look like it’s in dire need of repairs but despite that, it still has the presence and the look of a stately home.

The Istana Bandar is currently being rehabilitated as part of ongoing efforts to preserve and showcase the rich history of the state of Selangor, as it should be.

The royal residence of Sultan Alaeddin, Istana Bandar, now in the process of being rehabilitated as part of the efforts to preserve and showcase the rich history of the state of Selangor. (@ all rights reserved)
The royal residence of Sultan Alaeddin, Istana Bandar, now in the process of being rehabilitated as part of the efforts to preserve and showcase the rich history of the state of Selangor. (@ all rights reserved)

Once completed, it will be part of the legacy that the state of Selangor can be proud of.

And as for me, I still do not know where Jugra got its name from but after a visit like today’s, it does not matter where or how Jugra got its name.

The courtyard of the royal residence of Sultan Alaeddin, Istana Bandar. Sultan Alaeddin succeeded Sultan Abdul Samad as the 5th Sultan of Selangor. Rehabilitation works are underway to restore the royal residence's grandeur. Once completed, a Must-Visit. (@ all rights reserved)
The courtyard of the royal residence of Sultan Alaeddin, Istana Bandar. Sultan Alaeddin succeeded Sultan Abdul Samad as the 5th Sultan of Selangor. Rehabilitation works are underway to restore the royal residence’s grandeur. Once completed, a Must-Visit. (@ all rights reserved)

What matters is that Jugra has a place in the history of the state of Selangor, with Sultan Abdul Samad being at the centre of it all.

Inside the Istana Bandar, the royal residence of the 5th Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Alaeddin. The palace itself is being rehabilitated to preserve and showcase the rich history of Selangor. (@all rights reserved)
Inside the Istana Bandar, the royal residence of the 5th Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Alaeddin. The palace itself is being rehabilitated to preserve and showcase the rich history of Selangor. (@all rights reserved)

He bequeathed the state of Selangor a legacy, a legacy which included that Victoria Institution (a centre of education good enough to be a close rival of my alma mater in Kuala Kangsar), the Sultan Abdul Samad Building in Kuala Lumpur, the state flag and its coat-of-arms, amongst others.

The royal residence of the 5th Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Alaeddin who succeeded Sultan Abdul Samad. Built in 1905, Sultan Alaeddin resided here til his passing in 1938.(@ all rights reserved)
The royal residence of the 5th Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Alaeddin who succeeded Sultan Abdul Samad. Built in 1899, Sultan Alaeddin resided here til his passing in 1938.(@ all rights reserved)

I guess, ultimately that’s what matters.

 

Date : 1 February 2017

 

 

 

 

Sights of Melaka

It is recorded in local history that the historical city of Melaka was established in 1400 with Parameswara as its leader.

Together with help of the sea-faring Orang Laut, he and his descendants built Melaka from a nondescript village to a port-of-call of choice to the-then center of Malay civilization and Islamic learning in this part of the world.

The Melaka Sultanate Palace Museum (@all rights reserved)
The Melaka Sultanate Palace Museum, said to be a scaled down replica of the Sultan of Melaka’s grand palace, as sourced from old texts and manuscripts. (@all rights reserved)
Remnants of A Famosa, the fort built by the Portuguese after the downfall of Melaka in 1511. It is stated that the fort was built from the materials gained from the destruction of the homes of Melaka noblemen as well as Muslim places of worship and learning eg mosques etc.(@ all rights reserved)
Remnants of A Famosa, the fort built by the Portuguese after the downfall of Melaka in 1511. It is stated that the fort was built from the materials gained from the destruction of the homes of Melaka noblemen as well as Muslim places of worship and learning eg mosques etc.(@ all rights reserved)

Being strategically located in the Straits of Melaka, it is therefore of no wonder that it is a much sought after prize.

Since then, it has been colonised, at different times, by the Portuguese (1511), followed by the Dutch (1641), the British (1826), the Japanese (1942) and the British (again) in 1946, before finally achieving Independence as part of the Federation of Malaya (or Persekutuan Tanah Melayu) in 1957.

The 'Old Quarter of Melaka' (@ all rights reserved)
The ‘Old Quarter of Melaka’ (@ all rights reserved)
A Chinese temple at Jonker Street (@ all rights reserved)
The Cheng Hoon Teng temple at Jonker Walk. First built in 1645 by Kapitan Lee Wei King, with its main hall built later in 1704 Kapitan Chan Ki Lock, and was rebuilt in 1801 by Kapitan Chua Su Cheong. It was built then to serve the local Hokkien community. (@ all rights reserved)
The Kapitan Kling Mosque (@ all rights reserved)
The Kampung Kling Mosque was first built of wood in 1748 and later of brick in 1872. It is one of the traditional mosques in Melaka and still retains its traditional design. It was originally built to serve as a place of worship by the Indian Muslim community in the area.  (@ all rights reserved)
The Sri Poyatha Moorthy Temple, one of the few Chitty temples in existence in Malaysia. It was built in 1781 and is part of the triumvirate of houses of worship (the Kapitan Kling Mosque and the Cheng Hoon Teng Tenple being the other two) in the Jonker Walk area. (@ all rights reserved)
The Sri Poyatha Moorthy Temple, one of the few Chitty temples in existence in Malaysia. It was built in 1781by Thavinayagar Chitty, leader of the Chitty community, and is part of the triumvirate of houses of worship (the Kampung Kling Mosque and the Cheng Hoon Teng Tenple being the other two) in the Jonker Walk area. (@ all rights reserved)

Today, Melaka is a city, full of bustling confidence, combining the old and the new, with industrial parks to house its many manufacturing industries, new and tall buildings sculpting a new skyline for the city, shopping malls for avid shoppers as well as places, for the young and not-so-young, to hang out.

Food at one of the more well known local kopitiams (or coffee shops). (@ all rights reserved)
Food at one of the more well-known local kopitiams (or coffee shops) at Jonker Walk. (@ all rights reserved)
Decorative bamboo trees - an added attraction to a souvenir shop at Jonker Walk. (@ all rights reserved)
Decorative bamboo trees – an added attraction to a souvenir shop at Jonker Walk. (@ all rights reserved)
One of the more recent watering holes in Melaka at Jonker Walk (or Jalan Hang Jebat). (@ all rights reserved)
One of the more recent watering holes making an appearance in Melaka at Jonker Walk (or Jalan Hang Jebat). (@ all rights reserved)

Springing up also are hotels and lodging houses, offering a comfortable night’s sleep and wonderful stay in the city for those venturing the streets of Melaka, not to mention new watering holes for the avid tourist, sampling a bit of the life that is Melaka city.

A view of the Melaka River, taken from a bridge leading to Jonker Street (or Jalan Hang Jebat). (@all rights reserved)
A view of the Melaka River, taken from a bridge leading to Jonker Walk (or Jalan Hang Jebat). (@all rights reserved)
The WIndmill of Melaka. Remnants of the Dutch? (@ all rights reserved)
The Windmill of Melaka. Remnants of the Dutch? (@ all rights reserved)

The remnants of history are still evidently there, everywhere in the historical city of Melaka, for all to see.

The Waterwheel of Melaka River (@all rights reserved)
The Waterwheel of Melaka River (@all rights reserved)
The Family (@ all rights reserved)
A Day out in Melaka – The Family (@ all rights reserved)

It can be said that history lives on in this city, for there is always something old to see or long forgotten places to visit. And not forgetting the smells and tastes of Melaka!

Worth the trip, I’d say and definitely worth another trip or two, to say the least.

 

Date : 8 May 2016

 

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

The Kampung Hulu Mosque

Masjid Kampung Hulu or the Kampung Hulu Mosque, as viewed from the adjacent streets. Built in 1728, it is the first mosque to be built in Melaka after the Portuguese destroyed all mosques in Melaka when they captured Melaka in 1511. It is the oldest mosque still in use located at its original site. (@ all rights reserved)
Masjid Kampung Hulu or the Kampung Hulu Mosque, as viewed from the adjacent streets. Built in 1728, it is the first mosque to be built in Melaka after the Portuguese destroyed all mosques in Melaka when they captured Melaka in 1511. It is the oldest mosque still in use located at its original site. (@ all rights reserved)

When the Portuguese captured Melaka back in 1511, all traces of the Melaka Sultanate with regards to its position as the centre of Malay civilization and culture were systematically wiped out.

And since Melaka’s Malay civilization was very much based on Islamic teachings, it therefore meant that all physical traces of Islam in Melaka, be it mosques, madrasah and maahad (institutions and schools of Islamic learning) also fell victim to the Portuguese’s cleansing of the captured city.

Hence to this day, no traces of the royal palaces of the great Melaka Sultans nor their tombs and the tombs of notables of the Melaka Malay Sultanate including that of that great kingmaker, Tun Perak, nor the great mosques of the Sultanate including the very first mosque to be ever built in Melaka, can be found.

(@ all rights reserved)
(@ all rights reserved)

So thorough and absolute was the cleansing of Melaka that there was no mosque in Melaka until 1728, 217 years after the Portuguese first captured Melaka when a mosque finally appeared on the Melaka landscape.

The irony in the whole episode is that the mosque, Masjid Kampung Hulu, which still stands today at the very site it was built, was built with the permission and the financial support of the Dutch East Hindia Company or commonly known by their Dutch initials, VOC, during the Dutch occupation of Melaka, who themselves had defeated the Portuguese and in turn captured Melaka in 1624.

The cannon at the entrance to the mosque. (@ all rights reserved)
The cannon at the entrance to the mosque. (@ all rights reserved)

The task of building the mosque was assigned to one Dato’ Samsuddin bin Arom, an immigrant from China, presumably a trader, who himself is a Muslim convert.

Unto his shoulders were assigned the task of building the first mosque in Melaka, the first since the Portuguese captured Melaka in 1511. The original design was later improved further by Sheikh Al Omar bin Hussain Al Attas.

Today, Masjid Kampung Hulu is recognised as the oldest mosque in the country that is not only still in use but still located also at its original site, that is today at the junction between Jalan Masjid Kampung Hulu and Jalan Masjid in central Melaka city.

The drum placed above the main entrance to the mosque. Normally sounded to announce prayer times before the muezzin calls for prayers. In the good old days, also used to announce the breaking of fast. (@ all rights reserved)
The drum placed above the main entrance to the mosque. Normally sounded to announce prayer times before the muezzin calls for prayers. In the good old days, also used to announce the breaking of fast. (@ all rights reserved)

The mosque’s architecture was strongly influenced by the architecture of mosques found in Java, that other bastion of the VOC in the East.

However, instead of being made of wood as were the mosques in Java, the Kampung Hulu mosque was built using bricks and stones.

If the exterior was much influenced by Javanese architecture, the interior of the mosque however showed influences from China’s Ching Dynasty, with the mosque’s interior furbished using ceramic and floor tiles that were brought in from Ching Dynasty China.

The cemetery within the grounds of Masjid Kampung Hulu. The graves are believed to be very old graves, based on the tombstones used. As per Muslim custom, the departed are buried facing Mecca. (@ all rights reserved)
The cemetery within the grounds of Masjid Kampung Hulu. The graves are believed to be very old graves, based on the tombstones used. As per Muslim custom, the departed are buried facing Mecca. (@ all rights reserved)

The mosque is buffeted from the outside world by a low brick wall, marking the mosque’s boundaries.

Inside the mosque’s ground can also be found a burial ground, which judging from the tombstones in view, indicate that these graves are quite old, with the tombstones’ markings either erased from the effects of the weather or barely legible anymore.

Upon setting sight on the mosque, it can be noticed that the main roof of the mosque is 3-tiered, with the highest tier representing ‘Man’s faith in The All Mighty’, followed by ‘The Brotherhood of Man’, and last but not least ‘The Universe connecting Man to The Creator’.

The interior of Masjid Kampung Hulu. Taking pride of place at the head of mosque is the mimbar (pulpit), where the imam delivers his weekly khutbah (sermon) during Friday prayers. (@ all rights reserved)
The interior of Masjid Kampung Hulu. Taking pride of place at the head of mosque is the mimbar (pulpit), where the imam delivers his weekly khutbah (sermon) during Friday prayers. (@ all rights reserved)

Four main pillars support the mosque’s roof with supporting pillars positioned elsewhere in the mosque.

As you are about to enter the mosque, one can sight a large oblong shaped drum placed on top of the entrance. In the old days, it is usual practice that mosque’s personnel, most likely the muezzin, would sound the drum before sounding the azan calling for prayer.

Likewise, it is also practice, in the old days, that the drum would be sounded when its iftar time, the time to break fast during the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset.

At the entrance of the mosque, two small cannons are placed to welcome guests. Nearby, a pool of running water is situated, to facilitate ablution for they who come to perform their prayers.

Inside the mosque, taking pride of place at the head of the mosque is the mimbar, where the imam would normally deliver his sermon during the weekly Friday prayers. The design of the mimbar is quite similar to those that, in my view, can be found in the mosques of old in Java.

Masjid Kampung Hulu - unassuming and quaint, serenity and solitude (@ all rights reserved)
Masjid Kampung Hulu – unassuming and quaint, serenity and solitude (@ all rights reserved)

One cannot help but feel a sense of being suspended as if transported back in time when stepping into the mosque. This is a mosque which is already 286 years old and the first mosque to be built after 217 years since the Portuguese captured Melaka.

It is unassuming and quaint and is still at the site where it was first built, with the architecture of the main section of the mosque still in its original design.

It has seen the presence of the Dutch, the British, the Japanese and the British again before finally seeing the country gaining independence. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge and it still there, quaint and unassuming, providing solace and solitude for they who yearn and in search of it, for time seems to be left at the entrance when one sets foot passed the main entrance.

Imagine the millions who had passed through the gates of the mosque to perform prayers and to learn about the Faith and to bury the dead ever since it was first built in 1728 til today. Imagine the stories that can be told if only it is possible, the role that the mosque played in the Muslim community in Melaka since it first came into being and then and only then can one sense the history that is the Kampung Hulu Mosque.

A humbling experience indeed.

 

Date : 1 September 2014

Muzium Samudera (Maritime Museum) – Potrayal of A Naval Tradition

Muzium Samudera in the traditional Jawi script (Malay spelt using Arabic characters) (all rights reserved)
Muzium Samudera in the traditional Jawi script (Malay spelt using Arabic characters)
(all rights reserved)

At the height of the Melaka Malay Sultanate (1400 – 1511), the city of Melaka was the centre of a large empire, extending as far north as the state of Perak, as far east as the states of Pahang and Terengganu, as far west as parts of the Indonesian island of Sumatera, and as far south as the state of Johor and the Indonesian islands nearby.

Being the centre of an empire, it also assumed the role of being the seat of learning, centre of trade, and centre of administration. Amongst the many factors that propelled Melaka to assume that position was the presence of a harbour within the trading route that is the Straits of Melaka as well as the safety and sense of security as provided by the Sultan of Melaka.

Woe are they who dare create trouble and problems for the Melaka Sultanate or run afoul of the Sultanate. Military ships manned by the best of Melaka would be sent out to stamp out these threats before they got any bigger or problematic.

Getting into the Muzium Samudera (all rights reserved)
Getting into the Muzium Samudera
(all rights reserved)

The main responsibility of maintaining peace at sea and Melaka’s supremacy on the high seas fell on the shoulders of the Laksamana (or Admiral) and the names like Tun Perak (before he was elevated to the position of Bendahara, equivalent to that of the modern-day Prime Minister), Tun Tuah (or Hang Tuah), Tun Jebat (who replaced his sworn blood brother Tun Tuah when the latter was dismissed and sentenced to death by the Sultan of Melaka on hearsay evidence trumped up by court officials envious of Tun Tuah’s rise in rank and influence with the Sultan himself) are some of the names who have maintained Melaka’s supremacy on the high seas.

Looking up at the replica of the Flor de la Mar, which housed the Muzium Samudera or the Maritime Musuem (all rights reserved)
Looking up at the replica of the Flor de la Mar, which housed the Muzium Samudera or the Maritime Musuem
(all rights reserved)

This naval tradition of Melaka is today exhibited at the Muzium Samudera (The Maritime Museum). Just where is this museum, you might ask? Well, if ever you are in the historic city of Melaka, just keep an eye out for a Portuguese galleon docked on dry land. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the museum. It’s an imposing sight, a Portuguese galleon right in the middle of the city. Mind you, it’s not the actual galleon, just a replica of the Portuguese ship, the Flor de La Mar, but its still impressive enough.

Some of the exhibits housed in the Muzium Samudera (all rights reserved)
Some of the exhibits housed in the Muzium Samudera
(all rights reserved)

Built in 1990 and officially opened in 1994, the museum’s exhibits narrates the naval tradition of Melaka, from its early and humble  beginnings, to the height of the Melaka Sultanate which prompted later the arrivals of the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British.

There are also exhibits narrating the visits and stop overs of the two famous Chinese Admirals Yin Qing and Zheng He (aka Cheng Ho), as emissaries of the Emperor of China, the legend of Panglima Awang aka Henry the Black, who reportedly sailed with Ferdinand Magellan himself as well as other notable sea faring personalities, of which Laksamana (or Admiral) Tun Tuah is one of them.

The battleship, Sri Trengganu
The battleship, Sri Trengganu (all rights reserved)

Muzium Samudera also includes Muzium TLDM or otherwise known as the Museum of the Royal Malaysian Navy, and as the name suggests, exhibits in this museum centers on the beginnings of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

View from the battleship, KD Sri Trengganu, on the grounds of the Royal Navy Museum (Muzium TLDM)
View from the battleship, KD Sri Trengganu, on the grounds of the Royal Navy Museum (Muzium TLDM)
(all rights reserved)

Part of the exhibit includes KD Sri Trengganu, a battleship which saw active service for 31 years since it was commissioned in 1963. It was finally de-commissioned in 1994.

The museum was actually located in Lumut,  the home base of the Royal Malaysian Navy up north in the state of Perak, before it was re-located to Melaka in 1995.

An exhibit of the KD Tun Razak, the latest addition to the Royal Malaysian Navy (all rights reserved)
An exhibit of the KD Tun Razak, the latest addition to the Royal Malaysian Navy
(all rights reserved)

Opened daily from 9am til 5.30pm with the exception for Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays  when it closes at 9pm, the museum charges RM3 (circa USD1) for Malaysians and RM6 (circa USD2) for non-Malaysians, while for children under the age of 12 being charged RM1 (circa USD0.35) for Malaysians and RM2 (circa USD0.65) for non Malaysians.

Muzium Samudera does offer value for money and is a good visit should ever you are in the historic city of Melaka.

If only they have the full size replica of the Flor de La Mar instead of a scaled down replica, to house the exhibits, wouldn’t that be a sight?

 

Date : 10 February 2014

The Old Quarter of the Historical City of Melaka

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

We were in the State of Melaka (or Malacca, as it is spelt in English) a few weeks ago, in the locality of Alor Gajah to be exact, when we decided to ‘drop in’ on our second son who had just started his second semester of his Business Studies diploma course, as ‘we were in the neighbourhood’.

That, in parent speak, is the same as what the young would say as ‘checking up on you’. It’s also to the young as a God-send opportunity to cushion the ever deplenishing cash-in-hand situation, for no parent would ever leave their child without posing the ‘you okay for this month?’ question.

And since it was still early in the day, we thought it’d be nice to go on a slight detour to the historical city of Melaka as a mean to unwind as well as for a change of scenery.

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

After all, we figured it should not take us more than 30 minutes, from our son’s campus, to get to the historical city of Melaka, be it via the North South Expressway (NSE), joining the NSE from Simpang Ampat and exiting at Air Keroh) OR via the Alor Gajah – Melaka Expressway, especially if you have exited the NSE at Simpang Ampat and not wish to get back on the NSE.

For the uninitiated, the historical city of Melaka is the capital of the State of Melaka. So steep in history is the historical city of Melaka that it even lends its name to the State of Melaka. Admittedly, it can get a bit confusing unless you happened to be a Malaysian and know the history.

It’s also a reason why the historical city of Melaka is administratively more commonly referred to as Bandaraya Bersejarah Melaka (MBB) loosely translated as Historical City of Melaka.

To make it simple, just think of Frank Sinatra’s ‘New York, New York – so good they named it twice’ thing and you will get the general idea.

Melaka - World Heritage City (all rights reserved)
Melaka – World Heritage City
(all rights reserved)

Anyway, we made our way from Alor Gajah to the historical city of Melaka and true enough, reached the historical city in practically no time at all, which is a bit of an exaggeration, I must say! Although I did mention it was not that far.

When we talk about the historical city of Melaka, we do mean historical and for us both, that would mean what both my wife and I call ‘the Old Quarter’.

Making our way into the old quarter of historical Melaka is not easy, for no matter how you widen the roads (after making sure and taking care of course that there’s nothing of historical significance underneath), it is never near wide enough as the traffic volume is consistently high (and higher during school holidays), with charter buses and the pedestrian walks full of people, making their way from one destination to another.

In historical Melaka, there is no such thing as a tourist season. It is tourist season all year round.

Now that’s the driving part, never mind parking. But as luck will have it, we got ourselves a parking space not too far a walking distance from the main historical spots.

The historical city of Melaka has been recognized by UNESCO as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Recognized as such on 7th July 2008 (together with Georgetown, Penang), you cannot walk far around the old quarter without coming across one historical site or building.

The last remaining gate of Porta de Santiago, A Famosa (source : wikipedia.org)
The last remaining gate of Porta de Santiago, A Famosa
(source : wikipedia.org)

But what makes it more interesting is that some of these historically recognized buildings are still in use today, in one form or another.

Now where is the Old Quarter? Mind you, this is a term that my wife and I would use to describe it and is not something official.

From our point of view, the Old Quarter of Historic Melaka is an area where you can find, within a small radius of no more than 5km, the Dutch-era red-bricked town or city hall, the Stadhuys (built in 1650 to serve as the residence of the Dutch Governor and his Deputy, and is today serving as the Museum of History and Ethnography), the Portuguese-built St Paul’s Church (formerly known as Our Lady of The Hill and converted into a burial ground by the Dutch nobility and renamed as St Paul’s Church. Also reknowned as the temporary burial ground of Francis Xavier before his remains were permanently interred at Goa, India), the ruins of the Portuguese fort A Famosa (which was built in 1511 when the Portuguese conquered Melaka, and suffered severe structural damage in 1641 when the Dutch came with cannons afiring, and would have been totally destroyed by the Brits in 1808 if not for the intervention of Sir Stamford Raffles).

The Christ Church and Commerative Clock Tower (All rights reserved)
The Christ Church and Commerative Clock Tower
(All rights reserved)

Not forgetting the red-bricked Christ Church, which was constructed in 1753 by the Dutch in the fashion of the time, the replica of the last Sultan of Melaka’s palace, destroyed y the Portuguese during the Portuguese’s quest to conquer Melaka, the small and narrow Jonker Street (or Jalan Hang Jebat) nearby where if you look long and hard enough, you may well just find a gem of an old artifact (I did say look long and hard, did I not?), and of course the rejuvenated Sungai Melaka where river boat cruises now take the place of what use to be plied by river boats ferrying goods, with bistros and cafes now lining the river banks. There’s even a Hard Rock Cafe nearby, and THAT is definitely recent compared to the other more distinguished buildings in the neighourhood.

There are also Chinese temples, Indian kovils and Muslim mosques that are as old or even older than some of aforementioned buildings. They would have been even more but then again, not many survived as not only the Portuguese and the Dutch came along but so did the Brits and the Japanese as well, not including what is today termed as modern-day development.

In fact, it was reported that all non-Catholic houses of worship were destroyed during the time of the Portuguese (1511-1641). This included the very first and oldest mosque in then Melaka, reputedly on the land opposite where Stadhuys stands today.

Masjid Kampung Hulu or Kampung Hulu Mosque - The oldest mosque still in use in Malaysia (all rights reserved)
Masjid Kampung Hulu or Kampung Hulu Mosque – The oldest mosque still in use in Malaysia (all rights reserved)

It was only during the time of the Dutch (1641-1795 and 1818-1826) that other houses of worship were allowed to be built including the Kampung Hulu Mosque. Built in 1720 and completed in 1728, it is now the oldest mosque in the city of Melaka and in the whole of Malaysia still in use today, and still located at its original site.

What else can I say about historical Melaka that has not been said or mentioned in numerous books and articles and blogs? Admittedly, not a lot. But I did say that history is everywhere in Melaka, and that history is still evident when you come across people of Eurasian descent bearing distinctly Dutch and Portuguese family names, as well as the Indian Chitty’s and the Chinese Peranakans, who has lived side by side the local Malay population, intermingling and inter marrying into what is now the melting pot distinctly Melaka.

Instead of the cannon balls and the bullets and the arrows and the spears being exchanged, they now exchanged greetings and food dishes while making merriment during festivities.

The historic city of Melaka, a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site is very interesting and you will never get bored with it, especially the Old Quarter.

The rehabiliated waterways of Sungai Melaka (all rights reserved)
The rehabilitated waterways of Sungai Melaka
(all rights reserved)

My family and I have been here numerous times and for now, we foresee that we’ll be here more times in the future, regardless of whether we ‘are in my son’s neighourhood’ or not.

Like Arthur’s Camelot, the historic city of Melaka is still a magical place, full with history’s lessons of life and country, and the majesty of the old Melaka Sultanate, the legends of that King Maker Tun Perak, the loyalty and diligence of Tun Tuah and his sworn blood-brothers, Tun Jebat, Tun Kasturi, Tun Lekir and Tun Lekiu and their many warrior brothers in the service to the Sultan, the State and to each other, the palace intrigues, as well as of the blood, sweat and tears of the combatants, from all sides, of the wars thereafter, for the prize that is Melaka.

 

Date : 4 February 2014

The Red-Bricked Hospital Sultanah Aminah (HSA) of Johor Bahru

Day view of the Hospital Sultanah Aminah (HSA) (@ all rights reserved)
Day view of the Hospital Sultanah Aminah (HSA)
(@ all rights reserved)

As you drive along the coastal road, Jalan Persiaran Abu Bakar Sultan,  from downtown Johor Bahru (JB) heading towards the ward of Tampoi, you will pass by the Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque and the Iskandar Islamic Complex before coming across a red-brick complex of buildings.

For us JB-ians who are born and bred in this fine city of ours, that red-brick complex of buildings facing the body of water, the Straits of Tebrau, can be no other but the Sultanah Aminah Hospital.

Night view of the Hospital Sultanah Aminah (source : malaysiacentral.com)
Night view of the Hospital Sultanah Aminah
(source : malaysiacentral.com)

Named after the consort of HRH AlMarhum Sultan Ismail ibni AlMarhum Sultan Ibrahim, HRH Sultanah Ungku Tun Aminah and commonly referred to HSA (now that we have another hospital in the city that is the Hospital Sultan Ismail (HSI)), it is a hospital with a character and a distinct identity of its own as well as an interesting place in Johor and Malaysian history especially when the construction of the HSA was completed in 1941.

Most if not all of us JB-ians have at one time or another pass through the corridors of the HSA, for one reason or another. Many have checked in and many have checked out (me included) with some checking in again in later years.

But of course, as it is with hospitals, it is not complete without its share of heart-breaking scenes over the years especially scenes of family members reacting to news of loved ones lost, expectedly and unexpectedly.

Scene within the Hospital Sultanah Aminah Complex (@ all rights reserved)
Scene within the Hospital Sultanah Aminah Complex
(@ all rights reserved)

But as it is in life, for every moment of loss and sorrow, there are also moments of great joy when the first cries of babies being brought into this world filled the corridors or of the prayers giving thanks for the successful medical procedures done on their loved ones.

Sultan SIr Ibrahim ibni AlMarhum Sultan Sir ABu Bakar (1873-1959)
Sultan SIr Ibrahim ibni AlMarhum Sultan Sir ABu Bakar (1873-1959)

This red-bricked hospital that is the Sultanah Hospital was not red-bricked originally. The earliest recording of a hospital building in Johor Bahru was in 1882 and comprised of several wooden buildings which made up the 3rd class wards. It was found to be insufficient that plans to build a new hospital were made.

Construction of a new hospital began in 1938 and was finally completed in 1941. The new building was designed by the architectural firm “Palmer & Turner”, the very firm that designed the Bangunan Sultan Ibrahim at Bukit Timbalan.

The design was based on a hospital located in Nanking, China based on an idea conceived by a Dr GH Garlick whilst attending a meeting of the “Far Eastern Association of Tropical Medicine” in 1934. The interior arrangements though were based on local expertise as well as studies made of hospitals from the “Nosokomeion” journal.

Sultan Sir Ismail ibni AlMarhum Sultan SIr Ibrahim (1894-1981)
Sultan Sir Ismail ibni AlMarhum Sultan SIr Ibrahim (1894-1981)

When the hospital was completed, it was scheduled to be opened by the then Sultan of Johor, HRH Sultan Sir Ibrahim ibni AlMarhum Sultan Sir Abu Bakar. The date of the opening ceremony was slated for the 29th of May, 1941. However, the breakout of World War II (WWII) in the then Malaya however put paid to that and the ceremony was cancelled.

Today the hospital is described as a multi-specialty hospital and funded by the Federal Government of Malaysia. It is easily the biggest hospital in Johor, with its Emergency and Trauma, Outpatient, Dentistry departments, to name but a few. It is also the main referral and tertiary health centre for the state and is one of the busiest hospitals in Malaysia based on patient load.

In memory of those from the Hospital Sultanah Aminah killed during World War II
In memory of those from the Hospital Sultanah Aminah killed during World War II

In 1968, the first public sector intensive care unit (ICU) in Malaysia was established at HSA (it was still known as the Johor Bahru General Hospital then) under the stewardship of the state Anaesthesiologist (Dato’) Dr T. Sachithanandan, and was officially declared open on 3rd February 1969 by HRH Sultan Ismail ibni AlMarhum Sultan Ibrahim.

What was interesting was that the funding to build the ICU was an early example of the cooperation in healthcare between the Federal Government’s Ministry of Health (MOH), the Johor state government and the public (via the Johor Bahru Junior Chamber International (JCI-Jaycees) fund-raising activities).

In memory of those from the HSA who died during World War II (@ all rights reserved)
In memory of those from the HSA who died during World War II
(@ all rights reserved)

In addition, the HSA’s ICU unit became the model upon which subsequent ICU facilities were designed and built-in numerous other MOH’s state general hospitals nationwide.

There are many notable milestones that the HSA as achieved eg the first postgraduate medical center in Malaysia was also established at HSA in 1969 by three medical pioneers – Dato’ Dr. Lim Kee Jin (a physician), Dato’ Dr. T. Sachithanandan (an anaesthetist) and Datuk Dr. Sam C. E. Abraham (a paediatrician).

Emergency and Trauma at Hospital Sultanah Aminah (@ all rights reserved)
Emergency and Trauma at Hospital Sultanah Aminah
(@ all rights reserved)

For history buffs, it is interesting to note that there are two plaques placed on the walls of the main entrance of the hospital. The plaques list the names of the medical and auxiliary staff of the hospital who died during WWII.

It is quote sobering to note that in times of war, no one is exempted from the ravages of war. Even they who dispense medical assistance. Quite a sobering thought that.

Under normal circumstances, a hospital is not your typical historical landmark or even worth a jot on a tourist’s “To Visit” list. But the HSA is no ordinary hospital with more additions and/or improvements are planned for the hospital.

Nevertheless, the time may come when a third or even a fourth Government-funded hospital may be required to meet the every growing demands of the people of Johor Bahru.

The specialists' clinic at Hospital Sultanah Aminah (@ all rights reserved)
The specialists’ clinic at Hospital Sultanah Aminah
(@ all rights reserved)

But no matter how many Government hospitals they may be in Johor Bahru, the red-bricked HSA will truly stand out not only for its red-brick facade but also as the first of its kind, not only in Johor but in the country as well.

 

Date : 23 May 2013

The Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque, Johor Bahru

When I was a child growing up, my family lived in quarters reserved for government employees at Jalan Abdul Rahman Andak, Johor Bahru. Located just next door to Saujana, the official residence of the Menteri Besar of Johor, it was a very much sought after address as it was conveniently close to the town centre (walking distance actually) as well as being within 5-10 minutes walking distance from several schools notably the Sekolah Sultan Ibrahim Girls’ School (both primary and secondary), St Joseph’s School (all three primary, secondary and Chinese-medium), Convent Girls’ School (primary and secondary) as well as a host of other primary schools.

The Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque A view looking up the Hill (@ all rights reserved)
The Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque
A view looking up the Hill
(@ all rights reserved)

The quarters where we lived was also within walking distance from a mosque that I have great affection for – the Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque. Why, you might ask? And whats so special about this mosque that you won’t find in any other mosque?

In response to all these questions, I can only say that its one of those things, I guess, having a mosque that you have an affinity for. The same as some people have this thing about a certain brand of coffee (instant, mind you!) or a certain kind of tea and what else have you.

Sultan Sir Abu Bakar ibni AlMarhum Temenggong Daing Ibrahim (1833-1895) (source : wikipedia.org)
Sultan Sir Abu Bakar ibni AlMarhum Temenggong Daing Ibrahim (1833-1895)
(source : wikipedia.org)

But please don’t get me wrong. I have performed my prayers at many a mosque, in Malaysia and elsewhere, all of whom have given me that feeling of expansiveness as well as a sense of eternal peace and serenity. But like I said, its one of those things and that said, the Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque is special to me.

Ever since my childhood days, I have read a lot about the Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque and the Sultan whose name it carry, the 21st Sultan of Johor, HRH Sultan Abu Bakar.

The Sultan, who reigned as Sultan from 1886-1895, is recognized as the driving force behind the modernization of Johor and for precisely that reason, was widely acknowledged as “The Father of Modern Johor”. It was during his rule that Johor first became an economic powerhouse as well as a politically developed state.

It was also during the Sultan’s reign that the order to build the mosque went out, with the foundation to the mosque first laid in 1892. To be located on top of a hill facing the Straits of Tebrau, the mosque was designed by Tuan Haji Mohamed Ariff bin Punak and is often described as “being a combination of Western Neo Classical and Moorish Islamic architecture”.

The mosque was built over eight years, from 1892 to 1900, and overseen by Dato’ Yahya bin Awalluddin (he of Jalan Yahya Awal, for those familiar with Johor Bahru that is).

Unfortunately, by the time the mosque was completed in 1900, Sultan Abu Bakar had already passed away and succeeded by his son, Tunku Ibrahim Iskandar. Tunku Ibrahim Iskandar who later reigned as HRH Sultan Ibrahim ibni AlMarhum Sultan Abu Bakar, declared the mosque opened in 1900.

One of the minarets of the Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque (Note the fusion of
One of the minarets of the Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque
(Note the fusion of “Western Neo Classical and Moorish Islamic” influences)
(@ all rights reserved)

With a capacity for 3,000 people at any one time, the mosque has gone through several renovative works of late including the upgrading of facilities for the convenience of Muslims gathering at the mosque to perform religious obligations as well as to attend religious programs, be it held within the mosque itself as well as within its perimeter.

Being The State Mosque, official events eg prayers for Hari Hol, Eid Fitr, Eid Adha, as well as to coincide with the birthday celebrations for the reigning Sultan are held at the Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque and are normally attended and officiated by the reigning Sultan himself.

As a child, one of the most awaited official events had to be Maulidur Rasul (Celebrations to commemorate the birth of the Holy Prophet Mohamad pbuh), when at the end of the celebrations, there will be a big feast to be had for all. Being kids, that was the highlight as we tuck in whatever dish was served for the occasion. Truly, it was a day to look forward to and to enjoy, especially with your friends.

Resting area for the tired and weary Muslim A new addition to the complex (@ all rights reserved)
Resting area for the tired and weary Muslim
A new addition to the complex
(@ all rights reserved)

There are, of course, many a story linked to the mosque. One of the stories most often told is of the time when, during the mosque’s construction, it was discovered that they ran out of materials to finish the mosque’s ceiling.

As the story goes, what they did to finish the job was to use egg whites. Pretty ingenious that. Not only the job got done but the use of the egg whites added a certain kind of sheen to the finished article, the effect of which can still be seen to this day.

However, nothing was mentioned with regards to the price of eggs then nor was there any mention of demonstrations of people frustrated being denied their daily ration of half-boiled eggs for breakfast.

Anyways, being perched on top of a hill and facing the Straits of Tebrau contributed to the naturally cooling system of the mosque, even on terribly hot days. That’s the advantage of being on top of a hill, I guess. Nothing to block the air circulation.

On most days, the mosque also offers a clear view across the Straits of Tebrau, of Singapore as well as that other significant landmark of Johor Bahru namely The Causeway. Good feng shui, say the Chinese, the mosque being perched on top of a hill facing a vast body of water.

View from the mosque of the Straits of Tebrau with Singapore in the background (@ all rights reserved)
View from the mosque of the Straits of Tebrau with Singapore in the background
(@ all rights reserved)

Except during that time of year when the haze makes its annual appearance from across the Straits of Melaka. Then the view from the mosque’s grounds of the Straits of Tebrau offers a different perspective, one of WHAT IF.

It is interesting to note that the mosque’s grounds allows access to the Iskandar Islamic Complex as well as the medical complex that is the Hospital Sultanah Aminah (HSA). Adjacent to the hospital complex is the Mahmoodiah Muslim Cemetery, which also houses the Royal Mausoleum.

The fact that the mosque being connected to the HSA complex does give rise to several jokes best not repeated especially at nights. Especially when you are writing this in the dead of the night.

Coat of Arms of Johor (in Gold) (@ all rights reserved)
Coat of Arms of Johor (in Gold)
(@ all rights reserved)

Jokes aside, the Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque is a special and a significant landmark of Johor Bahru. A landmark of the times when Johor was developing fast into an economic powerhouse and to the days when Johor was developing politically as well.

That and the memories of growing up, revelling in His Expansiveness whilst taking in the sight of that body of water, the Straits of Tebrau, and appreciating the cool evening breeze for all its worth.

The mosque is open to visitors (me think!) but you need to check with the mosque authorities before entering the mosque. As it is with buildings of religious significance, there are rules to observe eg attire, and for women, you may need to check your personal calendar when planning a visit to the mosque.

Like I said, its special The Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque. One of those things I guess. Either you have it or you don’t. And the Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque definitely has it. At least for me, it is.

 

Date : 18 May 2013