Category Archives: History

The Royal Museum, Kuala Lumpur

 

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The Royal Museum, formerly the Istana Negara, the official residence of Their Majesties The King and Queen of Malaysia. (nachmeinemeinung ; @ all rights reserved)

 

The Royal Museum, formerly known as the Istana Negara (National Palace), is located along Jalan Istana in Kuala Lumpur and was the official residence of Their Majesties, the King and Queen of Malaysia.

My wife and I had made plans to visit the Royal Museum in the past but always had to defer them (despite it being nearby in Kuala Lumpur), for one reason or another, with the main culprit being yours truly.

Well, the day of reckoning had to come, and since I nor my wife had anything of importance on our respective and combined plates for the day, we placed ourselves into our trusty ‘old car’ and made our way to the Royal Museum.

 

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The main gates of the Royal Museum. When the Royal Museum was the Istana Negara, media personnel would mill nearby the main gates whenever an important announcement requiring His Majesty’s consent and approval eg the dissolution of Parliament, the appointment of a new government, amongst others, is expected. (nachmeinemeinung ; @ all rights reserved)

 

We got to the Royal Museum in good time, thanks to the good highway connectivity linking Cyberjaya and Kuala Lumpur.

Personally, I have never been to the then Istana Negara and now the Royal Museum. So this visit is of great significance to me for it presented me with the first opportunity to step foot within its grounds.

But not so for my wife. She had been here before so many years ago, when it was known as the Istana Negara, at a tender age of seven.

 

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The 7th DYMM SPB Yang Di Pertuan Agong, His Majesty The King and Supreme Head of State of Malaysia, Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Al-Musta’in Billah Ibni Almarhum Sultan Abu Bakar Riayatuddin Al-Muadzam Shah of Pahang. (image sourced from wikipedia)

 

As it happens, my late father-in-law was a member of the protection detail assigned to the 7th DYMM SPB Yang Di Pertuan Agong, as His Majesty The King is officially known, with my late father-in-law essentially based at the then Istana Negara.

So where else would a little girl look for her father if not at his place of work. Being seven years old does have its advantages, I dare say,  and one of them is being looked at as not a security threat but rather, one to be ‘pampered’.

But I digress. As usual.

 

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Welcome to the Royal Museum (side entrance). (nachmeinemeinung ; @ all rights reserved)

 

We paid the entrance fee at the entrance gates and finally, at long last, for me at least, stepped onto the grounds of what used to be the Istana Negara and as we make our entrance, the sight of the two yellow domes greeted us from atop the hill.

A driveway, lined with tall palm trees, up what looked like a ‘slight’ incline led us to the Royal Museum. As we made our way up the driveway, under the shades offered by the palm trees naturally, we passed by the spacious grounds of the Royal Museum to our right, where garden tea parties were held during the occasion of His Majesty’s The King’s birthday.

 

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The driveway from the main gates leading to the yellow-domed Royal Museum. (nachmeinemeinung ; @ all rights reserved)

 

We have heard many stories about the garden tea parties. Attended by members of the Royalty, the whose who of Malaysian politics, invited dignitaries and of course, the newly minted Tuns, Tan Sris and Datuks, bestowed by the King with Federal awards and honours on the auspicious day, the atmosphere must have been really something.

It would be nice to have the opportunity to attend such a garden party. Maybe one day, if such an opportunity arises.

 

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The spacious open fields of the Royal Museum, to the right of the driveway. (nachmeinemeinung; @ all rights reserved)

 

But garden tea parties were not the only events held there. Another memorable event and one that was eagerly awaited by all and sundry was the annual ‘Hari Raya Aidil Fitri Open House’, held in conjunction with what is known world-wide as the Eid celebrations.

In Malaysia, it is customary for parents, during the Eid celebrations, to give their children money packets, the quantum of which is never as important as the act of giving it itself.

But a money packet from His Majesty The King is of great significance, especially to the young ones. It is therefore understandable that, during these ‘Open Houses’, to witness long queues of children waiting in line for their turn to shake His Majesty’s hand and receive a money packet from His Majesty.

 

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The courtyard of the Royal Museum. (nachmeinemeinung ; @ all rights reserved)

 

Kids being kids, some will say that to receive two money packets from His Majesty, is better than one. And in pursuit, they would queue back in line for a second handshake from His Majesty, including one seven-year old whom I shall not dare to mention.

Not that His Majesty did not notice but then again, its ‘Hari Raya Aidil Fitri’, a joyous occasion and one for celebration.

All these memories come flooding back for my wife as she narrated her mischievous Istana Negara adventures and soon, without realising it, we realised that we had reached the top of the incline, to be greeted by the sight of a spacious courtyard.

Pausing at the courtyard, we took in the view and at the same time, caught our collective breaths.

It may be ‘slight’ incline, but it is not to be scoffed at, especially when your physical fitness is highly questionable.

 

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A reminder of the etiquette to be observed. (nachmeinemeinung ; @ all rights reserved)

 

Upon entering the Royal Museum, we were greeted with a signboard outlining the etiquette to be observed, one of which is ‘No Photography’.

Unfortunate but understandable.

The Royal Museum was after all, the official residence of Their Majesties, The King and Queen of Malaysia. There is dignity and prestige attached to the place and protocol is never far away.

I mean, if a 1000-year old horse exhibit cannot remain safe from the army of camera holding hordes, despite the many signboards reminding to the contrary, what more a building built-in the early part of the last century. Or a 2,000 year old terracotta thumb, for that matter.

 

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Amongst the flora gracing the courtyard. (nachmeinemeinung ; @ all rights reserved)

 

Not that visitors to the Royal Museum are at all disrespectful. But there is always the exception to the rule.

I must admit, it was rather exciting to be walking along the very same corridors as did past Heads of State. There is a certain buzz to it, which could be attributed to the fact that these are not ordinary men.

Royalty, political leaders, community leaders, diplomats etc etc. They are still human but for the weight of responsibility, the authority and the power and the influence they wield, and the privileged lives they live.

All heady stuff, I must admit. Quite seductive too. After all, they did say that power is a powerful aphrodisiac, if not the ultimate.

The Royal Museum began life as a rich man’s mansion. Built in 1928 and originally called the ‘Big House’, it was owned by a local Chinese millionaire, Chan Wing.

Bearing in mind that this was in 1928, Chan Wing must have been pretty rich by today’s standards, never mind 1928’s.

 

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Chan Wing (1933). Taken from the book “From Poor Migrant to Millionaire” by Chan King Nui

 

During the Japanese occupation from 1942-1945, during World War II, the mansion was converted into the official residence of the Japanese governor.

The military connection continued after the defeat of the Japanese Imperial forces, when British Military Administration (BMA) used the mansion as a senior military commanders’ mess.

Brigadier and above only, Old Chap.

With the formation of the Federation of Malaya in 1950, the Selangor state government rented the mansion, and renovated it for the use of His Majesty The Sultan of Selangor.

Prior to Independence in 1957, the owners of the mansion (and the 13 acres of land upon which the mansion sits) sold the property to the Federal government for a tidy sum of 1.4 Million Straits Dollars, who then converted the mansion into the Istana Negara, the official residence of His Majesty The King, the Supreme Head of State of (the then) Malaya.

How much is 1.4 Million Straits Dollars in today’s currency, I have absolutely no idea. But I dare say, it must be quite a princely sum and even that may be a gross understatement.

And how much is it worth today? One can only venture a guess but it must be very costly.

 

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Gazebos on the peripheral of the Royal Museum, providing a much needed shade from the hot sun, as well as a place to rest. (nachmeinemeinung ; @ all rights reserved)

 

The visit to the Royal Museum, for me, was quite educational whilst for my wife, emotionally uplifting as she re-lived some of her fondest childhood memories of the former Istana Negara.

However, being the royal residence of His Majesties the 1st thru to the 13th Kings of the country, it would have thought that the Royal  Museum had more to offer to the visiting public.

After all, with all the history connected to what was the Istana Negara, it is without doubt a building of national and historical importance.

That by itself makes a visit to the Royal Museum an educational one and as far as education goes, it’s never a wasted trip.

 

Date : 6 March 2018

 

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Royal Pekan Revisited : The Sultan Abu Bakar Museum

 

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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.

 

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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 given, even when not sought.

 

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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.

 

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A metallic exhibit of the Sultan Abu Bakar Museum of Pekan, Pahang.

 

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.

 

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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

 

 

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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

 

 

 

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

 

Jugra, the 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)

 

There are several places in the state of Selangor, just by virtue of its name, fuels the 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 or name that is Jugra.

And that what fascinates me. I guess. Still does.

Anyway, 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 Alaeddin Sulaiman Shah ibni AlMarhum Raja Muda Musa ibni AlMarhum Sultan Abdul Samad, who reigned from 1898 to 1938.

 

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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, apparently.

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

 

Atop Bukit Malawati of Jugra
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 somehow reached, and that consensus had a name.

 

Atop Bukit Malawati (2)
With a position atop Bukit Malawati, the royal residence is well protected. (@ all rights reserved)

 

That name was Tengku Abdul Samad.

He 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.

 

The Long tail Macaques of Bukit Malawati
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.

 

Plaque of Bukit Jugra
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 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.

 

View from Bukit Jugra
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 Bukit Jugra 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.
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 the river, 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 of one of Jugra’s 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 Sultan Abdul Samad Royal Mausoleum Plaque
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 Royal Tomb of Sultan Abdul Samad
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 Al Fatihah, a Surah or passage from The Holy Quran,  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.

 

The Sultan Abdul Samad Royal Mausoleum
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 also a must.

Istana Bandar was built in 1898 and was the royal residence to Sultan Alaeddin 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.

 

Istana Alaeddin Plaque
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.

 

Sultan Alaeddin 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.

 

Istana Bandar, Jugra
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 Istana Bandar
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 Royal Residence Istana Bandar
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 of 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 Sultan Alaeddin, Istana Bandar
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)

 

I guess, ultimately that’s what matters. The legacy of what you leave behind.

 

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
The Melaka Sultanate Palace Museum (@all rights reserved)

 

The A Famosa
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.

 

Old Quarter of Melaka
The ‘Old Quarter of Melaka’ (@ all rights reserved)

 

Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, Jonker Walk
Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, Jonker Walk (@ all rights reserved)

 

The Kampung Kling Mosque, Jonker Walk
The Kampung Kling Mosque at Jonker Walk, Melaka CIty (@ all rights reserved)

 

The Sri Poyatha Moorthi Temple (Jonker Walk)
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 Kampung Kling Mosque and the Cheng Hoon Teng Temple 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.

 

Kopitiam
Food at one of the more well known local kopitiams (or coffee shops). (@ all rights reserved)

 

Bamboo Trees
Decorative bamboo trees – an added attraction to a souvenir shop at Jonker Walk. (@ all rights reserved)

 

Dining Place in Alley
One of the more recent watering holes 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.

 

View from the Bridge
A view of the Melaka River, taken from a bridge leading to Jonker Walk (or Jalan Hang Jebat). (@all rights reserved)

 

Windmill of Melaka
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
The Waterwheel of Melaka River (@all rights reserved)

 

Family At Waterwheel
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
The Terengganu State Museum (@ all rights reserved)

 

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.

 

tiket muzium terengganu
Entrance ticket to the Terengganu State Museum (@ all rights reserved)

 

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 - Muzium Negri Terengganu
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.

 

Side View - Entrance to Terengganu State Museum
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’.

 

Side View of Terengganu State Museum
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
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.

 

Chief Ministers of Terengganu
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
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.

 

Compound of Terengganu State Museum
The fish pond, adding to the serene and tranquil to 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

 

lambang-melaka
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
Istana Kesultanan Melaka – 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.

 

Istana Kesultanan Melaka - Entrance
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 Royal Court - An Audience
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.

 

Istana Kesultanan Melaka - Upper Floor
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 previous post  The Kampung Hulu Mosque).

 

Tun Tuah - A Potrait
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 - The Great Fire
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.

 

Tuah and Jebat
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.

 

Sultan's Palace - Ticket
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
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.

 

Masjid Kampung Hulu (2)
Masjid Kampung Hulu, Melaka (@ 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.

 

Masjid Kampung Hulu - Cannon
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.

 

Masjid Kampung Hulu - Drum
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.

 

Burial Ground - Masjid Kampung Hulu
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’.

 

219
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 (3)
Inside the grounds of Masjid Kampung Hulu. (@ 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

 

 

Langkawi Revisited – 2014

langkawi2
Langkawi, The Jewel of Kedah (source : langakwi-gazette.com)

 

Langkawi is an archipelago of 104 islands located in the Andaman Sea, about 51km from the coast of the northern Malaysian state of Kedah Darul Aman. Only four of these islands are inhabited with the island of Langkawi being its largest and therefore the major island in the archipelago.

It’s a grouping of islands that has its fair share of myths and legends, not so unlike many of the places that I have been to, but it’s so close to life to dismiss as just one of those stories.

langkawi
Langkawi, the Jewel of Kedah

With regards to Langkawi, the island’s history and fortune is so much intertwined to the legend and myth surrounding the Lady of Langkawi, known throughout as Mahsuri, that it would not be wrong for some to say that Langkawi is Mahsuri and Mahsuri is Langkawi.

I first step foot on the mythical island of Langkawi in 1995. It was not a planned holiday and neither was it a spur-of-the-moment-trip to destination WHEREVER. But rather it was courtesy of one of my previous employers who introduced me to the idea of a Company Family Day, but with a difference : the employee’s family is treated to a weekend outing, an outing to a somewhere totally somewhere else altogether.

Of course, with that said, it does not naturally reflect well on my other previous employers who either never had a Family Day organized for its employees at all OR whose idea of a Family Day was to have all their employees gather their families within the company grounds, seated under tents of varying colours and play games that would normally be reserved for kindergarten toddlers. But I digress.

 

The Lady of Langkawi, Mahsuri
Mahsuri, the Lady of Langkawi who put a curse lasting for 7 generations. (@ all rights reserved)

 

When our then company’s Management decided that we were going to Langkawi for our Family Day, the excitement level went up a notch or two and getting people to be in the Family Day’s Planning and Logistics Committee was a breeze. No problems there.

After all, it’s not everyday you have an all expenses paid trip (only the relevant expenses, of course) to what was then a heavily promoted and touted as THE up and coming holiday destination by none other the then Prime Minister, Tun Mahathir Mohamed.

So high was the expectation and so feverish was the excitement that the journey by bus to Kuala Kedah was regarded as a side sight-seeing trip to the paddy fields of Malaysia’s designated Rice Bowl, rather than a long and boring bus journey to the middle of nowhere.

 

Wan Aishah
A potrait of Wan Aishah, a 7th generation descendant, described as one who resembles closely her ancestor, Mahsuri. With the 7th generation, ends teh ‘curse’. (@all rights reserved)

 

To the middle of nowhere, you might ask? Sounds a bit harsh, I admit, but that’s was the impression back then, as for one to get to Langkawi, one can always take a flight or travel by car or bus to either Penang, Kuala Kedah or Kuala Perlis and board a ferry to Kuah, Langkawi; Kuah being the port-of-call at on Langkawi island.

Penang may not be in the middle of nowhere but as for Kuala Kedah and Kuala Perlis, lets just say that, if not for Langkawi, we’d be hard pressed to find a reason to step foot there. My apologies if I sound insensitive or unappreciative of someone else’s backyard.

As we boarded the ferry for Langkawi at Kuala Kedah, came Lesson No. 2. Lesson No. 2 came in the form of the songs that greeted our ears as we boarded the ferry. It was a revelation to discover that what was playing on the ferry’s PA system was actually a collection of Thai songs.

So pronounced was the use of the Thai language then was that we were even greeted on board not with the traditional Malaysian greeting of ‘Selamat Datang’ but with the traditional Thai greeting of ‘Sawadeekap’.

For a while then, we did wonder whether we were actually bound for Langkawi, Malaysia and not Langkawi, Thailand. Otherwise, we would be getting into a lot of trouble as no one thought of bringing along our international passports.

As we were to discover during the course of our trip, the use of the Thai language is quite widespread in Langkawi that outsiders would not be wrong to think that Langkawi’s lingua franca is actually Thai. Something to do with the history of the island, they said.

Fast forward to 2014, and here we are again, my wife and I, in a bus making our way all the way from Johor Bahru, this time, to Kuala Perlis before boarding a ferry to the mythical island of Langkawi. This time, it was just the two of us, unlike the first time when our first two sons, then barely three years and a year old respectively, accompanied us.

 

Kuala Perlis Bus Station
The Kuala Perlis bus station. Would be better if they merge the bus station and the ferry terminal into one single complex. (@all rights reserved)

 

Our journey by bus from Johor Bahru to Kuala Perlis up north took roughly thirteen hours, and that is via the North South Expressway (NSE).

Thirteen hours was more than enough to make our backs ache and our bums sore. But since we were travelling during the night, the journey itself was made bearable as we spent most of the journey sleeping or trying to sleep.

We awoke to the sight of the paddy fields which was an indication that we are already in the northern part of the Peninsular and on the way to Kuala Perlis, stopovers were made at places like Changloon, Alor Star, Sungei Petani, Arau, Kangar; either to pick up or to drop off passengers.

Taking advantage of these stopovers, we began to take in the sights and sounds these places have to offer, places that we would otherwise be hard pressed to make a beeline for, more due to distance than to anything else.

The sight of spanking new university campuses in the middle of sugar cane plantations and paddy fields is perhaps indicative of the development that is coming their way as these campuses are expected to become catalysts for new economic and social activities in their respective locations.

 

Kuala Perlis Ferry Terminal
The Kuala Perlis ferry terminal. (@all rights reserved)

 

When we finally arrived at Kuala Perlis, I must admit to a tinge of disappointment. I had expected that after the many years that Langkawi have developed and grabbed the attention of holiday seekers, both domestic and foreign, that the arrival of would be holiday seekers to Langkawi would be greeted and treated by facilities deserving of the allure of the island itself. But alas.

In my humble view, the bus terminal and the ferry terminal could have been designed as a single integrated complex with facilities linking both the ferry and bus operations.

Add multi-tier parking facilities for vehicles (cars, buses and motor bikes) to that and you may have one major attraction by itself in addition to being an economic landmark in Kuala Perlis.

My disappointment with the facilities not withstanding, it did not, however, thank God, dampen our spirits nor our determination to enjoy a relaxing and refreshing getaway, even if it was just for a few days.

 

The Elang
Welcome to Langkawi (@all rights reserved)

 

The ferry ride to Langkawi was a non-event. Heading towards Kuah (the main town of Langkawi), it was reassuring to note that the ferry was fully equipped for emergency, with more than ample supply of life vests.

As we approached the ferry terminal in Kuah, we were greeted with the sight of The Elang, a ‘recent’ addition to the many present day landmarks of Langkawi and with the sighting of The Elang, its welcome to Langkawi.

We had already made prior arrangements with regards to accommodation and with respect to transportation. Within half an hour of our arrival to Langkawi, we took charge of the steering wheel of a rented car and were happily getting lost on the way in search of our hotel.

Getting lost does have its merits though, as it does make you more aware of which turn you have to take and which turn you can definitely not miss.

Since Langkawi is an island and we had in possession a rudimentary map of Langkawi, the ‘getting lost’ phase did not last long and sure enough, it wasn’t long before we checked in the hotel and hit the bunks for a much-needed but very short power nap.

We promised ourselves that we would not follow the path of so many other tourists, domestic and foreign, by cramping in as much as we can within our two full days in Langkawi. We swore to take it easy and enjoy Langkawi as much as possible. We made a list of what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go. From the list, we narrowed it down and actually made a detailed schedule for each of the two days that we were to be in Langkawi.

 

Mahsuri's Tomb - Plaque
The plaque placed at the grave of Mahsuri tells it all. (@all rights reserved)

 

Don’t ask me why but Mahsuri’s Tomb was a must. It’s now a mini-complex where they have other exhibits like replicas of homes during that period as well, instead of just Mahsuri’s tomb as it was when I was last there so many years ago.

So was the location where they identified as the site where she was actually executed. That was something new, to me at least. It may seem macabre to some people, but then again, the fortunes of Langkawi, like it or not, is somehow tied very closely to what happened to Mahsuri herself. Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not.

 

Air Hangat
The Air Hangat Spa Village (@ all rights reserved)

 

The Hot Springs of Air Hangat was in too. Here I took the opportunity of soaking my weary feet into the hot springs and at the same time, wonder how on earth can algae grow in hot water.

The place where they made Minyak Gamat was definitely in. Minyak Gamat is especially well-known to locals and is sworn by locals and Malaysians as a must-have, to cure aching limbs, cuts, wounds and what-not. And to think its made of sea cucumbers.

Galeria Perdana or the Perdana Gallery, the gallery housing all of ex-Prime Minister’s Tun Mahathir Mohamad’s gifts from other countries during his tenure as Prime Minister of Malaysia was also in.

It may sound cliché but the souvenirs that he was given is, in my view, testimony to the many countries that were highlighted from Malaysia’s foreign policies as well as to his many interests to include the automotive industry, F1 and other heavy industries.

Langkawi SkyCab
The Langkawi SkyCab – certainly not for the fainthearted or those who suffers from heights. (@ all rights reserved)

 

Also in was the cable car ride at Langkawi SkyCab. It wasn’t there back then I think. And please don’t ask me why the cable car ride as I get giddy just thinking about it. But I did complete the ride despite my Vertigo thingy and the view from the top was worth every single second of the angst and the almost-peeing-in-my-pants thingy.

It was spectacular. I guess I must put it all down to my sense of mortality. Once the ticket ride has been bought, just get on with it. But like I said, the view from the top was worth it.

As for night-time programs, we just had to experience the Pasar Malam or Night Markets, if not for the food fare on offer than for anything else. And apparently, the same thoughts were had by the foreign visitors as well. It seems that from where we were staying, there always seems to be a Pasar Malam somewhere.

 

Langkawi SkyCab - Station
Taking in the breathtaking view from the top of the Langkawi SkyCab ride. (@all rights reserved)

 

Jalan Pantai Cenang had to be explored and that alone has undergone a lot of changes.

For a while there, I thought I was in Bali and not Langkawi, going by the number of barely dressed foreign tourists that we came across as we walked down the street.

All tourists, local and foreign, are welcomed as far as I am concerned but do one really have to show what at most times is best kept decently covered up? I could also barely see a local vendor and that, in my view, is not good news for the identity of Langkawi.

 

Jalan Pantai Cenang - Night Scene
Night scene at Jalan Pantai Cenang. Arabic dishes anyone? (@all rights reserved)

 

But I must admit that the street was alive with many different sights and sounds. But like I said, it has gone through so many changes that I could barely make out where what used to be THE landmark of Jalan Pantai Cenang ie the Underwater World. Maybe it’s because it was night-time.

I had looked forward to experiencing Dataran Elang at night. But I must say I was so disappointed with the state of what was touted as one of Langkawi’s landmarks. The state of disrepair and the sight of litter is too much to bear, making it a massive disappointment. I really hope the authorities will look into it.

There is no point in promoting Langkawi if there is no pride in maintaining Langkawi’s cleanliness and beauty, even if it’s for its own sake.

Langkawi has changed much since I last set foot in Langkawi. That there be changes was never in doubt and I’ll definitely be making an effort to go back there again in the very near future and what I really hope is that it will be to a better maintained and cleaner Langkawi. Expecially now it has been renamed as Langkawi, the Jewel of Kedah.

 

Date : 7 July 2014

 

 

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

 

Muzium Samudera (Jawi script)
Muzium Smudera 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.

 

Muzium Samudera
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.

 

Muzium Samudera
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.

 

Exhibit - Muzium Samudera
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.

 

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 of Melaka from a Battleship
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.

 

KD Tun Razak
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