It has been a month to my last trip but I am still basking under the thrills of it. Here is a quick round up of it. The fun began at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on the 10th of November. I was back to exciting and glamorous ‘Kuala Lumpur‘, capital of Malaysia after two years and was extremely happy about revisiting Melacca after 5 years. Apart from these two cities, a day at Negeri Sembilan also sounded pretty promising. Join me on this cultural trip, where I got under the skin of Malaysia, vis-à-vis art and heritage.
Malaysia Trip- Kuala Lumpur, Klang, Melaka & Negeri Sembilan
Royal Klang Town
Just 30 kilometers away from Kuala Lumpur, the town of Klang is an old city, adorned with colorful street markets, historical sites and beautiful temples. A trip or heritage walk to Klang town is a must because it gives an insight into the port city, which used to be the royal capital of Selangor. It was also under the British administration from a period of the late 1800s to mid-1900s. More than anything, this place is about vibrant shops, Little India, one of the oldest railway station, a fire station, European influence, South Indian food, people and Royal palace.
Hang Tuah Center in Melaka
After my visit to this center, I realized that Hang Tuah may have lived in different period but this legendary Malay warrior remains to rule the hearts of its people, even today. He and his stories inspire the youth to be fearless and exemplary in their deeds. The museum is an attempt to tell his tales and promote traditional costumes, accessories, and dances of Malaysia. It is here where I learned about Malay silat,a form of dance which incorporates indigenous martial arts.
Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum
The descendants of Chinese people who got married to Malays, are called Baba Nyona or Peranakans. Nyona refers to the lady while Baba means man. History says that a lot of Chinese immigrants came to the Malay Archipelago, back in the 15th century and married the locals. This inter-marriage led to a new culture, blend of the two and some of their signature traditions were passed down for decades. One can visit the Baba and Nyona Heritage Museum in Melaka to see what life was like for a native local married to a foreigner.
Peranakan Beaded Slippers and Bound feet shoes
Now, this was quite an interesting learning, around Peranakan beaded slippers or ‘manik shoes’. They are one of Malacca’s proud heritage, which had originated in 1930s. These shoes are special because they are made of ‘cut or fine beads’, sewn one at a time, all done very carefully. Each pair is unique and costs around 15k and more.
In the past many Chinese women from the Ching dynasty, had endured the pain of achieving bound feet. The idea behind having a bound feet (3 or 4 inches) was to achieve a three-inch golden lily or a lotus bud. They were of the aristocracy and most beautiful women. For them, special footwears had to be designed. Now these shoes aren’t made because only 4 women with bound feet live in Melacca but little footwear can be bought by tourists as souvenirs.
Villa Sentosa in Kampung Morten (Living Museum)
Have you been to an urban village? In the heart of the Melaka city, Kampung Morten is a historical traditional Malay village with over 50 traditional Malay houses. Along the Melaka river, it a beautiful village, which retains its charm. In 1989, it was declared a heritage village under Melaka’s Preservation and Conservation Enactment. I had a chance to visit the oldest house of this village, known as Villa Sentosa. The house, turned into a living museum was built in 1921 by one of the founders of Kampung Morten. While the setup and the interiors of the house give a peek into the antique collection and lifestyle of the people of the house, the village still retains its name, in honor of a British Land Commissioner, Frederick Joseph Morten.
Keris, a fighting weapon, a double edged dagger is very important possession of the Malays and has been part of their tradition. In the earlier days, it was not only owned and used by the men very frequently, but also revealed a lot about their social status. Keris with large number of curves was possessed by the people of the royal family. I not only had a chance to see the making of a keris with a mixture of three alloys, but also met the people of the village who make it and had so many stories to tell around this object of reverence.
Sri Menati Royal Museum in Negeri Sembilan
This is a unique palace made of wood and surely a place to visit to get introduced to Malay architecture.The design has subtle hints of Minangkabau architecture, has five levels rising to a height of sixty seven feet or approximately twenty meters high and has ninety nine columns to support the main structure. The once Istana Seri Menati was completed in 1908. It holds its name in the Malaysia book of records for being the tallest timber palace of Malaysia. It is said that no iron nails were used in the construction of the palace and the structures were held together by wooden pegs called pasak. It was closed for renovation but now it’s up and running.
Homestay at Kampung Lonek
For those who wish to stay in a home-stay and see what a traditional Malay village looks like, Kampung Lonek is the place to go. It is here that one gets to eat authentic Malay meals, try fishing with bare hands in the mud water, play bowling with bottles & coconut shell and sing-dance with the locals. Kampung Lonek was coined from a place where 2 rivers meet, ‘kualo’ and tree named ‘sempunek’. I not only had a great time in village by participating in the daily chores of the ladies but also met the ladies who have been the strong force behind this home-stay programme, running since 2005.
And there I learned more.
Bongai is the Negeri Sembilan traditional folklore song.
Kacau dodol is the activity of making a sweet called, dodol.
Mengemping padi is the name for roasting rice and making rice puffs.
Sukan rakyat is a local game.
Mengoca ikan is about catching fish with bare hands.
Kampong Bharu and Heritage trail in Kuala Lumpur
In the city full of skyscrapers and high rises, Kampong Bharu is quite a charming contrast in the forefront. An old rustic Malay village thrives right in the center of the city. In the last two decades, a lot of glittering buildings have come up and speedy changes have taken place in this city, but this cluster of timber houses always reminds Kuala Lumpur of its humble beginnings. A bicycle ride or a walk around this area is a must do. Just around there, check the Mosque, Gurudwara and the vibrant food market of Chowkit.
And of course, I dint miss to take the KL heritage trail which boasts of Royal Selangor Club, KL city gallery, KL Music museum, National Textile Museum, Queen Victoria Fountain, Old Post Office, Former High Court Building, Clock Tower, Old Market Square and more.
If you think, you have seen it all, just take a ride on the Hop-on, Hop-off bus in KL and fall in love with the idea of exploring the city with new eyes and new angles. Keep the camera handy.
Last but not the least, the journey with Malaysia Airlines was extremely comfortable.