A Travellerspoint blog

Historic Melaka

Today we were heading to Melaka. We made our way to the BTS and found out that buses left every 15 minutes to Melaka, how convenient. We booked tickets for 10 am which was essentially right away. The bus station was quite organized with screens letting you know if the bus was delayed and by how much time. Ours was a little late, but still arrived remarkably quick. The bus was so new that it had that chemical 'new' smell that Ryan informed me was all the glues and adhesives giving off fumes. It was quite the contrast from Myanmar who had decades old buses bought second hand from Japan.

Soon we made it to the Melaka Sentral station. We walked around until we found a buffet lunch in the station. There was pumpkin curry, off-tasting yellow greens, and other vegetables. Ryan enjoyed his fried chicken. When we caught a cab, the driver knew exactly where to go to our homestay which was nice.

The homestay was a sweet older home with a yard that would have been a great rest area with shaded benches and lots of plants. Our room had an old wardrobe and desk plus plenty of space. This definitely felt like a real homestay even with shared washrooms past the kitchen, though it was run like a hostel.


The staff helped us figure out a path to see the historic area. We walked past the big hotel and near a mall before we entered the historic area. An old Portuguese fort, Kota A Famosa had stood the test of time. Only a small part of the fort remained, The Porta de Santiago, a small gate house, and a man played covers of Western rock music on his guitar inside. The fort was built by the Portuguese in 1512 after they defeated the Sultanate. Albuquerque, the man in charge, picked the site on a hill on the sea as he believed Melaka would make an ideal trading location, which it did. The fort was built with forced labour with remains of destroyed mosques, palaces and royal mausoleums.


The fort grew larger before it was handed over to the Dutch upon Portuguese defeat in 1641. The words ANNO 1670 were carved into the arch along with a bas-relief of the Dutch East India Company logo. The fort was turned over to the British who didn't want to maintain it and feared it could be used against them when the Dutch took the fort back. They ordered its destruction in 1806. Most of it was destroyed until Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of modern Singapore, arrived and saved the gate house. He didn't want to see history destroyed.


We climbed a bit more to St. Paul's Church which had been built by the Portuguese in the early 1500s as a Catholic church named Nosa Senhora. It was built on the site of a palace destroyed in their bombardments using the ruins as building material. It was too bad so much of the Malay history was destroyed. The Portuguese added a watchtower a few decades later. The Dutch converted the church into a Protestant one named St. Paul's and used it until the late 1700s when they built another. Then St. Paul's became a fortress. When the British came, they used it as an ammunition depot so the area was ever changing. Inside there were tall white walls with open windows. Many large gravestones stood inside the walls with histories inscribed on them. It seemed more interesting our simple birth and death dates, but these were also for the more important foreign citizens.


We walked down to the Dutch graveyard, which also held British graves. It was fairly small.


From there, we unknowingly sneaked into the Melaka Sultanate Palace Museum. It was a replica built in the 1980s in the style of the era of Sultan Mansur Syah, who ruled from 1456 to 1477. It was a wooden building with several small roof sections.

Along with a large collection of weapons, models of traditional homes and clothing, there were interesting stories. One man working for the Sultan was headstrong and demanded to be married to the Sultan's wife. Since relations were unstable, the Sultan divorced his wife to allow them to be together. In another story, a friend had accused another of a crime. Without much investigation, the man was sentenced to death. The employee responsible for carrying out the sentence didn't think the conviction was fair and sent the convicted man away. The Sultan came to regret the death sentence he had bestowed and the employee then declared he hadn't killed the man. The convicted man was brought back and asked to kill the man who had wrongly accused him for petty reasons.


We explored the grounds of the historic area, which included a plane and a boat replica. The airplane was a Twin Pioneer CC MK 1, manufactured by Scottish aviation from the mid 1950s to late 1960s.


There were more museums than we could visit so we quickly looked through the architectural one, not absorbing much. Our headaches kept us from reading too much.


We passed a red building featuring galleries along with the clock tower and a Victorian fountain. The Tang Beng Swee Clock Tower was built in 1886. There was a windmill and a Hard Rock Cafe across the street too.


We visited a couple more churches. The Christ Church had been built by the Dutch betwen 1741 and 1753 to replace a shattered Portuguese church. Bricks were shipped from Zeeland in the Netherlands and the building was a reddish colour. It is the oldest Protestant church in Malaysia. There was also St. Francis Xavier church with white towers.


We had a late lunch/early supper at an Indian restaurant with cheap egg and masala rotis. We shared the thosai masala after and had a couple fruit shakes to beat the heat. It was delightful and we were the only ones in the restaurant. We did a really quick walk through Little India before heading back down the alleyways to Apa Kaba our homestay. We were too tired to do much after that so we called it an early night.

Posted by Sarah.M 19:13 Archived in Malaysia Tagged palace malaysia museum a british kota dutch colony melaka portuguese sultanate famosa Comments (0)

Muddy Waters : Historic Kuala Lumpur

Masjid Jamek mosque, Batu Caves and The Mud musical

After a simple breakfast of toast and jam (the days of lovely Burmese breakfasts were over), we managed to track down Ryan's clothes. They'd ended up in the dorms by mistake and it only took talking to a few staff members to get them back.

We jumped on the monorail to connect to the rapid KL line so that we could visit the Masjid Jamek mosque. At the mosque we were greeted right away by friendly volunteers. My robe was red this time with a hood instead of the hijab. A man from Pakistan studying in Kuala Lumpur explained that this was the oldest brick mosque, built in 1907 and opened in 1909, built at the convergence of two rivers, the Klang and Gombok. As Kuala Lumpur meant muddy confluence so this site was the true heart of the city. People settled had on the banks of the Klang river to live in the early settlement years.


Our volunteer guide also expressed how the gatherings daily, or at least every Friday for men, would help the community grow closer together and serve as a community centre. It had really helped him integrate when he arrived as an international student without knowing anyone. Women were not expected to come to mosque on Friday if they were menstruating or after childbirth so that they could rest.


He explained the function of the high tower, which was to call to prayer. Now loudspeakers and a recording played that role, but it used to be a specific job. The tower was also an indicator of a village as back in the Middle East there was a lot of flat desert. So groups would look for the towers to find their way. The domes, aside from being the current symbol of a mosque, were natural amplifiers which came in quite handy before microphones. Our guide let us go in the prayer area and told us that it was also alright to take pictures. Then he wished us luck on our travels.


Most of the people walking the covered path to the prayer room were foreigners. Another older volunteer explained the room and act of praying. Absolution was necessary before prayer, the washing of the arms from hands to elbows, ears, head (for men), and feet. Cleanliness was very important in Islam. Men and woman had different prayer areas so that the position of prostration wouldn't distract others and each gender would have their privacy. Regardless of status, all men prayed in lines together. They'd give thanks to Allah, the one and only God. The volunteer also emphasized how prayers were short and easy to do five times a day. If he missed one, he felt that he'd failed after having completed them properly for so long. He also emphasized the commonalities between Christianity and Islam like Mary and Jesus, and how they were also respected in his religion. Again it was interesting to speak with people so passionate about their beliefs.


Afterward, we found the area close to Merdeka square and ate some cheap Indian buffet food that was pretty tasty and had vegetarian options. We tried briyani rice and curried vegetables plus a couple local pops.


We continued walking past historic buildings until we arrived at the city gallery and the I heart KL sign. We lined up to pose for a picture. Inside the gallery, there was an explanation of the background of several of the buildings in the area left from British occupation. They also had an exhibit on Chinese New Year celebrations with a decent emphasis on spending time with family. Upstairs there was a city model which was enormous and included buildings that were still only in the planning stages. The city planned to build several new sky scrapers but also remain dedicated to green space. Music, lights and a movie accompanied the model to showcase different areas of the city.


To get in, we paid 5 RM and got redeemable vouchers for the gift shop for the same amount. We browsed and while some of the items were cute, the baked good section was more alluring. I had a chocolate durian roll out of curiosity. Durian was a fruit with an extremely foul smell, so bad that it was banned in several venues because of its pungency. It was spiky on the outside and the fleshy part was a golden yellow. Since it was my second trip to Asia, I figured it was about time I tried some. The smell was enough to keep away an appetite and the taste was a bit off too. Likely my first and last durian experience. Ryan opted for the more pleasant two donuts option.


Outside, we passed the immense 95 metre flagpole where the national flag was first raised after independence, August 31st 1957. Merdeka meant freedom so this was freedom square. There was also a large grassy field, formerly known as the Selangor Club Padang. It was used as the grounds for cricket and rugby during British occupation. The old British sports club across from it was now used for other purposes. We passed the beautiful copper roofed Sultan Abdul Samad building. It had copper domes and a larger clock tower in the middle. It was originally completed in 1897 to serve as the offices of the British colonial government. After independence it was renamed after Sultan Abdul Samad, the sultan of Selangor at the time construction began. It later housed the courts that had since moved to Putrajaya, and now housed the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture of Malaysia. There was a theatre nearby showing the MUD musical about the history of Kuala Lumpur. We picked up some tickets to the 8pm showing since we still had another place to visit.


Nearby, we visited the St. Mary's Anglican Church. It was a Gothic Revival style church designed by AC Norman (who also designed part of the Sultan Abdul Samad building) and built in 1894. It was quite spacious inside with many pews and chandeliers.


We took a few rapid KL train lines to end up at KL Sentral, from which we could ride the Komuter train. The fare was quite low and we had a bit of a wait ahead of us. I read the Sun newspaper which is far less slanderous in Malaysia than it is in Winnipeg. It was interesting to get the local perspective on events like the killing of the Jordanian pilot. They didn't condone these actions and they declared that they didn't represent their faith. The writer expressed his sympathies for the pilot. There was also an article on how severla people linked to Malaysia had ties to ISIS.

The walkways to the Batu Caves were crowded with development. Tent sold Indian sweets, clothing, toys and to my delight veggie burgers. It was too bad I didn't have an appetite for them. We bypassed the paid cave with a big green statue of Lord Hanuman at the base to visit the better know Batu cave.


The Batu caves were dedicated to Lord Murugan and were one of the most important Hindu shrines outside of India. During the Thaipusam festival a couple days earlier, Hindus came from many countries to celebrate here. The gold statue at the base of the stairs was the tallest statue of Lord Murugan in the world at 130 feet tall. Tall wide staircases climbed into the rock face, 272 steps to go. Signs emphasized that there was to be no exercising on the stairs, aka no running. We wouldn't have an issue. A few monkeys played with garbage on the stairs. The temple was over 115 years old.


Inside the cathedral cave were a few temples dedicated to Lord Hanuman. There were various statues and deities on the roofs. The cave was quite large and high. Sadly the most memorable thing about the visit was the garbage slowly being collected after the Thaipusam festival. A few colourful accessories still remained too. We started back down the stairs.


We walked the market grounds once more with Bollywood soundtracks playing in DVD stands. We tried to buy sweets but weren't able to purchase small quantities so we passed. On the train platform, I noticed there was a standing area and car reserved exclusively for woman which seemed like a great idea for safety at night or other.


Both days so far had been action packed so we went back to our hostel to rest. We went out for a bit to look for souvenirs, finding lots of shops and a neat market Chinatown area like up with countless restaurants and lanterns. I took notice of the Middle Eastern restaurants along the way. We tried some Iraqi food for Sumer restaurant. They had shwarma pitas for Ryan and fattuche salad for me with tasty hummus. We were both sad the Middle East was generally unsafe to visit. The food was so good.


We took the metro down to Masjid Jamek and found the theatre nearby. Since it was early, we sat in the park and ate mangosteen that I'd picked up earlier. They were hard shelled fruits that you cracked open to find white fruit inside. They resembled an orange in formation but a peeled grape in texture. They had a nice sweet flavour. The buildings were all lit up nicely at night too.


In the theatre, the staff gave us books to read on history while we waited at a small table in the fancy lobby. We flipped through many of the photos. Just before eight, they invited us inside. A French family and a Malaysian woman made up the rest of the audience. After an intense multimedia display, the show began.


Meng and Muthiah met with their friend Mamat in town. They sang about their dreams to build this strong town and how nothing would stop them. Meng started working in the tin mines and got himself a bicycle. Muthiah was convinced that a distant family friend could find him work, though it never panned out. His life grew worse and worse. Mamat had a baby with his wife. They invited me and the Malay woman up on stage to crush Styrofoam spices during a festival.


The multimedia show came out again for the fire that burned down the city in 1881 and left the village with charred homes. Ryan was helping put out the fire by carrying up a bucket to the stage. Rain came down for days and months, prompting a flood. It left the people with very little hope for the future. After some debate, they banded together to rebuild their city. The wives and love interests had some influence on the men's decisions. Most of us in the audience went up to dance with the cast on stage. I hoped I didn't butcher the dance steps too much.


Another slideshow demonstrated progress to the Kuala Lumpur of today which led into the finale. We took photos since it was now permitted. We were even able to go up on stage with the large cast and pose, not that there was much of a line with an audience of seven or eight. Still the energy the performers had was incredible even for just a few of us. I hope they get more attention and bigger audiences in the future. The tickets were a similar price to those at the KL tower and this was much more worth it in our minds. Hopefully 'Nothing will stop them now'. We promised to write them a trip advisor review (which we did) and brought a pamphlet to the hostel to leave for others to look at too.


Posted by Sarah.M 05:58 Archived in Malaysia Tagged batu_caves kuala malaysia mud lumpur musical masjid_jamek_mosque city_gallery Comments (0)

Mosques, museums and towers

We walked toward the National Mosque and the Islamic Arts and Culture Museum. The museum, which we didn't know much about before visiting, had an impressive collection of intricate dioramas of mosques from around the world, including the Middle East, India, Malaysia and China. The architecture gallery was likely my favourite. The beauty of the mosques had me wishing I could visit many of the countries some day, once many conflicts were resolved. Mosque architecture was designed to display humility and simplicity.


According the museum description, the towers were built so that one could call to prayer and be heard. Most had domes that we now associate with mosques, designed for ideal acoustics, and others had courtyards. The first mosque built as an annex to his house by the Prophet in Medina was a model for mosques to follow. Mosques featured a sheltered portico courtyard used for congregational prayer, a minbar: raised steps where the khatib addressed the congregation, a minaret from which the mu'azin called for prayer, a qibla a wall accented by a Mihrab or niche which faces the Kaaba in Mecca and finally the dome to provide shelter and encourage spiritual unity. Later on the Dikka, a platform raised on columns, Kursi, a raised chair with a book fold for the Quran and the Maidha'h, the water source for the traditional ablution before prayer.


Along with the architecture was the Ottoman Room, a reconstructed interior of an Ottoman Syrian room dated 1820 - 1821 AD that was impressive as well. It had beautiful painted wood paneling and few windows.



The museum itself was beautiful with spectacular domes ceilings. The tiles inside were from Iran while the outer stucco was from Uzbekistan.


The museum also had a collection of beautifully scribed and illustrated Qurans and manuscripts. Authors and illustrators went to school for years to qualify to be part of the process. Calligraphy was highly respected in society and leaders also liked to show off their prowess. There were fragments of the Quran that dated date back to the 8th century from either North Africa or the Middle East. The museum collection featured Qurans from different centuries and different countries. Those from India, Persia and the Ottoman empires were far more embellished than those from the Middle East.



There were also collections of Islamic articles and items from the three main cultural groups in Malaysia: Chinese, Indian and Malay. Islam was prevalent in Northern India. Many Indian items were from the Mughal era (1526-1828) when many items were embellished and there was much attention to beauty and extravagance.

In China, Muslim emissaries arrived during the Tang (618-709) dynasty, but the exact date Islam arrived is unknown. It is thought to have come either through the trade route from Southeast Asia or across the Silk Road trading route.. Trade cities like Xi-an and Guangdong welcomed Islam and it later spread to China's western provinces. By the Song dynasty (960-1279), mosques were built throughout China. Muslims had unprecedented political influence during the Ming era (1368-1644). They also produced a number of goods with calligraphy and Islamic text for export. Items like ceramic pen boxes, alien to the Chinese market, were created for export too. There were even ceramic hookahs. Today there are ten ethnic Chinese Muslim minorities, most of who live in the Northwest. Hui Muslims are spread throughout the country.


The Malay World, encompassing much of Southeast Asia from Southern Thailand to Indonesia and stretching east as far as the Southern Philippines, were influenced by nature. Plant, cloud and fruit often showed up in the work either concretely or abstractly. Qurans were also made in the Malay world. People were well known for their woodworking and metalworking skills, beautifying Quaran boxes, prayer screens, and weapons (which even included ladies daggers).

http://www.iamm.org.my/galleries/china/ http://www.iamm.org.my/galleries/malay-world/

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We had hardly explored the second floor which featured ceramics, jewelry, weapons and textiles among other displays, when the lights turned off to let us know that the museum was closing. We still got to marvel at the impressive paintings inside the dome ceilings and see a nice fountain. An interesting aspect of the museum was seeing how far and long Chinese influence as a trader, distributor and producer has spread. Some of the mosques included lotus flowers to show China's influence in the ceramics.


Even though we hadn't had enough time to finish the Islamic Arts museum, we thought let's cram in one more visit to the National Mosque. When I was in Malaysia in 2012, Justine and I went to visit it together and it was time to return. There were still thirty minutes left before tourists would be kicked out so it could be used for its intended purpose of prayer. We had to put on purple robes so we'd be able to explore. I believe Ryan's shorts were the reason he had to wear one as well. I also got to wear an orange hijab. After going up the stairs, the open halls had wonderful view of the city including its famous KL tower.


The mosque was built in 1965 to celebrate the country's recent independence. It was quite large and could hold up to 15,000 people. There was a turquoise star dome with eighteen points representing the thirteen states of Malaysia and the five pillars of Islam. A 74 metre minaret that broadcast the call to prayer as far as Chinatown. That was one of the first aspects that had struck me about being in a Muslim country, hearing the call the prayer several times a day.

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We ventured over the prayer room, which wasn't open to non-Muslims to enter, but the doors were open wide enough that you could still look in from afar. Volunteers from Islamic Outreach stood outside to chat with us and answer any questions that we had about Islam. It was always refreshing to see someone with so much passion and confidence in their beliefs. He walked us through the five daily prayers facing Mecca (in Saudi Arabia), the cleansing ritual of ablution before prayer, how woman are respected and valued in Islam and how extremists do not represent their faith. They valued human rights and equality. I still have a bit of struggle with the fact that woman should not promote or distract others with their sexuality while men were not subject to equal treatment, but I appreciated hearing his honest views. I'd imagine it would be hard to see your religion blamed and bashed in the news constantly. It would also be hard to see how the same book that supports your beliefs is also blamed for extremist actions like the recent burning of the Jordanian pilot.


For supper, we found an Indian restaurant with vegetarian food near KL Sentral. I ordered butter vegetable masala curry and a samosa. Ryan went for a potato dosa and roti. We swapped a few pieces of our monster meals. It was really good, though the curry was on the spicier side.

After that, we took the rapid KL line and monorail to get near the KL tower. No matter the hour, the streets of KL were quite lively. The telecommunications tower stood at 421 metres with an antenna, 335 metres if you were measuring to the top of the observation deck. At the tower, we waited for the shuttle to the base until time convinced us that it would be faster to walk to the entrance.


At the ticket office they tried to talk us into the upper deck, which cost twice the price, but we were fine looking out through the glass of the lower level. The elevator ride up was fairly quick. Kuala Lumpur was lit up brightly at night. From the top, we could see the Petronas Towers, though the view wasn't as perfect as we'd anticipated. We checked out what was happening on ground level and at the towers with the binoculars. In the end, it probably wasn't worth the cash to go up there, but we could say that we'd done it. Watching videos of people base jumping from the tower was pretty cool.


We walked over to the Petronas Towers afterward, passing plenty of bars and restaurants. The towers were busy as usual with every group or couple waiting to get their pictures. We got ours quickly, admired the bright silvery towers and did some people watching, always fun when pictures were involved. The towers stood at 452 meters high, taller than KL tower and certainly more beautiful. There was a sky bridge between the 41st and 42nd floors that connected the two towers and tourists could visit an observation deck at the top for quite a price, if the tickets weren't sold out, which was why we'd chosen KL Tower. Plus I imagined looking at the exterior was more interesting. The towers' floor plan was designed keeping the Islamic eight point star in mind and the five sections of each tower represented the five pillars of Islam.


After a walk back to the hostel, we discovered half of our clothes had gone missing, mainly Ryan's half. Perhaps doing laundry here wouldn't be as much of a bargain as we thought.

Posted by Sarah.M 06:55 Archived in Malaysia Tagged mosque tower history india kuala malaysia china museum towers national arts lumpur petronas kl islamic Comments (0)

Exploring Muzium Negara and surroundings

History, architecture and beauty

After getting to sleep in courtesy of the time difference and exhaustion, we inquired about laundry. We hoped that KL, being a large and modern enough city, would have a laundromat. Sure enough it did, according the woman at the front desk who at one time had lived in Saskatchewan of all places. Construction made the journey a bit longer, past fancy malls, Middle Eastern restaurants and a Fuddruckers, our indication to turn, but we found the laundromat in the end. It was nice to use a machine instead of hand washing and it only cost us 6 ringgit ($2). The approximately 3:1 conversion for the local currency was nice and easy to figure out.

We decided to save some time and money by drying the clothes in our room. Unfortunately there was a snag in our plan when we returned. Hostelworld, our booking site, had messed up our booking and we'd have a different room for tonight, meaning that we'd have to check out now and check back in later. Not the best news to get with a bag dull of moist clothes. The public drying areas would have to do.

For lunch, we headed down to Naab, an Iranian restaurant with a fancy tiled interior including a fountain. I ordered baba ganoush, an eggplant dip with pita bread, while Ryan had a chicken kebab with some really dry rice. Still it was quite nice to have a change from the familiar Burmese fare of fried rice, Chinese style food or omelettes.


The monorail ran during daylight hours so we headed over to KL Sentral. From there we could see where the entrance would have been, off to the side near a mall and a distance from where we walked last night. On our walk to National Museum, we passed the old railway station with Moorish style architecture. Designed by British architect, Arthur Hubback in 1910 to replace the existing railway station, the building design had Neo-Moorish/Mughal/Indo-Saracenic/Neo-Saracenic influences. The British architect was a result of Malaysia being a British colony at the time, more on that when we get to the museum. The building was quite impressive with horseshoe and ogee arches, large chhatris at the corners and even verandas.


We reached the Muzium Negara (National Museum). It was built on the old site of the Selangor Museum, built in 1898 by the British and Selangor governments after the formation of the Federated Malay States two years prior. Toward the end of the war, the right wing of the museum was hit by a US Allied B-29 bomber and the collection had to be moved. Near their independence, Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman had the idea to build a museum to house cultural and historical treasures as well as flora and fauna. By 1963, the Muzium Negara was officially opened. The architect, Ho Kok Hoe, was inspired by Malay royal palaces and vernacular Malay architecture.


We entered the first exhibit, which was free. The gallery featured Orang Asli crafts from three different tribes native to the Malay Peninsula: Negrito, Senoi, and Proto Malay. Some practised a hunter gather lifestyle and many of their tools, traps, wood sculptures and musical instruments were on display. According to the museum signs, the Negrito people move from one place to another by building simple huts on hillsides or river valleys inland. They hunt and collect forest produce to support their livelihood. They have darker skin, a shorter stature and wavy hair.


The Senoi tribes: Mah Meri and Jah Hut do excellent carvings. The Senoi group makes up 55% of the Orang Asli. Their livelihood involves farming dry rice, corn, millet and tapioca as well as hunting, fishing and gathering wood for sale. They cook using bamboo and live at the edge of forests. They have wavy hair.


The Proto Malays practised agriculture as well, growing dry rice, tapioca, yam, and fruit. They are expert boat makers and still can hunt using a blow pipe and expertly made traps. They are tall with fairer skin and straight hair.


A group of school children visited at the same time we did and their English was fairly fluent, some even adopting North American accents.

We entered the second free exhibit, the Malay World Ethnology Museum which had an ambitious number of write ups on the arts, religion, dances, crafts, music and dress of the Malay people. There was a diorama of a man making a tradition wau bulan, a moon-kite. There was also a traditional Malay village on display.


The section on wedding featured a traditional wedding dai, or pelamin. This was the area where the bride and groom sat to receive their guests. After the engagement, there would be an akad nikah, signing of the wedding contract in front of a religious official. The day or a few days after, the Bersanding commenced. Guests were entertained at the groom's home before the ceremony and male musicians, like a hadrah or kompang band, played. Then they all made a procession to the bride's home to meet her. There could be comically staged attempts to stop the meeting of the bride and groom. From there, the couple sat on their pelamin, an ornately decorated sofa raised above the guests. It sometimes featured yellow, like the one in the museum, as it was a colour associated with royalty. The couple were to be treated like royalty for the day as they were served, sprinkled with scented water and yellow rice, and given demonstrations of the traditional martial art silat. Musicians played court music. They were also given an ornamented egg with a flower to promote fertility.



Shadow puppets were neat to see and as I suspected, they came from Indonesia, part of the area they considered Malay in culture. There were also games and toys like a spin top, congkak animal shaped board and more Wau Bulan moon-kites. Many traditional music instruments were on display as well.

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There were weapons with short handles, long handles, some intended for gutting, as well as cannons, "Tombak" (spear), "Lembing" and the important Keris. The Keris/Kris was a double edged weapon used for stabbing. In addition to its weaponry qualities, it was also a symbol of status as kerises could indicate the rank and social standing of a person based on their colour and number of waves (or loks) in a blade, as well as serving as a talisman for protection. The Keris originated in Java in the 9th century and spread throughout the Indonesian archipelago of Malaysia, Southern Thailand, Southern Philippines (Mindanao), Singapore, Brunei and some parts of Cambodia, Laos and Burma. Most men felt naked if they did not have a keris on their hip. Some of the blades were straight and others wavy. The hilt of the blade varied too. The Keris had a supernatural element. It was reputed to warn the wearer of potential danger by rattling in its sheath. It was also though that one could damage their enemy by thrusting the blade into their footsteps. The weapon was also used in ceremonies, rituals, and executions.



One of the craft activities featured was weaving and included a diorama with a woman weaving mengkuang leaves into a colourful mat. There was also pottery and woodworking including quail traps.


Outside, there was a traditional Malay house, an example of Terenggnau Malay architecture called Rumah Terrengganu Tiang dua belas, meaning 12 column Terrangganu house. It was made of cengal wood and stood on wooden stilts. It was called Istana Satu and was erected by Al-marhum Sultan Zainal Abidin III, Sultan of Terengganu in 1884. We went inside to see several rooms squished into one in what would have been a royal home.


There were also burial poles. Two tribes, Sekapan and Punan Bah, would rebury their deceased by collecting bones from the coffin and placing them in a jar from their home. The jar would then be placed inside or around the pole. These poles were estimated to be about 200 years old, donated by the Sekapans and Punan Bah community in Sarawak (a province on the island of Borneo). They stood 8.5 metres and 7.1 metres high.



The outdoor display also featured transportation options through the ages. There was a Johor horse cart that was used by a Chinese family in the early 1900s for recreation then public transportation as well as a bullock cart. The bullock cart was a symbol of Melacca, going back as far as the 15th century when it was thought to be brought over from India. There was also a green gharry used to transport passengers in the 1920-30s.


The trains on display was a class T steam locomotive, one of five small tank engines built by W.G. Bagnall Limited of England in 1927 as well as a steam locomotive.


There was an Austin seven car, built in the 1930s, a trishaw, a railway coach, and a fire engine used from the 1950s to 1980s. The Proton Saga, the first car to be built by a Malaysian company was on display. It was easy to guess that it came out of the 1980s, 1985 to be exact.
There was also a helicopter and a tank on display to do with their temporary exhibit.

We paid our admission fee to visit the rest of the museum (5 ringgit, less than $2). The museum offered insight into long term history, foreign influences, and Malaysia today. The pre-history section gave an overview of the geological and cultural history of the area. During the last ice age, water levels were low to the point that much of Southeast Asia was connected including Indonesia and the Philippines. That was the reason for some cultural similarities today along with exchange through trade. The collection also featured Neolithic pottery, jewelry like stone rings, shells earrings and beads used for trade. The collection also featured the Dong Son bell, dated approximately 150 CE.


There was also a replica of the Perak Man, dated between 10,000 to 11,000 years ago. The human skeleton is the oldest and most complete skeleton in Southeast Asia and was found in the Cave of Runtuh, Lenggong, Perak.


In the Malay kingdoms section, there was a model of a Majapahit ship that sailed in the Malay Peninsula around the 13th century. It was built by the powerful Majapahit Empire which was based in Indonesia. There were also statues from the Indonesian area dating back to the 9th-12th centuries when the area was more Hindu-Buddhist.


In Malaysia, Melacca was ideally situated to be an ideal trading point along the Melaka straight for the Eastern nations like China and those to the West like Middle Eastern empires. From the Middle East came Islam, which replaced and shamed the people's previous animist beliefs. Sultan Megat Iskandar Shah, the second ruler of Melacca, converted to Islam, made it the official religion and others followed. This helped make Melacca more attractive for trade with Muslim merchants and traders from India, Arabia and Persia. These empires also controlled much of the trade routes in that area at the time. When Christians arrived later, very few successful conversions were made.


Come the 15th century, the Malay Kingdom of Melecca was a celebrated and powerful force, strengthened by Islam and a politically savvy leader, Parameswara. He was the son-in-law of the Raja of Majapahit and the son of Raja Sailendra of Palembang. Parameswara had also served as the governor of Palembang and of Temasik (Singapore). Melacca grew to be an internationally recognized port city.

The Portuguese came to colonize Malaysia, which at the time was known mainly as Melacca. They were unable to make contact the first time an emissary was sent, but the second delegation sent by King of Portugal to foster relations was intercepted. Some got away and others were captured. Hearing this, the King sent his armada which attacked the Malaccan fleet. The Malaccans put up a resistance but were overtaken. Melacca became a Portuguese colony and the Sultan fled to Johor to found the Johor Sultanate. Portuguese rule lasted from 1511-1641.

The Dutch were the next to colonize Melacca in 1641. After aligning themselves with local allies in Johor, the Dutch were finally able to drive the Portuguese out of Melacca. In return for their help, the Dutch agreed not to seek territory or wage war with Malay kingdoms. Melacca was ceasing to become an important port as Jakarta was increasingly used by the Dutch. Their rule of Melacca lasted until about 1825, with a period of British rule during the Napoleonic wars. Some replicas of Dutch buildings were featured in the museum.

The British came next to colonize in the area. They had been in Penang in northern Malaysia since 1785. In 1784, the British East Indian Company had insisted that the Sultan Abdullah of Kedah had over Penang, another port city. He refused until 1785 when there were threats from neighbouring Siam and Burma. In exchange for protection, the Sultan offered Penang to the East Indian Company. The company accepted the offer but refused to offer any protection in a vague and obscure way. When British rule was declared in Penang, the Sultan learned the truth and prepared his fleet for attack. The British attacked first and conquered Penang. By 1825, they also had Melacca from the Dutch and were in Singapore as well with the rights to build bases and plants as well as use land they didn't own.

Occupation wasn't over as the Japanese came in to occupy Malaysia during the Second World War. Post-War, the British created the Federation of Malaya, unifying several British territories in the country including Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo. Negotiations included a guarantee of rights for Malays including the position of Sultan and a colonial government. These actions upset the Communist Party, formed of mainly Chinese members, as they had wanted a communist Malaya. The Party started a guerrilla insurgency and a state of emergency was declared by the government June 18, 1948. The British government began unpopular efforts to contain the situation including the formation of 'New Villages' where the rural Chinese community was sent to live in an effort to deny rebels food and manpower. In the 1950s, the British government began to listen and resolve grievances by holding local elections and creating village counsels. Many Chinese people were granted citizenship which decreased support for the insurgency. The rebels grew more isolated and finally in 1960, the emergency was declared over.


During the emergency period, in 1957, the Malay people could cry out 'Merdeka' or freedom as they achieved independence. By 1963, Malaysia was formed, a culturally diverse nation. The citizens included Malay, Chinese, and Indians among others who had some mixed race (including European) backgrounds. People had also come from the Middle East, if our lunch and the many other Middle Eastern restaurants had been any indicator. On display were some of the documents and declarations including original copy of the letter of Proclamation of His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to the 14 heads of state of Malaysia.

Outside, we raided the vending machine to try out some of the local pop. Ryan tried Kickapoo Joy Juice, a lime soda, and I had a Frost root beer. Both were quite good.


Our walk continued past the KTM building, another of Hubbard's creations built in 1917 with similar influences to the railway stations. Moorish architecture reflecting 13th and 14th century Ottoman and Moghul style was mixed with Gothic and ancient Greek designs of the 14th century. Today, the building served as the railway administration building. The many large arches and arched windows showed the Gothic influence. The domes atop the building displayed its Greek design typical of the 14th century as well as link to domes found on mosques. The Moorish style of the building came to the British empire, and subsequently Malaysia based on influences from British India. The KTM building was across from the train station.



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There's more to come about our busy day in Malaysia, including the Petronas Towers, KL Tower and Islamic Arts Museum, but I thought I'd split it here since it's a lot of information to take in. The links are included as my sources and they also have more detailed information if you're interested. Thanks for reading.

Posted by Sarah.M 06:29 Archived in Malaysia Tagged history kuala malaysia station railway lumpur negara ktm muzium orang_asli malay_world_ethnology_museum Comments (0)

Late arrival in Kuala Lumpur

After nearly a month in Myanmar, we'd reached our final hours. Our flight and shuttle were late enough that we could have a nice breakfast at the hostel and relax for a bit. On the menu this morning were eggs, toast, pancakes and an interesting mix of sticky rice, chickpea and sesame. Some people ran off to get souvenirs that morning but we didn't want to risk missing the shuttle. That and we had our funds had dwindled down to roughly $3 or 3000 kyat after the airport shuttle and didn't want to pull out more. We said goodbye to the manager of the hostel who made an effort to chat with lots of the guests.


The Mandalay airport is a fair distance outside the city but our drive was quite comfortable in the van. Today was also the full moon festival at the temples, which was too bad considering we'd be spending it on an airplane, but the trip had to move onto fresh ground sometime. While our final destination was the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, most of the others in the van were heading off to Chiang Mai in Thailand.

The Mandalay airport wasn't huge, a couple stories with a few food shops and restaurants around. We went straight to check in but to our surprise we couldn't even go through the gates to the check-in counter since our flight wasn't ready to check us in. We found it a bit bizarre. When we were finally let through, the pile of tickets for each passenger was sitting in a basket for them to look through and find each one. No staff computers or terminals to print them as we arrived like a typical airport. It was a bit funny, like half of the airport was only for show. Why have all the desks with no equipment to do the jobs?

Past security, we went looking for a shot glass souvenir for a friend but had no luck finding one, just some tea lacquer ware. We spent our final bit of money on a veggie sandwich. It would have been nice to spend it elsewhere and support more of the everyday local economy, but you never wanted to be caught empty-handed in the airport in case of unexpected fees.


The airport security was much like the absent computers and it really irked Ryan. We'd assumed there'd be a point where we were searched for liquids but by the time we crossed into the final boarding area we realized it never came. Aside from that, our connecting flight to Bangkok went by smoothly. We had a chance to browse the in flight magazines and add a few more destinations to future hypothetical trips. There was also a Hindu festival today at the Batu Caves not far from Kuala Lumpur that we'd be missing.


Bangkok airport was full of familiar chains like Subway, McDonalds and Dairy Queen, all of which we stopped at. Ryan had been looking forward to the latter since our flight into Myanmar. It didn't disappoint, except for when the containers were done and Ryan contemplated a take-out bucket. The flight into Malaysia was fairly uneventful and immigration was a smooth and easy process. I used to dread flying to KL because their old airport was disorganized, hot and not very modern. Their new airport was quite well done and much more functional.

The only hiccup came when we went to claim our bags. Our flight and one from Singapore both had bags come and go around the carousel but ours were nowhere to be found. We went over to the baggage claim help area where another man from the Mandalay flight was waiting for his bag. He was connecting to a flight to Langkawi, an island further north, and had more time constraints than us given that this was our final destination for the next couple of days. Still it would be nice to have clothes. Ryan was convinced that if any airport would lose our bags it would be one from Myanmar. The other man was sure he saw his bag get on the flight to Bangkok.

A few people helped us out and as soon as I left to exchange some money, the bags were back. The luggage tags had been printed in a way that confused the staff, go figure.

We discovered upon exiting that the airport was connected to a huge fancy mall with tons of Western food chains, along with eastern food and tons of outlet stores. We tracked down a money changer to get rid of some yen, then I found a working ATM.

One thing really practical and handy thing about Kuala Lumpur is their transportation network. They have buses that run from the main light rail station straight to both airports that leave frequently. The buses also make the return trip so you're not stuck out in the middle of nowhere bartering with cab drivers. We arrived at the shuttle bus to Central and they loaded our bags. Soon we saw that most people around us had tickets. We hadn't realized that we needed them as we'd read that we'd pay on the bus. We didn't want to lose our spot as it was getting late and there was a line, so I just had my wallet ready to hopefully be able pay when he asked for the tickets. But somehow he managed to count us in a group of 6 Chinese people who had pre-booked with their flight. It's possible he saw we didn't have tickets and just overlooked us, but all the same it was nice we'd be getting a ride into the city after all. We'd make sure to buy a ticket next time.

The ride took about an hour. Upon arriving, a taxi driver informed us the monorail was closed early as it was a holiday. While that was entirely possible, I wanted to confirm for myself, so we walked over to the station. We mistakenly ended up following the overhead fast train track to Petaling Market. Luckily some of the buildings were lit up to make the walk a little less boring.


The Chinese lanterns were pretty and the streets were quite dead. When we made it to the train, sure enough it closed at 11p.m. We walked to the end of the market before catching a cab to Sunshine Bedz, our hostel. Luckily, Kuala Lumpur hardly slept so there was usually someone around to pick you up and check you in up arrival. Most of the people working at this hostel were backpackers or immigrants. I hadn't thought of a working holiday visa here, but it could be a nice place to live.


They showed us our room which was alright minus the neon signs shining through the curtains. We'd certainly landed in a commercial area.

Posted by Sarah.M 13:22 Archived in Malaysia Tagged flight malaysia bangkok mandalay transport shuttle monorail petaling klia2 Comments (0)

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