Comfortably cradled in a crook of Perak River, Kuala Kangsar is a well preserved old Royal Town where its serenity and its well-maintained old palaces are worth a mention.
This place must have had a strange effect on Sultan Yusuf Sharifuddin Mudzaffar Shah of Perak who ruled from 1877 to 1887. Unlike many rulers who protected their royal places and strongholds by selecting their vantage points carefully where they could detect enemy approach from afar, the Sultan had his first royal palace built beside the riverbank. He then named it 'Istana Sri Sayong'.
|Istana Iskandariah, the royal palace where reigning head of state, Sultan Azlan Shah resides
One flooding was so severe, it almost swept the palace away. Finally, after the Big Flood or Air Bah in 1926, it was decided to move the place further up onto the knoll where stands the current Royal Palace named Istana Iskandariah with its Art-Deco architecture, a rare but significant piece of architectural milestone in Malaysia.
Kuala Kangsar today has spread across the gentle undulating lands along the bank to accommodate the growing community but its core and historical part of town still sits quietly on the high grounds by the bend of the river. A familiar structure of a royal town, the royal palace is usually the centre of the town where subjects would later build their homes around, close to the palace. Presumably, many of the subjects that served the courts and the Sultan would have had to be nearby in any event for emergencies etc.
Tekad Benang Emas
|Old Malay mansions left derelict, Bukit Chandon
A retired school teacher, Puan Azizah lives in Bukit Chandon, a village just some walking distance from Istana Iskandariah. She tells of her childhood years when every girl entering puberty was taught the art of 'Tekat' or Embroidery. This handiwork was passed from mothers to daughters and each girl was given her first and most important assignment to display her handiwork - she was to create beautiful embroidery pieces to be worn or paraded for her own wedding ceremony as she reached the age of marital consent at 16. As tradition goes, gold thread is embroidered on velvet pieces - both of which had to be imported, even in the old days and very costly to make, hence the need for the young girl to be finicky in embroidering their pieces.
Puan Azizah proudly displays her own pieces in which she wore for her wedding day. She gleams as she talks about her first pair of lovely embroidered slippers that she had managed to salvage one day from being washed away in a flash flood. In her 70's, Puan Azizah continues to champion for this dying art and has succeeded in producing a handful of fine students although she says that it is becoming increasingly difficult to create interest in such intricate art. Although, with the current amenities, tekat is now more often machined than hand embroidered. Puan Azizah still hand embroiders many of her pieces and with that, clients have to place orders some 4-5months in advance. In the wall- to-wall glass cabinets that adorn her workroom, Puan Azizah displays her tekat pieces - embroidered onto cushion covers, wall decorations, betelnut boxes, pillowcases, hand cushions, beddings etc. Her inspiration, she quips, comes from her surroundings. She feels much peace and serenity in the environs around her home, especially by the river where she often sits in the evenings. From being as one with her surroundings she is able to create wonderful designs of local plants and flowers. Designs of Orchids and Padi stalks are popular with her clients. Many of her ready clients place orders months ahead and almost all of her sold pieces are used in wedding ceremonies. Puan Azizah has passed on her expertise to her daughter as her own mother has done and she hopes that her students will continue the traditions of tekat. After all, this embroidery is unique to Perak and represents the state as a strong Malay art and tradition.
Sultan Azlan Shah Museum
The Oldest Rubber Trees
The Ubudiah Mosque
It was planned and built in 1926 after the great floods of 1926. Shaped like a sword, the entire palace was built without a blueprint and not a single nail was used. The walls are made of woven sliced bamboo, and patterned in diamond motifs called the 'kelarai'. The roof is in the shape of the 5 ridges of a traditional Malay house and the ridge of a row of bananas - known as 'perabung 5 and perabung pisang sesikat'. The palace was completed in 1931 and set up as a temporary residence for Sultan Iskandar Shah (1918 - 1938, the 30th Sultan of Perak) while the original royal palace or istana negara was being torn down for the new Istana Iskandariah.
The Malay College remains a centre of academic excellence.