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Kuala Kangsar

 

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

Apart from being exposed to the impending threat of invasion, the other problem was the force of monsoon seasons, which led to numerous flooding as water gushed down from the jungles above through the many tributaries. The name Kuala Kangsar is believed to be derived from 'Kuala Karong-Sa', which means '99 small tributaries flowing into the Perak River'.

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

There is still a small community living just outside palace grounds. A few old Malay mansions built in the early days are remnants of the pride and joy of the early sultanate, lay scattered around the area.

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

Further down the road from the Royal Palace(Istana Iskandariah) is an older Palace called Istana Hulu built in 1903. Inspired by Victorian architecture, this palace until some 5years or so ago, housed the 'Raja Perempuan Mazwin School' (Mazwin School for Ladies) . A most apt building for a school - A sprawling, somewhat sobering building. One can just picture a solemn school matron, dressed in black, being right at home here - with her disciplining girls in the courtyard for most trivial matters like running in corridors, or being caught whispering in their mother tongue, or for reading romance novels in school. But then the Girls' school moved out and left the palace abandoned until recently. The almost completed restoration work will soon transform the palace into a state muzium called the 'Sultan Azlan Shah Museum'. In it you will be able to find some of Puan Azizah's tekat embroidery displayed proudly.

The Oldest Rubber Trees

Just outside the gates of the museum is a lonely tree. Not a big 'WOW' but a significant tree that changed the course of Malaysia's economy in the early 1900's. This is a rubber tree and one of two of the oldest rubber trees in Peninsula that have survived the years. Sir Hugh Low, the British Resident of Perak of that time, encouraged the growth of rubber trees as the car industry expanded rapidly in the west. Soon jungles were converted into plantations, and many areas that were once virgin forests were open for commercial use. Hugh Low planted a number of rubber trees in his garden in Kuala Kangsar. Another old rubber tree from those experimental days stands by the district office in town at the intersection of Jalan Raja Chulan and Jalan Tun Abdul Razak. However, the trees don't look too well, perhaps having been hemmed in by the expansion of roads and tarring of the ground around it.

 

The Ubudiah Mosque

In the old part of Kuala Kangsar however, the roads are narrow and pleasant and great for a stroll as it winds round the grassy knoll. One of the more dominant architecture during the colonial era in the area is the Ubudiah Mosque. Sultan Idris, (1887 - 1916) the ruler then and a close friend of the British resident, Sir Hugh Low, laid the foundation of the mosque in 1913. Unfortunately, the mosque's completion was delayed due to World War 1 and an incident that involved a couple of royal elephants who ran amok in the grounds, ruining the especially imported Italian marbled floor. Sultan Idris' successor, Sultan Abdul Jalil officiated this Moorish-styled mosque for it was only completed a year after his death. Beside the mosque is the royal mausoleum, the resting place of Perak rulers since the mid-18th century.

Istana Kenangan

Just a short walk from the mosque is another palace, one that truly represents traditional Malay architecture. Also known as Istana Lembah or Istana Tepas, this palace is home to the Royal Museum of Perak for the moment and is open to public everyday from 9.30am - 5.00pm. Fridays closed from 12.15pm - 2.45pm for prayers.

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.

Malay College

Another institution of significance, which has put Kuala Kangsar on the map, is the renowned 'Malay College'. Opened in 1905, Malay College was the training grounds for hundreds of boys from royal and aristocratic families. Sultan Idris who ruled from 1887 to 1916 took a keen interest in education and he was instrumental in the development of the college that provided boys with British public school education, preparing them with a career path in the Malay Admistrative Service. Not unlike schools like Eton and Harrow in England, these schools create strong bonding amongst the boys also known as the 'old boys' network' which continues way past graduation. For this, the college also acquired another name among the Malays - Bab ud-Darajat or the 'Gateway to high ranking'!

The Malay College remains a centre of academic excellence.

next page of kuala kangsar story...

 

Accommodation & Packages to Perak ~ Ipoh, Gopeng, Taiping, Lumut , Pulau Pangkor, Maxwell Hill , Kuala Kangsar, Belum and Surroundings

Accommodation :

Sungkai

| Felda Residence Trolak | Felda Residence Hot Springs Sungkai |

Gopeng

| Adeline's Homestay | Adeline Villa | Ulu River Lodge |

Ipoh

| City Homestay Ipoh | DWJ Hotel | Excelsior Hotel | FairPark Hotel | Grand View Hotel | Heritage Hotel | Hillcity Hotel & Condo | Impiana Hotel | Kinta Riverfront Hotel & Suites | Majestic Hotel | MH Hotel | Paragon City Hotel | Regalodge | Ritz Garden Hotel | Seri Malaysia Ipoh | Sun Golden Inn | Syuen Hotel | The Banjaran Hotspring Retreat | Tower Regency Hotel & Apartments | YMCA Ipoh |

Taiping

| Casavilla Hotel | Casuarina Inn | Flemington Hotel | Hotel Furama | Hotel Fuliyean | Legend Inn | Panorama Hotel | Potato Hotel | Taiping Perdana Hotel | Sentosa Villa | Seri Malaysia Hotel | SSL Traders Hotel | Taiping Golf Resort | Vistana Micassa Hotel |

Maxwell Hill

| Bukit Larut Hill Resort | Cendana |

Lumut

| Best Western Marina Island Resort | Lumut Country Resort | The Orient Star Resort | Swiss Garden Resort & Spa Damai Laut | Marina Cove Resort |

Pulau Pangkor

Teluk Nipah | Anjungan Beach Resort & Spa | Mizam Resort | Havana Beach Resort | Nipah Bay Villa | Palma Beach Resort | Hornbill Resort |

Dutch Fort | Tiger Rock |

Pasir Bogak | Amaya Pangkor Resort | BestStay Hotel Pangkor Island | Coral Bay Pangkor Resort | SeaView Hotel | Golden Beach Resort | Puteri Bayu Beach Resort | Pangkor Sandy Beach Resort |

Teluk Dalam | Teluk Dalam Resort |

Teluk Belanga | Pangkor Island Beach Resort |

Pangkor Laut | Pangkor Laut Resort |

Kuala Kangsar

| Double Lion Hotel | Rumah Rehat Kuala Kangsar | Perak Riverside Resort |

Temenggor/Belum

| Belum Rainforest Resort | Banding Lakeside Inn |

Packages & Trips :

Camping Trips

| Trans Gopeng - Cameron Highlands Camping & Trekking | Ulu Geroh Rafflesia Trek & Rafting Trip |

Water Activities

| White Water Rafting at Gopeng and Caving at Gua Tempurung |

 

Malaysia Cities , Towns & Villages

Peninsula Malaysia Cities , Towns & Villages

Kedah

| Alor Setar |

Terengganu

| Chukai | Dungun | Kemaman | Kijal | Kuala Terengganu | Paka |

Perak

| Ipoh | Kuala Kangsar | Lumut | Taiping |

Selangor

| Klang | Kuala Selangor |

Kelantan

| Kota Bahru |

Federal Territory

| Kuala Lumpur |

Johor

| Mersing |

Negri Sembilan

| Seremban | Kuala Pilah | Lukut |

Pahang

| Sungei Lembing | Kuala Lipis | Kuantan |

Melaka

| Melaka |

Sabah and Sarawak Towns , Cities & Villages

Sarawak

| Kuching | Long Bedian | Long Lama | Long Terawan | Miri | Marudi |

Sabah

| Sandakan | Kota Kinabalu | Tawau |