Tuesday, July 7, 2009

New Address for Bukit Kepong Museum.

Bukit Kepong, Johor received nationwide fame in the 80s when a Malay blockbuster with the same name was released to showcase Malay heroism against communist insurgency in Malaya.
Initially, there was a plan for Bukit Kepong to have its own museum at its doorsteps but after years of waiting the plan is now deferred again due to wrong location and global economic woes.

According to NST, the people in charge have just discovered that the original chosen site was proned to floods hence the stop order but the wherabouts of the new site is still a big question mark.

The key players should however take this time to identify the right message in the overall theme for this dedicated museum.

The museum must distance itself and not take the same myopic approach of the movie, which perpetuated Bukit Kepong as the final artrocity of local Chinese against Bumis.

For decades, the movie was the potent mouthpiece which was constantly used to drill into the minds of Malaysians that local Chinese were out to take the country by force. This notion often gained frightful momentum when chauvanist politicians needed to stir up national pride and send a message to be mindful of 'outsiders'.

Johor Assembly: Bukit Kepong Museum move pushed to 10MP - NST July 7, 2009 - by Sim Bak Heng

THE plan to relocate the Bukit Kepong Museum in the Ninth Malaysia Plan has to be pushed to the 10th Malaysia Plan period although allocation for the project has been approved.

State Rural Development, Art, Culture and Heritage Committee chairman Asiah Ariff said a technical study carried out by the police at the original site showed that it was not suitable for the project as it was said to be flood-prone.

"Finding an alternative site could be time-consuming and we may not be able to complete the project by year-end."As such, we have no choice but to postpone the project to the 10th Malaysia Plan," she said when winding up the debate on the Sultan of Johor's address yesterday.

The Bukit Kepong Museum is not far from the site where a group of policemen defended their remote station in Bukit Kepong, Muar against a communist terrorist attack on Feb 23, 1950.

Fourteen policemen, four village guards, three auxiliary policemen, the wife of a policeman and three of her children were killed.

Asiah said the state government would assist the Home Ministry to identify an alternative site for the project.She said many factors had to be considered before commencing on a certain project."

It is not just the speed that counts. "If a project is deemed to be not feasible technically and anticipated to bring problems later, it is better to delay it." The decision to postpone the Bukit Kepong Museum project was made during the mid-term review of the Ninth Malaysia Plan.

Monday, June 29, 2009

HMS Ocean archored in Penang

HMS Ocean (L12) - The Royal Navy helicopter carrier made history in Penang when it anchored in the Pearl of Orient for the first time on June 18, 2009.

According to reliable sources, her majesty’s ship and crew have just returned from a war game in their favorite tropical training camp in Brunei. The Penang stopover is part of the fleet’s month long journey back to their home base in Plymouth.

Like most Penangites, I had a great view of the HMS Ocean from the ferry terminal in Butterworth. The view of warship gets more interesting if you like me have the opportunity to take the iconic ferry across the narrow Penang Strait.

One can begin to appreciate the full scale of the carrier especially if view it from the sea. The 208-meter long floating airfield dwarfs over everything nearby at the wharf.

However, all eyes are quickly drawn to the Sea Kings and Chinooks on board the Amphibious Assault Ship.

Another spectacular feature of the warship is the cutting edge military hardware packed with awesome firepower. Most noticeable is the Phalanx CIWS - the state-of-the-art anti ship missile system on the HMS Ocean’s bow and helm. I saw only these two Phalanx units although Wikipedia notes there are three on board.

The arrival of the British warship also captured the headlines in the local Chinese press Kwong Wah Yit Poh (June 18, 2009 edition; see attached photo) and featured in Starmetro (Warship docks in Butterworth, June 25, 2009)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Ousted Penang Museum Curator makes a Comeback.

Ex-Penang Museum curator Khoo Boo Chia shows why he is still the authority in the field of heritage conservation in this country when his latest museum project at Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi was opened to rapturous applauses (The Starmetro, Rich history of a clan, May 27, 2009).

Khoo made the headlines in 2006 when he was 'forced' to vacate his post in Penang Museum(The Sun, March 24, 06 and also read blog entry - June 16, 2008) after he fell out of favor with the then BN councilman in charge of cultural and heritage affairs in Penang.

Although Khoo was not formally charged of any wrongdoings but it was an open secret that the vocal politician from UMNO was not pleased with Khoo and his work at the state museum.

According to reliable sources, Khoo was ‘guilty’ of failing to use his good office to project Penang’s multi cultural facets in the museum. The exhibits in the state museum was deemed too pro-Georgetown which is prominently Chinese and lacked features of Malay majority in Prai.

Hence, he was axed and replaced by his then young and inexperienced assistant curator.

Fortunately, the 2006 fallout has turned into a blessing for Khoo and he could devote himself wholeheartedly to the preservation of Georgetown historical enclave without having to make consensus or worst – being accused of cultural balkanization in the Pearl of Orient.

In just a short span of a few years and the verdict is out.

Today, Khoo’s forte in the preservation field is vindicated again.
He has left many of his personal touches in the RM400,000 project to refurbish Leong San Tong Museum and it could present itself as a worthy opponent to the Penang State Museum in a stiff competition to draw in the crowd.

The state government is also quick to proclaim the site to have good chance to be the state’s next biggest treasure chest.

Topping the icing for Khoo on that memorable evening is when he received commendation for his remarkable work from the Chief Minister of Penang himself when the latter turned up to grace the opening.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Selangor Museum of Traditional Games

Visitors to Kuala Selangor's famed lighthouse-cum-hill spot can check out the newly opened Museum of Traditional Games.

Located a short walk from the lighthouse, the museum offers a rare glimpse of games village children (no pun intended) play in their leisure.

However, the museum lacks imagination how best to share these otherwise great facts about traditional games we play before Nintendo and PSP hit our shores.

There are information panels (too many of them if you ask me), on the walls and visitors may be wise to just select a few and benefit from them.

A few exhibition spots have mannequins to illustrate how the game is played but again a little care on the presentation would go a long way to make learning in the museum fun.

The museum is also guilty of focusing primarily on those in the rural village but not showcasing enough kid games other communities in Selangor play. There were few games which all communities play together but the museum chose to emphasize one.

The museum could fare better too if they set up corners to encourage visitors, kids and those who are still kids at heart, to learn more about the games themselves and at the same time put their skills to test.

Imagine what a success for the museum if visitors of all ages can have a go with a game of congkak or gasing with friends and family.

Interactivity is the key to encourage more museum visits and it would give a fresh breathe of air to the business of running museums. It is a guarantee to take the mundane out of just reading the facts and trying to make sense out of the poor sketches.

Administered by the Selangor Museum Board, the entrance to the museum is free and one should allocate not more than an hour there but it depends on your interest.

Pulau Ketam Kids Dive for Thrills.

Free spirit reigns amongst the kids in Pulau Ketam, a mangrove filled island populated by largely Chinese fishing community.

While most children of their age in the city would just look forward to an evening stroll at the neighborhood park, here they have a very different concept of sweating it out.

The tide was at its highest at about six in the evening and the boys, about five of them wasted no time for some eye-opening activity from the village's main bridge.
While they seemed to throw caution out of the window, the boys certainly have a great respect for passing motorized boats, pausing until each boat has passed.

On one occasion when they saw a jelly fish under the bridge but that did not deter their enthusiasm.

For hours till dusk filled the air, they continuously engaged in daring each other to take the next plunge into the murky waters.

When they jumped, they often screamed hoarse the names of girls they fancied and it makes me wonder if their diving and shouting says something about adult relationship.

Left - girl swimming from door front. Right - High tide brings a hive of activity in Pulau Ketam

Further downstream, the younger ones also took to swimming with great ease.

A few households have kids some as young as five maybe less frolicking in the water. Most have a small floating device on their arms but that's all.

Despite the busy waterway traffic nearby, these kids seem to enjoy their play time right in front of their doors.

Sibu Honors Its Pioneers in a Memorial Museum

LOU KING HOWE Memorial Museum is a tribute by Sibu residents to a philanthropist whose name is synonymous with remarkable stories of early settlers in this predominantly Foochow community in Sarawak.

Lou, a successful rubber planter of his time, had donated generously to set up of a modern medical facility and helped improve the lots of many when malaria and other deadly tropical diseases were ravaging the entire population.

For his effort, Lou now has his name forever enshrined in history.

In recent years and through the initiative by Sibu elders, the disused hospital was given a fresh coat of paint and has since embarked on a new journey as a memorial dedicated to Lou. It also serves as a museum to showcase the health services from a bygone era.

Other communities in Malaysia can learn a thing or two from Sibu about honoring pioneers and leaders but stop short of trumpeting over figureheads.

Unfortunately, many Malaysian museums are guilty of positioning themselves exactly in the opposite. Although these museums operate under the domain of the states, the curators have no qualms to use them to score political points.

Sadly, too many honorable figures because of their race have disappeared from the historical limelight because they don’t fit into somebody’s agenda.
Sibu is a hard act to follow but their approach can be the yardstick in how we promote bias free Malaysian heritage.

If the Sibu museum can succeed on the initiative of its residents and at the same time, doing a fairly impressive job of showcasing its tumultuous past, then the key players in Malaysian conservation circle should get their act together and approach heritage in a comprehensive atmosphere to augur nation-building by all sections of Malaysians.

See the enclosed write-up.

Sarawak's First And Malaysia's Biggest Medical Museum Will Be Ready In July (Bernama, March 14, 2008- Edward Subeng Stephen)

Come July, Sarawak will have the distinction of being home to its first, and the country's biggest medical museum.

Known as the Lau King Howe Memorial Museum, it is the brainchild of a group Chinese businessmen who are descendents of early settlers to the state.The museum itself, is named after one of the early Chinese settlers, Lau King Howe.

The new museum will occupy the original main building of the former Lau King Howe Hospital in Lau King Howe Road near the Sibu Town Square."It will be another attraction to the town and will probably be the biggest of its kind in the country," said Urban Development and Tourism Minister Datuk Sri Wong Soon Koh in a recent interview with Bernama.

He said the project was a joint effort of town leaders, United Chinese Association and other non-governmental organisations, Sarawak Museum, health department, Sibu Municipal Council and public works department."

As a matter of fact, two NGOs namely, Confederation of Pan-Chen Lau Association, Sarawak and the Sibu Kwong Yuen Benevolent Association have each contributed RM300,000 towards its restoration works," he said.

According to Dr Hu Chang Hock, who is chairman of the local branch of the Malaysian Medical Association, the museum "is designed to remember, perpetuate and propogate the spirit of Lau King Howe, his sincerety, benevolence, generosity and his profound love for the sick, poor and disadvantaged."

He said the late Lau King Howe, who was a trained teacher and a pious Christian, arrived from Foochow, Fukien in China in 1916, to manage a rubber plantation here.Before returning to China in 1930, he decided to donate all his properties to the then colonial government to set up the town's first modern hospital. Completed in 1936 at a cost of RM82,000, the hospital was named after him.

On Aug 31, 1994, when the new government hospital at Oya Road was completed and began operations, Lau King Howe Hospital ceased operations.

Dr Hu said the museum, the first of its kind in the state, "will attempt to illustrate the changing pattern of infectious disease such as diptheria, malaria and tuberculosis spectrum in their prominence in the 1930s to the 1950s, to the present prevalent chronic disease such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension, heart disease and others."

"It will also try to illustrate the progress of medicine from the exhibits of age-old reverent equipments of the former Lau King Howe Hospital to the pictorial illustration of modern equipments available at the Sibu General Hospital."

"It will highlight how far we, in Sibu, have came to acquaint and adapt to the new advances in tools of medical applications," he said, adding that the exhibits would be changed frequently to enable the museum to be lively and vibrant.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Gopeng Welcomes New Museum.

(Photos courtesy of The Star)

The recently opened Muzium Gopeng ushers a fresh new air for museums in Malaysia.

The birth of the thematic museum came from a group of friends who decided to start a permanent exhibition about the former tin mining town of Gopeng.

Although it lacks in size, this privately-run museum has become a favorite for museum aficionados because of the wealth of information in its collections. Many of the artifacts housed in the former shop lot are personal collections passed down the generations.

Furthermore, Gopeng like many home grown museums are a labor of love and the bold founders who value heritage over anything else, are also the main drive of the venue. When put these factors together, the museum easily outshine many state-run muzium in the country.

While Gopeng Museum is still at its infancy, it could be a hit with visitors if it is promoted jointly with the Tin Dredge museum (T.T No. 5 - another privately run museum in Tanjung Tualang) as the country’s foremost repository of tin mining history.

Together, both museums could offer visitors and history bluffs a glimpse of the Kinta Valley’s industrious past and a startling introduction to the world’s most successful tin mining story.
Old mining town honoured (The Star, May 16, 09 - FOONG THIM LENG)

Inspired by the 2006 American animated feature film Cars, successful businessman Bernard Yaw has set up a museum in his hometown, Gopeng, in Perak.

Muzium Gopeng, opened on April 18 to coincide with World Heritage Day, is located in his ancestral home at 28, Jalan Eu Kong.

Cars, the animated film, is a story about an old sleepy town, Radiator Springs, which was once a popular stopover along the infamous US Route 66.

Successful entrepreneur Bernard Yaw who founded the Muzium Gopeng.

However, with the construction of an interstate freeway US-15, cars and trucks no longer need to patronise the small town’s businesses and services and simply bypass the town to rush to Los Angeles or Las Vegas, thus causing a major economic and financial slowdown for Radiator Springs. As the story goes, one Sally Carrera, a beautiful 2002 Porsche 911 from California, grows tired of life in the fast lane and wants a new start in the small town, so she makes Radiator Springs her home. She runs the only auto motel there and is the one most dedicated to preserving and reviving the town with the hope that one day, it will get ‘back on the map’, and it succeeds.

The story reminded Yaw, the director of Dubai Ventures Group Sdn Bhd, of the reality faced by Gopeng and other similar towns along the North-South Expressway.

Yaw recalled the time when the tin mining industry collapsed in the 1980s, residents from Gopeng and nearby towns were forced to venture elsewhere in search of greener pastures. He himself left in 1980 for tertiary education in the United States and after graduation, he used to travel to New York city as part of the demands of his job and he would visit Chinatown’s famous Canal Street.

“I could hear the Manglish and the Jen Shen Hakka spoken there,” he said. “The local Chinese residents there even regarded Canal Street as Kopisan Street. Many Gopeng folk made their living in restaurants there to send money home,” he said.

During his 20-year stay in the US, Yaw said his heart and thoughts were always with Gopeng.
The idea for the museum cropped up during a few rounds of lai fun (rice noodle) and local coffee sessions in the town by Yaw and a group of friends a few months ago. “Like many of us who were born and raised in Gopeng, we loved the former hustle and bustle of this town.

“We savoured the simplicity of life in Gopeng, without the Internet, Gameboys and iPods.

“We were all just simple, honest, frugal and conservative Gopeng folk,” he said.
He loves the simplicity of little towns where everyone is kind and generous and where the food is freshly made and the air clean.
“We decided to form Muzium Gopeng as we have a strong common desire to share the rich legacies of Gopeng and to bring about its revival,” he said.

Yaw restored the ancestral home that was built in 1882 by Eu Kong, the founder of the famous Chinese medicine company Eu Yan Sang. It was leased for 99 years to Yaw’s great-grandfather Yaw Mun Chong who came from the Hakka Dapu County in Guangdong Province in the early 1900s to set up a sundry shop in Gopeng. Yaw bought over the house in 1999. Five generations of Yaws had grown up in the house.

Muzium Gopeng is now under the care of the Gopeng Museum Management Society’s ad hoc committee headed by Yaw. The society’s secretary Phang See Kong said there were over 300 artefacts on display including clocks, radios, typewriters, tools, weighing scales, household items, kitchen utensils, decorative platters, glass jars and ceramic urns, coins and currency notes, pens, lighters, torchlights, watches, ceremonial items and silver belts.

Another interesting display is a gallery of photographs on important people and incidents in Gopeng over the years, said Phang, a retired teacher. Phang said Gopeng was a pioneer town in the Kinta Valley dating back to the early 1850s. He said the museum had attracted over 2,000 visitors from all over the country and also tourists over the past few weeks.

Perak Heritage Society president Law Siak Hong said there were opportunities in heritage waiting to be tapped. Already, eco-tourism in the jungle nearby has made Gopeng a popular destination.

“This history centre will attract more visitors to town,” he said.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

New Replica for Maritime Museum in Malacca

Artist impression of the royal ship - courtesy of NST
Flor de la Mar – the main draw at the popular Malacca Maritime Museum will have a new rival from a 15th century royal ship purportedly used by Malacca Sultans. (NST, Second ‘ship’ museum for Malacca, May 12, 2009)

The replica costing about RM5 million will be built a stone throw away from Flor de la Mar on the newly reclaimed square across the historical river. However, here is where the similarity ends.

The earlier Portuguese Galleon replica was built in the 1980s involved a great effort and the builders relied heavily on historical facts, but folks behind this royal sail project may face greater obstacle in their quest.

Records about Flor de la Mar (photo courtesy of baldrick2dogs) - the flagship of Albuquerque’s armada are well documented and there are plenty of research about its voyages in the archive. However on our local front, the royal ship design team may well be staring at blank walls.

Malacca was known as the formidable sea faring state but getting information on its naval fleets and types of vessels used is akin to looking for needle in the ocean.

When the city state was under siege by the Portuguese, we were told that the battles were fought by soldiers on elephants while the invader’s men-of-war had a free hand pounding our shores with no Malacca Navy in sight.

If there was a royal ship in medieval Malacca surely the sultan would have put it into good use to defend Malacca?

Hence for many historical bluffs, the venture by the maritime museum is shrouded in a worrisome trend by the state authority to legitimate history according to their narrow interpretation.

Besides the royal ship project, many are also puzzle over the giant water wheel further down the river. But if you ask the local history experts, they will insist that it was prominently used in 15th. century Malacca.

Naturally, one can’t help but wonder if there is a deliberate attempt to localize the many attractions currently being developed on the banks of the historical Sungai Melaka.

Second 'ship' museum for Malacca (NST, May 12, 2009)

MALACCA: After the 19- year-old Flor De La Mar Ship Museum, the state government will soon build another ship at Sungai Melaka.

This time, it will be a replica of a 15th century royal ship, costing an estimated RM4.9 million.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam said the ship, which would be developed by the Malacca Museum Corporation, would be able to accommodate up to 150 visitors at any one time.

He said the ship would take tourists back in time to the era of the Malacca sultanate during the reign of Sultan Mansur Shah (1459-1477).

"Apart from depicting Malacca as a trading port then, the ship will also exhibit the maritime activity in this part of the world," Ali said.

Two historians, Tan Sri Aziz Tapa and Datuk Djohan Hanapiah, were also consulted to ensure the success of the project, expected to be completed in 18 months. Ali said the RM20 million Malacca Planetarium, the fourth in the country, will be fully operational by next month.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Trishawman Quest for Heritage

Some say life begins at forty but when I hit my fortieth birthday exactly one month ago, it has all the markings of a very unsavory connotation to it.

So imagine the surprise when I turned the papers (NST, Here comes the trishaw man, May 7, 2009) and found my old friend from Malacca on the headlines for attempting a feat not for everyone much less at 40!!

Tan Ming Kiong, MK to me or Frankie - his preferred name now, has been an outstanding athlete smashing records and blazing tracks in Kubu Stadium back when George Michael was reigning at UK music chart and not something else.

Sadly, a quarter of century later today, nothing about our current physical state resembles those glory days, but not MK. He still and I stand corrected, exudes the boleh mentality that took us not once but a couple times to the top of Ledang and to Kota Tinggi on two wheels.

Well, he has made some progress and has taken to three instead.

Hence, MK has my highest respect and support with his twin heritage city quest.

If he succeeds and God willing, he will embody the free spirit that was the profound feature in all of us. Despite the glaring age factor, he and his beca shall overcome a 800-plus-kilometer journey.

Here comes the trishaw man - NST May 7, 09

MALACCA: Frankie Tan Ming Kiong is pedalling a trishaw from here to Penang for charity and to promote the two world heritage cities.

Tan, who spent 10 years in Britain as an IT consultant, said he wanted to give himself a career break and get involved in social welfare activities."I would like to make a difference and, at the same time, promote Malacca and Penang as world heritage cities." Although there were many ways to promote the cities, Tan said, trishaw riding was the best way to do it."The trishaw was the mode of transport in the old days and is still popular."

His journey began yesterday (To begin June 6, 09) at the A'Famosa Fort. His journey will take him to Pengkalan Balak, Port Dickson, Sepang, Tanjong Sepat, Banting, Morib, Teluk Panglima Garang, Klang, Jeram, Kuala Sungai Selangor, Sekinchan, Sabak Bernam, Kampung Baru, Lumut, Segari, Pantai Remis, Terong, Changkat Jering, Simpang, Parit Buntar, Nibong Tebal, Simpang Empat, Butterworth and Komtar, Penang.

"Small towns still exhibit the heritage side of Malaysia and that is precisely why I will stop at all these venues before I proceed to my final destination, Penang," Tan said. He will be taking photographs during the journey to create an album of the "united faces of Malaysia".

The charity organisations which will benefit from Tan's trishaw journey are the National Council for the Blind, Women's Aid Organisation, SPCA Malacca and Wings Malacca (centre for learning-disabled children)."I will bear my own expenses and any proceeds or donations will be given only to the charitable organisations.

"Interested individuals can get in touch with the organisations directly or email us at contact@thetrishawman.com or call me at 012-6613813."

Monday, April 27, 2009

Banda Kaba Joins Kampung Warisan

PERZIM head– Khamis Abas – hails as the Malacca conservation czar promptly went about his new business when he unveiled villagers in Banda Kaba and Bukit Cina as the state’s new recipient of Heritage Village status. (The Star, April17, 2009 – Two more villages to be gazetted).

These “special status” villages or Kampung Warisan, according to the GM of the museum board, are in line with the Chief Minister’s vision to enhance the development of Malacca as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The two villages – Banda Kaba and Bukit Cina - totaling some 280 families are two of the oldest settlements in the historic city. Once they are listed under the Malacca Conservation Enactment 1993, the villages join Kampung Morten, Kampung Chetti and Portuguese Settlement and Chinatown enclaves in Heeren Street and Jonker Walk to be accorded the special status.

Khamis is adamant that by enlisting the villages, it would go a long way to preserve the quaint kampong surrounding and the century old Malay attap houses. And this being Malacca, the move he adds would be a boon to tourist arrival in the areas.

This surprising turn of event may be the lifeline the residents in the affected areas are waiting for.

Because of its proximity to the town center, the population consisting of mostly wage earners and small petty traders has for decades lived without knowing when the juggernaut of development will strike their stilted homes next.

This previously peaceful racially mix settlement lost its earlier charm when public flats and other property projects made inroads into their neighborhood. In the pipeline, a condominium is set to cast its domineering shadow over Banda Kaba .

Those who lived their life here can vouch for what they see as a threat to the peace and tranquility of the neighborhood. Residents suffer unbearable ding from traffic jams and the narrow roads are choked with outstation vehicles.

However, the affected residents could face tougher headaches if they plan to renovate their homes under the new regime. The state is also unashamedly vague on this crucial matters because many of houses are weathered and battered, and in dire needs of repair.

Already the residents have been ‘advised’ that they must seek special permission from the City Hall and PERZIM for approval if they plan to uplift their homes. Like so many urban villages all over the world, their trouble is far from over yet. Sadly, the fate and the future of the affected villagers are in a limbo too.

In the end, they maybe just mere pawn in a bureaucratic nightmare created by the authority to juggle between conservation and money making ventures disguised as tourism.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Hotel Projects a Threat to Malacca River.

The Malaccan authority is creating a property boom particularly in the hotel industry by leveraging on the River Beautification Project.

The ground breaking of the RM85 million Casa del Rio Hotel in February 2009 at a former godown site near the Malacca River marks the beginning of an ambitious but a foolhardy plan by the state to build similar riverfront accommodations.

Recently, the chief minister unfurled the scale of things to come when he announced that Plaza Inn Hotel, abandoned over the last decade, will take a new shape by Sept. 09 (NST Apr 3, 2009).

The state will spend some RM18 million to buy and renovate the 4-star white elephant near the demolished Central Market. According to the CM, Plaza Inn is one of the four new hotels in the pipeline to cater to visitors in the state but at what cost to Malacca River.

The beautification project completed in 2007 seems to have an upper hand in eradicating some of the earlier concerns about river pollution but the verdict is still far from over.
In my view the federal funded project has many flaws and struck a final nail to the coffin to link the river to Malacca's hey day as a powerful maritime state.

Instead of preserving the unique river barter trade, the authority deems it fit to stop Sumateran schooners and purple colored fishing trawlers from berthing at its banks. Unfortunately, at a stroke of pen, the soul of the river is forever lost.

If the state can have its way, parts of the river inside the historical enclave would soon be home to multi-level concrete structures. Needless to say, the hotels would pose serious threat to the authenticity of the Chinatown and the reason why millions come to see Malacca.

The Rio Hotel, with its Iberian fa├žade and other misnomer hotels are not just an eye sore but a mismatch attributes to preserve the historical enclave. The overall scheme also has a sickening similarity with the mistakes made in the colonial parts of Singapore River.

Soon, the hotels will open their doors, but their guests will see nothing of River’s vibrant past. Instead, what they will find is a mundane canal waterway with unimpressive sights of river life.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Aircraft Mishaps Not a Gamble Option in Macau.

With tourism arrivals skyrocketing in Asia’s most successful Casinoland, the Macau International Airport - Aeroporte Internacional de Macau has a pivotal role to ensure foreign visitors arrive safe and sound.
All flights at this former Portuguese enclave depend on the single elevated runway above the Pearl River Delta.

To undertake this precarious task of landing in Macau, only a selected breed of pilots can maneuver the runaway, and reputedly one of the narrowest airport runways in the world.

One false move and it is recipe for catastrophe.

But aircraft mishaps are far too great a risk to gamble even in Macau – which has some of the highest casinos per capita in the world.

Not wanting to take any chance, the airport has brought in three Rosenbauer state-of-the-art rescue and fire fighting vehicle in Nov. 2007.

In Oct. 08, I saw one of the Austrian-made vehicle- Unit #11 -parked at the runway edge from inside Air Asia A320. (main picture top above)

The performance spec. for the Rosenbauer Panther 6X6 is impressive. It can reach a top speed of 120km/h and cruising at that speed the fire truck could cover the entire length of the runway under the stipulated international response time of 3 minute or less. The CAT C-18 6 cylinders engine also gives enough power to hit 0-80km/h in 29 seconds.

Unit #12 - Photos courtesy of Melinda.
One of the vehicle (not sure which?) comes with a telesquirt or a long arm gadgetry to help fight fiery clash. The new generation fire truck has water and foam tanks carrying up to 12,500 litres and 1,500 litres respectively to help it take on missions successfully and make Macau Airport one of the safest too.

Damning Report On Malacca Old Town.

The popular National Geographic Traveler - NGT- magazine in its Nov/Dec 08 issue has decried at the over-development inside the Malacca’s historical enclave, and it cast a bleak future for this Malaysian historical gem.

In every corner of the historical town, tourism driven projects superseded conservation efforts and permanently marred the original cityscape. For too long now, the state exhibited a disturbing keenness to replace the town’s colorful past with artificial attractions in the forms of mechanical joy rides and flickering neon lights.

Hence, the unfavorable notion that the town has turned into a ‘Disneyland’ and commercialization has bred its ugly heads.

This alarming review by the widely circulated travel publication has inevitably thrown a spanner to the state tourism promotion plan. It is a critical wake up call for the state to revamp its approach to reap benefits from tourism and not to conjure an unsettling cocktail of happy hours with history.

The authority should also be mindful of the damages brought by these short sighted tourism projects to the historical enclave, and a theme park setting within the fragile environment is a sure way to dilute and threaten its unique features.

To rely on these man-made draw cards would only incur further wraths for damning Malacca’s historical legacy.

All stakeholders, from the Chief Minister to the lay men of the streets must acknowledge the extent of the damages caused by these overzealous attempts and take heed to arrest further the downgrading of Malacca Old Town.

A list of 109 historic places from over the world was compiled and rated in the NGT issue; Malacca was positioned at 98th. whilst Georgetown fared slightly better at 68th.

Below is the excerpt from NGT.

Malaysia: Old port of Malacca
Score: 50

"One of the most fascinating destinations in Asia. It is rich in history as a gateway into Asia for early Europeans. The old churches, China Town, and vernacular Malay houses are beautifully maintained."

"The major problem for Malacca is the incredible extent of the land reclamation that has taken place at the mouth of the historic river, now heavily developed with high-rise residential and commercial buildings. As a result, the historic connection between Malacca and the sea, which is fundamental to its significance, has been almost totally obscured."

"There is very little left in Malacca that is authentic. The city has been Disneyfied and commercialized to a degree that has to be seen to be believed."

"Landfill on the town side of the Straits has forever altered the historic connection with the Straits."

"You have to make an extra effort to find 'authentic' Malacca behind the very carefully manicured heritage facade."

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Macau's Favorite Wedding Photo Site.

A favorite venue for the newly weds to have their wedding photos taken in Macau is the St. Francis Xavier Church in Coloane.

Ailee and I found this out when we were visiting the century old chapel after we had the famous Lord's egg tarts a short walk away. We had decided on a full day at Coloane to get away from the crowds and casinos so common in this former Portuguese enclave but also to see for oursleves the last remains of rustic Macau before they too disappear in time.

For many locals looking for a European flavor in their wedding pictures, the location with its distinctive Iberian influenced architecture fits perfectly into the plan. The church despite its historical significance, it is also far from the main tourist hunts, and is not swarmed by maddening crowds.

I suppose if my wife and I are Macaunese and we want a wedding photo with church and all that, then the Coloane Chapel wins hands down too.

We were also pleasantly surprised by the peaceful surroundings and we stepped in to the church we felt like miles away from the loud dings of the city.

There are statues and wall murals depicting St. Francis Xavier and his endeavors in the Far East everywhere but a small gallery next to the main hall is where we found maps and more captions about the saint. It is inside this gallery that I read they kept a piece of St. Xavier bone but we missed it on our visit.

Victoria Institution Now a National Heritage.

Victoria Institution or VI, one of the premier education hubs in Klang Valley and the alma mater for some of the most influential and powerful Malaysians have beat the odd again when it was reported(The Star, Feb 14,09) that the century old school has made it to the National Heritage list.

It is the first time that such honor is given to a school. The annoucement by Shafie Apdal, the minister in charge of the heritage, is bound to invite criticisms because some argue that there are other notably more established and successful schools which deserve the honor.

KEKWA, by according VI the status, have not learnt from the earlier flaks received by Pos Malaysia over its decision to include VI in a special issued stamp series of Malaysian schools. It drew strong words from alumnus over the country, particularly Penang Free School and Malacca High School, about their choice or lack of it.

Maybe, Shafie Apdal was more inclined to please fellow cabinet collegues like Zulhasnan Rafique (FT Minister) and Rafidah Aziz (UMNO Wanita Supremo) and tycoons Francis Yeoh and Ananda Krishnan than to take into considerations the historical signifance and the contributions of other equal if not better schools when enlist VI into this honorable roll.

Nevertheless, there must be some good in this move. I hope that now that VI has this special status, it can stop property magnates from eyeing the school and turn it into a prime property estate.

History has being hard for urban Malaysian schools and more will suffer the same ill fate of schools like Bukit Bintang Convent and Seremban Convent if the government takes the side of the overzealous developers. Both fell under the demolishing balls without even arousing a single word from the Heritage Minister.

Macau's Evangelical Icon.

The Ruins of St. Paul's is the iconic landmark in Macau and it tops our must-see list when Ailee and I went there in Oct. 25, 08. Like most tourists we found the ruins the perfect location for plenty of photo opportunities.

What the Macau Tourism doesn't tell us much is the fact that the ruins was part of a burnout catheral centuries ago, but they sure have a way in turning the ruins around and sell it as a major tourist draw.
A major facelift was taken during 2004-05 and managed to bring back some lustre to the fading facade.

In fact, locals now proudly wear the ruins as their badge of nationhood. It is everywhere and on everything that represents this tiny former Portuguese enclave, from T-shirts, shopping bags, greeting signs to the 5 patacas coin.

What we like most about our visit there is to witness how Macau conservation experts worked successfully to preserve the rich Christian heritage of St. Paul's and their efforts to bring back some dignity to the sacred place. And personally, I find the experience most rewarding and a highlight of my visit.

The project architects have put a great deal of thought to preserve the rear side of the facade in a form of a modern square.

Here, visitors should able to get the full view of the catheral scale, and if they probe further they will find glass floorings to view the catheral foundation.

Step towards the far end and you should will find the entrance to a small but intriguing museum - The Museum of Sacred Art-located at a level below the square. The museum comes with two main galleries to exhibit Church praying paraphernalia and a crypt housing the remains of Christian martyrs. (Admission - free)

The Ruins of St. Paul's to many may be their mark that they have came to the Las Vegas of the East but personally, the place offers me rare insights and now I have a better appreciation of Macau as the powerhouse of Evangelicalism in the Far East.