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 or call me at 012-6613813."