Kuale’s cul­tural gems

The royal town of Kuala Kangsar – which the lo­cals call Kuale – has fas­ci­nat­ing palaces, mosques and gal­leries, and other his­tor­i­cal trea­sures.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Front Page - By MING TEOH star2­travel@th­es­tar.com.my

AF­TER a smooth jour­ney on board Kere­tapi Tanah Me­layu’s Electric Train Ser­vice, we fi­nally ar­rived at the sta­tion in the royal town of Kuala Kangsar, where we would be spend­ing the next few days. Over 50 mem­bers of the me­dia, tour agents, as well as rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Tourism Malaysia and Des­ti­na­tion Perak, were on a fa­mil­iari­sa­tion trip to Kuale (‘Ku-ah-ler’, as the lo­cals call it).

Although sev­eral of us had passed through this royal town be­fore, we never ex­pected to see and ex­pe­ri­ence so much in this quaint lit­tle town, which is home to many his­tor­i­cal places of in­ter­est.

“The name Kuala Kangsar, which is pro­nounced as Kuala Kang­sor by the lo­cals, comes from Kuala Ku­rang-Sa (one less than 100). This refers to the 99 trib­u­taries that run into Sun­gai Perak,” said Samiah Rashid Ali (or Kak Sam, as she is more pop­u­larly known), who hails from the town.

Kak Sam, a re­tired school­teacher, was our un­of­fi­cial guide for the trip.

Near the Kuala Kangsar District Of­fice stands a gi­gan­tic rub­ber tree sur­rounded by a low fence. Ac­cord­ing to Kak Sam, this was the first rub­ber tree planted in Malaya dur­ing the colo­nial rule. Nine seedlings were brought from Brazil in 1877 by an English botanist, Henry Ni­cholas Ri­d­ley (bet­ter known as H.N. Ri­d­ley who es­tab­lished the rub­ber in­dus­try in Malaysia), and this is the only one that sur­vived and grew into a tree. It is the old­est rub­ber tree that’s still stand­ing to­day.

Her­itage struc­tures

If you’re an ar­chi­tec­tural en­thu­si­ast, you’d be thrilled to know that there are many her­itage build­ings wor­thy of a visit in this royal town.

Is­tana Ke­nan­gan is an un­usual palace that’s made en­tirely of wood, with­out any nails. “Its unique shape re­sem­bles a pedang (sword) in its sarung pedang (sheath). The Sul­tan’s bed­cham­ber is where the sword’s han­dle would be, while the Balai Rong Seri (royal court) is at the sheath.”

Kak Sam was full of knowl­edge and spoke with pas­sion.

“Although it’s not a large struc­ture, there is a beau­ti­ful singgah­sana (throne). Its walls have a ke­lari (di­a­mond-shaped plaits) mo­tif, while the roof is a co ina­tion of a per­abung lima (five ridges) and per­abung pisang sesikat (comb of ba­nanas ridge) de­sign,” she added. Also known as Is­tana Lem­bah and Is­tana Tepas, it is lo­cated near Is­tana Iskan­dariah and Ubu­diah Mosque.

As you walk through the gates of Ga­leri Sul­tan Azlan Shah, you can’t help but be im­pressed by the ma­jes­tic struc­ture be­fore you. “The for­mer royal palace was opened to the pub­lic in 2003 and com­bines Moor­ish, Re­nais­sance and neo-clas­si­cal ar­chi­tec­ture. It was re­built from the old Is­tana Kota or Is­tana Hulu (1898–1903), and to­day dis­plays items be­long­ing to the 34th Sul­tan of Perak, Al­marhum Sul­tan Azlan Shah,” Kak Sam ex­plained. The ex­hibits in­clude lux­ury ve­hi­cles and even per­sonal be­long­ings like his pass­port, cloth­ing, shoes, bags and sun­glasses.

Ubu­diah Mosque is an icon in Kuala Kangsar, as it stands ma­jes­ti­cally with its golden domes and minarets on Bukit Chandan.

“Perak’s royal mosque was de­signed by an English ar­chi­tect called Arthur Beni­son Hub­back dur­ing the Bri­tish colo­nial rule, and it was built from 1913 to 1917,” said Kak Sam, adding that he had also de­signe and

Kuala Lumpur rail­way sta­tions. Be­side the royal mosque is the Makam Al-Ghufran or Perak Royal Mau­soleum.

The Ih­sa­niah Iskan­dariah Mosque in Kam­pung Kuala Dal, Padang Ren­gas, is a less well­known mosque lo­cated 2km from the toll plaza to Kuala Kangsar. Ac­cord­ing to Kak Sam, what’s unique about this two-storey mosque is its “bird cage” de­sign with its outer walls sport­ing a di­a­mond mo­tif made of wo­ven bu­luh

minyak (oiled wicker/bam­boo reeds). The mosque’s 20 win­dows have a shark gill mo­tif and a pea shoot, star and cres­cent moon de­sign at the win­dow case­ment, she said, adding that it was built in 1936.

Old and new

Kuala Kangsar com­bines both the old and the new, and this in­cludes its iconic bridges.

“The mod­ern Sul­tan Ab­dul Jalil Bridge, which was of­fi­cially opened in 2002, spans 330m and crosses the Sun­gai Perak, con­nect­ing Kuala Kangsar with Kam­pung Say­ong,” said Kak Sam, as the bus was cross­ing the bridge.

“The older Iskan­dar Bridge, which car­ries the trunk road through Penin­su­lar Malaysia’s west coast, also crosses the Sun­gai Perak. This steel bridge was con­structed be­tween 1928 and 1932 dur­ing the Bri­tish ad­min­is­tra­tion,” she added.

We fi­nally came to Vic­to­ria Bridge, which is a pop­u­lar tourist spot just a few min­utes’ drive from Kuala Kangsar, in Karai. “This is one of the old­est rail­way bridges in Malaysia,” Kak Sam said. At the bridge was a sign­board stat­ing that it had been con­structed from 1897 to 1900. As you ap­proach the bridge, you might feel as if you’ve stepped back in time, and it pro­vides many photo op­por­tu­ni­ties. While the sin­gle-track rail­way bridge is no longer used for rail traf­fic, the ad­join­ing foot bridge is still open to bikes and pedes­tri­ans.

“You can take a boat ride from Jeti Dataran Sun­gai Perak In­dah along the river, and try lo­cal desserts like ais ka­cang and cen­dol, and other street food, at the nearby stalls,” Kak Sam told us when we were by the river. “And, in the evening, there is a pasar­malam (night mar­ket) that sells food, fruit and also cloth­ing, bags, shoes and house­hold items,” she said. An­other place where you can en­joy a boat ride is at Tasik Ra­ban Leng­gong.

Other places of in­ter­est in town in­clude the Clock Tower at the cen­tral round­about, Keris Mon­u­ment, Dataran Pu­tra with its old-fash­ioned Bri­tish red phone box, river-front Cul­tural Park, Royal Malay Col­lege, and Clif­ford School.

Most of the time, we got around by bus, but a good way of see­ing the city is on bi­cy­cle. This way you are able to ex­plore the nooks and cran­nies that a larger ve­hi­cle might not be able to ac­cess or park at.

— MING TEOH/The Star

The iconic Ubu­diah Mosque stands ma­jes­ti­cally in Kuala Kangsar, with its golden domes and minarets.

-Des­ti­na­tion Perak

Tak­ing the Kere­tapi Tanah Me­layu's Electric Train Ser­vice is a fast and con­ve­nient way of get­ting from Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Kangsar. The Is­tana Ke­nan­gan is made en­tirely of wood, and with­out us­ing any rails.

The Ih­sa­niah Iskan­dariah Mosque has a unique de­sign re­sem­bling a bird cage, with its outer walls sport­ing a di­a­mond mo­tif. — Pho­tos: MING TEOH/The Star

The Ga­leri Sul­tan Azlan Shah, a for­mer palace, now dis­plays me­men­tos com­mem­o­rat­ing the life of the 34th Sul­tan of Perak and some of his per­sonal be­long­ings.

You can take a boat ride from the Dataran Sun­gai Perak In­dah jetty, and en­joy some lo­cal food at nearby stalls.

The lux­u­ri­ous in­te­rior of the Ga­leri Sul­tan Azlan Shah.

— Wikimedia Com­mons

The Clock Tower at the cen­tral round­about in Kuala Kangsar.

— Filepic

Vic­to­ria Bridge is one of the old­est rail­way bridges in Malaysia, lo­cated in Karai, near Kuala Kangsar.

Go on a boat ride at Tasik Ra­ban Leng­gong and pass by in­ter­est­ing sights like vil­lages and fa­mous film­ing sites.

Lus­cious man­goes for sale near the Dataran Sun­gai Perak In­dah jetty.

The first rub­ber tree planted in Malaysia can be found in Kuala Kangsar.

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