Gopeng Heritage House Museum, Perak

Growing up in Puchong –  a bustling city of 400,000 – I’m a city girl through and through. I never knew the hardships (nor the simple joys) that my parents experienced growing up in small towns in the 60s and 70s; when Malaysia was young and life wasn’t easy.

The fam and I recently visited the Gopeng Heritage House Museum in Gopeng, Perak – which houses antiquities, old furniture and other paraphernalia from a bygone era. It was a great experience for all of us – a walk down memory lane for Mi and Pi, and an interesting insight into the old way of life for the bro and I. Bonus: Parents acted as tour guides, since they knew all the stuff we modern kids have never seen before lol.

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The old part of Gopeng (which was a tin mining town in the 1870s) has super wide roads and three or four rows of colonial British/Chinese shophouses. The museum is housed in a red building and looks well-preserved on the outside.  The family house was donated by a Mr Wong and converted into a full-fledged museum in 2009. Today, it is managed by the local community, and it’s great to see that they’re maintaining it well 🙂

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Entrance is free but do make a contribution so that they can keep on running the place ! 🙂

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The house is stuffed to the brim with antiques and old furniture, recreating life for a typical middle-class Chinese family in many Malaysian towns at the turn of the 20th century, up til my parent’s era (1960s-70s). My mum used to live in a small town shophouse similar to this one until she married my dad.

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(Recreation) Before plastic umbrellas, there were wooden ones made from bamboo. Apart from providing shade, they were also used during wedding ceremonies as symbolic items.

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Calligraphy paintings depicting natural sceneries such as flowers and birds.

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An old kapcai bike. Mi relates that she once stole my uncle’s bike to ride and crashed it into a tree. *and she says I was a naughty kid.. wonder where I got that from.

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Old-style scale.

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Super old phone. For each ‘number’ to dial, you had to rotate the mechanism and wait until it clicked back into place before dialing the next number. *gasp!* for the smartphone generation, this seems like an awfully ancient way to make a call. But back then you could rattle off long phone numbers by heart; now I can’t even remember what my house’s number is.

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Am I the only one who finds grandfather clocks creepy? The way they chime in the middle of the night (watched too many horror films lol).

I do like the elephant detailing at the bottom though. 🙂

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A bust of Chairman Mao (left). Many Chinese who came to Malaya before independence still had immense love for the Motherland. On the right is an oil lamp. We enjoy electricity at the flick of a switch now, but during my mom’s time, they had to read at night by the flickering light.

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My aunt has one of these, passed down from my grandmother. Irons were heavy and super clunky, with a space at the bottom for putting hot charcoal.

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Radio. I’m not that young, so I still remember these, but ask anyone below 20 and they’ll probably think it’s some alien contraption. We had one in our house and I liked playing with the antenna thing by pulling it up and down (always got scolded by parents) and messing up the tune. You couldn’t just press it like how you do with radios these days; you have to dial it to exactly the right frequency.

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There were no gas or electric stoves, so people had to use firewood for cooking.

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Ais kacang was (and still is!) a popular icy cool treat. Like the Filipino halo-halo, ais kacang is a shaved ice topped with various condiments such as syrup, red beans, cendol, fruits and jelly. Now we have modern machines, but the old ones were made from heavy steel and vendors had to manually grind huge ice blocks using a round mechanism at the side.

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Fancy cutlery with engravings, matchboxes, cards.

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The black and gold wooden basket was used to carry food to workers out on the field or in the tin mines. Reminds me of Chinese periodical dramas.

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A gramophone. I bet if you showed this to a kid now they wouldn’t be able to identify what in the holy hell it is.

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An even older radio. Might seem basic for us today, but these were only for well-to-do families back then. My mom lived in a very small town and while radios were more common, only one family had a TV set (black and white). All the neighbourhood kids would go over to watch shows, especially during festivals – so the kid with the TV would have been a big shot in town.

Did you know that in Malaysia pre-independence, you had to apply for a license in order to own a TV?

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Up on the second floor, rooms have been converted to resemble proper living spaces, complete with beds, dressing tables and cupboards. Four poster beds like these were popular among middle-class families back then. My dad, who came from a not-so-well-to-do family and had many siblings, used to sleep on wooden planks fashioned like a bed, with just a piece of cloth as a ‘bedsheet’. 😥

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Dressing table with washbasin on the left.  20161001_120616-tile

(From left to right)

  • 1 -A red baby-wrap carrier with embroidered detailing. There were no such things as ‘safety straps’ back then, so the only straps were four pieces of thick string.
  • 2&3 – Wash basin stands were elaborately carved.
  • 4 – Wooden Trunks containing personal belongings.

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More paintings, these depicting deities and scenes from ancient China.

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Hallway. Building is made from wood, of course. I imagine it gets quite dark in the evening, since there aren’t many lights.

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Another four poster bed with quilt covering and embroidered pillows.

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Before the advent of computers and printing, there were typewriters…

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The attic, which the museum has fashioned into a more ‘European’ theme, has plush leather chairs, a coffee table and a coat/hat stand.

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Ceiling lights with pretty flower motifs on them.

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Jade hanging, surrounded by thick carved wood. Don’t ask me what the Chinese character means, I’m a twinkie.

Whether you’re someone who loves history and culture, or just a curious cat visiting Gopeng, a visit to the Heritage Museum is a definite must while in town. For myself, it was awesome hearing the stories my parents told of their childhood and seeing how they grew up with all these items and contraptions that we youngsters no longer know or recognise. It also gives us a new found appreciation for their struggles and to always treasure all the things we take for granted today. Coz they sure didn’t come easy.

GOPENG HERITAGE HOUSE MUSEUM

No. 6, Jalan Sungai Itek, 31600 Gopeng, Perak.

Open on Sat-Sun: 9am-3pm

Tel: +60 12-598 7857

 

Piala Seri Endon 2016: Malaysia’s Premiere Batik Contest

What is Batik? If you’ve traveled around South East Asia, chances are you have seen it in souvenir or clothing shops.

Batik refers to a technique of wax-resist dyeing cloth to make beautiful, often intricate patterns and figures. Although several cultures around the world are known for it, few are as popular as Indonesia (Javanese batik, in particular, is famed for its beauty and craftsmanship).

Meanwhile in neighbouring Malaysia, batik has been recorded in history as early as the 17th century. It has evolved into its own, distinct art form, making waves in the international fashion/fabric industry.

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The Piala Seri Endon is a nationwide Batik contest for aspiring batik designers and blooming talents. It was initiated by the late Tun Endon Mahmood, wife of a former Malaysian prime minister. This marks the 13th year since its inception, but the entries keep coming.

At the press conference to launch PSE, I got to see last year’s winning entries from three different categories: Clothing, soft furnishing (curtains, pillow cases, sofa covers, etc) and handicrafts (toys, book covers, wallets, etc). Here are some examples of the work!

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Batik predominantly features patterns and flowers, but it can be applied to anything (animal images like zebras, for instance) as long as the wax-dye technique is used.

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Winner of last year’s Soft Furnishing category. Now that would be something I’d like in my living room!

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Fashion category winners.

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Sequins on flowy batik material. This is so commercially viable, I can see Datins ordering it for their functions and stuff.

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I went gaga over the Handicraft winners. I mean, who wouldn’t want a kewl notebook like the one at the bottom to tote around and show off to your friends?

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Think you have what it takes to be Malaysia’s  top Batik designer? If you’re Malaysian and over 18 years old, you too can try out for the title and prize money (a cool RM30,000!). Download the form at penyayang.org.my!

Chew Clan Jetties, Penang

On our last day in Penang, we decided to do some quick sightseeing before heading back to Kuala Lumpur. After breakfast near Victoria Street, we walked a short distance across busy traffic to come to the Clan Jetties along Weld Quay – whole villages of wooden houses built over water.

The villagers here belong to the same clan and have the same surnames. My family and I visited the Chew, one of the largest in the area. The village was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

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A small courtyard at the entrance houses a shrine with a couple of deities, with lions and dragons decorating the pillars and arches.

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Almost all of the houses here are made of wood material, while a few facades have been laid with concrete and cement. Many also beautified their front with lanterns and potted plants, while others had been converted into tiny stores selling drinks, food and souvenirs.

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Capitalising on the tourist boom, some industrious villagers had vending machines and brightly painted storefronts/gimmicky props to attract customers.

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At the very end of the Chew Jetty is a cemented area and a small temple of sorts. A large furnace sits at the edge facing the sea. During festive or religious occasions, this big furnace would be lit for burning of prayer materials.

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Picturesque view of Penang’s seaside – a mix of both old and new settlements.

PS: If you look closely, the stilts of the wooden hoses have been ‘cemented’ with buckets to give it a more stable base.

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A neat front porch of one of the nicer looking houses. Many villagers also had benches at the front, where old aunties would sit and chat while observing the throng of tourists passing by.

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Another old wooden house had beads of limelights (literally lime-shaped lights!), folded paper lanterns and small singing birds in cages hanging from the eaves.

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And that wraps up our trip to Penang! 🙂

 

 

Ming Xiang Tai Bakery, Penang

 

SITTING on a corner of Victoria Street on Penang Island is Ming Xiang Tai, a famous bakery and pastry shop with over 30+ years of history. The original shop is along Burmah Road, and though this one is a branch outlet, it is no less popular. Just outside is a quaint mural of a boy and a girl reaching out of a window as they attempt to get some goodies from a wicker basket at the back of a (real)bicycle.

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The shop is housed in an old double storey shoplot. The wooden decor gives it a rustic, old-world charm.

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We entered to the lovely smells of pastries fresh out of the oven – enough to send us into an uncontrollable mouthwatering, even though we just had breakfast! Cute little baked goodies sat on a tin tray, their glossy, glazed surfaces shiny and golden, radiating heat.

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Chinese pastries sat behind glass displays, and a long line of customers was already snaking to the front counter as people pointed out the morsels they wanted. In the background, boxes of packed goodies lined the wooden shelves, while proud posters proclaimed the house specialties.

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One of the staff delicately brushing the pastries to give it a golden sheen.

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Unbaked goods waiting for the furnace to roar them to life.

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There is a cramped space behind with wooden chairs and tables, where patrons can sit and rest.

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Fluffy white pau (buns) waiting to be put into the steamer.

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Bamboo shutters painted over with promotional wordings and pictures provide shade from the glaring Penang sun, keeping the interior of the shoplot cool.

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The place is famous for its egg tarts. They also carry crispy yam puffs, siewpau (barbecued pork buns), pandan salted egg pastry and wedding cookies (lou por beng). The egg tart was absolutely delicious, with a nice, flaky outer pastry and soft, gooey egg custard center. The custard had just the right sweetness to go along with the slightly salty pastry, which, as you can see, was delicately done in many layers. Quite messy to eat, but oh-so-good.They used to be called  ‘Trishaw Egg Tarts’ because back in the days, they were peddled on trishaws.

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Keep an eye out for some cute landmarks around the area, such as the pink tank replica with cats on it directly across the street from Ming Xiang Tai.

Ming Xiang Tai Pastry Shop
26 Gat Lebuh Armenian
10200 Georgetown,
Penang, Malaysia

Original shop:
133 Jalan Burma
10050 Georgetown
Penang

Tel: 04-227 9880
Opening Hours: 8am-11pm

Hoa Lu / King Dinh Tien Hoang temple, Vietnam

We last went boating at the Tam Coc Bich Dong, or the Three Caves – a beautiful river retreat surrounded by beautiful limestone hills. Where to next? 🙂

Situated just nearby is another popular tourist attraction – the ancient capital of Hoa Lu.

Located in Ninh Binh province, Hoa Lu used to be the capital of ancient Vietnam in the 10th to 11th centuries. Most of the old citadel no longer exists, except for two surviving temples. The place under the Trang An Landscape Complex was declared a heritage site by UNESCO .

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Buildings, On the way to Hoa Lu.

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Entrance with its gray facade, arches and curving roof.

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A crystal clear river flowed through a bridge right in front of the complex entrance. Couple that with beautiful green hills and blue skies, and you have one of the most picturesque places you will ever see.

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Inside the pavilion, it was a short walk to the King Dinh Tien Hoang temple. We saw a farmer herding some water buffalo on the pavement.

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King Dinh was the ruler of Hoa Lu from its founding, until it was passed to King Le before the fall of the capital. Back then, Vietnam was part of China and with Hoa Lu, King Dinh managed to establish a truly independent monarchy after centuries of Chinese rule. It is no surprise then that the Vietnamese revere his figure and worship him in a temple.

PS: Vietnam is a communist country, therefore they do not have a ‘religion’ per se. Temples are built in honour of historical figures or revered people than for religious purposes.

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Interior of temple with a mausoleum area.

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It was a short visit, before we hopped onto our bus and headed back to Hanoi. Stopped by for some cold, Vietnamese coffee at a roadside stall. The coffee was black but sweet and frothy on top. No wonder Vietnam is famous for this beverage! 🙂

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Batik Making Centre, Denpasar, Bali

After our Barong dance show in the morning, Toto took us to a Batik making factory in Denpasar. Bali being a tourist island, they have clusters of these shops in certain areas. This spot has all the batik centres, while another has wood craft, silver and gold. They’re obviously tourist traps, because the prices are way over. Outside the souvenir shop, some staff members demonstrate the process of batik making.

Batik is a traditional cloth made from wax-resist dyeing technique. (Pic) The staff use hot wax pens to draw out the patterns. They didn’t need corrections, everything was done in one stroke. So wow. The air was pungent with the smell of steel shavings and wax, which hurt my teeth and nostrils lol.

An old-school weaving press. Each line of the batik is woven painstakingly. Line by line. A cloth might take days to finish. Which is also why you have such beautiful, intricate detail, and the reason why batik is so expensive.

Upstairs was a gallery for batik paintings. We weren’t allowed pictures, but I managed to sneak in a few…

Familiar? This is a colourful depiction of the Barong, the mythical lion in Balinese culture and which we saw at the dance that morning.

Even in the batik paintings, elements of Balinese culture which is strongly influenced by Hinduism is present.

Some of the paintings were pretty affordable, but mum figured it would be difficult to stuff it in our luggage lol.

Til next post!