Discovering Malaysia’s history and culture

Rahwani Zahari

In conjunction with the ASEAN Lifestyle Week 2019 (ALW2019), Tourism Malaysia invited several members of the media from around the region on a trip to get to know more about Malaysia’s history and culture.

Upon arriving at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, I was greeted by Wong Kim Chooi, a ground handler and our tour guide from Marine Discovery Holidays Sdn Bhd who was in charge of my five-day trip in Malaysia. We were then joined by other members of the media and went for a briefing on the ALW2019.

The ALW2019 was a three-day exhibition and showcase that featured services and products from various lifestyle Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) of ASEAN countries.

A joint effort organised by Yayasan Budi Penyayang Malaysia (PENYAYANG) with the support of the ASEAN-Malaysia National Secretariat and endorsed by the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE), ALW2019 created an opportunity for lifestyle entrepreneurs to learn and develop a robust network within the region.

During the trip, our first visit was to Putrajaya which was an hour’s drive from KLCC. The Federal Territory of Putrajaya is where all of the Malaysian ministries’ buildings can be found. They moved them there due to congestion in their old locations in 1999 and it now serves as the country’s administrative centre.

In Putrajaya, we went to Putra Mosque. Built in 1997, it is also known the ‘Pink Mosque’ due to its pink-coloured dome and can host up to 15,000 devotees in one session. The mosque is situated next to the Prime Minister’s Office which makes it one of the most famous tourist attractions around.

ABOVE & BELOW: The view from the top of Sultan Salahudin Abdul Aziz Shah Mosque, more commonly known as the ‘Blue mosque’; and Local Malay kuihs and delicacies at KUeH Café. PHOTOS: RAHWANI ZAHARI

The river cruise along the Malacca River
A mural welcoming visitors to Malacca
ABOVE & BELOW: Encore Melaka, Southeast Asia’s largest arts theatre with a 360-degree rotating audience platform; and Stadthuys, a 1650 Dutch-built historical structure known for its red exterior. Now a museum, Stadthuys houses traditional costumes and artifacts throughout the history of Malacca

After an hour’s drive to Shah Alam Selangor from Kuala Lumpur, we arrived at Concorde Hotel where we met with Dilah, Hanan and Nazri from Tourism Selangor and also with the Assistant Marketing & Communications Manager of Concorde, Haliza Mansor.

As part of Tourism Selangor’s itinerary, we were brought for a hotel inspection of the facilities and demonstration of the hotel’s in-house specials. We also had the chance to get a taste of Concorde’s Teh Tarik, to which is a Malaysian go-to drink at any time of the day.

Down the road from the hotel was Sultan Salahudin Abdul Aziz Shah Mosque. It is more commonly known as the ‘Blue mosque’ from the distinct colour of its blue dome. With the capacity of hosting 24,000 devotees, it is the largest mosque in the country and second largest mosque in Southeast Asia after Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta.

I felt quite lucky that we had the rare opportunity to get a view of the area from one the mosque’s towers, a place that only the imam of the mosque is able to access.

We walked down to the MAIS Islamic Information Centre nearby where we were greeted by Normah Sulaiman, the Director of Masjid Tour guide Programme and Tuan Haji Abas, one of the volunteer guides at MAIS.

They took us for a quick tour on the Islamic exhibition at the centre which has vast useful information about the five pillars in Islam and how Islam is related to science. The staff at the MAIS were very friendly and chatted with us on whether Brunei had any similar facilities.

The group then proceeded to an adrenaline pumping go-kart session at City Karting Shah Alam, located near to the Shah Alam Stadium, where all 10 of us raced three laps around the circuit and I managed to get the unofficial 2nd place.

Our next stop was KUeH Café where we were introduced to local Malay kuihs and delicacies such as kuih putu piring, kuih talam, kuih seri muka, kuih lompang, kuih kochi and more. As I sat with Ahmad from Indonesia and Hana from Tourism Selangor, we discussed that there weren’t much difference in the kuih between Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia but we only called them by different names.

We proceeded to i-City Shah Alam, where the city hosts attractions such as City of Digital Lights, SnoWalk, WaterWorld, centralWalk, Itsy Bitsy, CityWalk’s Red Carpet and Red Carpet 2, Trick Art Museum and House of Horror.

We went to the Red Carpet, an interactive wax museum that houses up to 100 wax icons ranging from superheroes, Heads of State, Sci-fi figures, Hollywood artistes, K-pop idols and more.

While the tour group split into two while going to Red Carpet 2, Mr KC and I along with two others browsed the gallery on a leisure speed, taking photos with the wax figures along the way.

Lastly, we visited the historical city of Malacca – a state located in the southern region of the Malay Peninsula, next to the Strait of Malacca.

Malacca is attributed to the life of various races and ethnicities that have long existed among the local community and it has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 7 July 2008.

There we walked the on the streets of Malacca, commonly known as the Heritage Walk – an area where four places of worship such as the Kampung Kling Mosque (Islam), the Cheng Hoon Teng Temple (Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism), the Sri Poyyatha Vinayaar Moorthi Temple (Hiduism) and Xiang Lin Si Temple (Buddhism) are located close to each other.

According to our tour guide, the street is also known as the Harmony Street. It is a testament to religious pluralism in Malacca and people of different religions coexisting with each other and it is absolutely admirable.

We continued our tour walking to Stadthuys, a 1650 Dutch-built historical structure known for its red exterior. Now a museum, Stadthuys houses traditional costumes and artifacts throughout the history of Malacca. We also visited the remains of St Paul’s Church before stopping by the A Famosa Portugese Fort.

Just by the side of Stadthuys, we saw a couple of Malacca trees. Our guide explained that the city of Malacca got its name from the tree because the founder of Malacca, Parameswara was resting under a Melaka tree when he saw a mousedeer kick his hunting dogs. Honouring the brave mousedeer, he chose to build a new settlement at the site and named the area Melaka, which became a state in Malaysia.

We were treated to an Encore Melaka by Yong Tai, an immersive performance at Southeast Asia’s largest arts theatre with a 360-degree rotating audience platform. The theatre performance showcased Malacca’s history through seven acts, namely Parameswara, Cheng Ho, Nyonya & Wedding, Six Mothers, Pregnant Women, Wau, and the Finale.

The conclusion of my trip was a 45-minute river cruise along the Malacca River. The cruise covers most of the places of interest such as Stadthuys and the Red Square, Bastion Middleburg, Jonker Street, Kampung Hulu Mosque, Church of St Francis Xavier, Eye On Melaka and Kampung Morten. It was interesting to see the old Malacca styled houses and mural paintings – a good contrast between the old and new history of Malacca.