Malaysia > Perak > Historical Pasir Salak

Thursday, 23rd April 2009

Location: HERE

Leaving Tapah Road, the 40km pleasant and fast drive to historical Pasir Salak along straight roads surrounded by huge expanses of green rice-fields is excellent therapy for any city-slickers. But please do not speed. smile.gif

Pasir Salak, one of the many Malay villages dotting the magnificent Perak River, is especially important in the annals of Malaysia, thanks to the sudden demise of one Mr James Wheeler Woodford Birch, on the morning of 2nd November, 1875.

The key bloody event took place in this vicinity of the Perak River, where Birch’s houseboat was then moored that fateful day.

Looking north, the view probably has not changed much since Birch’s time.

I reckon it’s the same thing with the view downstream, except maybe with less murky water.

Mr Birch was virtually the British-appointed CEO of Perak state, hence he was accorded a grand monument some 25 years after his death.

The epitaph, complete with Malay, written in Arabic script.

A modernised commentary is posted nearby.

Of course, some people have to show the other side of the coin …

… and spin the event into something even grander. As some say, history is written by the victors. Me, I always read historical tales with the occasional sniggers. smile.gif

In any case, this historical site has been well made up. What happened to Maharaja Lela, the assassin? Some say, although he carried out his deed with Sultan Abdullah’s consent, he was left high and dry after the event, to be summarily hanged to death by the British on 20th January, 1877. The Sultan was exiled to the Seychelles.

One can walk the river bank along a footpath surrounded by blooming plants and chirping birds.

A quick stroll southwards …

… and one comes to a reconstruction of an old wooden Perak grand house.

An elegant structure but unfortunately closed to the public.img_4870

Leaving the historical site of Pasir Salak, I decide to travel further downstream the Perak River, where the quiet narrow road skirts the river bank past quaint villages. I have never been this way before, so this is gonna be interesting. [Please click HERE to see GPS track of my drive.]

As I move on, the river becomes narrower due to sedimentation. River grass grows in abundance, with plenty of fish and bird life. For livelihood, the villagers tap rubber trees and harvest oil palms. But for some old folks, life is better elsewhere with their kids.

Hence along the road, I keep finding abandoned traditional Perak Malay houses. Imagine how grand this house was during its hey-days.

Note the intricate ornaments of the facade of this one.

The state colours of black, yellow and white, a popular theme in the old days.

Nearby, yet a couple more of uninhabited houses. Kids have all grown up and are now living in faraway big cities, especially Kuala Lumpur. The old folks have either followed the kids, or have died, so nobody is interested in these poor dwellings any more.

Some houses were left with furnitures still intact, such was the suddenness of the owners to leave. I peer into a house, and amidst the falling ceiling, sleeping bats hang like ripe fruits. Only these nocturnal creatures are keeping the lonely houses company.

An old stately-looking house attracts my attention. Several decades ago, there must be kids loitering under the house playing games or chasing the chicken.

At Bandar Tua village, even the aged mosque has some traditional elements. ‘Bandar Tua’ means ‘Old Town’, so was there a bustling port here once?

A hundred metres from the Bandar Tua village mosque, I find another abandoned house, but this one is unique. The lonely path from the lane to the house is littered with dried leaves and shrivelled coconuts.

The house is interesting because its main part is obviously very old.

The wall is made from ‘tepah’, a type of bamboo, weaved into sturdy sheets. When I was a kampung kid in Kelantan, my cousins’ houses in the ricefields had similar walls.

Nowadays such houses are virtually gone forever, so please forgive my excitement at spotting one here. Windows tightly shuttered, the occupants have long left – abandoned for years when the owner died, and soon his widow went to live with their kids in Kuala Lumpur.

Underneath the house some furniture and paraphernalia are left to rot. I guess the house is at least 50-60 years old, probably the place of birth for some hip people now sipping ice-blended coffee at Starbucks at KLCC. A lot of memories here I’m sure, but nobody has returned to relive them, and the house waits. Only the bats are keeping company.

Enough of abandoned-house-spotting, I soon see what might have been a former jetty for folks to cross the river with water taxis. I’m sure years ago when the water was deeper, this part was navigable. Now water grass is everywhere. Sort of an eye-sore, really.

I step onto this ancient jetty, and the whole structure shakes a bit. I’m slightly alarmed at first, but I gingerly move to its edge for a view of the river.

Imagine no water grass, and a clear view of the water till the other side of the river. That was the case decades ago, I guess.

I’m enjoying lazing here in the shade, with the chirping birds and the gurgling fish and the cooling breeze, but alas, I have to go. I take one final look at the serene river (or what’s left of it) and drive off …

… and soon pass by a local politician’s banner, in Tamil. 🙂img_4903



  1. Hazha 15 October 2009
  2. Ezani 10 September 2010

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