Top 10 Spookiest Places in Malaysia

Malaysians have a fondness for a good ghost story. The most popular locally-made films (horror movies and comedies) often feature pontianak (female spirits), vampires, demons, sheitan, hantu, spectres and other ghoulish characters.

Certain places in Malaysia have become associated with ghostly apparitions. In case you want to visit them, or (more sensibly) steer clear of them, here is my list of the Top 10 Spookiest Places in Malaysia. 

Clifford School Kuala Lipis

1. Clifford School, Kuala Lipis

Schools are always fertile ground for ghost stories. Children have active imaginations and love to scare each other with creepy tales. But in Malaysia, more credence is added to the rumours because many of the buildings are very old and a number of them were used by Japanese forces during the War as interrogation centres and torture chambers. One of the more notorious is Clifford School (formerly Anglo Chinese  School) in Kuala Lipis which was HQ for the infamous Kempeitai military police. The school had a purpose-built torture chamber within the school grounds until it was demolished in the 1980s.

Other schools reputed to be haunted for similar reasons include St. Michael’s Institution in Ipoh, Malay College Kuala Kangsar, Victoria Institution and St. John’s Institution both in Kuala Lumpur, Tuanku Muhammad School in Kuala Pilah, King Edward VII School in Taiping and the King George VI School in Seremban.

Heritage Station Hotel KL

2. Heritage Station Hotel, Kuala Lumpur

Hotels are another rich source of ghost stories. If you search the web it seems there are more hotels with resident ghosts than without!  For example, at the Majestic Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, the ghost of a Japanese soldier who committed suicide at the end of the War was reportedly seen staring out of the window of his room (Room 48) for many years afterwards. Not sure if the hotel still has a room 48 following its luxury makeover.

Across the street from the Majestic, the Heritage Station Hotel is located inside Kl’s famous old railway station building. This hotel is now closed down but was also rumoured to have ghostly clientele.

Malaysia’s casino capital Genting Highlands seems to have more than its fair share of haunted hotels, perhaps due to gambling related suicides. These are said to include First World Hotel, Genting Highland Resort, Ria Apartments and Amber Court.

Tambun Inn in Ipoh is another establishment which frequently gets mentioned for unexplained activity during the night and will not be on my ‘must visit’ list.

Pudu Jail

3. Pudu Jail, Kuala Lumpur

Given that this was one of Malaysia’s largest prisons and in use for over 100 years, it is not surprising that there are stories of ghost sightings. Behind the jail’s grim walls there were many deaths from natural causes, disease, murders and executions by hanging.

The prison was demolished in 2012 and only the old gate remains as a memento. The cleared site is vacant for now pending redevelopment into a mixed retail/residential complex to be called the Bukit Bintang City Centre. Hopefully the ghosts have moved on. If not, perhaps future occupants of BBCC will be woken by the clanking of shackled feet, the creaking of the gallows trap-door or the wails of anguished convicts.

Highland Towers

4. Highland Towers

A tragic accident in 1993 saw a 12 storey apartment block toppled by a landslip causing the death of 48 of its residents. The site of this disaster on the eastern edge of KL is thought by some to be the most haunted place in Malaysia. Read more about this tragedy in an earlier post on this blog.

Kellie's Castle

5. Kellie’s Castle

The British colonial era is responsible for many of Malaysia’s ghost stories. This is not surprising — after all the Cantonese term ‘gwai lo’ referring to white people means ‘ghost person’. One famous gwai lo was William Kellie Smith whose half-finished palatial home in Perak is said to be haunted, perhaps by the spirit of Kellie Smith himself. You can find more details on my Malaysia Traveller website.

Other white man ghosts from colonial days are thought to lurk in some of the old bungalows atop Maxwell Hill (Bukit Larut) in Taiping.

Bukit Jugra

6. Bukit Jugra

Talking of hills, you would think that the name Gunung Besar Hantu (means big ghost mountain) must surely have some creepy origin but the intrepid hikers who make the trip and camp at the summit seem to have no problems. I have not yet had that pleasure.

The summit of Mt. Kinabalu is usually too crowded to experience anything supernatural but according to local custom the mountain harbours the souls of the dead.

A much smaller hill is Bukit Jugra in Selangor and is said to be full of hantu whose cries can be heard in the middle of the night. Read more here.

Bukit Cina Melaka

7. Bukit Cina Cemetery

I have visited many cemeteries in Malaysia and on the whole I do not find them particularly spooky (I am more scared of the mosquitoes that frequent these graveyards). Having said that, some are more atmospheric than others and the Chinese cemetery at Bukit Cina in Melaka is probably one where I would rather not be after dark. It is one of the largest Chinese graveyards outside of China and also one of the oldest with some graves going back nearly 400 years.

Cape Rachado

8. Cape Rachado – Pulau Masjid Beach

People overnighting at the camping area on this quiet and secluded beach have reported some scary experiences. I visited there during the daytime (on my own)! and I did feel that it was an eerie place. You can read about it here. A naval battle between Portugal and Holland took place offshore from this beach some 400 years ago. Could the spirit of a slain sailor be amusing himself by terrorising unsuspecting campers?

Another mystical place in Melaka State is Pulau Besar. This island is an Islamic pilgrimage site and has more of a spiritual feel than a ghostly feel but according to legend there is supposed to be a village of elves on the island. Find out more on my Malaysia Traveller website.

Mimaland

9. Mimaland Abandoned Theme Park

This theme park was closed down in 1994 following a fatal accident and other perceived safety lapses. I wrote about it being overgrown and forgotten following my visit in 2011 (see my blog post here). Since then other bloggers have stolen my photo and claimed that it is haunted. That’s how these rumours start!

Nam Thean Tong Cave Temple

10. Nam Thean Tong Cave Temple

Saving the best until last, this cave temple in Ipoh is where I personally had a spooky experience. Malaysian Caves are naturally scary places being dark and creepy and home to bats, spiders, cockroaches and snakes. But when I visited Nam Thean Tong in Ipoh I definitely saw something which I could not explain. Read about it here.

Hope you enjoyed your spooky tour.

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Seoul’s Bukchon Neighbourhood

Approach to Bukchon Hanok Village

Wedged between two of Seoul’s most famous palaces, Gyeongbok and Changdeok, is the quaint and hilly neighbourhood of Bukchon.

Bukchon was a quiet residential backwater until the early 2000’s but since it was featured in some Korean TV shows its popularity has mushroomed.

Tourists, both domestic and foreigners, flock here to explore the narrow alleys of traditional Korean houses known as hanok as well as the museums and cultural activities on offer. Artisans living here specialise in skills such as knot making, embroidery, zither playing, lacquer making and cookery.

Bukchon Hanok Village

Traditional Hanok houses in Seoul’s Bukchon district.

Hanok are what all ordinary Koreans would have lived once upon a time. Typically they would be single storey L or U shaped structures with an interior courtyard where kimchi would be made and stored. They were made of pine frames and insulated with rice straw and clay. Originally they had thatched roofs but now are tiled. Windows and doors were covered with mulberry paper. They would have been freezing in winter were it not for the ingenious ondol underfloor heating.

Alley in Bukchon Hanok Village

Traditional style hanok with some more modern alterations such as the brickwork and windows.

Seoul’s hanoks were severely depleted during the Korean War while most of those that survived have been swept away in the nation’s rush to modernity. Even in Bukchon only around 800 still remain and these are under threat by development. Most of the hanok in Bukchon are of no great age, having been built in the 1920s or 30s.

Some of the hanok operate as guest houses where tourists can try sleeping on the floor and experience the traditional bath. At the Bukchon Museum, visitors can try on traditional Korean costume and have their photos taken.

View from BukchonOn the fringes of the district, teahouses, restaurants, boutiques and galleries draw in the fashionable young Seoul crowd.

Bukchon Hanok Village

We barely scratched the surface of this interesting district during our brief visit and I would like to explore further if I get the chance.

Bukchon Museum

Bukchon Museum

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Rilakkuma Themed Cafe in Seoul

Rilakkuma and Friends

Rilakkuma and Friends

My daughter may have reached teenage-hood but she is still fond of cute and cuddly stuff, and probably always will be. When she knew we were going to visit Seoul she researched some suitable attractions to add to our itinerary.

Rilakkuma Themed Cafe

One such place was the Gongsang Cafe (translates as Fancy Cafe), previously called ‘Capi Capi Loom Loom’. It is located near Sungshin Women’s University subway station. We had some difficulty finding it and had to ask a few people for directions.

Gongsang Cafe, Seoul

Rilakkuma themed cafe in Seoul, previously known as Capi Capi Loom Loom.

Inside is a small cafe with lots of Rilakkuma and other soft toys to keep you company while you drink your coffee. Rilakkuma, if you are not familiar, is a popular bear character created in Japan about 12 years ago who stars in many children’s books. His name is a contraction of relax and kuma (Japanese for bear) and means ‘bear in relaxed mood’ and he helps stressed-out children and adults to relax. His hobbies include sleeping, relaxing, watching TV and soaking in hot springs.

Colourful drinks at the Rilakkuma cafe in Seoul

Colourful drinks at the Rilakkuma cafe in Seoul

Of course customers are able to browse the wide selection of Rilakkuma merchandise on sale.

Rilakkuma merchandise

Rilakkuma merchandise

Dog Cafe

Another place we visited was a Dog Cafe. There are a number of these establishments in Seoul. The one we went to was located on the 4th floor of an ordinary building in Seoul’s busy Myeongdong district. Inside were about twenty or so dogs, lounging around on benches, sitting on customers’ laps or just wandering about. After paying an entrance charge, which included a drink, we were provided with a ‘menu’ showing photos of all the dogs and giving their names. Customers were expected to sit on the floor with a blanket on their laps and wait for any passing dog to come and sit on them.

One of the dogs at a Dog Cafe in Seoul.

Some of the dogs were a bit lazy and preferred to lie about chewing the furniture rather than interacting with customers.

The dog who sat on my lap was a jealous and rather ugly pug who spent his time snapping at any other dog who approached.

It was a bit of a weird experience. Dogs are allowed to do their business on the floor and cocked their legs on chair legs and the staff spent much of their time mopping the floor and cleaning up after the hounds. The dogs seem happy enough getting lots of petting and attention but I wonder how often they get to run around in the fresh air. Still we should not complain – Seoul used to be more famous for eating dogs than playing with them!

There are Cat Cafe’s in Seoul too for cat lovers.

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Seoul in Springtime – Namsan Park

N Seoul Tower in Springtime

N Seoul Tower is 236m high and stands on top of Namsan hill which is 243m above sea level.

Japan might be the country in Asia best known for its sakura (cherry blossoms) but Korea too puts on an excellent floral display in Springtime. One of the best places in Seoul to see cherry blossom and other spring blooms is Namsan Park which we visited in mid April just as the flowers were at their peak.

Cherry Blossom Viewing in Seoul

Foreign tourists enjoying the cherry blossom at Namsan Park, Seoul

The park is conveniently located in the heart of the city and is handy for office and factory workers to stretch their legs during their lunch breaks. Actually, to get all the way to the top of the hill involves quite a long walk and we spent a couple of hours ambling along in the cool crisp air – such a pleasant change from our normal humid weather in Malaysia.

Traditional Korean architecture in Namsan Park

Traditional Korean architecture in Namsan Park

Some office workers were enjoying picnics under the falling cherry tree petals.

Office cherry blossom viewing party in Seoul

Office cherry blossom viewing party in Seoul

From the top of Namsan hill, also called Mount Mongmyeok, there was a fine view over the city.

View of Seoul from Namsan Park

View of Seoul from Namsan Park

In addition to foreign tourists, there were a lot of locals at the peak, including this party of Korean schoolboys.

School trip to Namsan Park, Seoul

School trip to Namsan Park

The craze of ‘love padlocks’ appears to have taken hold in Korea. In case you are not familiar, this fad is where sweethearts lock a padlock to an immovable fixture like a bridge and then throw away the key to symbolise their unbreakable bond. The padlocks are usually inscribed with the couple’s names or initials. Great business for padlock vendors!

Love padlocks attached to railings at Seoul Tower

Colourful love padlocks attached to railings at Seoul Tower

Not wishing to buy a padlock I spent my money instead on a very tasty micro-brewed craft beer which was easily the best tipple I had during our trip to Korea.

Platinum Craft Beer in Seoul

Platinum Craft Beer in Seoul

If you like Japanese-style hanami (cherry blossom viewing) but don’t like the crowds in Japan I would definitely recommend Korea as an alternative next year.

N Seoul Tower

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Kundasang War Memorial

Entrance to Kundasang War Memorial, Sabah, Malaysia

Entrance to Kundasang War Memorial

One of the highlights of my recent trip to Sabah was a visit to Kundasang War Memorial.

The memorial is located in the scenic hill town of Kundasang on the slopes of the mighty Mount Kinabalu.

Kundasang Town , 90km from Kota Kinabalu and 10 minutes drive from the entrance to Kinabalu National Park

Kundasang Town , 90km from Kota Kinabalu and 10 minutes drive from the entrance to Kinabalu National Park

Kundasang War Memorial commemorates the victims of the infamous Sandakan – Ranau Death Marches which took place in the dying days of World War II. (Kundasang is close to Ranau).

Sandakan Death March

Map on display at Kundasang War Memorial showing the route of the infamous Sandakan Death March

Map on display at Kundasang War Memorial showing the route of the infamous Sandakan Death March

A couple of thousand mostly Australian and British Prisoners of War were based near Sandakan where their Japanese captors put them to work extending an airfield.

In June 1945, fearful of an Allied landing to liberate Sandakan, the Japanese decided to move the prisoners inland to Ranau to prevent them from being released by the Allies. This move took place in three forced marches, described by the prisoners as a ‘265km Slow Walk Through Hell’.

Of the over 2400 prisoners involved, only 6 Australians survived and only because they managed to escape en route. 1787 Australian and 641 British prisoners perished as a result of privations and beatings, bayonet wounds or shootings by their brutal Japanese guards who had little regard for human life. Those few that completed the march as far as Ranau were murdered by their captors, many of them after the war had officially ended.

Kundasang War Memorial

The Kundasang War Memorial

The memorial was completed in 1962  but in the following decades it fell into disrepair and by 2003 it was neglected and vandalised.

Fortunately,  Thai-born Mr. Sevee Charuruks spent RM 800,000 of his own money to restore the memorial to its current pristine condition. Mr. Sevee moved to Sabah over 30 years ago and being retired from his building business took on the care of the war memorial as a labour of love.

Mr. Sevee Charuruks, saviour of Kudasang War Memorial

Mr. Sevee Charuruks, saviour of Kudasang War Memorial

Mr. Sevee kindly consented to me taking this photo. His contribution has not gone unrecognised. In 2007 he was awarded the MBE by the Queen and in 2011 he was awarded the Order of Australia. Both of these awards are displayed proudly on the wall of his outdoor museum cum shop.

The wall of his shop displays his awards and information concerning the Sandakan-Ranau Death March. Mr Sevee sells plants, cultivated by himself, to help cover the costs of maintaining the memorial.

The wall of his shop displays his awards and information concerning the Sandakan-Ranau Death March. Mr Sevee sells plants, cultivated by himself, to help cover the costs of maintaining the memorial.

The Memorial consists of four levels, each with its own pretty garden: The Australian Garden, The English Garden, The Borneo Garden  and the Contemplation Garden.

Australian Garden, Kundasang War Memorial, Sabah, Malaysia

Australian Garden, Kundasang War Memorial

English Garden, Kundasang War Memorial, Sabah, Malaysia

English Garden. Roses are not common in Malaysia and rarely have any scent. Mr. Sevee must have green fingers because his roses smell of England.

Borneo Garden, Kundasang War Memorial

Borneo Garden. Remembered here are the many Sabahans who were killed trying to assist the POWs.

Contemplation Garden, Kundasang War Memorial, Sabah, Malaysia

Contemplation Garden.
The roll of honour, listing the names of those who perished, is engraved on plaques alongside the pool.

This site was selected for the War Memorial because here, in the shadow of Mount Kinabalu, many of the prisoners of war perished and, according to the local custom, the cloud enshrouded mountain harbours the souls of all those who have died.

The summit of Mt. Kinabalu is trying to peek out from behind the clouds.

The summit of Mt. Kinabalu is trying to peek out from behind the clouds.

Thirty Days Hath September,

April, June and November,

February is alright

It only rains from morning till night,

All the rest have thirty-one,

Without a single day of sun,

And if any month had thirty two,

They’d be bloody raining too!

Aussie POW humour on display at Kundasang War Memorial.

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Tindakon Dazang Beach Longhouse, Kudat, Sabah

On the return leg of my trip to the Tip of Borneo I turned off the main highway in search of that perfect beach.

After a bumpy ride on a gravel track which tested my rented Honda Jazz I ended up at Tindakon Dazang Beach.

Tindakon Dazang Beach

For the adventurous traveller who wants to get away from it all and does not mind roughing it, accommodation is available in a longhouse built by the indigenous Rungus people.

Rungus Longhouse at Tindakon Dazang Beach

Individual rooms open up into a communal hall running the full length of the longhouse. Toilet and shower facilities are found in a separate concrete block nearby.

Entrance to the longhouse

This is the entrance to the longhouse with sleeping rooms on the right and the common hall on the left. Room rates and meals are, as you would imagine, very reasonably priced and for large groups they can arrange for traditional music and dancing to be performed by the Rungus tribe.

Restaurant at Tindakon Dazang Beach Longhouse

The resort’s restaurant is built on stilts above a lake.

Beach at Tindakon Dazang

As for the beach, it is not bad at all. The sand is soft and clean while the sea is thick with vivid green seaweed. This might be off-putting for some but people who pay a fortune for seaweed beauty treatments can come here instead and get the same results for free.

The longhouse has a Facebook page for anybody wishing to make a booking or enquire about rates.

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Kudat Town

Continuing on from my last post, the closest settlement of any size to the Tip of Borneo is Kudat, a town of modest charms.

Old wooden shophouses in Kudat Town

Old wooden shophouses in Kudat Town

Difficult to imagine, but this place was once the capital of North Borneo, indeed the first capital, established in 1881. K.G. Tregonning, in his book Under Chartered Company Rule writes of Kudat:

Great hopes were held of it … These high hopes did not eventuate…A small town grew there, but it was always a sleepy hollow and in 1883 (the capital) moved to bustling Sandakan.

Sleepy hollow is probably still a fair description. There are signs of life around the fish and vegetable market but otherwise this town remains pretty sleep-inducing (but maybe I’m being unfair).

Kudat Clocktower

Kudat Clocktower

One of the reasons why Kudat and the surrounding area never took off under British North Borneo (Chartered) Company (BNBCC) rule was due to a lack of workers. The indigenous Rungus people were far too smart to take on the back-breaking hard labour that the British had in mind. BNBCC tried importing Hakka workers from southern China and offered them free passage, tools and plots of land. This was partly successful and many went on to establish coconut and other plantations but others preferred to open shops.

Chinese Temple in Kudat

Chinese Temple in Kudat

Less well-remembered these days were attempts by the British to bring in Filipino workers and, in 1892, Philippine national hero Jose Rizal visited Sandakan to discuss establishing a Filipino rice-growing colony in Borneo of some 5,000 families. Due to opposition from the Spanish authorities in Manila and other reasons this proposal never came to fruition.

Jollibee Logo on Malaysian Fishing Boat

This Jollibee logo on a Malaysian fishing boat in Kudat is evidence of Filipino influence.

Rizal’s scheme might have failed but today Filipinos are in Sabah in vast numbers – between 800,000 and 1.4 million depending on whom you listen to. Many of these are undocumented (illegal) migrants who arrived by short boat trips from the southernmost Philippine islands which are only a stone’s throw away.

Aerial view of one of Sabah's many water villages, many of which are home to undocumented migrants.

Aerial view of one of Sabah’s many water villages, many of which are home to undocumented migrants. This one is in Kudat town.

Many of these illegals have settled in water villages (ramshackle huts on stilts above the sea) which cling to the coasts of Sabah like iron filings to a magnet.

I digress. What other attractions are there in Kudat which I can tell you about?

Town centre, Kudat

Town centre, Kudat

There is a golf club said to be oldest in Borneo, there’s a clock tower, a fish market and the Esplanade where seafood restaurants attract the locals in the evening.

View of fishing boats at Kudat Esplanade

View of fishing boats at Kudat Esplanade

On the outskirts of town is the airport, built on the old airfield which was constructed by the Japanese during WWII using forced labour from Java and locally. The airfield was heavily bombed by the Americans towards the end of the war.

Kudat Airport

A sleepy airport for a sleepy town. It is served by MAS Wings flights from Kota Kinabalu.

About 11km north of Kudat town is Bak Bak beach. It is not great for sand but has some interesting rock formations to explore.

Bak Bak Beach, Kudat

Bak Bak Beach, Kudat

Kudat Town is nice and peaceful and the people are friendly but if I were to return to this corner of Malaysia again I would concentrate on the Tip of Borneo and Simpang Mengayau beach.

Bak Bak Beach, Kudat

Bak Bak Beach on a weekday.

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