Jalan Bellamy – Kuala Lumpur

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Jalan Bellamy, in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, has been the home of Alice Smith’s Primary School campus since 1952. For the benefit of those Old Alice Smithonians who might be feeling nostalgic about their school days here is how Jalan Bellamy looks in 2017.

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It is actually one of the better preserved streets in KL, with a number of old colonial bungalows still in use and lined by massive mature trees. You can even hear roosters calling in places. Most of the bungalows are of identical design so perhaps the former colonial occupants were all officials of the same seniority.

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It is a short road (about 700 m long – it may have been truncated when the Jalan Istana highway was constructed) and it was named after H.F. Bellamy who was a civil engineer and director of the Public Works Department in the late nineteenth century. He participated in the construction of the famous Sultan Abdul Samad Building on Dataran Merdeka though he was not in charge since his boss wrote that he was lacking in talent and drive to execute such a major construction programme. A Mr. C.E .Spooner from Ceylon was brought in over Bellamy’s head to run the project. How terrible that poor Bellamy’s job appraisal report is still being banded about on the internet after all these years but at least he got a road named after him.

Jalan Tun HS Lee Fire Brigade

He also had other interests. He headed up the Selangor Volunteer Fire Brigade and he might well be in this old photo.

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Next door to Alice Smith is a Hindu temple called Sri Thirumurugan.

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Opposite the school is an old bungalow housing the KL office of the Veteran Association of Malaysian Armed Forces.
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The Embassy of Bosnia and Herzegovina is also on this street. KL is probably a nice quiet posting for Bosnian diplomats.
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Next door is the mirror image of the embassy only this time with a blue roof. It is occupied by a government sports and welfare council office with the catchy acronym MAKSWIP.
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A more modern building is the National Civics Bureau (Biro Tatenegara) of the Prime Minister’s Department and the Nationhood Academy (Akademi Kenegaraan).
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Another pair of bungalows with identical designs to MAKSWIP and the Bosnian Embassy are nearby. They are called Rumah Meranti 1 and 2 and are probably used as government offices or rest houses.
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The best house on the street is Rumah Melaka, a wonderfully preserved colonial mansion which is the official residence of the Chief Minister of Melaka when he is visiting the big city of KL.
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The street ends next to a park called Taman Dusun Bandar (urban orchard park) which opened a few years ago at some considerable expense. It’s a very nice park. It’s just a pity that I was the only person there, apart from the gardening staff.
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A much more busy place is the adjacent Medan Ikan Bakar – barbecued fish hawker stalls. Specialities here include grilled squid, cat fish and mackerel wrapped in banana leaf. According to Lonely Planet, when the nearby Royal Museum was still used as a royal residence, the King would sometimes send one of his staff to buy an order of grilled stingray from one of these stalls.
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Serunding means ‘floss’ and comes in three flavours, fish, beef or chicken. I think I’ll stick with Oral-B mint flavour.

Chiang Mai Railway Station

While in Chiang Mai last month I went along to the city’s charming railway station.

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Old Steam Locomotive in Front of Chiang Mai Railway Station

The station master obviously takes great pride in the station’s appearance. The platforms are decorated with potted plants and statues of elephants. The sparklingly clean ticket hall has portraits of Thai Kings, past and present, and a waiting area reserved for monks. There is even a Thai massage parlour which could be handy if you have a long wait for your connection.

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I was intrigued to think that I could board a train here which would take me, albeit with a couple of changes, all the way to my local station just south of Kuala Lumpur.

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How long would it take? As you can see from this map, Chiang Mai to Kuala Lumpur is a long way, over 2,000km or about 3 hours flying time. By train, I calculate that it takes about 51 hours and 50 minutes!

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Source: The Man in Seat 61

The train departs Chiang Mai at 18:00 and reaches Bangkok the next morning at 6:50. Then you have to wait 7 hours and 55 minutes in Bangkok for the 14:45 departure to Malaysia arriving at the border town of Padang Besar at 8:55 the next morning (yes, that’s two nights already on Thai trains).

Unfortunately you will have just missed the connection to KL and you have to wait 7 hours and 20 minutes for the next train, departing Padang Besar at 16:15. From here though the pace accelerates now that the new electrified ETS train service has been extended all the way up to the border and you will arrive at KL at 21:50 feeling quite weary I would imagine.

Of course there are sleepers, 1st and 2nd class, and restaurant cars on the Thai trains (no longer serving alcohol) so the journey would be reasonably comfortable.  The cost of the Chiang Mai / Kuala Lumpur train tickets, one -way,  would be around US$100 including sleepers. Not bad value at all but you could fly on Air Asia instead for just US$43.

If you want to know anything about train travel in Thailand or Malaysia (and just about everywhere else in the world) I thoroughly recommend The Man in Seat 61 website.

Arthur Oakley Coltman

Some time ago on this blog I wrote about Brigadier General Arthur Benison Hubback who designed some of Malaysia’s most famous buildings such as the KL Railway Station and Masjid Jamek.

Another British architect, Arthur Oakley Coltman, also left his mark on Kuala Lumpur. He worked with the architectural firm Booty Edwards & Partners in Malaya from 1925 to 1957, a time which included the Art Deco period and this style is reflected in many of his works.

Here are Coltman’s best known buildings in KL:

  • Clock Tower

Clock Tower Market Square KL

This clock tower is located in the Old Market Square (Medan Pasar Besar) in the heart of KL. It was commissioned to commemorate the coronation of King George VI in 1937 but the memorial plaques were removed following Independence. The sunburst motif on the lower panels is typical of Art Deco design. The clock tower has recently had a much-needed facelift after years of neglect and vandalism but it still looks rather drab and I see it has weeds growing out of the top.  The clock faces, presumably not the originals, are made by Seiko.

  • OCBC Building

OCBC Building Kuala Lumpur

More attractive, in my opinion, is the OCBC building, located on the same square as the Clock Tower and also built in 1937. It was designed with basement parking for bicycles. The set back ground floor provides shade for pedestrians and is an Art Deco version of the five foot way found in traditional shophouses.

  • Oriental Building

Oriental Building KL

This was the tallest building in Kuala Lumpur when it was built in the 1930’s. It housed Radio Malaya and some say the design looks like a 1930’s style radio, similar to this one perhaps.1930's radio

One of the upper four floors was used by the Oriental Government Security Life Assurance Company whose premises were damaged in a minor earthquake in 1936.

  • Anglo-Oriental Building

Anglo Oriental Building KL

This building was also built in 1937 – a busy year for Mr. Coltman. It was the headquarters for Anglo-Oriental, a tin mining company and its main doors were made of pewter. It incorporates a number of art deco features which must have been the height of fashion when it was new.

  • Lee Rubber Building

Lee Rubber Building KL

Also of 1930’s design, the Lee Rubber Building was commissioned by Lee Kong Chian, a Chinese businessman from Johor who made a fortune from rubber and pineapple plantations. During the war the building was used by the notorious Kempeitai military police. Both Coltman and his wife were interned by the Japanese during the War (he in Singapore and she in Sumatra).

  • Rubber Research Institute

RRI Kuala Lumpur

RRI on Jalan Ampang is a series of brick buildings with large concrete or plaster mullions and embellishments in art deco style. The uppermost decorations shown here which look like towels on a rail represent sheets of latex hanging out to dry, an every day sight at the time on any rubber plantation.  A foundation stone laid by the Sultan of Selangor bears the date 22nd April 1936.

  • Odeon Cinema

Odeon Cinema KL

The Odeon Cinema on Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman was built in 1936 for the Cathay Organisation. Unfortunately its exterior is now almost entirely blanketed in advertising posters but the towers with flagpoles are just visible flanking the entrance.

  • Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque in Brunei
This is the Legoland version.
This is the Legoland version.

Mr. Coltman was active in Brunei too where he completed the detailed drawings for the famous Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin mosque which was completed in 1958. I have visited this mosque but it was in pre-digital photography days so you’ll have to make do with this shot taken in Legoland Malaysia.

  • Mercantile Bank KL

Mercantile Bank in Kuala Lumpur in 1961

Coltman left Malaya in 1957 but his firm Booty Edwards continued to obtain work including the redevelopment of Mercantile Bank in 1961 (you can see the OCBC Building on the left). The building was remodelled a couple of times since following its rebranding as HSBC and most recently it has found a new life as a hotel, Pacific Express.

Former HSBC/Mercantile Bank in KL

The style of the lower floors is an attempt to blend in with the adjacent heritage shophouses on Medan Pasar Besar and to upgrade the overall appearance and ambience of this historic market square. It works as long as you don’t look up!

Jalan Tun H S Lee, Kuala Lumpur

Jalan Tun H. S. Lee is a 1.8 km long street running through the heart of downtown Kuala Lumpur. Before Independence it was known simply as High Street, indicating that it was one of the earliest and most important commercial thoroughfares in the town. 

Map of Jalan Tun H S Lee, Kuala Lumpur

The street has witnessed all the major events in KL’s history since the 1880’s and bears the scars of the city’s growth and development.

The street is named after Tun Sir Henry Lee Hau Shik, a former government minister. It runs from Jalan Gereja in the north (near the Telecom Museum) and finally peters out in an underpass beneath Jalan Kinabalu in the south.
The street is named after Tun Sir Henry Lee Hau Shik, a former government minister. It runs from Jalan Gereja in the north (near the Telecom Museum) and finally peters out in an underpass beneath Jalan Kinabalu in the south.

Most visitors to KL will, have travelled along sections of this street but few will have seen the need to walk along its entire length. If you were to inclined to make the long walk, this video gives a flavour of what you would see.

Jalan Tun HS Lee Street Scene

The street is a combination of old and new, scruffy and smart, high rise and shophouse and is typical of the untidy but colourful lanes you find in downtown KL.

Old shophouses exist alongside modern towers. There’s nothing twee about this street.
Old shophouses exist alongside modern towers. There’s nothing twee about this street.
This row of six shophouses is thought to be one of the oldest in KL dating from the 1880’s, with a roofline lower than its neighbours. It has had an award winning restoration and is now a boutique backpackers’ hostel.
This row of six shophouses is thought to be one of the oldest in KL dating from the 1880’s, with a roofline lower than its neighbours. It has had an award winning restoration and is now a boutique backpackers’ hostel.

There are a number of hotels and hostels in this street, mainly catering to the budget end of the travel market.

If the taste and price of the food is more important to you than the ambience, you’ll find plenty of places to eat in this street.
If the taste and price of the food is more important to you than the ambience, you’ll find plenty of places to eat in this street.

There is a wide variety of eating establishments along this street include Affriasia Village Kitchen (African food), Santa Chapati House, Solti Restaurant (Nepalese?), Betel Leaf, Oishi Ramen, Water Lily Vegetarian, LOKL Coffee Shop, Ayam Kampong, Bangladeshi Halal food, Kopitiam and Kedai Kopi Lai Foong.

Whatever you want to buy, there’s probably a shop selling it in Jalan Tun HS Lee.
Whatever you want to buy, there’s probably a shop selling it in Jalan Tun HS Lee.

Traditional Malaysian High Streets like this one have a wide range of retailers. Here are some of the categories found here: clothing, hardware, motorbike repairs, fertiliser and weedkiller, tea merchants, rubber chops and car number plates, money transfers, stationers, comic books, travel agents, jewellers, antiques, party accessories, pet food supplies, feng shui supplies, natural crystals, gifts, bags, nail and hair accessories, crockery and much more.

Sin Sze Si Ya Temple was founded in 1864 by Kapitan Yap Ah Loy and is dedicated to the deities Sin Sze Ya and Si Sze Ya.
Sin Sze Si Ya Temple was founded in 1864 by Kapitan Yap Ah Loy and is dedicated to the deities Sin Sze Ya and Si Sze Ya.

A narrow entrance leads to Sin Sze Si Ya Temple, one of KL’s oldest.

Guandi is the patron of righteous brotherhoods and includes both police forces and triads among his followers.
Guandi is the patron of righteous brotherhoods and includes both police forces and triads among his followers (not in Malaysia of course).

Another temple further down the street is dedicated to Guandi, the Taoist God of War.

Madras Lane may have obtained its nickname from the adjacent Madras Cinema, now a vacant lot used for parking.
Madras Lane may have obtained its nickname from the adjacent Madras Cinema, now a vacant lot used for parking.

An alley way nearby is know as Madras Lane (officially Jalan Sultan), renowned among Malaysia’s foodies as a destination for hawker fare such as curry laksa, yong tau foo, chee cheong fun and fish head curry.

This temple was founded in 1873 by a prominent Tamil called K. Thamboosamy Pillai, who was also said to have been instrumental in establishing Batu Caves as a Hindu Temple. He also contributed generously to the building of St. Mary’s Cathedral which no doubt put him on good terms with the British colonial administration.
This temple was founded in 1873 by a prominent Tamil called K. Thamboosamy Pillai, who was also said to have been instrumental in establishing Batu Caves as a Hindu Temple. He also contributed generously to the building of St. Mary’s Cathedral which no doubt put him on good terms with the British colonial administration.

Across the street is the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple one of oldest and most photogenic of the Hindu temples in KL.

In KL’s early days fires were a constant danger with most houses being made of wood with attap roofs.
In KL’s early days fires were a constant danger with most houses being made of wood with attap roofs.

Further down the street is blocked off by blue metal fencing behind which a massive hole in the ground is being filled with the new Mass Rapid Transit railway station for Pasar Seni. After skirting around this construction site, Jalan Tun HS Lee continues south on its final stretch which includes the police station and the site of the station of the Volunteer Fire Service. The Sikh Police temple is nearby.

This building was the original Victoria Institution school but is now used as a venue for cultural dance and traditional arts shows.
This building was the original Victoria Institution school but is now used as a venue for cultural dance and traditional arts shows.

This ends our tour of Jalan Tun HS Lee.

Inside the Sultan Abdul Samad Building

SultanAbdulSamadBuilding

The stately, copper-domed Sultan Abdul Samad Building on Merdeka Square is one of Kuala Lumpur’s most famous landmarks. Although tourists flock to take photos from the outside, the interior has been off-limits for years as it serves as a government department.

This year however, the Ministry of Tourism’s Department of National Heritage has been staging an exhibition in one section of the building, allowing the public to take a sneak peek inside.

Inside the Sultan Abdul Samad Building
Part of the ‘Our Heritage is World Heritage’ exhibition.

The exhibition, called Our Heritage is World Heritage comprises displays featuring Malaysia’s four UNESCO World Heritage Sites, namely:

  • Archaeological Heritage of the Lenggong Valley
  • Gunung Mulu National Park
  • Kinabalu Park
  • Melaka and George Town, Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca

The exhibition runs daily from 9am to 5pm until 31 December 2015 and is free admission.

The exhibition was not very exciting and I was more interested to see what else they have inside this historic building. Security guards did not allow me to wander about but I was able to take a few pictures.

This interior corridor is in fine condition for an 118 year old building. The marble floor looks recent.
This interior corridor is in fine condition for a 118 year old building. The marble floor looks recent.
Main entrance lobby.
Main entrance lobby and atrium.
From this artist's impression it appears that more space is to be opened up to the public.
From this artist’s impression it appears that more space is to be opened up to the public.
This painting on one of the interior walls shows events in Malaysia's history.
This painting shows events in Malaysia’s history.

While in the vicinity, I also took a look inside the foyer of the neighbouring City Theatre which is housed in the former City Hall, a building designed by AB Hubback and completed in 1896.

Attractive foyer to the City Theatre, also at Merdeka Square in KL
Attractive foyer to the City Theatre, also at Merdeka Square in KL

It is good that the Malaysian and KL Governments are finding ways to breathe new life into these old heritage buildings.

Marcus Braden Dukes (1893-1936)

From time to time readers request me to try to locate and photograph the graves of their long departed relatives who died in Malaysia. I am happy to assist, though they are often hard to find, particularly those in the sprawling Cheras Road Christian Cemetery in Kuala Lumpur which has no database of who is buried where. To make my job easier I have taken photos of any headstones that I come across with European sounding names, in case I get asked for them in future. (I have not covered those with Chinese or Indian names because there are far too many and also because their descendants are more likely to be still in Malaysia and they can look for themselves).

One of the more eye-catching headstones spotted on my last trip to Cheras Road Cemetery is this one:

Marcus B Dukes 1893-1936

Thanks to the wonders of the internet we know something about Mr. Dukes.

He was born in Bridgwater, Somerset in 1893. He was the son of a clergyman, Rev. Edwin Joshua Dukes and his wife, Edith Mary (maiden name Pope) who was a gifted scholar.

Marcus had distinguished brothers, most notably Sir Paul Dukes KBE who was Chief of the British Intelligence Service in Russia and known as the Man of a Hundred Faces due to his talent for disguises. Interestingly, Paul was one of the first to introduce yoga to the western world.

Marcus came to Malaya in 1913 as an assistant on a rubber estate. At the time of his death was serving as Co-operative Marketing Officer (also related to rubber). Aside from work, he was District Commissioner of the Selangor Boy Scouts Association, which probably explains the headstone, and a member of the FMS Volunteer Regiment. He was a prominent Freemason and an Elder of the Presbyterian Church in Kuala Lumpur.

Though only 43, he had been sick for some time and died following an operation at Bangsar Hospital. He was survived by a wife and three children.

What does the letter “C” stand for on his headstone? Something to do with the scouts perhaps? Coincidentally, his brother Paul had been recruited into the secret service by Mansfield Smith-Cumming, the first “C” of MI6.

Olden KL at Nu Sentral Mall

Nu Sentral is a recently completed shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur, located adjacent to the capital’s main transport hub, KL Sentral.

To celebrate Chinese New Year, the mall has tried to recreate the atmosphere of old KL with some replica shops staffed by cuddly caricatures.

The result is not very authentic but it’s just a bit of fun. Here are some photos.

Olden KL at Nu Sentral Mall IMG_2456 IMG_2457 IMG_2458 IMG_2460 IMG_2461 IMG_2464 IMG_2465 Olden KL at Nu Sentral Mall