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.
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.
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.
He also had other interests. He headed up the Selangor Volunteer Fire Brigade and he might well be in this old photo.
While in Chiang Mai last month I went along to the city’s charming 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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
There are a number of hotels and hostels in this street, mainly catering to the budget end of the travel market.
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.
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.
A narrow entrance leads to Sin Sze Si Ya Temple, one of KL’s oldest.
Another temple further down the street is dedicated to Guandi, the Taoist God of War.
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.
Across the street is the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple one of oldest and most photogenic of the Hindu temples in KL.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
It is good that the Malaysian and KL Governments are finding ways to breathe new life into these old heritage buildings.
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:
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.
Looking for something different to do during the coming long weekend? You could try dipping your toes, or even your whole body, into the bubbling hot water at Sungai Serai Hot Springs, just a short drive outside of Kuala Lumpur.
More than sixty hot springs have so far been discovered in Peninsula Malaysia which seems quite a high number considering that Malaysia falls outside the Ring of Fire and is not prone to volcanic activity or serious earthquakes (touch wood).
These naturally hot groundwaters seep from the earth’s crust via small fractures or faults from deep underground where they are geothermally heated by magma. During their long journey through the underworld, these spring waters come into contact with various beneficial minerals which, in some cases, are said to imbue therapeutic qualities to the water to soothe sufferers of rheumatism, arthritis, stiff joints and so on.
Some of Malaysia’s hot springs have been turned into health spas such as the luxurious Banjaran Hot Springs Retreat in Ipoh. Sungai Serai on the other hand has been left more or less in its natural state and looks like a large puddle with a few plastic chairs in it.
The water is hot but bearable, a bit like a bath when you have left the hot tap running for too long. The sources of the water can be identified by bubbles floating up from the bottom and these areas should be avoided as they are scalding.
The colour of the water is a rather unappealing green and I have to wonder whether any harmful bacteria are mixed up with the beneficial minerals. While some people immerse themselves fully in the pond, I was not taking any risks with my delicate constitution and only submerged myself up to the knees. Five minutes later my feet were parboiled and had a healthy pink/red glow.
The owners of the land on which the spring is located have started charging admission of RM1 per person and another RM1 for parking. They are using the proceeds to make various ‘improvements’ such as the breeze-block toilet cubicle which has been built rather too close to the pond. Hopefully they won’t encase the whole hot spring in concrete which has happened in so many other springs in Malaysia.
I have marked the exact location on this map as it was quite difficult to find, being cunningly hidden behind a car wash and car park. Zoom out to see the location relative to KL. Hope you enjoy your visit.
Country Heights Resort was the first gated and guarded community to be developed in Malaysia. It was launched in 1987 on former rubber plantation land around 25km south of Kuala Lumpur. It was always intended to be an exclusive neighbourhood and the developers referred to it as the ‘Beverly Hills of Malaysia’.
It is still one of more up-market areas in the Klang Valley and includes VIPs and the rich and famous among its residents.
It is not one of those immaculately neat sub-divisions where every home is of a similar design. Here spacious plots are sold off to individual owners who build homes according to their own tastes and budgets. The result is that virtually no two homes are alike except in a couple of areas where developers have built mini sub-divisions within the boundaries of Country Heights.
Nearly all the houses are big with six bedrooms and seven bathrooms being commonplace while there are many huge mansions with lifts, private security, underground car parks, swimming pools and ten bedrooms or more. Architectural styles range from modern tropical to mock-colonial bungalow to Mediterranean villa. Some of the homes are more elegantly designed than others. Some are exquisite while others are flashy and ostentatious proving that being rich does not guarantee good taste.
If you want to live in Country Heights you can expect to pay a lot of money. There are some houses costing less than a million US Dollars but the average price is probably around two million and much more for the top-end super luxury homes. Sadly I won’t be buying here in the foreseeable future!
Here is a sample of the homes you can find at Country Heights, Kajang.