There is a place near Bidor in Perak state with an unusual name, Kampung Baru Coldstream (meaning Coldstream New Village).
I drove there the other day to take a look.
Passing under this Chinese gateway the road passes vegetable fields before arriving at the village.
Kg. Coldstream is one of those ‘new villages’ built during the Malayan Emergency. Scattered communities were forcibly relocated to guarded and fenced villages to protect them from the Communist Terrorists and to prevent the villagers from supplying food, medicines and information to the bandits. I understand the 2nd Battalion of the Coldstream Guards were stationed in Perak during the Emergency and may have assisted with the village’s construction.
The Coldstream Guards are one of the oldest and most distinguished regiments in the British Army with roots in the Scottish Borders town of Coldstream, a place which, I imagine, bears little resemblance to its Malaysian namesake.
Today Kg. Coldstream looks a fairly typical Malaysian village with a few shops and food stalls, a school and temple. The inhabitants are mostly Chinese of Hokkien origin. The place looks happy and prosperous. Of course there are no fences or guards anymore.
I noticed a transport yard with a couple of ancient 1950’s vintage vehicles in fine working condition. They look like Bedford RL lorries, once the workhorse of the British Army. Could they have been sold off as Army Surplus? Did they fall off the back of a lorry? Or were they just left behind by the Coldstream Guards? It’s the least they could have done in exchange for having the village named in their honour.
On the edge of the Selangor town of Batang Kali is a small village known as Bukit Chandang (previously called Kampung Baru Batang Kali). It is one of those artificial settlements created during the Malayan Emergency when scattered rural dwellers were rounded up and rehoused in a fenced and guarded village with the aim of preventing them from providing support to the Communist Terrorists. This area was a hotbed of bandit activity at the start of the Emergency and was the scene of the infamous Batang Kali ‘Massacre’ which I wrote about last year.
In 1950 there were over a 1,000 inhabitants here, almost exclusively Hokkien Chinese engaged in rubber tapping, tin mining or agriculture. Since the collapse of the tin industry, the population has dwindled to around 150 families (400 people) as younger folk have drifted away to find brighter opportunities in KL or elsewhere.
Some of the original houses still remain, made of wood with tin roofs. These houses can get pretty hot inside and some people have rigged up makeshift air-conditioning systems using garden sprinklers.
There are two temples at the highest point of the village, with open areas for hosting communal meals and stages for putting on cultural performances.
I walked up to the top of the hill where there is a large water tank and some communications masts.
There is not a great deal to say about this village which is probably why it seldom, if ever, gets blogged about. I got the impression that this village does not see many foreign visitors.
Recently I have blogged about my visits to the old tin mining towns of Gopeng and Tronoh. Next stop on my tour around the Kinta Valley was Pusing, another former tin mining settlement around 14km from Ipoh.
Ninety percent of the population of Pusing are said to be Chinese Hakka, descendants from immigrants from Dongguan County in China. They settled here to work the tin mines in the first few decades of the twentieth century.
There is also a Sikh community here. Sikhs worked as tin mine security guards, general labourers and bullock cart drivers but, judging by the prosperous appearance of their temple, the younger generations must have moved on to better paying occupations.
In the 1930’s there was a row of Japanese owned shophouses opposite the Pusing Malay School. One of these shops was the studio of a Japanese photographer who was probably doing a bit of spying in preparation for the coming Japanese occupation during WWII.
A railway line ran through Pusing before the War. The Japanese ripped up the rails and shipped them off to Thailand/Burma for use on the Death Railway.
During the Malayan Emergency this area was a hotbed of Communist Terrorist activity. Following a series of attacks on the Pusing police station and 12 murders, the High Commissioner Gerald Templer imposed a collective fine of $40,000 on the town, enforced a curfew and closed all shops for a period of 44 days (an unlucky number for the Chinese) as punishment for supporting the communists.
Perhaps the town still has left-wing sympathies. Pusing and the surrounding towns were the only places in Malaysia where I saw flags for the Socialist Party of Malaysia in the run-up to the recent general election (I don’t think they won any seats).
Pusing does not get much attention in the news these days. Most mentions on the internet relate to food and the Ming Feong restaurant seems to be a favourite place for passing motorists.