Malaysia’s Old Post Offices

Pos Malaysia has done a good job in preserving a number of Malaysia’s old post offices, some of which date back a hundred years or more. While most of the large cities in Malaysia now have large modern mail distribution centres and post offices there are still a number old post offices which can be considered heritage buildings.

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In 2010 Pos Malaysia issued an attractive set of stamps featuring 28 post offices, mostly old ones.

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The oldest surviving post office building in Malaysia is probably in Taiping. It was finished in 1884 and has recently been converted into the Telegraph Museum. My picture was taken prior to its restoration.

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The old general post office in Kuala Lumpur (completed in 1907) still stands although it has not been used as a post office since 1984. Ipoh and Kota Kinabalu also have old post office buildings which are over a century old but they are now being used by other government departments.

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The grandest post office building which is still being used for its original purpose is, in my opinion,  Kuching’s General Post Office, completed in 1932. It proudly displays the Sarawak State motto, Dum Spiro Spero, meaning While I breathe, I hope.

Here are some arty images of more old post offices which I have snapped during my travels around the country.

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Selangor Tin Dredge

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To my knowledge there are only two surviving bucketline tin dredges in Malaysia. One is the Tanjung Tualang Tin Dredge near Batu Gajah which I wrote about on this blog a few years ago. The other is located near Dengkil in Selangor.

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I have seen the Dengkil dredge many times from a distance since it is visible from the main road when driving to the airport. Today I tried to see it from up close.

Thanks to Google Maps it was easy to find the best way to approach the dredge which is surrounded by lakes created by the dredge’s excavations. A gravel road takes you part of the way. This road is busy with rubbish trucks as one of the lakes is being used as a landfill. 

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I parked the car next to a lake and walked the rest of the way, a distance of about 1 km each way. The path is not too overgrown and I did not see any ‘no trespassing’ signs. There was a barrier blocking the way to cars but again no ‘keep out’ signs.

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Finally I managed to get near the dredge which is an enormous piece of engineering. According to Liz Price’s excellent blog, this is the Sri Banting Dredge, built in Malaysia in 1974 (much newer than the colonial-era Tanjung Tualang dredge) and weighs 4,800 tonnes.

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It was not possible to go on board as it was moored a few metres off-shore and there was no gangplank. Anyway it is private property. There were a couple of vigilant watchdogs on the dredge to deter trespassers.

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No doubt this dredge is earmarked for sale at some stage. Many of the other tin dredges in Malaysia were sold off to foreign buyers such as this one which was towed to Bangka Island in Indonesia in 1987.

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If no buyer can be found it would probably be sold for scrap and that will be the end of Selangor’s tin mining heritage. At least the Tanjung Tualang dredge is being preserved as a museum by the Perak State Government and should be open to the public, long overdue, at the end of this year.

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Dragon Fruit Farm – Sepang

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I visited a dragon fruit farm today near Sepang, not far from Kuala Lumpur’s International Airport. The farm is called Multi Rich Pitaya, ‘pitaya’ being another name for dragon fruit.

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Dragon fruit’s scientific name is hylocereus derived from the Greek word hyle (meaning woody), the Latin word cereus (meaning waxen). Woody and waxen doesn’t sound particularly appetizing but it probably refers to its cactus-like stems rather than the fruit.

The fruit is thought to have originated in Central America and was introduced into Vietnam by French missionaries in the 19th century.  Cultivation has since spread to all corners of the tropical world and some Mediterranean climates like Turkey and Israel, though Vietnam is still the world’s leading exporter.

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Types of Dragon Fruit

There are three varieties of dragon fruits grown in Malaysia:

  • Red skin with red flesh.
  • Red skin with white flesh.
  • Yellow skin with grey/white flesh

All varieties have edible black seeds, like kiwi seeds but softer.

The yellow sort is not common in Peninsular Malaysia, though it is grown in Sabah. The white flesh variety is still probably the most common but the red flesh sort are more sought after (and more expensive) as they taste better. The white flesh variety can often be rather bland and disappointing.

Multi Rich Pitaya only grows the red variety.

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Uses of Red Dragon Fruit

Best consumed raw, preferably chilled, either by itself or as part of a fruit salad.

Mixes well with plain yogurt to produce a fantastically coloured dessert.

Can also be made into juice, smoothies or sorbets.

They are easy to peel. The skin is inedible but can be processed to make food colouring.

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Reputed Health Benefits

  • High fibre content aids digestion and reduces body fat
  • Rich source of vitamin B, C, calcium and phosphorus
  • Improves eyesight
  • Controls hypertension
  • Helps control blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetes sufferers
  • Boosts immune system
  • Improves skin conditions
  • Rich in lycopene, thought to help prevent cancer
  • Helps prevent gout and arthritis
  • Reduces cholesterol
  • Low in calories

If even only half of these claims are true it would seem foolish not to eat it!

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Dragon Fruit Flowers

The flowers bloom briefly, for one night only. They are large and attractive flowers with a sweet tropical fragrance when in bloom. Unopened flower buds can be cooked like vegetables. Dried flowers can be processed to make tea.

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Multi Rich Pitaya Farm

This farm welcomes visitors. You can wander round the farm and buy some fresh dragon fruit in their basic shop. The ones you can buy here have been allowed to ripen fully on the vine and taste much sweeter than those you find in the supermarket.

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They also sell dragon fruit enzyme drink which is a delicious and healthy tonic.

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Multi Rich has a family of caged monkeys.  The large male monkey doesn’t look happy in that small cage and it would be better if they were released or rehoused somewhere more suitable.

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If you want to visit you can find the contact details and GPS co-ordinates on this photo.

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Dragon Air?

Strange Bedfellows – Porcupine & Tortoise

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At Paya Indah Wetlands near Kuala Lumpur there is a family of porcupines who live in the same compound as a family of giant tortoises. In the heat of the midday sun they snuggle up next to each other in this shady shelter.

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With their armour-plated shells, tortoises are one of the few animal species that are immune to spiky porcupine quills.

Unlike this poor boa constrictor in Brazil which foolishly tried to take on a porcupine with painful consequences:

Ouessant & Pasopati

I have been on two submarines in recent months. Not underwater thankfully but safely berthed on land and now serving as museums.

KRI Pasopati

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The first is the Submarine Monument in Surabaya, Indonesia. KRI Pasopati is a Whiskey-class Soviet-era submarine built in Vladivostok in 1952 and acquired by the Indonesian Navy in 1962.

It weighs 1048 tons and is 76 metres long. She was well armed with 6 torpedo tubes, 4 at the bow and 2 at the stern. I had not realised how huge these torpedo are – probably over 6 metres in length.

The submarine has seven cramped compartments housing the torpedoes, the diesel-electric engine, navigation, communication and other equipment as well as the living accommodation for a crew of around 50 men.

According to the museum’s brochure, this vessel participated in Operation Trikora,  an Indonesian military operation to gain control of Netherlands New Guinea, which later became Irian Jaya (now Papua / West Papua).

SMD Ouessant

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The other sub I visited is the Ouessant which is now the Submarine Museum in Melaka, Malaysia. The Ouessant is an Agosta-class conventional (non-nuclear) submarine built in Cherbourg in 1978 for the French Navy. She was decommissioned in 2001 and from 2005-2009 she served as a training vessel and used to train Royal Malaysian Navy personnel, while still based in France. Since she was never really integrated into the Malaysian Navy fleet she maintains her French name.

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This submarine is shorter than the Indonesian one (67 m ) and is designed for a complement of 5 officers and 36 men. She only has forward-facing torpedo tubes but can also deploy Exocet missiles.

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Boys and girls considering a career as submariners should visit museums like these before they sign up. The claustrophobic working conditions would put most people off and the courage needed to serve in a submarine during wartime means that only a special kind of person need apply.

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.

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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.

Malaysian Conman?

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The way Malaysian English is pronounced and understood, it is perfectly reasonable for an air-conditioning servicing business to call itself ‘Aconman’.

Some people though might hesitate before trusting someone who calls himself a conman.

An unfortunate choice of brand name or just a clever way of getting noticed in a crowded marketplace?