Kampung Pantai–Scenic Village in Negeri Sembilan

Traditional Minangkabau style house in Pantai

Last year I wrote about Kampung Endah, a village in Selangor which was recognised as the Most Beautiful Village in Malaysia for several years running back in the 1990s.

I think I have now found another village which could compete for that title. Kampung Pantai and its surrounding hamlets contain many fine traditional houses, some of which have the Minangkabau ‘buffalo-horn’ style rooflines, like the example above, which are unique to Negeri Sembilan state.

Pantai is about ten kilometres outside of Seremban on Highway 86 headed towards Jelebu. On the way you pass the Rubber Conveyor Belt Factory.

Rubber Conveyor Belt Factory.

I wonder where the conveyor belts used to make conveyor belts are made?

Next the road passes Kampung Bukit Kubot where there is a large modern house with a spectacular roof. Not sure if it is a private residence or if it serves some other purpose.

Buffalo horn roof at Kampung Bukit Kubot. 

Close by, at Kg. Jerlang, is an old wooden mosque of a sort seldom found these days. The protruding mihrab (alcove) marks it out as a mosque otherwise you might think it is just a house.

Wooden mosque at Kg. Jerlang, Pantai, Seremban

Approaching Kg. Pantai itself you will see an extraordinary building, rising multiple layers like some kind of Malay fantasy castle. It is private property so I guess it is an institution of some kind.

Kg. Pantai

Pantai has a few old shops, some food stalls, a mosque, a police station and a clinic. Being on a busy main road, the tranquillity is spoilt somewhat by traffic noise but as soon as you step into any of the back lanes you are enveloped by the relaxing atmosphere of rustic kampung life with roosters foraging for scraps and the smells of burning charcoal and grilled fish.

Here are some of the quaint and charming homes in the village (and apologies if I have taken a photo of your house without permission but it is only out of admiration):

Kampung Pantai, Seremban, Negeri Sembilan

Kampung Pantai, Seremban, Negeri Sembilan

Kampung Pantai, Seremban, Negeri Sembilan

Kampung Pantai, Seremban, Negeri Sembilan

Kampung Pantai, Seremban, Negeri Sembilan

Kampung Pantai, Seremban, Negeri Sembilan

Kampung Pantai, Seremban, Negeri Sembilan

Kampung Pantai, Seremban, Negeri Sembilan

Kampung Pantai, Seremban, Negeri Sembilan

Kampung Pantai, Seremban, Negeri Sembilan

Kampung Pantai, Seremban, Negeri Sembilan

There is a homestay in Kampung Bemban if you want to experience village life for yourself. I did not see the place myself but you could call the numbers on this billboard if you are interested. They also have a page on the internet which you can find by Googling homestay kampung bemban.

Kampung Pantai, Seremban, Negeri Sembilan

If you know of a village in Malaysia which you feel is even more beautiful than Kampung Pantai I would be pleased to hear from you.

Kampung Pantai, Seremban, Negeri Sembilan

Seremban

Masjid Jamek, Seremban

Travel guidebooks and websites are not very flattering about Seremban, describing it with words like ‘workaday’  and ‘ugly and noisy’. Wikitravel’s  things-to-do-in-Seremban section is blank. Not a good sign!

I visited Seremban last weekend to see if it is as uninteresting as they say. Located about an hour’s drive from Kuala Lumpur, Seremban is the capital of Malaysia’s smallest state, Negeri Sembilan. The town is not small, with a population of 420,000 or so but I confined myself to a walking tour of the town centre.

Maybe I am easily pleased but I found the town to be not without its charms and as usual I focused on the older buildings.

The State Museum/Cultural Handicraft Complex was worth a visit. The philatelic section displaying Negeri Sembilan’s postal history was somewhat underwhelming. Stamp exhibitions need good lighting if they are to have any chance of interesting the general public but this was a rather dark room.  More impressive were the two traditional Rumah Minangkabau wooden houses.

Minangkabau Traditional Houses

This house has even been to England! It was dismantled and shipped to London to take part in the Malaya Pavilion of the British Empire Exhibition, at Wembley in 1924 (which is when the original Wembley football stadium was completed).

The Minangkabau are an ethnic group originating from west Sumatra (around Padang) and apart from their distinctive style of architecture with buffalo horn-shaped rooflines, their main claim to fame is that they are one of the few matrilineal cultures in the world (meaning that property passes down from mother to daughter instead of through the male line). Personally, I don’t see anything special about that. In my experience women always hold the purse strings in Asia – and the rest of the world for that matter!

malaya pavilion

There were a few grand old colonial buildings in good condition.

Handicraft Corporation

This beauty housed a branch of the government owned handicraft corporation and was selling a smart selection of traditional crafts. Pity it was not busier!

The library without books.

Nearby was the even more imposing State Library, formerly the State Secretariat Building. The plaque outside said that the building was designed by B.P. Hubback. This could well be a misprint as A. B. Hubback was the famous architect of the time and although he had two brothers they were not architects and had different initials. Amazing fact – the building was empty! I pressed my nose against as many windows as I could, upstairs and down, and there was not a book to be seen. I know Malaysians are not big readers but still! I guess the books have been relocated and the building is being earmarked for another purpose.

Across the street was the current version of the State Secretariat , a more modern building (1987) but equally striking.

State Secretariat complex 

The government annex building next door was unfortunately not built in the same style.

Not the prettiest of landmarks.

There are a few historic churches in Seremban.

Catholic Church and Anglican Vicarage

The Anglican church was a relatively modern building while the old vicarage building next door had been abandoned to termites and will need to be demolished soon. The Catholic Church Of The Visitation was being visited by builders who were adding a fresh coat of paint. The builders had stuck newspaper to the windows which  gave quite a good stained glass effect.

Low budget stained glass window?

There was also a Wesley Methodist church in town. I wonder if the founder, John Wesley, ever imagined his teachings would reach as far as Seremban?

Wesley Church

Talking of places of worship there was a well presented Hindu temple close to the railway station.

Smart Looking Hindu Temple 

Of course, with a large Chinese population, there were also plenty of temples in town, some of them modest in size.

Coffin shop and temple.

There were still plenty of colourful and traditional looking shophouses to add character to the town centre.

Fruit basket.

The Indian owned shops were decorated with banana trees as part of festival celebrations.

Seremban Shophouses.

This type of advertising on the pavement outside a general store is rare these days. The shop owner should ask Nestle for a contribution for maintaining it in such good condition.

Classic Pavement Advertisement

Should you visit Seremban? Well I can understand why this town does not feature high on tourists’ lists of must-see attractions. You can probably find better examples of these buildings elsewhere in other cities in Malaysia.  But if you have bags of time and are passing this part of the peninsula, why not stop-off  here for a few hours? I found that the Serembanese were very friendly folk. They were probably wondering who this strange gweilo was taking photos of weird things but they all smiled nicely. And by the way, I have not mentioned the food. Hakka Mee, Mix Pork Porridge, Beef Noodles, Teochow Salted Vegetable Congee and Squid Rice Noodles are all said to be the dishes to sample here. Enjoy!

S for Seremban

Seri Menanti

Seri Menanti Royal Museum

The guide books recommended Seri Menanti Royal Museum as a place to visit just two hours drive from Kuala Lumpur so one weekend I took the family for a look-see. The small town of Seri Menanti is the royal capital of Negri Sembilan state (Seremban is the state capital). Negri Sembilan translates as nine states reflecting the historical 9 fiefdoms which made up the confederation from 1773 onwards. The rulers of this state are of Minangkabau stock having migrated from western Sumatra about six centuries ago bringing their distinctive architectural style with them.

This building was constructed between 1902 and 1908 as a royal palace to replace an earlier one which was destroyed by the British in 1875. The most famous fact about this four storey structure is that it was apparently built without the use of a single nail. It served as the official residence of the Negri Sembilan royal family until 1931. It was made into a museum of royal regalia in 1992 and contains displays of costumes, weapons, furniture and other paraphernalia.

Reception area for royal audiences.

The town itself is home to the Royal Seri Menanti Golf & Country Club which is surrounded by three palaces including the current official residence of the ruler of Negri Sembilan. There is also a Royal Mausoleum, Royal Mosque and a hotel.

It was a pleasant day out and worth the visit.