British cars used to be commonplace on Malaya’s roads and at the time of Independence in 1957 more cars were imported from Britain than all other countries put together.
By the 1970’s however British car sales to Malaysia were in free fall due to the general decline of the British motor industry and the rising popularity of Japanese models. The launch of Malaysia’s first home-grown car, the Proton, in 1985 and the increased tariff on imported cars was a further blow.
These days British cars are something of a rarity in Malaysia. No British cars featured in the top 50 selling models in Malaysia (2011 statistics) though, to be fair, luxury brands such as Range Rover and Jaguar have made a strong comeback in recent years.
So while in Taiping recently it was a rare treat to see seven old British cars in one day (admittedly four of them were in a museum). Here they are, mostly in excellent condition:
While walking near Taiping railway station recently I smelt the powerfully delicious aroma of roasting coffee beans. Allowing my nose to lead the way, I headed over a bridge above the railway lines and spotted a sign for Kilang Kopi Antong (Antong Coffee Factory).
Given its off-the-beaten-track location I thought this place would seldom get any visitors. How wrong I was! It seems it is quite a tourist trap and there were three coach loads of school children being given a tour of the factory and demonstration of the manufacturing process.
Antong describes itself as Malaysia’s oldest coffee mill having been established in 1933 by a Mr. Tiah Ee Mooi. Mr. Tiah’s old house stands alongside the factory and a bronze statue of him flanks the front door. Seemingly Dr. Sun Yat Sen, founder of modern China, stayed in this house when he visited Taiping. The factory building itself used to be the stables for this house.
Antong Coffee Factory sources its coffee beans from both Malaysia and abroad. They are roasted in ovens fuelled by recycled wood, mangrove logs and so on. Molten sugar is mixed into the pot together with the coffee beans (too bad if you don’t like sugar) and apparently other secret ingredients are aded to give the coffee mix its distinctive flavour.
Originally their main product would have been Kopi O powder (pre-sweetened black coffee) but to keep up with the times they have broadened their product range to include 3 in 1 white coffee with added creamer (very popular in Malaysia but not my cup of tea) and other instant type coffee mixes. They even sell durian flavoured white coffee. How Malaysian is that!
Good to see a traditional business like this still thriving after all these years.
If you like old stuff you’ll probably like Taiping. This town was once the capital of Perak state and at one time would have had a sizeable British community with military, government, rubber planters and tin miners in the area. They left their mark on Taiping.
The Perak Museum was built in 1883 and is said to be the oldest museum in Malaysia.
The jail across the street is even older, dating from 1879. It is still in use.
All Saints Anglican Church must be about 120 years old and looks quaint.
Talking of old stuff , the Kapitan Antiques House has some nice old things. The owner Mr.Tan prefers to collect than to sell and he is looking to add a Penny Farthing to his collection of antique bicycles and tricycles.
I purchased this old, locally-made charcoal iron as a gift for my wife. I’m sure she will be very impressed!