Tranquility abounds in the municipality of Kuala Kangsar, the Royal Town of Perak, Malaysia serving as the official residence of the Sultan of Perak and the Royal seat since the 18th century. Everywhere has a peaceful charm – the spotless roads are crammed with lovely traditional Malay houses and imperial palaces while the calm flowing Perak River provides an unruffled accompaniment to these architectural splendors.
Our first stop is the gorgeous imperial residence named Istana Kenangan (Palace of Memories) constructed as a temporary abode of Sultan Iskandar Shah (1931-1933). Interestingly, this sword-shaped mansion is made out of wood and bamboo without using a single nail (which somehow reminds me of the teakwood mansion – the VimanmekPalace in Bangkok). The wall of Istana Kenangan is adorned by plaited bamboos in diamond motifs and its roof is heavily inspired by traditional Malay architecture. Instana Kenangan was built sometime in 1926 by renowned Malay carpenter Eci Sepian with the assistance of his sons Zainal Abidin and Ismail. This royal residence was turned into a museum but sadly, this has been under construction for so long and is not open to the public even at the time of our visit (November 30,2013).
Undoubtedly one of Malaysia’s loveliest mosques, the dazzling Ubudiah Mosque which looms over Bukit Chandan beckons locals and foreign tourists alike. It is a brainchild of Almarhum Sultan Idris Murshidul Azzam Shah after he recovered from a serious illness. This gorgeous beauty was built during the turbulent times (World War I) and was only completed in 1919. Masjid Ubudiah is influenced by Indo-Saracenic Revival style; designed by Arthur Benison Hubback, the genius behind the train stations in Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur and the elegant Jamek Mosque in old Kuala Lumpur. Non-Muslims can also enter the mosque; for ladies, hijab and long apparels are available near the entrance, make sure to leave your footwear outside. Inside the prayer hall, the white marble floor is draped by an intricately designed hand-knotted carpet while the windows high up the central octagon are glazed with red ruby glass.
A small community still thrives near the palace ground, the area is still dotted with a handful of old traditional Malay dwellings, one of them is the well-preserved Rumah Meor, just a stone throw away from Ubudiah Mosque. Originally owned by a clerk who worked for a Sultan of Perak , it has elevated floors to steer clear of floods and wild animals and has gable roof like most Malay houses.
Adjacent to Rumah Meor is the endearing yet old-forgotten conventional Malay house constructed by the distinguished craftsman of baitul (house) Tuan Haji Sofian for the 3rd wife of Raja Kechil Sulong Harun Al Rashid. It stands on piles for added ventilation and its façade is adorned by distinctive carved panels.
Disclosure: This trip was made possible through Celebrating 1 Malaysia Truly Asia, an event organized by Gaya Travel Magazine and Tourism Malaysia in celebration of Visit Malaysia Year 2014.
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