Thursday, 26 February 2009

Immigrants In Colonial Malaya and Borneo: a pictorial account (10)

The Larut Wars (1861-1874)

The Larut wars in Perak are the stuff for a thrilling Hong Kong style historical-fictional movie. It's a wonder why no movie director has deemed them fit to adapt them into a movie replete with gangland warfare, gore and blood. What could have been more thrilling: a turf war fought over 13 years, an adulterous love affair, a final battle involving rival chiefs to the Perak throne? At the height of the battle between two secret societies, the Hai San, comprising primarily of the Hakka clan and the Ghee Hin of the Hokkien clan, and a sprinking of other lesser known dialect dominated secret societies taking sides, there were over 40,000 Chinese tin miners in Perak.

According to Isabella Bird,

The First Larut War was sparked by a fight over control of water courses to the tin mines between the rival secret societies. The Second, over a gambling quarrel between rival members. Story has it that the Hai San took 14 Ghee Hin members prisoners, 13 of whom were killed while one escaped. In retaliation the Ghee Hin razed a Hai San village, killing 40 men. The Third War erupted over a scandalous affair between a Ghee Hin leader and the wife of the nephew of the Hai San supremo. The adulterous pair was captured, put into a pig basket and thrown into a disused mining pool. To avenge the death of their Ghee Hin leader, the Ghee Hin imported 4000 professional fighters from China. The onslaught drove the Hai San members, numbering about 10,000 fleeing to Penang. The Final Larut War, which involved the rival chiefs to the Perak throne and supported by both the societies, was finally settled with the intervention of the British in the Pangkor Treaty in 1874.

Tin mines in Perak

Two of the 'prominent' leaders of that time

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Curry Wild Boar

We went to the Peach Blossom Garden and Nursery in Pontian (Pontian Besar to be exact) to scout for some flowers and plants. But the real reason was to sample its wild animal cuisine. I know of a restaurant in Batu Pahat that served up stuff like bear or tiger's paw in addition to the usual fruit bat, wild boar, porcupine and squirrel. I don't know if it still does, but I suspect its source of supply has dried up, thanks to the government's tight vigilance. Lest you think that we are heartless, I am not talking about those on the endangered species list like the tiger, bear or the ant-eater but about the squirrel, domesticated deer, wild fowl and wild boar.

What is unusual about this place is that it is only known as a nursery as well as a repair shop for antique Volkswagens but not as a place that serves 'wild animal' dishes. We had two Pontian friends join us and they had trouble locating the place.

The inconspicuous signboard and the famous WW logo in front of the house. The verandah of the house itself can only accommodate two large tables

A section of the nursery in front of the house

A group of four could eat under this small shelter. A covered extension from the verandah allows two more tables to be set.

Part of the nursery

I won't attempt to identify these flowers as I am hopelessly ignorant

Some colourful plants

More colourful plants


The plant above is tagged at 1300 ringgit. The one below has an interesting bulbous stem

Now for the dishes we had. The curry wild boar meat went nicely with French loaves which we bought in Batu Pahat.

The soup is spicy when taken piping hot. The pepper really clears up your throat

Verdict: very good (to me whose taste buds are relatively underdeveloped). To get there, you will have to go to Pontian Besar. The Pontian Besar main road is one punctuated with many traffic lights. Go to the last traffic lights that says turn left to Johor Bahru. Don't turn but go straight; the house is about two kilometres (don't take my word for it; my sense of distance is atrocious) from the traffic lights and on the left.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Immigrants In Colonial Malaya and Borneo: a pictorial account (9)

Images of the past

The supply and sale of opium was controlled by powerful towkays, also known as 'kapitans China' through a system known as revenue farming, a licence awarded by the British to powerful Chinese in Colonial Malaya.

Various occupations in early 19th century Malaya

A fortune teller and roadside hawkers

Loke Chow Kit and his businesses. Chow Kit road, is named after him, so is a wet market and the Chow Kit KL monorail station

Fascinated by the bust of a European lady; "China men" jostling for a view at a barber shop in Malacca

Special note: much of the information and many of the images were sourced from, of all places, Cornell University Library listed under the website: South East Asian Visions. I tried to tap into the Malaysian National Archive without much success; so much for its policy of "openness".

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Pantai Seafood

The family had originally intended to eat at a cheaper place adjacent to Pantai Seafood, but ended up at Pantai when the other restaurant was closed. Given the variety of seafood available (pricey too), it looked every bit a place popular with diners. One common thread we see in most Chinese restaurants is that the Nepalese have replaced locals as waiters.

Entrance to the restaurant

The family

Aquariums with a wide variety of seafood. Workers netting fish for the kuali

There are many more, but the pictures were badly taken and thus omitted from the post

Enjoying the spread. A Nepalese worker in the backgroud


Tiger prawns



Chinese broccoli

Shell fish

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Immigrants In Colonial Malaya and Borneo: a pictorial account (8)

Ah Heng

There is an account in "The Magic
of Malaya" by Cuthbert Woodville
of a migrant Chinese
farmer, Ah Heng in colonial Malaya
in the late 19th century that
seems to capture the indomitable
spirit of these migrants for hard
work and endurance, their frugality
borne of sufferings in their
homeland and their tenacity
with which the they dealt with
and adapted to a new environment.

Ah Heng, the tenant farmer

Ah Heng and his pigs
Ah Heng takes a wife; Ah Heng's abode

Ah Heng and the Colonial tax collectors