Thursday, May 21, 2009

Lou King Howe Memorial Museum

LOU KING HOWE Memorial Museum is a tribute by Sibu residents to a philanthropist whose name is synonymous with remarkable stories of early settlers in this predominantly Foochow community in Sarawak.

Lou, a successful rubber planter of his time, had donated generously to the set up of a modern medical facility to help improve the lots of many folks from all backgrounds when malaria and other deadly tropical diseases were ravaging the entire population.

Lou now has his name forever enshrined in history.

Through the initiative by Sibu elders, the disused hospital was given a fresh coat of paint and has since embarked on a new journey as a memorial dedicated to Lou cum a museum showcasing the health services from a bygone era.

Other communities in Malaysia can learn a thing or two from Sibu about honoring pioneers and leaders but stop short of trumpeting over the figurehead.

Unfortunately, many Malaysian museums tend to have a habit of positioning themselves exactly in the opposite. These museums often under the domain of the respective states are used as platforms to score political mileages.

Too many honorable figures from a spectrum of Malaysian backgrounds and their sacrifices, both for their community and to some extent this country, have for too long sidelined and now risked losing forever in time because they don’t fit into somebody’s agenda.

Sibu is a hard act to follow but their approach can be the yardstick in how we promote bias free Malaysian heritage.

If Sibu museum can succeed on the initiative of its residents, and at the same time doing a fairly impressive job of showcasing its tumultuous past, then the key players in Malaysian conservationist circle should get their act together and approach heritage in a wholesome and polarized-less atmosphere.

See enclosed write-up

Sarawak's First And Malaysia's Biggest Medical Museum Will Be Ready In July (Bernama, March 14, 2008- Edward Subeng Stephen)

Come July, Sarawak will have the distinction of being home to its first, and the country's biggest medical museum. Known as the Lau King Howe Memorial Museum, it is the brainchild of a group Chinese businessmen who are descendents of early settlers to the state. The museum itself, is named after one of the early Chinese settlers, Lau King Howe.

The new museum will occupy the original main building of the former Lau King Howe Hospital in Lau King Howe Road near the Sibu Town Square."It will be another attraction to the town and will probably be the biggest of its kind in the country," said Urban Development and Tourism Minister Datuk Sri Wong Soon Koh in a recent interview with Bernama.

He said the project was a joint effort of town leaders, United Chinese Association and other non-governmental organisations, Sarawak Museum, health department, Sibu Municipal Council and public works department."As a matter of fact, two NGOs namely, Confederation of Pan-Chen Lau Association, Sarawak and the Sibu Kwong Yuen Benevolent Association have each contributed RM300,000 towards its restoration works," he said.

According to Dr Hu Chang Hock, who is chairman of the local branch of the Malaysian Medical Association, the museum "is designed to remember, perpetuate and propogate the spirit of Lau King Howe, his sincerety, benevolence, generosity and his profound love for the sick, poor and disadvantaged."
He said the late Lau King Howe, who was a trained teacher and a pious Christian, arrived from Foochow, Fukien in China in 1916, to manage a rubber plantation here. Before returning to China in 1930, he decided to donate all his properties to the then colonial government to set up the town's first modern hospital. Completed in 1936 at a cost of RM82,000, the hospital was named after him.

On Aug 31, 1994, when the new government hospital at Oya Road was completed and began operations, Lau King Howe Hospital ceased operations. Dr Hu said the museum, the first of its kind in the state, "will attempt to illustrate the changing pattern of infectious disease such as diptheria, malaria and tuberculosis spectrum in their prominence in the 1930s to the 1950s, to the present prevalent chronic disease such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension, heart disease and others."

"It will also try to illustrate the progress of medicine from the exhibits of age-old reverent equipments of the former Lau King Howe Hospital to the pictorial illustration of modern equipments available at the Sibu General Hospital. "It will highlight how far we, in Sibu, have came to acquaint and adapt to the new advances in tools of medical applications," he said, adding that the exhibits would be changed frequently to enable the museum to be lively and vibrant.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Muzium Gopeng - Old Mining Town Honoured.

(Photos courtesy of The Star)
Museums in Malaysia are given a fresh new breath of air recently when a group of friends decided to join hands to start a thematic museum in former tin mining town of Gopeng.

In my view, this privately-run museum has the potential to outshine “state run” muzium because of the wealth of information in its collections.

Most if not all the artifacts in Gopeng Museum are personal collections passed down the generations.

Furthermore, home grown museums are often a labor of love for the few bold individuals who value heritage, and their passion for history compensates whatever is lacking in these small museums.

Gopeng Museum should also be jointly promoted with the Tin Dredge museum (T.T No. 5, photo on the left), another privately run museum in Tanjung Tualang as the country’s foremost repository of tin mining history.

Together, these Kinta Valley based museums will offer visitors and historical bluffs a glimpse of the valley’s industrious past and a startling introduction to the world’s most successful tin mining story.

Old mining town honoured (The Star, May 16, 09/ FOONG THIM LENG)

Inspired by the 2006 American animated feature film Cars, successful businessman Bernard Yaw has set up a museum in his hometown, Gopeng, in Perak.

Muzium Gopeng, opened on April 18 to coincide with World Heritage Day, is located in his ancestral home at 28, Jalan Eu Kong.

Cars, the animated film, is a story about an old sleepy town, Radiator Springs, which was once a popular stopover along the infamous US Route 66.

Successful entrepreneur Bernard Yaw who founded the Muzium Gopeng.

However, with the construction of an interstate freeway US-15, cars and trucks no longer need to patronise the small town’s businesses and services and simply bypass the town to rush to Los Angeles or Las Vegas, thus causing a major economic and financial slowdown for Radiator Springs.

As the story goes, one Sally Carrera, a beautiful 2002 Porsche 911 from California, grows tired of life in the fast lane and wants a new start in the small town, so she makes Radiator Springs her home. She runs the only auto motel there and is the one most dedicated to preserving and reviving the town with the hope that one day, it will get ‘back on the map’, and it succeeds.

The story reminded Yaw, the director of Dubai Ventures Group Sdn Bhd, of the reality faced by Gopeng and other similar towns along the North-South Expressway.Yaw recalled the time when the tin mining industry collapsed in the 1980s, residents from Gopeng and nearby towns were forced to venture elsewhere in search of greener pastures.

He himself left in 1980 for tertiary education in the United States and after graduation, he used to travel to New York city as part of the demands of his job and he would visit Chinatown’s famous Canal Street. “I could hear the Manglish and the Jen Shen Hakka spoken there,” he said. “The local Chinese residents there even regarded Canal Street as Kopisan Street. Many Gopeng folk made their living in restaurants there to send money home,” he said.

During his 20-year stay in the US, Yaw said his heart and thoughts were always with Gopeng.

The idea for the museum cropped up during a few rounds of lai fun (rice noodle) and local coffee sessions in the town by Yaw and a group of friends a few months ago.

“Like many of us who were born and raised in Gopeng, we loved the former hustle and bustle of this town. “We savoured the simplicity of life in Gopeng, without the Internet, Gameboys and iPods.

“We were all just simple, honest, frugal and conservative Gopeng folk,” he said.

He loves the simplicity of little towns where everyone is kind and generous and where the food is freshly made and the air clean.

“We decided to form Muzium Gopeng as we have a strong common desire to share the rich legacies of Gopeng and to bring about its revival,” he said.

Yaw restored the ancestral home that was built in 1882 by Eu Kong, the founder of the famous Chinese medicine company Eu Yan Sang. It was leased for 99 years to Yaw’s great-grandfather Yaw Mun Chong who came from the Hakka Dapu County in Guangdong Province in the early 1900s to set up a sundry shop in Gopeng. Yaw bought over the house in 1999. Five generations of Yaws had grown up in the house.

Muzium Gopeng is now under the care of the Gopeng Museum Management Society’s ad hoc committee headed by Yaw.

The society’s secretary Phang See Kong said there were over 300 artefacts on display including clocks, radios, typewriters, tools, weighing scales, household items, kitchen utensils, decorative platters, glass jars and ceramic urns, coins and currency notes, pens, lighters, torchlights, watches, ceremonial items and silver belts.
Phang said most of the artefacts belonged to treasurer Wong Kuan Cheong.

Another interesting display is a gallery of photographs on important people and incidents in Gopeng over the years, said Phang, a retired teacher.

Phang said Gopeng was a pioneer town in the Kinta Valley dating back to the early 1850s. He said the museum had attracted over 2,000 visitors from all over the country and also tourists over the past few weeks.

Perak Heritage Society president Law Siak Hong said there were opportunities in heritage waiting to be tapped. Already, eco-tourism in the jungle nearby has made Gopeng a popular destination.

“This history centre will attract more visitors to town,” he said.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Second 'ship' museum for Malacca?

(Photos courtesy of NST - An artist impression of the replica )

Malacca is set to expand its successful Maritime Museum to include a replica of a 15th century royal schooner assumedly used during the heydays of Malay Sultanate in Malacca. (NST, Second ‘ship’ museum for Malacca, May 12, 2009)

The second replica costing close to RM5 million will be built a stone throw from Flor de la Mar on the newly reclaimed square across the historical river. But here is where the similarity ends.

While a great effort was taken to design the Portuguese Galleon when they set out to build the replica, the constructors of the Malay royal sail may face greater obstacle in their quest to design the ship.

Records about Flor de la Mar - the flagship of Albuquerque’s armada are well documented and there are plenty about its voyages in the Portuguese Archive but we cannot say the same about the royal vessel for the Malacca Sultan.

Malacca maybe the formidable sea faring state but information on its naval fleets and types of vessels used by the sultanate is vague if not none at all.
When Malacca was under siege by the Portuguese, we were told the battles were fought by soldiers on elephants and the Portuguese men-of-war pounded our shores without a hint of naval resistence.
Why and where was the Sultan’s fleet?

Hence, there are questions if there was a royal ship like the state would like us to believe today.
More worrisome is if the 2nd 'ship' museum venture part of an on-going plan by the state authority to localise the many attractions currently being developed on the banks of the historical Sungai Melaka.

Second 'ship' museum for Malacca (NST, May 12, 2009)

MALACCA: After the 19- year-old Flor De La Mar Ship Museum, the state government will soon build another ship at Sungai Melaka.

This time, it will be a replica of a 15th century royal ship, costing an estimated RM4.9 million.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam said the ship, which would be developed by the Malacca Museum Corporation, would be able to accommodate up to 150 visitors at any one time.He said the ship would take tourists back in time to the era of the Malacca sultanate during the reign of Sultan Mansur Shah (1459-1477)."Apart from depicting Malacca as a trading port then, the ship will also exhibit the maritime activity in this part of the world," Ali said.

Two historians, Tan Sri Aziz Tapa and Datuk Djohan Hanapiah, were also consulted to ensure the success of the project, expected to be completed in 18 months.Ali said the RM20 million Ma-lacca Planetarium, the fourth in the country, will be fully operational by next month.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Trishawman for Heritage.

There is an old saying that life begins at forty but when I hit the number exactly a month ago – my fortieth birthday has all the markings of a very unsavory connotation to it.

So imagine the surprise when I flicked the papers (NST, Here comes the trishaw man, May 7, 2009) and there it was my peer from Malacca days grabbing headlines for attempting a feat not for anyone much less at 40!!

Tan Ming Kiong, MK to me or Frankie as he is now preferably known, has been an outstanding athlete smashing records and blazing tracks in Kubu back when George Michael was known for his reign at UK music chart and not something else.

Sadly, a quarter of century later today nothing about our physical state is close to those glory times.

Hence, MK has my highest respect and support with his twin heritage city quest. If he succeeds and God bless, he will embody the free spirit that was once a profound feature in all of us. Despite the glaring age factor, he and his beca shall overcome the 800-plus kilometer journey for humanity.

Here comes the trishaw man - NST May 7, 2009

Frankie Tan Ming Kiong says riding his trishaw is the best way to promote Malacca and Penang.

MALACCA: Frankie Tan Ming Kiong is pedalling a trishaw from here to Penang for charity and to promote the two world heritage cities.

Tan, who spent 10 years in Britain as an IT consultant, said he wanted to give himself a career break and get involved in social welfare activities."I would like to make a difference and, at the same time, promote Malacca and Penang as world heritage cities." Although there were many ways to promote the cities, Tan said, trishaw riding was the best way to do it."The trishaw was the mode of transport in the old days and is still popular."

His journey began yesterday at the A'Famosa Fort. His journey will take him to Pengkalan Balak, Port Dickson, Sepang, Tanjong Sepat, Banting, Morib, Teluk Panglima Garang, Klang, Jeram, Kuala Sungai Selangor, Sekinchan, Sabak Bernam, Kampung Baru, Lumut, Segari, Pantai Remis, Terong, Changkat Jering, Simpang, Parit Buntar, Nibong Tebal, Simpang Empat, Butterworth and Komtar, Penang."

Small towns still exhibit the heritage side of Malaysia and that is precisely why I will stop at all these venues before I proceed to my final destination, Penang," Tan said. He will be taking photographs during the journey to create an album of the "united faces of Malaysia".

The charity organisations which will benefit from Tan's trishaw journey are the National Council for the Blind, Women's Aid Organisation, SPCA Malacca and Wings Malacca (centre for learning-disabled children)."

I will bear my own expenses and any proceeds or donations will be given only to the charitable organisations."Interested individuals can get in touch with the organisations directly or email us at or call me at 012-6613813."