Thursday, June 24, 2010

Silver state makes bid for Unesco listing - The Star

PERAK is seeking to list Kinta Valley, Lenggong Valley, Gua Tempurung and Royal Belum as Unesco world heritage sites, said state Tourism Committee chairman Datuk Hamidah Osman.

She said the state hoped to get Kinta Valley — which includes Ipoh, Batu Gajah and Kampar — listed as a Unesco tin heritage site by 2012.

Awesome attraction: Limestone formations ar the entrance of Gua Puteri.

Hamidah said the state was also trying to nominate Lenggong Valley as a world archaeological heritage site, Gua Tempurung as limestone heritage site and Royal Belum as the rainforest, jungle and biodiversity heritage site.

She said a committee comprising representatives from the Ipoh City Council, Kinta Heritage Group, Perak Tourism Action Council and the National Heritage Department was preparing a nomination dossier on Kinta Valley to be submitted to Unesco.

Hamidah said the committee had been tasked to identify and mark sites and buildings to be included in the dossier.

“We are looking into the possibility of promoting Visit Perak Year in 2012 and everything must be in place by then,” she said in an interview.

Hamidah said the Kinta Valley had left behind significant buildings from its glorious tin mining past.

Heritage landmark: The Neo-Classic Ipoh Railway Station in Ipoh Old Town.

She said these heritage structures were treasures that should be preserved.

“Unlike modern buildings, the old ones will be gone forever if uncared for and torn down.” she added.

Hamidah said about RM450,000 had been allocated for conservation projects in Panglima Lane (Concubine Street) which was among the sites that had been identified.

“We have roped in a team specialising in conserving old buildings from Universiti Teknologi MARA to help us,” she said.

Hamidah also said the tin dredge in Batu Gajah was another heritage structure that should be protected.

“It is our last remaining tin dredge and is in very bad shape with its pontoon badly damaged,” she said, adding the dredge caretaker had estimated RM1.5mil to fix it.

Hamidah said there had been proposals to move the tin dredge away from the outskirts of Batu Gajah and closer to towns.

“The cost to dismantle and reassemble the structure is also a killing factor, at about RM30mil,” she said.

“We have spoken to the National Heritage Department to get feedback on the matter,” she added.

Kinta Heritage Group Sdn Bhd chairman Jek Yap said Ipoh’s Old Town would be the core sector in the nomination centre.

He said the group had distributed 500,000 copies of the Ipoh Heritage Trail to rekindle the people’s interest in the cultural heritage of the city.

“We have also introduced the Ipoh Heritage Trail tour which starts from the Ipoh railway station and end at Jalan Panglima (Concubine Lane),” he added.

Participants would be taken to see 24 historic buildings and places including the Straits Trading Building built in 1907, the former tin miners club Han Chin Pet Soo built in 1929, the 1920’s Dramatists’ Hostel and the Ipoh Railway Station built from 1914 to 1917.

Yap said the group was registered in April to assist the government to “save Ipoh” and promote the city, which has more than 120 years of history.

A hotspot — then and now - The Star


PANGLIMA Lane or Yi Lai Hong (Concubine Lane in Cantonese) as it is popularly known, comes across as just another narrow street in Ipoh.

Yet the row of 27 pre-war buildings along the road has never failed to attract tourists, photographers and artists from far and near.

Old-world charm: The Once notorious Panglima Lane in Ipoh is now drawing a differnt crowd- touristsm shutterbugs and even movie producers.

It has, in fact, become a famous landmark, probably more for its notorious label as a place where mistresses are allegedly kept than as a opium haunt in the early 1950s.

Ninety-year-old Wong Koh Kee, the retired boss of Koh Kee Restaurant situated along the lane, however, doubted there were businessmen and tin miners who kept their mistresses there nor were there any brothels.

Classic design: The horizontal bars doorway is among the olden architecture that attracts visitors from near and afar to visit Panglima Lane in Ipoh.

“A story that goes round is that opium smokers would always say they are going to their mistresses instead of to the opium den when asked by friends,” he noted.

Wong said despite its reputation, the area was surprisingly peaceful back then with hardly any serious crime.

“One thing for sure is that the place is quiet and peaceful. The folks at the opium dens only wanted to be left alone,” he added.

Today, many people are still interested in the buildings’ architecture along the lane, which mainly serves as a passageway for visitors who parked their cars along Jalan Bijeh Timah to go to the coffeeshops along Jalan Bandar Timah.

Car-free: Panglima Lane has become a walkway between Jalan Bijeh Timah and Jalan Bandar Timah.

“The traditional horizontal bar gates, wooden window panes and bronze door knobs are a rare find for visitors,” said former resident Loh Vooi Leong.

“Tourists could also be seen snapping away pictures of bamboo poles placed across one window ledge to another to dry their clothes,” said the 58-year-old, adding that it was completely new to them.

Loh said the place had also become a favourite spot for location shootings, including for a Hong Kong drama series starring renowned actor Alex Man Chi Leung as well as by local producers filming Chinese New Year music videos and films. Once a hive of activity in the 1950s and 1960s, Panglima Lane is a close-knit community of mostly hawkers and traders where everyone is a familiar face.

Whether it is the birth of a child, the Chinese New Year festivities or even if a resident gets a job, there is always a cause for celebration.

As Loh puts it, “everyone was practically a family member then.”

“In times of duress, we will try to help each other and keep an eye for one another,” he said.

The lane with about 27 prewar shophouses used to house about 100 families. One shophouse would have about four to five families staying under one roof.

“Only six buildings are still occupied, four with families and the other two have become workers’ quarters,” he said, adding the rest were vacant and dilapidated.

Many residents left the place after the Ipoh City Council came down hard on street hawkers in 1998.

Loh, who spent his childhood days in the area, said life was pretty simple then.

“The boys like to play near Sungai Kinta, catching fighting fish in the river and spiders by the embankment. Given some marbles or spinning tops, we would enjoy ourselves for the whole day,” he recalled.

Resident Chou Yuet Lai, 60, said her childhood always revolved around work.

“While the boys are outside running and playing, the girls are often told to remain at home to cook, sweep the floor or wash cloths,” she said.

Even during her teenage years, she would help out at her relative’s noodle stall after school.

“It’s basically the norm for my family that if you don’t work, you won’t get money to eat,” said the retired waitress.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Easy steps to make dumplings - The Star

HAINANESE dumplings stand out among the usual dumplings as these are wrapped with banana leaves instead of bamboo leaves. These are also tied individually while the others hang from a bundle of hemp strings.

The Selangor and Federal Territory Hainan Association Women’s Section members demonstrated the methods to make the pyramid-shaped delights. The dumplings are later boiled until thoroughly cooked.

To make these, hemp strings, banana leaves (grill them over charcoal fire, then wipe clean) are required.


Glutinous rice (soaked overnight, drained then fried with garlic, salt and soy sauce), Chinese mushrooms, dried shredded squid, shallots, dried shrimps (saute separately), pork (marinated with seasoning, then fried), salted egg yolk, chestnuts (steamed or boiled)


Step 1: Tie two hemp strings together by making two knots — a few centimetres apart — in the middle of the strings.

Step 2: There should be a loop like this if you tie the strings correctly.

Step 3: Lay one banana leaf on top of another.

Step 4: Fold the leaves diagonally twice.

Step 5: Open the folded leaves to form a cone.

Step 6: Add one tablespoon of glutinous rice, followed by various desired ingredients, then cover with another two tablespoons of glutinous rice.

Step 7: Wrap the leaves tightly.

Step 8: Place the loop of the hemp strings at the top of the pyramid-shaped dumpling. Cross the strings at the bottom of the dumpling. Pull them through the loop, then pull towards the bottom of the dumpling again and tie both ends into a tight knot.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Firing up an interest in dragon kilns of Ipoh

Saturday June 5, 2010 By CHAN LI LEEN, Photos by LEW YONG KAN

Sixty-year-old business: One of the dragon kilns that is still in use at Sin Cheak Seng on Jalan Kuala Kangsar, Ipoh.

IPOH may hold a secret that not many know about, not even its sons and daughters who have lived here all their lives.

A rare gem in present times, there are actually a handful of operational dragon kilns lying in our own backyard.

For thousands of years, dragon kilns — brick-built kilns shaped like a dragon and fuelled with firewood to fire ceramics — were used extensively in China and later on in parts of South East Asia due to the migration of its people.

But no thanks to modern and more convenient processes that use diesel and electricity, these old-fashioned kilns have become a dying breed.

Chin Kam Peng

According to one owner Chin Kam Peng, a third generation potter operating on Jalan Kuala Kangsar, there could be perhaps 10 dragon kilns left in Ipoh.

“Our three dragon kilns each measure 24m-long by 2.4m wide and 2.1m high and are as old as I am.

“They are still in working condition despite having been built 60 years ago by my father,” said Chin, whose company Sin Cheak Seng exports flower pots and an assortment of pottery to Europe, Australia, the United States and Canada.

Firing ceramics in dragon kilns is a long and tedious process but the results are often unexpected and worth every effort.

Polished product: Flower pots being left to cool inside a kiln.

Regardless of what the pro-ducts are, it takes up to 30 hours at above 1,400 degree Celsius to fire the pieces.

“We have to continuously stoke the fire to make sure the heat remains at that temperature,” he said, adding that it takes another 10 hours or so for the pieces to cool before they can be removed from the kiln.

“There is no short cut to it. Otherwise, the pieces will crack and have to be thrown away.

“But what we get for our time and effort are beautiful pieces that are unique from each other,” he explained.

Wood ash settles on the pieces during the firing, and the complex interaction between flame, ash, and the minerals of the clay body forms a natural ash glaze.

This glaze may show great variation in colour, texture, and thickness, ranging from smooth and glossy to rough and sharp.

Stoke up the fire: Kiln worker Tang Teng Guan feeding firewood into a dragon kiln at Sin Cheak Seng pottery workshop.

Tang Teng Guan, 52, a third generation kiln worker, had picked up the trade from the time he was 11 years old.

“It requires much practice and experience because you are to judge if the temperature is right by just looking with your naked eye.

“It is physically draining and a dirty job, which no young man is interested in doing or even know about for that matter,” he said.

Ceramic artist: Tan with his replica of a dragon klin.

In an effort to create more awareness about the dragon kiln, tea merchant Legend of Tea Sdn Bhd is teaming up with local ceramic artist Tan Vooi Yam and a group of potters from Singapore to hold a pottery exhibition next month.

“The Splendour of Tea and Clay” will feature pieces made from Ipoh clay fired in dragon kilns. The pieces will be sold to the public to raise funds for charity.

Legend of Tea advertising and promotion head Ng Sook Peng said pottery was as much an art as tea drinking.

“Ipoh is famous for our limestone hills and water. We have very good clay for making teapots but all this time, we’ve been importing clay from overseas.

“This got us thinking, why not promote our clay in Ipoh and at the same time promote the dragon kiln which is dying a natural death,” said Ng.

Life-sized-sculpture: Chong creating a torso from Ipoh clay as an art piece for a wall.

Part-time potter Vernice Chong, who is amongst three potters from Singapore taking part in the exhibition, said two remaining dragon kilns in the island state were no longer in use.

“We met Tan at an exhibition a few months ago and were very excited to learn from him that Ipoh still has dragon kilns.

“We are here to try out Ipoh clay and explore the dragon kiln, which is really very rare,” said Chong.

The 49-year-old housewife said that she was particularly fond of the natural fine lines on the pieces created from the slow firing in the dragon kiln.

Skillful handwork: Lim moulding a vase that will be fired in a dragon kiln and sold at a charity exhibition in Ipoh.

“And the inside of the kiln is most beautiful and colourful due to the glaze that ends up on its walls during the firing process,” said Chong, who was recently in Ipoh with the two other participants, Andrew Chua and Lim Hua Choon.

The exhibition will be held at the Legend of Tea showroom at No 33, Jalan Foo Yet Kai, Ipoh, Perak, from July 9 to July 15. For details, call 05-2539500.