Friday, November 28, 2014
Thursday, August 28, 2014
Once a gangster’s paradise
BY M. VEERA PANDIYAN
The Discovery Cafe is a famous landmark on Jalan Bunga Raya The Discovery Cafe is a famous landmark on Jalan Bunga Raya ONE of the busiest streets in Malacca, Jalan Bunga Raya, is a far cry from its old image of being a perilous place in town.
Between the 1940s and the early 1970s the road was notorious for its gangs, especially around the once-famous City Park, the area around the town’s cluster of movie theatres and the nearby Bunga Raya Pantai village which borders the Malacca River.
The gangster menace was first highlighted in a local newspaper in 1946 by an exasperated local, identified only as ‘G-Man’.
He wrote that what was once a sleepy hollow had become a place of refuge for wanted gangsters from Singapore who lived in grand style in one hotel or another.
Citing the extent of the problem caused by the then powerful “Sin Kongsi” (new gang), he wrote that members of the powerful triad thrived in town and that the gang “fears nobody but is feared by everybody, including detectives”.
Just before the publication of the letter, one cop had been shot dead by members of the gang, which collected protection money from businesses in addition to committing robberies, thefts and running brothels.
“This gang infests the park, cinemas, cafes and dance halls every night. Whenever a stranger happens to jostle against a member of the gang, woe betides him.
“I could rattle off a dozen more facts or so but what is the use. The powers that be cannot be so sleepy as not to be aware of what is going on,” he wrote.
A year later, another detective, Tay Ah Ming and his wife were murdered in cold blood by six gangsters along the road, opposite City Park.
He was in a trishaw with his wife and five-year-old son when they were confronted and shot at. The boy was injured but survived.
The landscaped walkway behind Jalan Bunga Raya offers great views of the Malacca River The landscaped walkway behind Jalan Bunga Raya offers great views of the Malacca River. Two off-duty police inspectors, Mubarak Ahmad and Bacha, both unarmed, heroically confronted the gangsters, forcing five of them to flee.
Despite being slashed, Mubarak held on to one of the gangsters, later identified as Ong Kim Toon with the help of Bacha.
Ong was later found guilty of murder and was hanged, but the five others were not caught.
Throughout the next three decades, hoodlums remained a constant threat in Bunga Raya. My old schoolmate Vincent Tay, who grew up in Bunga Raya Pantai, recalled that during the 70’s there were two active triads in the neighbourhood.
“Goh Sek (Five Colours in Hokkien) and It Tiam Ang (One Red Dot) controlled the area outside while the gang that was powerful where the people lived called Tuah chu lai (place of the big house) was the 18 Immortals gang known locally as Chap Puek Kiah.
“Fights were very common then. People were even scared of the wives of the gangsters who passed their time gambling, usually by playing mah-jong, pakau and chekki (a kind of card game), “said Tay.
He said when he was growing up, the most fearsome gangster was one “Ah Chuan” but did not know which triad he belonged to.
Today, Bunga Raya Pantai is dominated by The Shore @ Malacca River, an ongoing mixed development project, comprising four imposing condominium towers, retail outlets and a five-storey carpark.
But amidst the road, the river and the towers, a few old houses dating back to the era of the gangsters still remain, including those of two Malacca Portuguese families which settled down there along with a handful of the original Chinese households.
Frederick Blankanett, 68, said his family and the Sta Maria family next door were the only non-Chinese living in the neighbourhood.
He lives with his fellow bachelor brothers, Stanley, Micheal and Bert while the other occupants of the house are his married brother George and his wife.
Smack in the middle of the ruins of the St Lawrence Chapel is an old grave of a Portuguese noble Smack in the middle of the ruins of the St Lawrence Chapel is an old grave of a Portuguese noble. “We don’t know how long we will be here. We have been asked to leave but the authorities are still deciding on compensation,” he said.
Bunga Raya Pantai still has its hidden attractions, beginning with the ruins of the St Lawrence Chapel or more accurately the “Capela de Ermida de Rosario” or the Rosary Chapel , which replaced the original Saint Lorenzo Chapel erected in the early 1600s.
The significance and use of the chapel declined after the St Peter’s Church, the oldest functioning Catholic church in the country, was built a few hundred metres away in 1710.
Smack in the midst of the ruins is an intriguing old grave of one Emerinci de Souza, reportedly a Portuguese noble.
A boardwalk by the river, occasionally patrolled by the leader of the last remaining pack of monkeys living in the mangrove trees, leads to two old Chinese shrines – the Sea Dragon Temple where local fishermen used to pray before setting off to sea and the Three Treasures Hall, a shrine sought after by childless couples seeking to be blessed with children.
The Jalan Bunga Raya that most locals and tourists are familiar with begins at the left turn from the Jalan Kampung Pantai’s Tan Kim Seng Bridge.
The first colourful building on the road is the Discovery Cafe where one can run to all kinds of interesting regulars, including Kota Melaka MP Sim Tong Him.
The Sea Dragon Temple is where local fishermen used to pray for good catches before setting off in their boats The Sea Dragon Temple is where local fishermen used to pray for good catches before setting off in their boats. The cafe is also a much sought after traveller’s lodge, run by the affable Teng Kim Sia, one of the city’s pioneers in the backpacker accommodation business.
As hinted by its name, there are lots of things to discover, especially Teng’s impressive collection of antiques and curios. Most of the tables in the cafe are recycled tops of old sewing machines.
Many of the buildings in the streets can be traced back to the 1920s and 30s. If the front of the shops are typical, the backs of the premises, linked by a landscaped walkway, offer beautiful views of the river.
A good place to know more about the architecture here and other old roads is the Malacca Conservation Centre located at No 45, Jalan Bunga Raya.
The centre, which focuses on the conservation of historical buildings and artefacts, is managed by the Malacca Museum Corporation with the support of the state World Heritage Office, the Malacca Historical City Council and two local colleges.
In addition to its many goldsmith shops, textile dealers, stationery shops and those selling electrical goods, Jalan Bunga Raya is also a place for famous Malacca food, dating back to the 40’s when there was apparently a famous ‘people’s restaurant’ selling a complete meal for 30 cents.
According to the old folk, the eatery was at the location of today’s ‘Medan Makan Boon Leong Bunga Raya’ an alley sandwiched between two buildings on the street.
Commonly known to locals as “Hungry Lane”, the place is famous for two stalls selling char siew rice during the day and for its three generation-old or chien (oyster omelette) stall at night.
It is usual for customers of the stall to wait for up to half an hour before getting their share of or chien, a scrumptious combination of oysters, flour and eggs, dished out.
The city’s famous popiah stall is also here, next to the Madam Kings department store. It’s another place where customers have to wait to buy.
When I was growing up, two places were a must when going to Bunga Raya – the Tai Chong Hygienic Ice Cafe, the best spot for pat poh (mixed ice kacang with eight ingredients) and the Min Chong stall directly opposite which served a delectable version of rojak with cendol to wash it down.
As I found out last week, both these places are still as popular as ever.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
photos by m. veera pandiyan
Historians have traced the word bendahara to the Sanskrit bhandarin or the keeper of the store.
As trade played a vital role in the sultanate with the rulers, the Bendahara was effectively the royal treasurer, besides being the head of the court officials, the leader of the soldiers and the peasantry.
The position of Bendahara was second only to the Sultan in status, power, and authority.
Tun Perak, served under four rulers — Sultan Muzzafar Shah, Sultan Mansur Shah, Sultan Alauddin Ri’ayat Shah and Sultan Mahmud Shah.
But then again, there is also another key road named Jalan Tun Perak that stretches from the Jalan Malim junction to Jalan Gajah Berang/ Jalan Hang Tuah.
So, in addition to the illustrious Tun Perak, one can suppose that Jalan Bendahara could also have been named for these other not-so-famous holders of the post — Tun Perpatih Tulus, Raden Bagus, Raden Anum, Tun Perpatih Besar, Tun Perpatih Sedang and Tun Perpatih Putih.
The older residents of Malacca recognise it by its former name of Wolferstan Road. Not many, though, are familiar with whom it was named after.
Littleton Pipe Wolferstan arrived in Malaya as a cadet of the British colonial office on Dec 3, 1889 and served in various posts in Penang, Singapore and Kedah before being appointed to four terms as Resident of Malacca between 1910 and 1920.
On March 9, 1922, a week before Wolferstan left for retirement, a grand dinner was hosted by the Malacca Chinese Chamber of Commerce and the Straits Chinese British Association (SCBA) in his honour.
In paying tribute, SCBA leader Tan Cheng Lock, (later the founder of MCA) said:
“Malacca has today, better medical services, electric lighting, a splendid site on which is being erected a badly needed municipal market, two new roads added to that part of town and what more, a good and handsome revenue.”
Besides being rich in culture and cuisine, Jalan Bendahara is also steeped in history, involving both the hallowed and the profane and linked to kindness as well as cruelty.
One of the country’s hallowed Christian places of worship is located on it and down the road there used to be the town’s party spots and a hidden hub of sin.
At the start of the road, at the junction of Bunga Raya Pantai, stands the St Peter’s Church, the oldest functioning Catholic church in Malaysia, built in 1710.
The church, which has a life-size alabaster statue of Jesus before the Resurrection, is most crowded during the Holy Week celebrations for local Catholics and members of the Malacca Portuguese community.
Since the mid-1800s, many non-Christian locals have also been taking part in the observations, especially Palm Sunday, the Stations of the Cross (Datuk Pikul Balak) and The Lord is Dead (Datuk Mati).
Further down the road, at the junction of Jalan Munshi Abdullah, is the rather unremarkable grey-painted Meng Seng Charitable Association Hall.
Not many people know its historical contributions to the local community and to the birth of the nation.
The association, set up in June, 1923, was at first located in a shoplot in Lorong Bukit China before moving to Kee Ann Road, and then to Bunga Raya.
The present building was completed in 1941 but soon after the opening ceremony, the Japanese Occupation turned it from a hall of mercy into a chamber of horrors.
It was the base of the dreaded Japanese Kempeitai and among the local Chinese leaders massacred were the association’s committee members Ong Teck Ghee, Lim Tai Tian and 50 ordinary members.
The hall also played a significant role in the quest for Merdeka. In early 1954, Tunku Abdul Rahman returned home from London sad and disappointed after his first failed mission to gain independence.
Tunku called for an emergency meeting in Malacca for the struggle to go on and the only place big enough to accommodate the large number of people who turned up was the hall.
The response was overwhelming. When sheets of cloth were stretched out to collect donations, people threw in their jewellery — gold chains, rings, brooches and such — along with watches and cash.
The amount of money raised spurred similar appeals throughout the country, enabling the Tunku to make another, more successful trip, in April 1954.
At the start of the stretch of Jalan Bendahara across the road, there used to be two grand landmarks on either side.
The Chan Koon Cheng mansion stands to this day, complete with its lion-guarded gateway, exquisite architecture and features, despite being turned into a CIMB Bank branch.
Alas for the Capitol, it’s all in ruins. The most impressive movie theatre of my childhood days is now derelict and roofless.
But before it was a cinema, the building had a colourful history as the Capitol Dance Hall. Opened in 1936, it was touted as “Malacca’s one and only most up-to-date palais de danse”.
There were nightly dances and the waltz, quick step, foxtrot, tango and cha cha were the craze then.
Tea dances were held on Thursday and Saturday.
The floor was lit up by orange and green lights concealed in the ceiling — surely a technological feat then, while the sound system was said to be among the best in the country.
English writer and poet Hugo Williams immortalised the hall in his book All the Time in the World.
He wrote that the Capitol might as well have been the Commonwealth Relations Office in the late 1950s when troops from New Zealand, Australia and Britain were still in the barracks of the Terendak Camp.
“In the hall, whites aided natives with vouchers called dance coupons. But natives were only obliged to stay faithful to whites while the music lasted. Then they would declare their independence, or rather break off diplomatic relations again”.
During the mid-60s, Jalan Bendahara also gained fame for having the old city’s tallest building — the nine-storey municipal flats.
It later gained notoriety for its growing number of suicides but has since ended up as just another crammed housing area in town.
Today Jalan Bendahara, or its junction with Jalan Temenggong, is most famous for being Malacca’s “Little India”.
Most of the traditional Indian businesses — shops selling jewellery, sarees and other clothing, sundry goods, prayer items and flowers, among others — are located on both sides of the street.
The city’s most popular banana leaf eateries can also be found in the area.
The oldest is Sri Lakshmi Villas, set up in 1962, which serves vegetarian and non-vegetarian food, in addition to thosai, idli and other traditional foods. It still has the same proprietor — K. Periakaruppan aka PK, 79.
Over five decades, the restaurateur has seen Wolferstan Road transform from what it was before to what it is today — a bustling area for locals and a must-visit place for tourists.
PK owns Sri Lakshmi Villas, the oldest South Indian restaurant in Malacca’s “Little India”.
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
A month just after the start of the Chinese New Year of the Horse, a steel fence has been constructed at the site of the new Vedromall.
From the website of Vedromall and the authorised marketing agent office at Jalan Kee Ann, at least 75% of the retail lots have been sold or booked.
The take up rate of the freehold mall is good. The project is expected to be completed in 2017.
Sunday, February 23, 2014
Saturday, February 8, 2014
MALACCA: The second phase of the Sungai Melaka conservation and beautification project will be completed by June, further enhancing the river as a tourist product.Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel said the RM285 million project was a sequel to the success of restoring the "once a lifeless river" into a thriving waterway, following completion of the first phase in 2001.
"The first phase of the project has proven to be a success, which involved cleaning, beautification and upgrading the river system from the Sungai Melaka estuary up to the Hang Jebat bridge.
"The second phase is divided into three packages, where the first would cover a 2.4km waterway from the Hang Jebat bridge to the Tun Razak bridge, followed by 1.2km from the Tun Razak bridge to the Melaka Sentral bridge, and the final package from the Melaka Sentral bridge to the Tidal Control Gate stretching for 1.6km," he said after a cruise in Sungai Melaka.
He said the second phase would also include the construction of pedestrian walkways, beautification of the riverbanks, water taxi station, pick-up jetty and beautification of the Melaka Sentral bridge.
Read more: 2nd phase of Sg Melaka beautification project to be ready by June - General - New Straits Times http://www.nst.com.my/nation/general/2nd-phase-of-sg-melaka-beautification-project-to-be-ready-by-june-1.479295#ixzz2ss7tlGWV
Royal Caribbean investing in new cruise terminal in Malaysia
TTG Asia reports the mega project will be comprised of one natural and two man-made islands with an estimated gross development value of $12 billion (US).
Royal Caribbean V.P., Commercial and New Business Development, John Tercek, believes the new cruise termincal can, "grow and boost tremendously the cruise market for Melaka and the region in the years to come."
The project is slated to be completed by 2025 and is expected to increase the port's importance. The new Melaka International Cruise Terminal and Ferry Terminal will be able to accomodate up to three cruise ships, a world-class maintenance and repair facility for mega yachts and the region’s largest marina with up to 1,000 berths.
The Gateway Beacon Tower, a 288m tower with over 80 storeys, will be home to a seven-star hotel and premium condominiums. Marina villas with individual berths right at the resident’s doorstep will also be available.