With regal palaces, historical sites and architectural splendour, it is no wonder Kuala Kangsar has crowned the royal town of Perak. It is home to generations of traditional artisans, from keris artisans and embroiderers who serve royalty to labu sayong makers who craft for the ordinary folk.
Located 30km north of Ipoh, visitors to this town of legends and legacies will find plenty worth traversing.
Here’s a list list of things to do the next time you are in Kuala Kangsar!
Visit the incredible Ubudiah Mosque
It was built at the behest of Sultan Idris Murshidal Azam Shah following his recovery from an ailment in 1913. But the sultan sadly never lived to see it finished. Be sure to dress appropriately if you would want to enter the mosque!
Admire the historical Victoria Bridge
Victoria Bridge is one of the oldest railway bridges in Malaysia, which runs across the Perak River at Karai. Built-in 1897, it was named after Queen Victoria to agree with her Diamond Jubilee Year. Connecting the western Malay states to Penang, Victoria Bridge was once used to move tin ore until it closed in 2002. The bridge is famous among avid photographers thanks to its nostalgic and old-world vibes.
Those familiar with the Malaysian film industry might even remember it as the film location of 2014’s The Journey. The café next to Victoria Bridge sells freshly made pastries and Milo Kepal. You can have a break while admiring the bridge.
Visit the Istana Kenangan
Once the residence of the Perak royal family, the well-preserved palace served as a venue for royal ceremonies. Also used for funeral arrangements, it was known as Istana Mayat (Palace of the Deceased). It was later renamed Istana Kenangan (Palace of Memories) by First Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman. It has housed the Perak Royal Museum since 1986.
The architecture of Istana Kenangan is the epitome of traditional Malay craftsmanship. The wooden building was built with iron nails. In comparison, the walls are woven with wicker wood and embellished with immaculate carvings. The palace has a unique shape that resembles a sword in its sheath.
Mould a traditional Labu Sayong
Nothing says Kuala Kangsar more than the simple Labu Sayong. A traditional water container shaped like a gourd. While some believe that the water carries healing properties, most townsfolk use it to keep liquids cool.
One of the exciting things that you can experience in Kuala Kangsar is the art of making Labu Sayong. And this is by using a wheel driving machine. In some workshops, you can watch how it is produced traditionally. You can get your hands dirty by making your own!
Meet the Keris Craftsman of Perak
Keris making is an ancient tradition in Kuala Kangsar. The weapon bears sacred powers and is often made as an heirloom. A status symbol or an accessory during official ceremonies.
The most well-known blacksmith in town is Pak Mazin, the fourth generation in his family to continue this trade at Bukit Chandan. He welcomes guests to his workshop to learn about keris making and see how the keris is forged.
Learn Tekat Emas Weaving
Gold thread embroidery is no easy task, but it has supported the livelihood of Puan Mardziah’s family for decades. Tekat Emas, or Gold Thread Embroidery, is an intricate craft. Gold threads are woven into floral motifs on velvet pieces, traditionally done by hand.
At Kuala Kangsar, not only do you get to see an artist at work, but you can also experience tekat emas weaving with the guidance of Puan Mardziah. She is a well-known traditional embroiderer whose work is displayed in palaces and museums. Her workshop is located in Padang Changkat.
See how a Traditional Headdress is folded
Tengkolok is a Malay headdress worn by men during essential ceremonies and weddings.
With so many different style variations (10 in Perak alone!), it takes a skilled tengkolok craftsman-like Raja Ahmad Akasihah to fold and stitch the fabric together. You can find him at the handicraft bazaar, where he shows guests how to style and wear the tengkolok.
Eat your way through Kuala Kangsar
For something more commonplace, there is Nasi Lemuni (herbal rice which originated in Kuala Kangsar), Ikan Patin Gulai Tempoyok (fish in fermented durian sauce), Ulam (Malay salad with an assortment of local herbs and sauces), and a local pastry called Kundas.
Join the Perak River Safari
Cruising down the river gives you a glimpse of the rustic side of Perak. Imagine the sound of leaves rustling in the breeze. Buffaloes by the stream, monkeys are swaying in the trees, and anglers casting their nets. There are plenty of river adventure activities you can take a splash in. Pick from camping, forest trekking and kayaking.