Introducing Malaya and Borneo (1948-1950)

Introducing Malaya and Borneo (01)
Courtesy UK National Archives

We at itchy feet, itchy mind love old photos, particularly ones which give glimpses of what life was like in pre-independence Malaysia. So imagine our excitement when we found this beautiful collection of pictures from the UK National Archives, called Introducing Malaya and Borneo.

No date is given, but the set must have been published some time between the formation of the Federation of Malaya in January 1948, and the formal recognition of Indonesia’s independence (the former Dutch East Indies) in December 1949. Continue reading Introducing Malaya and Borneo (1948-1950)

A journey of delight into Sabah’s interior

Over the metals all rusted brown,
Thunders the “mail” to Jesselton town,
Tearing on madly – racking not fate,
Making up time – she’s two days late,
See how the sparks from her smoke-stack shower,
Swaying on wildly at three miles an hour.
Sometimes they stop to examine a bridge,
Sometimes they stick on the crest of a ridge,
Sometimes they find the line washed away,
And postpone their advance till the following day.
Beaufort to Jesselton – tour of delight,
Taking all day and the best of the night,
Over the rails all rusted and brown,
Drives on the “mail” to Jesselton town.
(Anon, North Borneo Herald).

North Borneo Railway 3
Courtesy UK National Archives

A great deal has changed in Sabah since this wonderful poem first appeared about a century ago. The publication it appeared in, the North Borneo Herald, no longer exists, having gone the same way as steam trains. And Jesselton town, has been known as Kota Kinabalu for more than four decades.

North Borneo Railway 08

But much endures too. The railway not only still exists – the only one on the island of Borneo – it remains a “tour of delight”, particularly the prettiest section from Beaufort to Tenom. It’s a great way to see the interior of Sabah, and forms part of a pleasant loop round some of the state’s most attractive scenery. Continue reading A journey of delight into Sabah’s interior

Suffolk House: the first and last of Penang’s “great houses”

Suffolk house 2

Unique is much overused word, but there is no other way to describe Suffolk House, the finest example of Anglo-Indian architecture outside of India. Built more than two hundred years ago, the “First Great House” of Penang, is not just visually stunning, it is a living link to the early days of British colonial rule in Malaysia. Continue reading Suffolk House: the first and last of Penang’s “great houses”

Three relaxed day trips from Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur may be one of the relaxed large cities in Asia, but it’s still a long way from being a stress-free place. Thankfully though, when the noise, the traffic, and the crowds get too much, there are a number of great day trip destinations, where the pace of life is refreshingly slow. Here’s three of the best: Continue reading Three relaxed day trips from Kuala Lumpur

Art Deco with a Malayan twist

Art deco 7

In its Jazz Age heyday, Art Deco influenced everything from jewellery to ocean liners, from graphic design to architecture. Rather than a set of hard and fast rules however, it was an eclectic mix of parts, which somehow came together to form a beautiful whole. Art Deco was the first truly global style, but ironically, for such an influential movement, its name was not coined until decades after it had fallen out of fashion. Continue reading Art Deco with a Malayan twist