After my amazing Redang Island trip, I got off to another adventure, a cultural and musical journey around the State of Selangor with Gaya Travel, Tourism Selangor and Selangor Youth Generation Development, Sports, Cultural and Entrepreneurship Development (UPEN).
Selangor is just a few hours and even minutes (at some parts) away from Kuala Lumpur, yet there are significant differences in comparison to its neighboring state. It is known as a melting pot of several cultural influences that were born from the years of trade and commerce, interracial marriages and political disputes.
I love immersing deep into cultures of the places I visit, to watch something raw and genuine in front of my eyes is something I always look forward to whenever I travel. For this trip one of our goals is to discover the best beats (and moves) in Selangor, particulry of Javanese and Chinese Origins.
So here’s a little round up of what we did and discovered on our 3-day trip around this culturally rich Malaysian state.
The night before our trip, we stayed at Avenue J Hotel located near the Kuala Lumpur’s Sentral Market. This area was new to me at that time, I thought KL’s main attractions can only be found at the Bukit Bintang area, but I saw a different kind of hustle and bustle at what I am assuming to be ‘old center’ of KL (some time after our trip, I was able to roam around. Will tell you more about it in another blog).
TIME TO GO TO SELANGOR
We all met up at the Malaysia Tourism Center (MATIC) where we will be hopping on a bus to Selangor. I was so happy seeing a number of familiar faces, people from my previous trip in Indonesia (@Pojiegraphy, @Lilyriani_travelholic and @Eazytraveler ).
After some chitchats and a little nap, we found ourselves transferring to a cute little red and yellow tram heading to the Bukit Melawati. Traveling from KL to our first stop in Selangor isn’t that far, a good 1 to 2 hours trip.
A fortress that was built on a hill as a shield against the Dutch during the late 1700s till the early 1800s. Now a public park (though you can still see some cannons around the property) and the location of the Kuala Selangor Historical Museum.
The Kuala Selangor Historical Museum provides the needed historical introduction of how Selengor was built, their way to life, influences, state laws and also everything about the fort itself. Most are shown through artifacts and dioramas. During our visit, our tour guide spoke in Malay, fortunately the labels and captions on the displays have English translations (and I also dragged my friend Pojie to translate some of the commentaries to me).
We also went up to the Altingsburg Lighthouse to have a quick glance overlooking that whole area. They said that as of the moment, visitors are not allowed to access the lighthouse, so we were lucky for them to allow us during our visit. This is a functioning lighthouse and still being used to guide boats across the Malacca Strait.
One of the interesting things you can see at the Bukit Melawati are the silver haired monkeys called Silver Leaf Monkeys. They look scary to be honest but in reality (or just that time), they were friendly. We goofed around them and I think they returned the favor. Haha.
The rooms are made from shipping containers (yheap like a food park but instead of food stalls, you have bedrooms). Following with the shipping container feel, each room is named after a famous port around the world (there is even a port named Sharjah! How cool is that?).
Don’t be fooled by its simple aesthetic and hipster vibe, this hotel is complete with a swimming pool, a function hall, barbecue area, café and even a karaoke room.
The moment we arrived at The Kabin’s function hall, the whole set up looks like a cultural concert hall. There were numerous gongs in different sizes, there is also a white screen where the shadow play (Wayang Kulit) will be performed.
The word Gamelan is a Javanese word which means ‘being pounded upon’ and being true to that definition, Gamelan is performed with percussions instruments made from bronze (some in bamboo and iron). It is normally being played during ceremonies like weddings and circumcision rites. When you start hearing these musicians pound their gongs you can easily feel that there is a festivity happening in town.
We have the same musical influence in the south of the Philippines and I think it came from the same Indonesian origin.
It was fun watching them play. We also had time to try it ourselves. I was in charged with the kenong, a smaller version of a gong placed side by side together. To sum up my performance, they will definitely not going to hire me for the next gig hahaha.
Wayang Kulit, also known as Shadow Play is a traditional theater famous in the Malay culture. I remember seeing this in documentaries. I thought it was Thai but from what they told us, like the Gamelan, it is also an influence from Java.
Unfortunately during our visit, the Tuk Dalang (who is the one leading the show) had an emergency and can’t join us for the performance, however we still watched a short show (without the narration) just to see how it looks like.
Each puppet is made from thick cow hide and painted with flashy colors. I am really curious why they need to paint it, when all you can see are the shadows of the puppets. Interesting enough, every character in a Wayang Kulit play is specific. I posted one puppet in my instagram and a follower from Indonesia commented on the name of the character of the puppet—and she’s correct! How cool is that?
The Kompang Jawa is a musical performance that is mainly played on religious occasions. It is played at mosques, madrasahs (Arabic school), and other religious festivities. It was brought to Selangor by Javanese traders in the early 1900s.
Most of the performances include songs based from the Kitab Berzanji (Book of proses in praise of Prophet Muhammad pbuh).
It was very entertaining to watch. You’ll see a group of village men in sync together pounding their percussions.
SASARAN (SKY MIRROR)
On our second day, we didn’t do something musical in the morning, instead, we visited one of the famous sites in Selangor. It is also regarded as one of Selangor’s most instagrammable places. The Sasaran, famously known as the Sky Mirror.
The tricky part about Sasaran is that, it is a seasonal attraction, and even if you are in the exact date/s, tides can also be a factor.
We had help from Sky Mirror Tour & Travel (https://www.facebook.com/skymirrortour/) which is the official tour operator to visit Sasaran. Also, our guide knows well the tricks in taking the perfect shot to give the illusion of standing on the sky. So don’t be shy to ask him to take your snaps.
My friend Lily of www.lilyrianitravelholic.blogspot.com gave a very fun yet specific direction on how you can visit Sasaran: click here
HOMESTAY KAMPUNG HJ DORANI
The Dorani Homestay boasts as the most famous village homestays in Selangor. The moment you enter the property, you just want a hammock and sleep haha. Like a true provincial village house.
We had our lunch, a few snacks and also dinner here! AND THEY WERE ALL DELISH! Some of the dishes we too spicy for my palette but I didn’t mind.
The chalets are equip with a shower (so you can freshen up), you also have bedrooms and a terrace to chill at (some of my Muslim friends used it as a prayer room).
KUDA KEPANG & BARONGAN
In the same homestay, during our afternoon tea/snack, I saw some kids practicing what looked like a mask performance. The masks were a little creepy actually, but I was told that it will be part of the Kuda Kepang & Barongan Performance in the evening.
Before the main performances, we had a little taste of how a Kuda Kepang should be performed.
The Kuda Kepang (braided horse) is a dance ritual from the pre-Islamic times and now influenced by Islam. Carrying a wooded prop horse we were taught step by step on how this dance are being performed. It is a dance full of rocking your body back and forth like mimicking someone riding a horse.
We were told that during the olden times, Kuda Kepang performances involved people getting into trance which you rarely see today.
During the actual performance in the evening at the Kampung Dorani Homestay compound, Kuda Kepang was followed by a performance ritual called Barongan.
This made our night very interesting. Barongan, a dance brought in Malaysia from Java (circa 1722 AD), depicts stories from the era of Prophet Sulaiman, who can communicate with animals. The communicate with animals part became very surreal with us, as during the night’s main performances, participants of the Barongan dance, one by one got into trance. There were people who got possessed by a monkey, tiger, snake and even the shaman got possessed by a spirit of an elephant.
We didn’t know what to do. We want to film, take photos and watch but at the same time we were all jumpy and don’t know what to expect. At one point I even told one of my blogger friends that I don’t know if we will be able to get out of the village when the shaman, who supposed to control the whole thing, also got possessed.
The whole performances lasted for 2 hours and ended when the shaman exorcised each possessed performer one by one.
Until now I still don’t know what to think about it. My brain can’t completely process what I saw. There are still the questions of what’s real and what’s part of the act? With this said, I still feel privileged that I got to to watch it live, as my Malaysian friends said, this is something you can’t see all the time.
As the musical performances we’ve seen so far are all rooted from Java, watching the lion dance provided a bit of fresh air on our trip.
With a large Chinese population, it isn’t surprising that this cultural dance exists. We got toured around the factory where the dragon heads were being hand crafted. As an artisan myself, I was so amazed on their craftsmanship.
When we got watch the whole performance, we were all in awe of how dangerously amazing it was. These performers were jumping on posts like they were dancing on flat ground. JAW-DROPPED and a big applause.
A trip around Malaysia will not be complete without a taste of their amazing food.
I had my first authentic Nasi Lemak while on a boat ride from Sasaran. PERFECT BREAKFAST!!!
The most interesting food experience I had though was the Nasi Ambeng. It is a Javanese dish consists of Ayam Goreng (friend chicken), white rice stir fried noodles and fried coconut flesh. This is a big dish, and usually good for sharing (for two), and eaten together in one serving plate—that is why it is popularly known as a wedding dish. The best part is, you’ll each it with your hands.
Some food that we also tried are the stingray soup and the otak-otak (sort of a shrimp cake).
CLOSING DINNER AT SHAH ALAM
Our last stop was the capital of Selangor, Shah Alam. I have been to Shah Alam prior to this trip, so I got a chance to explore the city (link on the vlog soon). For this trip, we stayed at the Concorde Hotel Shah Alam where we held the closing dinner with a Batik Theme Night.
I didn’t bring any batik with me, good thing my friend Edgar (www.eazytaveler.com) brought 2 and lent me one. It was a perfect fit (yey..after all the food we ate, I had some doubts).
Concorde hotel is strategically located. It is at the center of the city and walking distance to the Majid Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz, which is known as the biggest mosque in Malaysia.
I must say, after 3 days of exploring around, it is hard to say goodbye to the new friends I met during this trip. The closing party was amazing! We had a lot of fun, perfect fit to end the amazing trip. We were entertained by the Balle Balle band by performing the regions colorful and festive tunes. They also played some contemporary songs which we were able to sing along and I even got to sing a Filipino song called ANAK (by Freddie Aguillar) as a request from the band, it was fun as I never saw myself singing this song ever haha. Also, I got awarded as Most Congenial delegate hahaha — I had the same recognition in Indonesia (and my universtiy graduation LOL).
Should say I really do blend in as a Malaysian. Our Batik themed closing night! Our Rentak Selangor Fam trip already ended and I am in a new trip in a new location in Malaysia. Really missing these peeps! Hoping to do a reunion soon! Ahem calling @gayatravel. Batik c/o @eazytraveler #RentakSelangor #SmartSelangor #DiscoverSelangor #GayaTravel #SamuraiWiFi #TheKabin
I really had a lot of fun exploring Selangor. I was told at beginning of the trip that Selangor is still looking for its identity, because of all the influences brought by different factors. After going around the state, I can say that this cultural diversity is what makes Selangor unique and it is its identity. I believe that the world should see how rich Selangor is in terms of culture and heritage, something worth experiencing just beyond the borders of Kuala Lumpur.
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