Batik&Bubbles endeavours to share the latest in arts, culture and travel, especially of that in our home country of Malaysia.
So how fortunate were we, that we got invited to catch a sneak peek at one of Pahang's recently refurbished historical treasures, the Museum Sultan Abu Bakar, which stands forth as a glorious landmark not to be missed in the royal town of Pekan!
Entering the magnificent grounds of this historic building, one is taken aback by the beauty and grandeur of the building. Originally erected in 1888 and in the late 1920's occupied by the British government, the building was once the residence of a British official and then later used as a fortress during the Japanese occupation in World War II, until it was finally handed back to the British after the war had ended.
It then became the formal palace of Sultan Abu Bakar of Pahang in 1965, and then eventually turned into a museum in 1976. The museum was named after the former Sultan of Pahang, the late father of the current Sultan Ahmad Shah.
The museum now stands proudly in the town of Pekan, with a huge expanse of green lawn right in front of it, and beyond that sweeping views of the glorious Pahang river. Wooden statues of elephants and horses are dotted around the front lawn as well as a plane, tanker and helicopter which belong to the Pahang state government.
The museum has been enjoying a phase of refurbishment under the helm of Director, Dato' Ahmad Farid bin Abdul Jalal, as part of the government's East Coast Economic Region Development Corporation until its re-opening last month.
This particular plan focuses on both the social and economic development welfare of Pahang, Terengganu, Kelantan and Mersing (Johor). For Pahang, this involve the planning and refurbishment of museums in Pekan and Pahang named the "Intellectual Garden", a concept which aims to boost tourism for the state and create jobs for residents in Pahang.
The museum then employed the services of architectural company Nagata Arch back in 2010 to implement the new concept and design of the museum.
According to Mr Nagata Tamegoro, Managing Director of Nagata Arch, a lot of work has been done to the museum including the overall interior design.
"All of the new landscape and gardens, changing of the original building interior including new AC system, building exterior refurbishment and display design including display cases and shelves have been worked on to bring the old museum to its current state" he told Batik&Bubbles.
"The main inspiration was generated by the impression of Pekan town. We found many gentle verdurous scenery such as the river side trees, Royal Palace, Royal polo field, Kampung houses with their gardens and so on. Pekan gave us the impression of 'Garden Town Pekan' which Kuantan or KL does not have. That's why we came to have the main concept 'Garden Museum' for museums in Pekan. Also through our experiences we originally believe that museums should be the 'real public space' for citizens and we thought this concept can be applied to this museum", Mr Nagata continued.
The garden concept has been perfectly captured, as a stroll through the grounds of Museum Sultan Abu Bakar reveals the thoughtful creation and design of green spaces around the Museum. We can't help being a little envious that the museum employees get to work in this peaceful and tranquil surroundings every day!
Thanks to the creative direction of Dato' Ahmad Farid bin Abdul Jalal and the impeccable design concepts and building works of Mr Nagata and company, the building has been maintained with an ode to its glorious old world charm. From the splendid grand wooden staircases and floors, to its lofty high ceilings and framed archways, their beauty beckons the visitor to explore and wander its realms even further!
In 2015, the museum has gained international recognition by being awarded the prestigious accolade, the DFA Design for Asian Award in Communication Design in Hong Kong. This certainly is further proof of the high quality and standards in design that have been set out through the whole restoration and refurbishment project.
After wandering around the ground floor which houses many beautiful examples of antique pottery and ceramics from around the world, in particular the Chinese Ming Dynasty, we walk up to the first floor where we are greeted by a grand display and set up of how a Gamelan Orchestra would look like.
For those of you unfamiliar to Gamelan, the Malay gamelan is traditionally used to welcome and entertain Pahang royalty and guests at official functions or events.
It is usually made up of a 7 piece instrument but this time we are presented with 6. The Gambang (wooden xylophone), the Keromong (10 piece set of metal gongs), a pair of hanging Gongs (Gong Kecil and Gong Besar), Gendang (a barrel drum), Kenong (3 large kettle drums) and a pair of Sarons.
Surrounding this gamelan display, are portraits of members of the Pahang Royal Family including Sultan Abu Bakar, Sultan Ahmad Shah, his second wife Sultana Kalsom binti Abdullah, the Crown Prince Tengku Abdullah and Crown Princess Tengku Tuan Pahang.
The museum also gives us a glimpse into the lives of the Royal House of Pahang with adjoining rooms containing relics from the wedding of the Crown Prince and Crown Princess. There are photos of the the couple performing the solemnization ceremony and marriage vows taken.
We just loved how all the items and memorabilia were beautifully displayed around the venue, showcasing various occasions and royal marriage ceremonies in Pahang history.
It was also extremely pleasing to see portraits of the Sultan Ahmad Shah and his first wife, Tengku Ampuan Afzan binti Tengku Panglima Perang Muhammad who passed away in 1988. The black and white painting is actually copied from an existing photograph and one can't help admiring the beauty and grandeur of the wedding gowns and regalia. It's interesting to see this glimpse into the past, since we are well familiar of the beautiful portraits of the Sultan and his elegant second wife, Sultana Kalsom binti Abdullah gracing the Royal town of Pekan.
I loved the fact that there were lots of quiet spots to rest and ponder at around the museum building and outdoor walkways. One can easily take a quick break to take in the beauty of this amazing building and enjoy its green leafy pathways and historic structures.
The Museum is currently hosting an international award winning exhibit from the United Kingdom called "1001 Inventions " Exhibit featuring key discoveries during the Islamic Golden age, which is covered in great detail (see link above).
On another wing of the building named Bunga Pekan, one can view several examples of Islamic calligraphy together with musical instruments.
I particularly enjoyed the display of antique wooden doors and frames which were placed around the room. It's fun to guess how old they are and to which building they originally came from. You couldn't help just admire the beauty of the carvings and its resplendent artistry.
Which brings us to the final room of the museum that we explored. The walls have been painted in black and dramatic lighting showcases the various exhibits such as spears that have been made by the Orang Asli, the native people of Malaysia.
I loved how the display had been so thoughtfully placed in such a way that evoked so much drama and theatre in the room. One wonders if these spears were actually used in combat or in hunting by these fierce hunters!
There was also a striking display of many types of keris, a dagger representative of Malaysian warriors of bygone days . The blade itself is either jagged or wavy and is designed for its owner. It is often said that the keris has supernatural powers and must be well taken care of and therefore, a specific ritual is performed on the keris to bathe it in oil and cleanse with a lime. Visitors can take note that the theme of the keris is carried throughout the inner courtyard with several huge and elaborate keris sculptures placed around as seen in the picture below.
Batik&Bubbles loved our visit to the Sultan Abu Bakar Museum and highly recommend taking a visit from Kuala Lumpur to get an in-depth educational and cultural tour of Pahang's history and traditions. Especially with its recent refurbishment, one can truly enjoy a magical tour in this historic Malaysian town, a true testament to Malaysia's diverse history and rich culture!
The Museum Sultan Abu Bakar is in Pekan, Pahang and is located at Jalan Sultan Ahmad, Pekan. Tel: (09-422 1371, 09-422 1459).The entrance fee is only RM 5 for visitors from outside Pahang and RM 4 for locals. Entrance is free for children aged 12 years and below!
If you are planning to make an weekend trip, and we do recommend staying at least one night, the Ancasa Royale Hotel is your best bet in Pekan with gorgeous riverside views. See www.ancasahotels.com