Don’t underestimate the charms of Malaysia’s small towns, like Sitiawan


Growing up in Penang has clearly familiarised me with the tales of the early Catholic missionaries who constructed church buildings, colleges, and orphanages there.

After all, I studied at St Xavier’s Institution, which, by the way, is celebrating its one hundred and seventieth anniversary this yr.

Next to the college is the Church of the Assumption, which was arrange by the Eurasian neighborhood who adopted Captain Francis Light from Phuket in Thailand to Penang in 1786.

Across the college is the Convent Light Street, which was established in 1852 by French Catholic nuns.

Down the street is St George’s Church, its completion in 1818 pushed by Rev Robert Sparke Hutchings, who additionally based the Penang Free School in 1816 and the Hutchings School.

The magnificent St George’s Church is the oldest purpose-built Anglican church in South-East Asia.

Despite spending over a decade in a Catholic college, I by no means grew to become Christian.

None of the Christian brothers tried to transform me, both, though I spent an inordinate quantity of time praying at the SXI chapel and at Assumption – largely to hunt non secular miracles to make sure this dummy handed his maths exams!

So, once I lastly embraced Christianity 21 years in the past and have become a Methodist, the small coastal city of Sitiawan in Perak intrigued me.

The Pioneer Chinese Methodist Church in Sitiawan has been around since 1927.The Pioneer Chinese Methodist Church in Sitiawan has been round since 1927.

Almost all the Protestant pastors from the church that I’ve met appear to come back from this quaint place. More exactly, this sleepy hole is a producer of pastors.

So lastly, just a few weeks in the past, I took a brief drive to Sitiawan from Ipoh, the place I used to be masking the common election in Tambun.

Certainly, I had by no means seen so many Protestant church buildings, nearly subsequent to one another, in a single place, however that’s no shock.

In September 1903, Sitiawan acquired a non secular enhance when 360 Christian Foochow of us, determined to flee the poverty in Fujian, a southern province in China, made their method to this place.

They settled in Kampung Koh, the place the well-known chilli sauce maker for dim sum is situated.

The boss, Ku Sok Han, who joked he’s the authentic “Bos Ku”, is a Methodist, too.

The British colonists, fed up with the warring Chinese teams, had been pleased with the church-going arrivals who shunned playing, opium smoking, prostitution and triad actions.

They had been dropped at Malaya by a German Methodist missionary, Dr H.L.E. Luering, along with the first Foochow missionary, Rev Ling Ching Mi.

The duo was despatched by the Methodist Episcopal Mission in China to recruit poor villagers to start out a purposeful agricultural settlement in Malaya, in keeping with web site Christianity Malaysia.

“At that time, Malaya was a safe haven for the Foochow people who were escaping the heavy persecution of the Qing dynasty on Christians,” it stated, including that 484 individuals boarded the S.S. Glenfalloch.

But many died on the voyage, and when it arrived in St John’s Island, Singapore, for cholera quarantine, many additionally disappeared.

According to a thesis by Dr Khaw Sok Lee, 5 died on the excessive seas, 12 at St John’s Island resulting from a cholera outbreak, and 104 disappeared in the Singapore crowd or had been unaccounted for.

A complete of 363 individuals – 236 males, 72 girls and 55 youngsters – lastly made it in two batches in 1903.

At Kampong Koh, wells had been the fundamental supply of ingesting water for the settlers.

They had been inspired by the British to plant rice, however the soil wasn’t appropriate, and shortly, they ventured into livestock farming and rubber plantations.

The historical past of the settlers has been effectively documented in the Sitiawan Settlement Museum, which showcases the heritage of the native Foochow neighborhood with photographs and artefacts from the early days.

The museum sits in the compound of the church constructed by Dr Luering and Rev Ling in 1905 at a price of $900. Sadly, the home of worship burnt down the following yr. The present constructing dates from 1927 and is named the Pioneer Methodist Church.

In entrance of the Pioneer church is a street named after the Rev Ling Ching Mi.

He can be Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik’s nice grandfather. Liong Sik was an MCA president and Transport Minister.

The street is known as Lin Chen Mei, which is the pinyin model of Ling Ching Mi’s fuzhou identify.

My spouse and I had been fortunate to have a private guided tour by Pastor Paul Ling, who was born and grew up in Sitiawan.

“My grandfather, Ling Ting Kuai, was the founder of the Trinity Methodist Church (in Pekan Gurney, Sitiawan),” he stated, including that certainly, Sitiawan has been blessed to have such a robust Christian basis.

But there have been additionally early non-Christian settlers, which explains the widespread vacationer spots of the Wat Sitawanaram Buddhist temple and the Tua Pek Kong temple, about 7km from the city centre, with its many grand temples.

Playing vacationer, I queued up for 45 minutes – a lot to the amusement of Pastor Ling – for the well-known Kong Piah biscuits.

“No one can say they went to Sitiawan unless they’ve tasted this Foochow crispy biscuit,” he stated, including that it’s made up of flour and yeast, with fillings corresponding to minced pork, onion and sugar.

Another important is its “mee sua”, which accurately means “thread noodles”, resulting from its lengthy and skinny form.

The writer (right) with Ku Sok Han, the boss of the famous dim sum chilli sauce, in Kampong Koh, Sitiawan.The author (proper) with Ku Sok Han, the boss of the well-known dim sum chilli sauce, in Kampong Koh, Sitiawan.

This flour vermicelli in purple glutinous wine with rooster meat, has a close to sacred status on this coastal city. So, any detached views from this ignorant and parochial Penangite would absolutely not be tolerated!

After importing photos of my journey in Sitiawan on my Instagram, I obtained many feedback from my followers, suggesting that I ought to strive the well-known James Cendol, or James Muniandy, in entrance of the Store grocery store, however I simply didn’t have the time.

So, that calls for one more two-hour journey from Petaling Jaya to this place through the newly opened and time-saving West Coast Highway, and this time, it is going to be purely for a vacation.

Sitiawan, which continues to provide many pastors, is satirically additionally well-known for being the residence of the late Chin Peng, the head of the infamous Communist Party of Malaya.

Born Ong Boon Hua, his ancestors, too, got here from Fuzhou, China, and curiously, and in his memoir titled Chin Peng: My Side of The Story by British journalist Ian Ward, Chin Peng spoke of his childhood in Sitiawan and of his participation in the 10-boy Methodist Church choir.

He narrated about rising up in Kampung Koh, the place he was enrolled in a kindergarten run by the Sitiawan Methodist Church.

He went to a tiny wood Methodist church run by Pastor Shi Yu Shou, the place he took half in singing for Christmas or Easter.

“If my life depended on it, I could still sing Yasoh ai wor – Jesus Loves Me – in Hokkien and Onward Christian Soldiers in English,” he stated in the e book.

His life may maybe have been completely different if he had chosen a unique path. But Sitiawan actually has an fascinating previous in addition to current, one behind its sleepy façade.

This small city may effectively be your vacation spot this Christmas for a giant celebration. It’s additionally nearly 15km away from the picturesque Pangkor Island. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

At the Sitiawan Settlement Museum, you will find many photos and artefacts that document the history of the settlers in the area. At the Sitiawan Settlement Museum, you will discover many photographs and artefacts that doc the historical past of the settlers in the space.

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