Sunday, June 28, 2009


Sometime ago, flashes of Kellie's Castle and other heritage sites used to pop up during my Astro viewings on TV. It piqued my curiosity. Here's a 'castle in the sky'( on a ridge),abandoned, uncompleted and of a bygone era right here in Malaysia. I've walked into many stately castles on my overeas travel. Surely, this castle warrants a look-see, at least.

Things don't just happen ,so it was planned that on the way back to KL from Damai Laut Resort, there would be a stopover with my folks. So we made a detour to Batu Gajah.

I liked what I saw at first glance. So, that's the famed castle - on top of a hill and a river sweeps by with a bridge to cross over. An imposing sight!

Kellie's Castle was built by a Scottish planter, William Smith-Kellie in 1915. As a youg adventurer, he came to Malaysia, then Malaya to seek his fortunes. He befriended an estate owner, Alma Baker. Fortune smiled on Smith and with his wealth, he started to plant rubber trees and dabbled in the tin mining industry. Soon he was the proud owner of the Kinta Kellas estate and the Kinta Dredging Company.

Around 1909/1910, Smith built his first mansion. He returned home to marry his Scottish sweetheart, Agnes. 5 years later when their son, heir apparent was born, Smith expanded on his mansion. He started building Kellie's castle which he planned to call Kellas House, after his hometown in Scotland.

It was to surpass his country house. Smith brought in 70 workers from Madras including the bricks and marble for the stately abode. It was to be linked to the first by a covered passageway. 2 tunnels were designed to run under the river. The design too incorporated Islamic influences in the dome shaped windows and stately columns. Smith planned 14 rooms , including a wine cellar. Amazingly a 6 storey tower was to have the first elevator ever in Malaya ! Added to these grandiose plans were a indoor tennis court and a rooftop courtyard for parties. Smith had wanted a moat to complete the mansion . Truly, it was more of a castle than a country house. Such news made it to The London Financial Newspaper on 15 Sept 1911.

But tragedy struck. A mysterious disease broke out and killed many of Smith's workers. The superstitious Smith was told that a temple must be built to appease the gods. He duly obliged and transferred the workers to build the Hindu temple.

Fate dealt another blow. A second tragedy struck. Few stories are told of his death. The oft quoted story says Smith died suddenly of pneumonia in Lisbon. He was said to be on his way to take delivery of the elevator that he ordered for his mansion.

Agnes could not imagine a solitary life in Malaya. Heartbroken, she sold the estate to a British company, Harrisons and Crosfield and returned to Scotland. So, ended a colonial planter's dreams.

We wandered around the empty rooms - bedrooms, large linen storage room,living room, kitchen etc. If only walls could speak...

I thought how grand the castle would have been if it had seen its glory. I climbed to the rooftop and lingered for a little. What a view!

Now its up to us to preserve Kellie's Castle. No undergrowth or jungle need creep up to it anymore. Nor it be left derelict. It is too fascinating and important in the local history to be left abandoned. Due thanks to the Department of Museum and Antiquities which stepped in to restore to the condition it was when work was abruptly halted in 1926.

The castle and the grounds are well-maintained. It was good to see tourists coming to have a glimpse into the history of a bygone era. To get to know a man who had big dreams and wanted to live like a king.

Rumours swirl about ghost sightings of Smith. It was broad daylight when we were there. I certainly didn't have any eerie feelings nor do I believe in ghosts.

So what piqued my curiosity is satisfied. Long live Kellie's Castle! May the soul of William Smith - Kellie rest in peace.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Art from the Heart

'A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.'
- Chinese Proverb

Looked like the birds had winged to the concourse of the Ikano Power Centre, Mutiara Damansara during the recent school hoildays.

There was much twittering - birds and humans! In one swift flight the KL Bird Park had come to the cool comfort of the concrete complex of the shopping cenntre. Albeit in the form of a mini aviary and other associated activities.

Whoever thought of the idea has my vote.Judging by the interest generated, chances are our tourist attraction will see more people visiting the Bird Park at the Lake Garden. A couple of years ago we heard the Bird Park, touted as the 'World's Biggest Walk -In Aviary' was in the doldrums. Not any more.

The place was crowded with a festive air. But my eyes were attracted by the silent frenzy of activity among the children. They sat there quite oblivious to all the loud announcements pounding over the PA of the shopping centre. Mothers, siblings, grannies, the odd fathers were up close the little ones as their fingers guided the crayons across the paper.

School's out - so it was time to walk away from the mountainous homework and the long tutorials. It was time to draw birds and take part in an art competition. To explore nature. Or just to be part of the family fun and the myriad of activities.

Some drawings were displayed on the wall. The children drew and coloured their birds - some in flight or perched with songs to sing. Wings soared towards the sky as if to say, 'Free! Free! Forever free!
What a coincidence! Back home,I had a scoop myself. Downloading the pictures taken, it suddenly dawned on me that among some books was a drawing of an eagle done by my second daughter.She was 11 then. It was drawn lovingly to accompany Lord Tennyson's poem,'The Eagle'.

I had kept some drawings I liked in a folder. I searched a little harder and to my utter delight,I found it and 2 more! They belong to the 2 siblings. Gosh! I had forgotten myself!

Obviously there were many times when drawing and colouring were done in full abandon. Looking at these art pieces is looking back to their tender years of growing up.

I showed them to my husband. I knew the same thoughts ran through our minds . How they've grown! Now they are 23,27 and 29. Only beautiful memories to cherish.:)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Orchid beauties

The other day I thought it was time to stroll the Orchid Garden Kuala Lumpur to buy a couple of the free flowering type. Also, to find out what's new there, if any.

I was pleasantly greeted by a riot of colours. Hues of orange, purple, red, yellow, pink, and a mixed palette. The many shades astound my senses. Hey, sunshine equals flowers! And we've been having plenty to have the sweat trickle down our necks. A big sign welcomes visitors: TAMAN ORKID KUALA LUMPUR.

It's an easy wander around the orchid garden. It sits atop a hillock and the slightly undulating terrain makes a more interesting walk. Benches under a covered canopy with lots of ferns among the orchids give respite to tired feet. The sound of cascading water from a fountain or two makes the place so inviting , to sit and soak in the beauty around.

Even towards the early noon, the insects were singing their songs above the peaceful air about the garden. The birds were calling too. But if its anything more raucous , it's from The Bird Park which is just a hop over from the Orchid Garden.

Orchids are extraordinary wondrous beauties. The Orchidaceae probably constitutes the largest family among the the higher flowering plants. Many hybrids exist today. It is the Vanda Miss Joaquim, a free flowering hybrid which started off the orchid industry in South East Asia. Later, this gave rise to commercial interest throughout the world.

Besides being cherished for its beauty, the orchid is appreciated for its decorative qualities. Many artisans are inspired by the orchid in the making of jewellry, ornaments. Orchids are also favourites for corsages to be pinned on the lapels of VIPs for events. Not forgetting lovely bouquets too. Walk into hotel lobbies and chances are orchids stand centre stage to greet tired visitors with their burst of colours.

I bought a Dendrobium Genting Rose from one of the stalls. Cuttings, plant, souvenirs etc are sold at these stalls. The assistant was an Indonesian chap. He impressed me with the names of the flowers. To every name asked, he gave them with hesitating. One caught my eye and I asked . His reply: 'It's Aranda Doctor Siti Hasmah.' I whipped out my camera again. Certainly this specie needs attention. After all, she is our former Prime Minister's wife.

I wish City Hall (DBKL) would take a cue from him. Look into labelling the plants. It'd be good to rattle off a few names as we view the flowers. Names can be tongue -twisters but familiarity makes it easier!

My orchids do not stand out among my green plants as I have only a few pots. But when they flower, they do attract compliments. I take the easy way out and nurture the free flowering ones namely the dendrobiums.

The common pigeon orchid (dendrobium crumenatum) holds special memories. It came from my late mother -in-law's garden . She was a garden enthusiast herself and she grew lots of orchids of the Vanda specie. At the base of the plants were dried clumps of cow dung. Organic and nourishing! These lined the driveway to her house.

The pigeon orchid was all forlorn on a tree trunk. So I took a stalk. As the name suggests, when it fully blooms, it is shaped like a pigeon. No mistaking , pure and white.

My brother -in-law gave me a dendrobium anosmum ( whitish pink) with its hairy lips.It is another of my fragrant plants.

In a corner of my garden clasped against the tree trunk of the Filicium Decipien, is the Oncidium, commonly known as Dancing Lady. My husband in one of his rare romantic gestures, bought me this plant for my birthday. Over the years t has flourished. Now it's growing wild!! So, love is STILL in the air! A riot of yellow colour there! As it hangs, the large protruding yellow striped lip is the most prominent feature of the flower.

The Orchid Garden is definitely worth a visit. Take a stroll and enjoy these glorious beauties.

I could do with a gift of flowers anytime :))

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Happy Birthday BARBIE!

Does the name Barbara Millicent Roberts ring a bell? I daresay not. I for one was totally blur about this trivia.

But we all know BARBIE. Folks, it's HER! That's her real name! It's a name synonymous with doll, fashion and play. 50 years to be exact. Barbie even has a birthday -7 March, 1959. She has enamoured countless fans , filled a spot in their lives too, especially the growing up years. Some love her to bits!

Didn't we play with paper dolls and had memorable hours of enjoyment dressing them up till the paper tabs were worn? Ruth Handler observed her little girl, Barbara at play and giving adult roles to her paper dolls. She instinctively felt there was need to make a doll for her daughter to play. Out of her ideas, Barbie was born and Mattel Inc. was founded. The rest, like they say is history.

Today, there's no signs of Mattel slowing dwn. It is the largest toy company in the world. According to sources at Christie's, 3 Barbie dolls are sold every second!! Barbie has generated much interest. I read she's listed at number 43 on the list of ` The Most Influential People Who Never Lived' ! ! That's material for discussion. Others include the Malboro Man and Luke Skywalker.

My children grew up on a staple of stories other than Barbie. They loved the dolls, clothes, and the accessories I bought them. Barbie gave them lots of fun and play. If you've been in a crowd of children who love Barbie, you'd soon realize they truly love their doll.

My interest in Barbie was renewed recently. I ws asked to do storytelling for the new Barbie season. Have been doing the same for several seasons when Barbie is ready to spill the thrills. This season is Barbie ~ Thumbelina.

In Thumbelina, there's the eco -message of preserving the natural lansdcape besides the themes of friendship, co-operation and other values. My role as a storyteller is to let the message reach out to the kids. After all, they love Barbie and I'm the link as they listen.

An activity I liked about the new Barbie season was the dressing up. A child said she loved 'the makeover' as she patiently waited for her turn. Kids chose their favourite clothes and the make up artistes were at hand to apply the rouge, lipstick, style the hair for the kids to 'live' their dreams. The tiara seemed to crown it all with their winning smiles too. Of course, the cameras clicked non-stop while they posed. It was a time to enjoy the moment. Bagful of memories on an outing with Barbie.

Back to Barbie's birthday. She celebrated it with much pomp and grandeur. A 6 storey emporium in Shanghai, a pink Barbie flagship store opened to coincide with her birthday. It targets 3-8 year old, teenagers and yes, mums too.

Incidentally I spotted a t -shirt for adults among the clothes whilst I was among the Barbie fans/admirers. Hey, I was tempted to buy one for myself. It was sweet, understated and suits my taste. But I decided to keep my money. Next time, I will sport Barbie!

Ok, Birthday Girl, my love affair with you has to end, at least for now. You are always around. And I bet, you'll be for a long time...