Thinking Allowed

Kuala Kangsar, Not Just another Royal Town

Thinking Allowed


Kuala Kangsar, affectionately called KK is home to around 40,000 people. It is sometimes difficult to appreciate your hometown especially when you have lived there all your life. Often, it is the visitors and tourists who see an area differently from the person who has spent many years there.

Why Kuala Kangsar?

KK has much history, culture and many activities. For the people who call KK home, the area between the clock tower and the Perak River, commonly known as Lembah, is the centre of activity.

What do you miss most when you’re away?

Going to Lembah and enjoying the six things KK is famous for; popiah basah (spring rolls), cendol (a type of dessert), laksa KK (an authentic laksa KK has noodles which are hand-made from rice flour), pasembor (Indian salad), and any dish with durian, such as tempoyak (fermented durian) and also murtabak Pa’ Mat Pendek.

What’s the first thing you do when you return?

Pa’ Mat Pendek’s murtabaks. He can be found selling his generous portions of murtabak – roti canai filled with an egg, red onion and chicken or beef mixture, at all the pasar malams in KK.

Where’s the best place to stay?

Although KK has a range of budget hotels, most visitors find the rest house, within walking distance of Lembah, a convenient base.

Where would you meet friends for a coffee and chat?

The Lembah, for its food, and the fantastic views of the jungle greenery with the Perak river flowing towards the coast. Kids can play on the playground amenities whilst waiting for their food, but you must keep an eye on them and tell them not to venture too close to the river banks. The currents can be deceiving.

In town, the Yut Loy, a typical coffee-shop which whips up Hainanese food, is a fantastic place for the dishes which have stood the test of time. Get there early because the pau (steamed buns) sell out quickly.

Where are your favourite places for lunch?

The Lembah has several stalls to cater for a variety of tastes. The Yut Loy for nostalgia and home-cooked Hainanese cuisine and western favourites like beef steak or chicken chop, always served with crinkle cut fries and thick brown gravy.

The town is easily explored on foot and many restaurants are available. A good guide to popularity and quality, are the long queues at lunchtime.

And for dinner?

The pasar malam is perfect to see the food KK residents have to offer the first-time visitor and long-time resident. They are excellent value for money. The pasar malams are located at different locations around the town, so just ask around to find out where they are.

Where would you send a first-time visitor?

The Clock Tower is the perfect starting point to discover KK. In the great flood of 1926, the river waters rose and reached the top of this clock tower. The nearby school, Sekolah Menengah Raja Perempuan Kalsum has two main sporting areas – the hockey field, which is connected by a series of steps to the netball area. Each step records the height of flood waters in successive floods, when the Perak River broke its banks and engulfed the town.

The town is dripping with history, from architecture to artifacts. The royal palace with its art-deco design. The pillars and staircases of the school buildings of KK’s more famous schools, which reflect its colonial past. The older royal palaces made of wood, the Ubaidiah mosque with its Moorish design and the sprinkling of traditional houses dotted in and around KK and Sayong, on the opposite side of the Perak River, to Lembah.

Take a boat ride across the river to Sayong, and walk around a traditional Malay village. You can see the fishermen mending their nets, housewives gossiping as they make their kuih and children diving off the jetty into the river. Beware! Sungai Perak is reputed to demand a sacrifice every five years.

People flock to Lembah for traditional wares and kitchen implements such as pounders and moulds for kuih and local cakes. There are winnowing trays, graters and knives ranging from kris to parangs.

The swimming pool near the Rest House, has, over the past two years, become quite an attraction. The Rest House is less than a 15-minute walk from many of KK’s major attractions. In the morning and late afternoon, the recreational parks are teeming with people jogging or doing Tai Chi. Families like to take their children out for a walk and perhaps a bite to eat at Lembah, a short walk away.

As one walks along the path, away from the town, the visitor can marvel at Raja Mazwin’s house, the Sultan Azlan Shah gallery, the administrative offices of Setiausaha Kerajaan Negeri (SUK), the royal mausoleum, the Ubaidiah mosque, the palace and the old royal palace, Istana Kenangan, made entirely of wood.

Away from the river and heading inland, one can see the first rubber tree planted in Malaya and then proceed towards the two boys’ schools, which has a high level of academic excellence – The Clifford School and the Malay College.

The girls’ school with outstanding achievement is the Sekolah Menengah Raja Perempuan Kalsum, which is located near the Clock Tower.

What would you tell them to avoid?

At night, avoid Jalan Bukit Chandan, the road from the rest house leading to the palace, as it is rather eerie, and visitors are advised not to travel alone.

Public transport or taxi?

There is a taxi stand near the bus station. The taxi ranks are busy during the day but at night, are converted into food stalls. The bus station is a hub for travel with express buses and hop-on, hop-off buses operating.

Am I safe walking around KK?

Most locals claim that KK is relatively safe.  As in every town, one should exercise vigilance and be streetwise. Keep handbags close to the body, and walk along the kerb.

What should I take home?

Labu sayong (the clay vases), parang and kris – all available from Lembah. The local fruits, if it is the fruit season.

And if I’ve only time for one shop?


A team effort by Mariam Mokhtar, Mrs Y. Engga & Ms Fossil

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