Once upon a time in Ipoh

The capital of Perak State, Ipoh, is the third largest city in Malaysia, with an estimated population of 710,000. Ipoh is known for many things, but historically, it was instrumental in the tin mining industry, which led to an economic boom in the region around the turn of the 19th century. Some people remembered the city fondly as the town built on tin, and even the city of millionaires – which alludes to the riches excavated from the mines of Kinta Valley. Ipoh is also known as Paloh, which refers to the gigantic mining pumps used in the process of tin ore extraction in the early days. On 27 May 1988, Ipoh town was granted city status by the much-loved Sultan of Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah.

At the pinnacle of production, 75% of the world’s supply of tin came from Malaya where the mines were open cast and excavated by monitor pumps. However, as with most finite resources extracted from the earth, the mines eventually ran out of the precious metal everybody wanted. The machines and implements used for tin mining were slowly but surely reduced to relics of the good old days.

Tin ore on display at the Heritage House, Gopeng Museum, Perak.
Tin ore on display at the Heritage House, Gopeng Museum, Perak.

It is quite hard these days to find an actual tin mining dredge in good condition, as most had been in disuse and eventually fell into disrepair. However, there is one such dredge in Chendrong, which can be seen along the Batu Gajah-Tanjung Tualang Road. The dredge has now been hailed as a heritage icon and proposed to be turned into a museum. It is managed by Osborne & Chapel, and visitors may enter the place to view the dredge during opening hours.

The last tin mine dredge in Chendrong, Perak
The last tin mine dredge in Chendrong, Perak (side view)

It is undeniable that the mining dredge is a very impressive and gigantic structure, easily visible to the casual onlooker from the main road. The first thought that came to my mind when I saw it from afar was that it reminded me of a huge steam ship. But that’s just me. 🙂

The last tin mine dredge in Chendrong, Perak
The last tin mine dredge in Chendrong, Perak (front view)

Some people have found creative ways to utilise the mining equipment. For example, in 1997, the artist Yeoh Jin Leng built a sculpture called ‘Goodbye Tin-Mining’ that stands over 30 feet high. She used dredge steel buckets, a drive wheel and steel girds to depict the closure of the tin-mining industry in the Kinta Valley.

Sculpture entitled 'Goodbye Tin-Mining'. The sculpture is located inside Clearwater Sanctuary, Perak.
Sculpture entitled ‘Goodbye Tin-Mining’. The sculpture is located inside Clearwater Sanctuary, Perak.

Here’s the side view of the sculpture:

Sculpture entitled 'Goodbye Tin-Mining'. The sculpture is located inside Clearwater Sanctuary, Perak.
Side view of the sculpture entitled ‘Goodbye Tin-Mining’.

The plaque in front of the sculpture:

Plaque in front of a sculpture entitled 'Goodbye Tin-Mining'. The sculpture is located inside Clearwater Sanctuary, Perak.
Plaque in front of the sculpture.

Dredge steel buckets have also been converted into decorative objects. They weigh over a ton each, so the decorators probably needed a crane of some sort to move them around.

Dredge steel buckets used as decoration at a small roundabout in Clearwater Sanctuary, Perak.
Dredge steel buckets used as decorations at a small roundabout in Clearwater Sanctuary, Perak.
Dredge steel bucket on display next to the main entrance of the Tourism Centre in Ipoh Old Town.
A dredge steel bucket on display next to the main entrance of the Tourism Centre in Ipoh Old Town.

When I looked at this raincoat in the Heritage House @ Gopeng Museum (see below), I envisioned the workers in the tin mine wearing this type of raincoat when they worked in the rain.

Old fashioned raincoat from the olden days.
Old fashioned raincoat from the olden days.

To see old black and white photos from the days of the tin mines, visit the Kinta Tin Mining page.

To read more about the last dredge in Chendrong, Perak, see the Ipoh Echo article on ‘Saving the Last of the Giant Tin Dredges‘.

To find out more about Ipoh, visit the Ipoh Tourism Board page and the Ipoh page on Wikipedia.

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What am I?

Riddle

I come in a pair
That the dainty wear
Embroidered in thread
Of silver, gold or red

Adorned with shiny beads
Colourful and tiny as seeds
Flat or set on high heels
Wear me and elation feels

I flatter all who slip me on
Kebayas and sarongs worn
Match your favourite colours
Admire your finery for hours

Can you guess what I am?
I am a pair of Peranakan beaded shoes.

An original riddle by
Khor Hui Min
27 June 2014

Beads to be sewn into traditional peranakan or nyonya beaded slippers
Beads to be sewn into traditional Peranakan or nyonya beaded slippers
Beaded work to be sewn into traditional peranakan or nyonya beaded slippers
Beaded work to be sewn into traditional Peranakan or nyonya beaded slippers

The Peranakan community, also popularly referred to as the Baba-Nyonya, is unique and only found in certain parts of Asia. In the Malay Peninsular, the community is commonly centred around the former British Straits Settlements of Penang (northern), Melaka (central) and Singapore (southern). The community came into being when Chinese traders married the local Malay women and settled down in the area, which is mainly why the communities are found largely in regions with ports. The ladies were referred to as ‘nyonya’, while the men were referred to as ‘baba’.

The origin of the Peranakan beaded slippers can be traced back to the early 20th century. Back then, the beaded slippers were worn by both men and women, but in modern times, only ladies wear them now. The beaded shoes were symbols of status, because they were handmade by highly skilled artisans,who took many hours to complete each pair. The shoes were worn by ladies to complement their ‘sarong kebaya’ outfit. Other adornments worn with the outfit include the ‘kerongsang’ (elaborate chained brooches) and a multitude of beautifully crafted jewellery.

A set of three chained brooches or 'kerongsang' worn by nyonya ladies. The 'kerongsang' is used to pin the embroidered kebaya blouse together (in place of modern buttons).
A set of three chained brooches or ‘kerongsang’ worn by nyonya ladies. The ‘kerongsang’ is used to pin the embroidered ‘kebaya’ blouse together (in place of modern buttons).

The three photos above were taken at the Straits Chinese Jewellery Museum, Melaka, Malaysia, on 6 December 2013.

To read up more on the Peranakan community and culture as well as their unique beaded shoes, see:
1. The Penang Heritage City website.
2. The Wikipedia page on Peranakan beades shoes.
3. The Wikipedia page on the Peranakan community.

To learn more about writing riddles, visit the Young Writers’ website.