Published: May 22nd 2012May 10th 2012
With the excitement of my speaking engagement at the now concluded Malaysian International Tourism Bloggers Conference & Awards (MITBCA) not fully subsided, I was further enlivened by additional surprises of the most pleasant kind. Since I have previously purchased Royal Selangor pewter as christening gifts for my nephew and niece, I decided to visit their Visitor Centre
. Fi, (who has been travelling for four months) joined me for the tour, and this was the tenth country we had met - a fine achievement – despite this occasion being dictated by the necessity for me to carry her broken Nikon camera to Australia for a warranty repair.
Arriving at the Visitor Centre, we were conducted on a brief, but interesting tour which involved admiring everything from the delicate finery of intricately designed tea pots to the imposing miniature (but still tall) replica of the Petronas Towers. We also observed pewter (made from a combination of tin, antimony and cooper) being crafted with precision as we traversed an elevated walkway that commanded a view of a sprawling workshop adorned with lights, tools, and benches that all sat beneath motionless fans on what was, by Malaysian standards, a mild day. I was
excited to espy the Singapore and Malaysia Formula One Grand Prix trophies that Royal Selangor had fashioned, and being a lover of that sport, I secretly longed to touch or hold one of these treasures in my hands.
A major incentive for visiting Royal Selangor was to participate in the School of Hard Knocks, where, for a modest fee, one is able to craft their own pewter bowl. We were shown into the room where a large group of Dutch tourists were already working their magic, and the cacophony of mallet against pewter was strangely hypnotic. Pewter is a soft compound and is easily melded with even a moderate strike from the wooden mallet, and so after engraving my name in the back of the bowl, I placed it on the first of two wooden concave moulds, and commenced my tentative first steps into the world of pewter moulding. At that moment, a young lady approached me who I recognised as being a fellow MITBCA delegate. Her name was Shirley Loy and after a brief conversation, she hurried away leaving me to determine the best bowl-moulding strategy.
A few minutes later, I noticed a venerable lady standing beside
me. We exchanged pleasantries and she proceeded to expertly demonstrate how to create a rather elegant design, which I followed with great enthusiasm. Moulding pewter bowls is akin to writing a blog as it never seems finished, and so I eagerly wanted to prefect my fledging design with a few more whacks of the mallet in order to smooth one section or to ensure a finer curve. However, with other groups soon to occupy this room, the knowledgeable lady by my side escorted Fi and me to the cafe.
We settled into comfortable chairs as my new host with smiling eyes questioned, “Would you like to hear about the history of Royal Selangor?” “Of course!” I eagerly replied. “Well,” and she took a deep breath, “Royal Selangor was started by my grandfather....” It took a few moments for that sentence to register, for here was the granddaughter of the founder, Mr Yong Koon, personally instructing me on how to mould pewter (no wonder her knowledge was so strong!) and inviting me for tea. Once my startled state had subsided, the delightful Datin Paduka Chen Mun Kuen regaled me with tales of a lucky teapot and why the company was
bestowed with the word “Royal”. We were joined by another MITBCA delegate, Winnie Lee Wey Nie, and the Communications Executive, the affable Shum Chee Hong.
After Ms Mun Kuen personally signed a book about Royal Selangor as a gift for me, she invited us to stay for lunch, and whilst awaiting our meals, we were invited to wander the factory and gift shop. Recalling what I had seen on the factory floor, I presumptuously requested to examine the Formula One trophies more closely, and this request eventually resulted in me proudly holding the weighty Singapore trophy aloft to pose for a photograph.
After pouring over the sporting trophies and the beautifully crafted pewter on display in the spacious gift shop, lunch ensued. Eating in Malaysia is a delightful experience, and with influences from India, China, Portugal and local recipes, it surpasses India (my previous favourite culinary country) as the world’s best dining destination. When added to the extremely good value of meals, it is unsurprising that Malaysians often lament the loss of their much loved cuisine when travelling overseas, a cuisine which sees them consume six meals a day. Usually dining at establishments within tourist attractions is a
prosaic affair, but this is Malaysia, and the Canton noodle dish was one of the best Chinese meals I have eaten. When considering this meal with the delightful Oreo cheesecake I consumed in the cafe earlier, the gastronomic joys of Malaysia seem to know no bounds.
Towards the conclusion of lunch we were joined by Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon, Managing Director of Royal Selangor. We shared tales of the city of Adelaide in Australia where he studied and I was born, and discussed such important matters as Australian Football and the excellent Malaysia My Second Home Programme (usually a visa for retirees). I have met hundreds of interesting people during my travels but few have impressed me more than this gentleman.
Mr Tan Sri Yong offered to drive Fi and me back to Kuala Lumpur. There followed a brief return to the gift shop where I happened upon the only camel ornament (a elegant egg cup) in the whole collection. I rarely use egg cups (due to my fried or scrambled preference) but can always use another camel memento, so the purchase was duly made.
Whilst sitting in the rear seat of the chauffeur-driven stylish black
Audi, I glanced at my watch - the intended one hour visit at Royal Selangor had evolved into a remarkable four hour experience. The hospitality was incredible, and not for the first time this holiday, I have been overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity shown to me. Though it is perhaps premature for the lodgement of my Malaysia My Second Home visa, I certainly intend to return this country in the interim so as to once more enjoy its magnificent cuisine, genuine hospitality and diverse culture.
There are more photos below