Day 3 of The Round Malaysia Road Trip 2020 | Travels with my wife through Asia and beyond. Join us as we explore history and culture. And after thirty years in Asia, we are now back in the UK. What next?

Travels With My Wife

Still talking after all these years!

Day 3 of The Round Malaysia Road Trip 2020

We're on a Road Trip and today, we see a lot of roads!


As you can see, today's journey made us all cry out for a bucket of eels.


For reasons unfathomable to the average person, we were supposed to take in a few of the sites of Kuala Terengganu today but somehow underestimated how long it would take to get there. So the world passed us by in a blur, enlivened only by a brief dip into one of Petronas's shopping malls to get a glimpse of how the other half live.

Up there in Terengganu, pronounced Tringannu, the Petro Dollar is king. And if you work for the man there, you are doing well for yourself and one cannot help but draw parallels with the old Lembing Mine set up and see how old colonial economic models still find their way into the modern world. The so called Late Capitalism Crisis looks an awful lot like old fashioned 19th Century Colonialism and I am sure the irony is not lost on China with its One Belt One Road initiatives creating something rather familiar.

The history of Terengannu follows a pattern that one finds all over Malaysia. Way back in time we have a region sending tributes to China. And then by the 7th century Srivijaya takes over. Back in the nineteenth century nobody knew anything about Srivajaya but in the 1920's a French historian, George Coedes, pulled together accounts of Srivijaya from old stone inscriptions and Chinese records. Since then it has gained some traction as a concept, not the least because some sources call what was probably a loose cultural agglomeration, Melayu! So in many respects it is seen as the beginnings of the Malay nation and fictions based on the period pop up with rather heroic, well ripped warriors demonstrating uncanny abilities.

There is not a lot to be found that stands out as a reminder of this early Buddhist phase of the region, other than perhaps the Siamese finding strong cultural affinities with the area. After the Srivayayan came the Majapahit, who were Java based, and by the 15th century we find the Siamese and the Malaccans vying for position. Then when Malacca fell to the Portuguese, Johor sparred with Aceh and the Siamese for power in the area. Despite Terengannu's geography, Islam, apparently, found a home here before it found it in Malacca.

Being on the east coat, the area had a strong Chinese presence and in the 18th century Chinese comprised of about fifty percent of the people to be found here, though over time the Chinese have integrated or moved to the west coast where they found opportunities under the auspices of the British.

One of the justifications of the British colonial enterprise was the manner in which many people in the region flocked to live and work under a British administration. Obviously, assumed many a Brit, their way was better and every other domain was mired in tyranny, superstition, backwardness and bigotry. Even so, many of the colonial administrators saw their job as protecting local culture from the rapacious nature of British corporations and other opportunists. Colonial administrators going native, or that is, identifying with the local community and their interests, was an occupational hazard that often led to career damaging conflict with the powers back in London.

In 1831 we find the Terengganu sultanate in the throes of another typical succession conflict. After a bit of flip flopping between the fighting families, by 1839 all was settled and under the protection of the Siamese, Sultan Omar came to the throne. And he supported Wan Ahmad in the civil war taking place in Pahang. This was deemed as being contrary to British interests, though why seems somewhat obscure, and so we find the British bombarding Kuala Terengganu, no doubt demonstrating their concern for the welfare of the people or something.

By 1909 British power was so established that the Siamese signed off on Terengganu and a British advisor was appointed to deal with everything but religious and traditional cultural affairs. It all went pear shaped when the Japanese moved in, supposedly to rescue Malaysia from Colonial Oppression and managing to so alienate everyone that they made the British look good in comparison.

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