Our writer follows the trail of the famous 19th century British traveller, Isabella Bird, in Negri Sembilan.
We were following in Isabella Bird’s 19th century footsteps through the peninsula.
This intrepid lady traveller used a boat named Moosmee to negotiate the rivers, as well as antiquated buggies and a pony, to get to villages, but we would have to travel overland in an air-conditioned car.
Bird was a hardy British lady who travelled through parts of Malaya in the early 1880s.
In her book, The Golden Chersonese and The Way Thither (1883), she described her travels in great detail, with wonderful descriptions of the jungle and animals, her methods of transport and the characters she met along the way. There are also some excellent drawings of fauna and flora, as well as photographs.
My trekking friend Jan was so fascinated by the writing that he suggested we try and follow one of Isabella’s routes in Negri Sembilan. I readily agreed.
In 1883, Bird went from Singapore to Malacca and then into the state of Sungai Ujong, which now comes under Negri Sembilan, and on to the mouth of the Linggi and then Seremban.
I didn’t know anything about the history of Sungai Linggi but read that it was once an important river carrying tin from the trading posts upriver to the Straits of Malacca. This was the place to start our adventure.
In an attempt to keep as close to the river as possible, Jan researched the route and put it into his GPS. From Kuala Lumpur we drove to Seremban, and, as soon as we left the highway, we saw the Linggi.
As we were keen to follow the route taken by Bird, we drove straight to Kuala Linggi, between Port Dickson and Malacca, lying south of Tanjung Tuan.
At Kuala Kota Linggi, we found a small port, shipyard and customs department. We parked by the police station and had a look at the beach, from where we could see many apartment blocks on the Port Dickson coastline. All that Bird saw were mangrove swamps backed by thick jungle.
There is an old Dutch fort here called Kota Linggi, but Bird didn’t visit it. We drove back to the bridge over the large river, which is the Linggi combined with Lubok China. The bridge is new and is a popular place for fishing, and there is an area of food stalls and a car park on one side.
We followed the road to Permatang Pasir and parked by the jetty, probably the place where Bird landed in January 1883. However, the thatched piers she mentioned no longer exist.
She often mentioned crocodiles in her book, which she called alligators, so we were amused to see several monitor lizards on the muddy river bank. Several boats were moored at the jetty including two offering crocodile and firefly tours. There is also a project to rear freshwater prawns, the udang galah.
Bird described the journey from the estuary to Permatang Pasir as “a few miles of tortuous steaming through the mangrove swamps of the Linggi River”. She wrote in great detail about a host of animals and said the police station was “a genuine Malay house on stilts”.
Whilst in the village, she visited “the tomb of a famous haji, “a great prophet”, the policeman said, who was slain. So that was the next item on our itinerary.
According to the Tourism Malaysia sign, the tomb is from 1467-1468 and is believed to be among the oldest Muslim grave sites in the country.
Today, there are several megaliths around the tomb in the Kempalan Kempas but there is no information on them. We took a few photos, then continued to the small town of Linggi, where we had a well-deserved lunch. Bird endured hardships in her journey from Permatang Pasir to Seremban. She wrote “the ‘Golden Chersonese’ (the ancient name for the Malay Peninsula) is very hot, and much infested by things which bite and sting”, but we had it easy, travelling in an air-conditioned car.
From Linggi, we passed through Nioto (Nyatoh) where Bird left the boat and travelled in an ancient buggy pulled by a pony. However, her pony refused to budge after a bit and she had to walk up a hill before finding a fresh pony in the large Chinese village of Rassa.
Today, Rassa is almost part of Seremban, so we said goodbye to Bird and made our way on the busy, modern road into the town. It had been a fascinating adventure, following in the footsteps of such a celebrated woman writer.
Article is sourced from www.thestar.com.my and story by Liz Price.
Location, Driving Direction and Map to Linggi, Negeri Sembilan
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