Get off the beaten track next time you’re traveling because you never know what you’ll stumble upon, especially in a country like Malaysia where superstition is alive and flourishing.
Belief – the word may be simple but its implication is tremendous.
Belief has been shaping mankind’s existence since the dawn of time, transforming, compelling and sometimes sparking off hysteria even with the advent of rationalism and science.
The Malaysian enthusiasm for folklore and superstition is well and alive in this new century. For many of us, belief is a way of life. Its appeal is undeniable: Some beliefs may appear to be mumbo jumbo to others but they are, in fact, pearls of wisdom passed down by our forefathers, and so they have to be true.
It’s as simple as that.
This is perhaps what has prompted hundreds of sane, forward-thinking women to jump into the waters of Tasik Dayang Bunting in the past several decades in the belief that the magical properties of its water will somehow, miraculously, cure them of infertility.
Many who have taken the plunge have also claimed that it works, thereby adding to the allure of the place and making the lake one of the hottest tourist destinations in Langkawi despite its remote location.
However, Tasik Dayang Bunting is merely the tip of the superstition iceberg, and it also happens to be one of the most commercialised. As any avid traveller on home soil will tell you, there are many other equally fascinating spots in Malaysia, some of which are still hidden under a cloak of secrecy but continue to draw as many pilgrims to them as the holy site of Lourdes in France.
Here are a few of these places and the people who swear by them.
Tasik Chini, Pahang
Deep within the murky depths of this beautiful lake lie fantastic legends that speak of sorcery, dragons and even a lost, sunken city.
Scientists are drawn to this beautiful lake in their quest to verify theories that say an Atlantis-like, Khmer city once existed in the vicinity. The lake also attracts a different group of visitors from June to September every year when the sacred lotus flower, Nelumbo nucifera, starts to bloom.
During this time, as a large part of the lake is dappled in pretty pink and white, the boatmen will row besotted couples to these flowers. But instead of telling them to take a dip here, these boatmen will pluck a lotus from the lake, and fashion it into a funky-looking hat and present it to the woman.
Word has it that she will become pregnant after wearing it for some time.
A 30-year-old lady, who only wants to be known as Putri, says she went to Tasik Chini after hearing of the magical lotus flowers.
“For the longest time, I had tried for a baby but in vain. So I went to this lake, and the boatman rowed my husband and I around, looking for the biggest and prettiest flower we could find. When we found it, he made a hat out of it and told me to wear it.
“I knew I looked quite silly, but I did it because I wanted a child so badly. Praise be to God, I became pregnant several months later,” she says.
And there you have it.
Industrious 4D punters are known to traverse far and wide to lay their hands on winning numbers, and if an inanimate rock has mysterious powers that can grant them such a number, then to the rock they will flock.
Batu Katak, situated between the Selangau and Bintulu road in Sarawak, is one such site. This massive rock gets its moniker from its uncanny resemblance to a frog.
Once the villagers tried to blow it up to make way for development, but the rock defied this explosive effort. Because of its stubborn disposition, Batu Katak is believed to be magical, and people come from all over to scribble down their lottery numbers in multi-coloured inks.
One lucky winner apparently used some of his winnings to build a shed as a gesture of gratitude so that the rock could sit comfortably out of the glare of the sun.
Entrepreneur Jennifer Teh, 51, hasn’t heard of Batu Katak but she did get to meets its elephantine cousin in Thailand when she was holidaying there with her husband.
“I was initially very annoyed at my husband and his friends who had decided to take a little detour to this ‘elephant rock’, which is supposedly famous for revealing lottery numbers when you rub it with a cloth. When I got there, I was terribly amused to see everyone rubbing this poor rock furiously as if their lives depended on it!
“My husband and I joined in just for the heck of it, and I was laughing the entire time,” she recalls.
“Out of nowhere, however, a number materialised on the rock, and I was shocked into silence. I continued rubbing and, one by one, the numbers kept appearing. Needless to say, I bought the combination as soon as I got home to KL, and it came out first prize!”
The historic city of Malacca has a number of ancient wells, some of which date back hundreds of years. These places, like the Hang Tuah Well, are said to contain magical water that can bring good luck to whoever who drinks from them.
Jhi Yang Tang Well, so named because it has eight corners, is one such well.
It was once a major attraction to the Chinese, especially the local and Singaporean businessmen who would travel in droves to the Thai temple where it is located.
The water is said to be miraculous, and is therefore bottled for various reasons like safety, health and fortune.
The only catch is that you must closely observe several feng shui rules for it to work.
B.C. Lau, 61, a retiree, was a frequent traveller to the well before the place fell into disrepair.
“My driver brought me there one weekend. We drew the water clockwise, and used it to clean my car’s number plate. However, I made sure that the driver did it methodically from left to right, or else the luck would all be washed away. A few days later, I bought the number and won several thousand ringgit.
“To give thanks, I returned to the place with my wife, who also bathed in the waters for blessing. Unfortunately, all the good feng shui is now gone from the place,” he sighs.
As such, the businessmen have shifted their attention elsewhere and currently flock to a place called Auyun Hill Resort in Durian Tunggal, which apparently has not one, but five, wells.
There is a small graveyard called Kubur Datuk in Tumpat, Kelantan, where villagers are said to convene day and night if they are desperate for their wishes to be fulfilled.
This place was especially popular in the 1950s and 60s, when the place was packed with pilgrims. It is said that the Datuk, the residing spirit, was a powerful medicine man when he was alive, and that this power lived on after his death.
All you have to do here is to pay the caretaker a token of appreciation to gain entry. Then you present your offering, usually nasi kunyit and roast chicken, whereupon you melepas nazar, or pledge the good deed you would carry out should your wish be granted.
Subsequently, you’ll be instructed to bathe in the holy water of a well located nearby, in order to seal the pact. Many people have attested to its effectiveness. One such person is Pak Gita, 60, vice president of the Kelantan Tourist Association, who reveals that his mother once brought him there when he was sick.
“I was very young, so I can’t remember much of it. But I know that like most of the kampung folk at the time, my mother was convinced that the place was supernatural, although subscribing to such a belief is strictly forbidden by Islam,” he says.
“Now the grave still exists, but it isn’t as popular as before.”
Tambun, Ipoh, Perak
Mystery and magic surround the old, dilapidated wooden chair that sits in the dazzling, cavernous interior of the hallowed Gua Datok, which is now part of the Lost World Of Tambun Theme Park. The chair is supposed to have been left there by Datoh Panglima Ngah Ghafar, dubbed the Lord of Kinta, in the 1800s.
Historians believe that Datoh Panglima used the chair when he came to the cave to pray and meditate. Coincidentally, the chair was placed facing the kiblat, the direction Muslims face when praying. Scattered around it are ritualistic relics like porcelain pots, ladder, parang, axe, dagger and joss stick, proof-positive that the Chinese also used this place to seek blessings from a higher power, perhaps as recent as 30 years ago.
There is also a porcelain pot strategically positioned in such a way that crystal clear water would flow directly down into it from the upper chamber of the cave. According to the locals, this water is considered holy and is used for drinking or washing one’s face.
Another story says that the cave is conducive for both Malay and Chinese martial art devotees who seek strength and wisdom.
Shahrul Fariz, 29, senior marketing executive of the Lost World, says he had a strange experience the last time he gave guests a tour of the caves.
“Someone in our group moved a metal dagger from the ground. Just as he did it, we heard a loud clanging sound within the recesses of the cave, and the frightened fellow quickly put the weapon back where he found it. Everyone was creeped out, and now we advise guests to leave these things alone!”