|Linggi adventure, 15-7-2008.|
|In 1879 the British traveler/writer Isabella Bird visited the Malay Peninsula and she wrote a book about it, the Golden Chersonese|
It is a fascinating, often hilarious travelogue about a part of the world that was hardly known in those days.
In Melaka she is the guest of the Governor and she gets permission to visit the interior of what is now Negeri Sembilan. From Melaka with a steamer to the mouth of the Linggi river. Upstream this river until it becomes too shallow. Transfer to a prahu and an adventurous trip in the middle of the night to the small kampong Nioto. Here they find two antiquated buggies waiting for them and so they arrive finally in Seremban, having traveled for more than 33 hours.
In those days, the Sg Linggi was a jungle river, with crocodiles, elephants, tigers, and "savages". Nowadays it is a murky river, flowing though the cultivated lands of Negri Sembilan.
Wouldn't it be interesting to repeat Isabella's trip?
I suggested this to my friend Liz and, as I expected, she was eager to join.
We decided to do a recce by car, starting at the mouth of the Linggi river and following the stream as closely as possible to Seremban.
Our first point of interest was the Kuala Linggi Fort. This fort has been built by the Dutch and the Bugis in 1758 on a hill overlooking the mouth of the Linggi river.
It is not mentioned by Isabella, maybe because she held the Dutch in very low esteem..:-)
Here is a quote from the book, it gives a good example of her style:
"If the Portuguese were little better than buccaneers, the Dutch, who drove them out, were little better than hucksters,-mean, mercenary traders, without redeeming qualities; content to suck the blood of their provinces and give nothing in return. I should think that the colony is glad to be finally rid of them."
Not much of the fort remains. But still it was difficult to enter..:-) Apparently there has been a project for a beach resort in this location, so the fort was fenced off. Desolate remains of luxury bungalows, a Muslim grave, a quiet, slightly eerie atmosphere.
After crossing the bridge over the Linggi river we drove to Kg Permatang Pasir. Here the river became too shallow for the steamer, so Isabella had to transfer to a prahu. It took many hours to find boatmen who were willing to take her further upstream. She used this time to vist the grave of a famous Hadji.
...I went out and visited the tomb of a famous Hadji, "a great prophet," the policeman said, who was slain in ascending the Linggi.
Probably this is Pengkalan Kepas, a nearby sanctuary, although it is a bit strange that Isabella doesn't mention the megaliths, which are now the main attraction.
During the night(!) Isabella travels in her prahu on the Linggi river, a magical trip through a jungle full of strange sounds. In the morning they arrive at Nioto, from where they continue via Rassa to Seremban. They have travelled 33 hours and are exhausted.
We followed the road and there was more danger from the heavy traffic, than from wild animals. The land has been cultivated, no jungle left. We found a Kg Niatoh, and passed Rasah on the highway, could not even stop.
Nothing is left of the British residency on the hill, from where Isabella had a view of the Chinese village and the tin mining ponds. Now these ponds have been transformed in Lake Gardens, and the hill still has a few neoclassical buildings, dating back to the beginning of the 20th century.
It was an interesting trip. Would it be possible to follow the river by boat? At a jetty near Pengkalan Kepas, we noticed a few modern "tourist" boats. We are trying to contact the company. It might be possible to travel upstream until Rantau, probably not further, because for the water treatment plant there, a weir has been built in the river.
We will see...:-)