Colored designs on textiles, which can be either cotton or silk, are produced by applying wax to the parts that are left uncolored. This traditional method is practiced in various forms throughout the Malay Archipelago, with Terengganu batik as a particular favorite with tourists. Its elegant print stand out as evening wear, and can be found as art pieces on bags and cushion covers.
The small island of Pulau Duyung near Kuala Terengganu is where local craftsmen practice the art of traditional boat making. They work entirely from memory and experience, without any set plans, using skills handed down from generations before.
Kite (Wau) Making
See the dazzling display of kites gliding and swooping across the azure sky! It was once played by farmers on leveled ground after post-harvesting season. Today, however, kite-flying attracts people from all walks of life. Over the years, kite festivals have encouraged more creativity in kite-making, thus resulting in kites designed in the shape of a fish, cat, caterpillar, or bird. But the Kelantanese wau-bulan (moon-kite) still remains as popular as it was years ago.
The most important personal weapon of the Malays, the keris is a two-edged sheathed dagger with an ornate carved handle. Although it has become famous on account of its sinuous blade, the keris is intended to deliver a horizontal thrust, as distinct as a downward stab.
Mengkuang (Pandanus Weaving)
Weaving used to be a leisurely pastime of coastal village women in the east coast states of Peninsular Malaysia during the rainy months. Today, it is a thriving cottage industry. The tall, thorny leaves of the pandanus or mengkuang are collected, boiled, dyed and made into colorful mats, beach bags, hats, fans, purses, and slippers.
The rattan, a climbing palm with long thin jointed pliable stems, is just one of the many native plants that are woven and thus given practical value by the local people. Before it is woven, the rattan is boiled to kill its tissues and to get rid of its sugar content. This is to ensure that it lasts, and also to prevent it from attacks by woodworms. Mainly used in the making of furniture, the rattan is highly popular for its durability, as well as its aesthetic quality.
A legacy of the courts of Pattani, the fabric is usually reserved for use on special and ceremonial occasions. Dubbed the 'cloth of gold', songket is produced when threads are interwoven with gold and silver strands, resulting in a brocade of intricate designs and patterns. Each length of cloth represents days of laborious and dexterous work using traditional looms and cotton-spinning devices.
One of the oldest traditional crafts in the country, Terengganu woodcarvers take their inspiration from Islamic art and the rich local flora. Although some are decorative pieces, most have a more practical purpose. From houses to palaces, the craft is seen through the intricate designs on beams, supports, balustrades, doors, window shutters, as well as furniture. All bear testimony to the exquisite craftsmanship and enduring quality of the state's woodcarvers.
Blow Pipe (Sumpit)
The tribal people of Sarawak are known for their magnificent hunting skills. They are aided by the sumpit, a six-foot long wooden blowpipe with a poisoned or a barbed tip. One quick puff sends the dart (sometimes twenty-yards away) to the victim, usually a wild pig, deer, or bird.
In the traditional musical performances of the Malay community in Sarawak, it is the womenfolk who play the gendang or drums. Seated behind a screen, they drum out their beats in rhythm to songs sung by young maidens and dances performed by men.
Garland Making (Bunga Malai)
Flowers form an integral part of the cultural heritage of Malaysian Indians for religious occasions, weddings, moving house, or welcoming an important guest. Flowers, holy basil, and the leaves of the margosa or mango tree are strung together to form a malai or garland. They are done in different styles to suit each particular occasion.
Gong Ensembles (Maggagong)
Brass or bronze gong ensembles form an inherent part of Sabah's ethnic music. The melody varies from district to district. The Kadazan Dusun group include six songs and a drum called the sopogogungan (Penampang) in their musical composition while the Bajau from Kota Belud add kulintangan, a set of kettle-bedded gongs.
Shadow Play (Wayang Kulit)
Wayang Kulit is a traditional theater art-form using puppets and shadow-play to tell the epic tales of the Ramayana. The puppets are made of buffalo hide and mounted on bamboo sticks. There may be as many as 45 puppets - handled entirely by a single master puppeteer, known as the Tok Dalang.
The Malay Art of Self defense (Silat)
Silat, the Malay art of self-defense combines a series of supple movements, which enables a person to defend himself under provocation. The aim of silat is to instill confidence in oneself in the face of adversity. Occasionally, a keris (small dagger) may be used.
Fruits of Malaysia
Wherever visitors travel in Malaysia, they are bound to come across some stalls that sell fruits of the country. The rich Malaysian soil allows many of these fruits to grow in abundance and throughout the year.
Durian is often called the "king of fruits" by those who love it. For instance, it has a smell that can be "over-powering" to those newly introduced to it. It has a thorny appearance and could hurt if you allowed it to fall on your feet! It is even quite difficult getting at the fruit inside. Good durians have pulps that are neither watery nor hard to touch. It is kind of the in-between that is considered most delicious.
The mangosteen is considered to be a choice tropical fruit and like the durian, native to Malaysia. While the durian is seen as " heaty" for the body, the mangosteen is "cooling". Shaped like round berries, the size of tennis balls, it has a thick fibrous outer layer that is usually maroon in color. It is easy to open by merely pressing between the palms.
The papaya is a fruit with its origins in South America. But it has grown well in this region and is considered almost native. This fruit is noted for its flavor and the flesh is usually orange to reddish in color. The fruit can be eaten fresh or chilled. Just add a squeeze of lime or lemon for added taste.
The pineapple is known as nanas locally. There are two pineapple commercial varieties in the country. For canning, they are known as "nanas merah" (red pineapple) or "nanas hijau" (green pineapple). For eating raw, the nanas Sarawak (Sarawak pineapple) and nanas Moris (Moris pineapple) is used. The nanas Sarawak is usually small in size with pale yellow flesh. The nanas Moris is usually smaller with a bright yellow flesh.
The rambutan season takes place twice a year. The egg-shaped fruit has a reddish-yellowish color, or a combination of colors, as its outer skin. The skin and seed are discarded, but the flesh is usually white, sweet, and juicy.
Another local fruit that is highly recommended is the starfruit, or sometimes called the "belimbing". It has a greenish to yellowish color, appears translucent, and has a star-like shape with refreshing taste.
Balancing of Giant Flag Poles (Chingray)
It is one of the traditional games which is a daring display of balancing giant flags on the forehead, shoulders, and chins has audiences gasping for breath in anticipation. This event is in fact a procession of balancing flag poles and also it is an event within the Penang Festival in the predominantly Chinese affair.
Board Game (Congkak)
Congkak is a game of wit played by womenfolk in ancient times that required no more than holes in the earth and tamarind seeds. Today, it has been refined to a board game. It consists of a wooden board with two rows of five, seven, or nine holes and two large holes at both ends called "home". Congkak, played with shells, pebbles or tamarind seeds, requires two players.
Flying Kite (Wau)
The most famous wau is the “wau bulan” (moon kite) from Kelantan. Intricate and colourful kite designs were made following characters and features. Initially, this seasonal event was a traditional game played by farmers in Terengganu, Kelantan, and Pahang after the harvesting period.
Large and small kites were taken to the sandy beaches and flown high in the blue skies. Today, this event has encouraged numerous kite flying festivals and participated by kite enthusiasts all over the country.
Giant Top Spinning (Gasing)
Giant top spinning games played by farmers in Kelantan and Terengganu. The ultimate goal of top spinning players spins a top for almost two hours. The bronze and metal tops are designed for good stability, balanced, and spinning strength. A top weighing at 5kg, which can knock other tops when spun and thrown by an expert spinner who uses his strength, strategy, and skill.
Three Point Rattan Ball Court Game (Sepak Takraw)
Three point rattan ball court games played by malay village youths. They show remarkable agility as they play with the purpose of scoring point. This game is played out on a small court with three youths on each side. The ball is made of woven rattan and the two teams will compete for scores with smashes and spikes into the opponent side. Each team is armed with three changes to knee, kick, shoulder, and head the ball into opponent’s court. This game consists of sets, spikes, and passes. Strokes are made solely using the legs or feet and any use of arms and hands will disqualify the score.