Yang Di-Pertuan Agong is a title referring to the monarch and the head of state of Malaysia. This position is rotated among the sultans and other heads of states in Malaysia, every 5 years.
The Yang Di-Pertuan Agong is the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. Being the country’s supreme head, he is also tasked with appointing the Prime Minister, the ministers and deputy ministers and the attorney-general.
The current Agong, Sultan Muhammad V, who at 47, is the youngest monarch appointed since Malaysia’s independence in 1957.
Three eXotic facts about Malaysia you might find interesting (or not) :
#1. We call our elders uncle or auntie – Being called uncle or auntie by someone who is younger than you are but not someone you’re related to, is how we show respect to our elders. When I was younger, folks I interacted with at the grocery store or post office, would call me Kak (sister). This is also a form of respect. However, in recent years, no one has called me Kak and instead, I’m now auntie 😦
#2. All Malaysians have an identity card (IC) – It’s a rite of passage that every 12 year old get their identity card (IC). Each IC has a unique identifying number (like a social security number), full name, photo, current residential address and gender (in case you can’t tell from the picture, I suppose). The IC also comes with a chip. Our IC is more important than our driver’s licence, we need it to open bank accounts, apply for a passport and most government transactions. There’s been a rumour that information from our driver’s licence would be merged with our IC so that we wouldn’t have to carry both photo IDs. So far, it’s remained that – a rumour.
#3. Where’s the pork? If you visit Malaysia and decide to go grocery shopping, be prepared to not find pork in the meat section. That’s because in our supermarkets, there is a non-halal section, which is normally somewhere in the back of the store and this is where all the pork, pork products and products without the halal certification, is secreted away. This section would also have their own cash register, so you pay for your non-halal products there before you pay for the rest of your groceries at the regular cash registers before exiting. Alcohol is also found in this section.
Sarawak, my home state, was once a Kingdom and its ruler was Sir James Brooke, the first White Rajah, who ruled from 1842 until his death in 1868.
He was conferred as Rajah after he helped to quell a rebellion among the Sea Dayaks in Lundu, and from what I’ve read, it seemed that it was a situation that he fell into totally by accident!
During his rule, Rajah Brooke, accomplished a great many things, among them he dealt with the practice of head-hunting and also suppressed piracy in the region.
Just recently though, I learnt that the Brooke Gallery was opened in Fort Margherita, Sarawak on September 26th, 2016 by Jason Brooke, a descendant of Sir James Brooke. Interesting fact: If the Brooke Dynasty still ruled in Sarawak, Jason Brooke would’ve been second in line to the title of Rajah of Sarawak.
Villages abound in Malaysia. One of the more well-known villages that we have is Kampung Baru or New Village, which is situated in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. Due to its prime location, developers have been wooing residents of the Malay enclave, however elders in the village have resisted. So far.
I’ve never been to Kampung Baru but I’ve only driven past it on the myriad highways that surround this village established in the 1900s. Friends who have, tell me that it’s a typical Malay village, wooden houses and all.
And apparently, this humble village, which began as a pastoral community way back when, is now a food hub as well. Guess I better plan a trip there soon!
If I didn’t have any access to pictures and was asked to describe what an ulam (oo-lam) is, I’d say that it’s a platter of raw vegetables (cucumber sticks, a variety of herbs, grilled eggplant, etc…) with a spicy chili and shrimp paste dip or sambal belacan.
However, I do have access to pictures so I’ll just show you what an ulam is –
In Malaysia, there are about 120 types of plants that can be used in an ulam. These plants can either be eaten raw, blanched or grilled lightly. Each region in the country has their own way of serving ulam and also the dip it’s served with. Besides sambal belacan, ulam can also be served with a durian-based dip called tempoyak.
Ingredients of an ulam can also be used to make a rice dish called, what else, nasi ulam (ulam rice). Interested to give it a try? Here’s a recipe – Malaysian Mixed Herb Rice.
Note: Though April is over 😦 I’m committed to completing the rest of the posts in this theme mainly because it’s been educational for me to write about it! And also, I don’t like to leave things unfinished! For the few of you who’re still hanging around reading my belated A to Z Challenge posts, thank you! Once I’m done with all my posts, I’ve every intention to visit fellow A-to-Z-ers and read their fine posts!
Tuak (too-wak) is a popular Iban rice wine made from glutinous rice and homemade yeast. It’s normally made for Gawai or the Harvest Festival, held every year on the 1st of June. Traditionally, it’s not commercially made, rather each household would make their own based on a family recipe handed down through generations.
If you visit any longhouse in Sarawak, it’s traditional to be served tuak as a welcome drink. However, be ready, there’ll be several people holding out the glasses as tuak to welcome you, not just one. And as a guest, you’re obliged to drink every glass offered.
Recently, my sister in New Zealand tried to make her own batch of tuak and I’m happy to report that it almost tastes as authentic as the tuak our mother makes. The difference was the yeast she used and that she replaced glutinous rice with sushi rice.
If you’re ever in this part of the world, go ahead and give tuak a try!
When you hear the word sarong, this is probably what you imagine –
However, here in Malaysia, this is what we refer to when we hear the word sarong –
When I was younger, I remember my dad going around the house in the evenings, wearing a sarong and a white t-shirt. At the time, the sarong was also his pyjamas. Depending on the weather, he’d either keep the white t-shirt on, or just go shirtless.
It’s perfectly acceptable to wear a sarong and a t-shirt while out and about in the neighbourhood. Muslim men wear them on the way to the mosque for prayers too, so it’s not an unusual sight. I’ve even seen sarongs being worn by ladies in the neighbourhood as they sweep up the leaves from their front yard. I’ve even worn a sarong to sleep before but stopped because I kept getting tangled up in the cloth!
The motif on the sarong that men wear are typically plain and checkered while the motif on the sarong women wear have flowers and other details plucked from nature.
Roti translates into bread. And like newspapers, we can get our bread delivered to our house via our roti man.
The roti man would deliver bread to homes and hang them on the gates. If you didn’t want any bread that day or for the next few days, you hang a sign outside your gate “No bread today!”
These days though, not many homes get their bread from the roti man, preferring instead to just head to the shops to get their own. Despite the decreasing popularity of the roti man delivering bread to homes, he’s not in danger of being extinct anytime soon. Nowadays, roti man 2.0 goes to schools or home renovation sites to sell bread and everything else that hangs on the back of his motorcycle.
Qingming, or Ching Ming, was on April 4th this year. This festival, also known as Tomb Sweeping Day or Chinese All Soul’s Day, marks the day when the Chinese community honour their departed relatives by making offerings to them. This is a cultural festival not a religious one.
During Qingming, all varieties of food (depending on one’s preference) as well as joss stick, incense, joss paper and paper money (depending on one’s religion) are prepared prior to visiting graves.
Once at the grave sites, the tombs would be swept and grass around the area pulled up.
Though I don’t observe Qingming, I’m always fascinated by the types of offerings that are burnt for the dearly departed. A typical offering that is burnt during this festival is paper money. Other types of offerings include model houses, electronic items and this year, even a sports car!
It is believed that all these paper items that are burnt will reach their ancestors who’ll be able to enjoy the objects in their afterlife.
Going to school, I wished I could wear whatever I wanted instead of the uniforms that’s required of us. Before you assume that uniforms are only for those who attend private schools, here in Malaysia, government schools also require their students to wear uniforms.
In primary school (ages 7 – 12), we wore a uniform that consisted of an inner white buttoned-up short sleeves shirt with a dark blue pinafore. We also had to wear white socks and shoes. I remember hating the chore of washing shoes every weekend!
In secondary (ages 13 – 17) school, instead of a dark blue pinafore, we wore a bright blue pinafore.
I was so happy when I was done with secondary school so that I didn’t have to wear a uniform to college! However, after a short, blissful period of wearing whatever I wanted (mostly) to my classes in college, I dreaded having to make the decision of what to wear that day and wished we had a uniform instead! 😀
Did you have to wear a school uniform ever in your life?