Next to the bustling golden triangle of Kuala Lumpur, a rustic Malay enclave lay quaint and simple – yet rich in traditions. The 119-year-old settlement of Kampung Baru is often overshadowed by the shining pinnacles of the Petronas Twin Towers. And while the towers reap the limelight in tourism numbers, this historic village is no less capable in its ability to charm those who wander between its streets.
Kampung Baru was established as a result from tin-mining activities which grew in the late 1800’s. With the sudden influx of labourers from all over the Malay Archipelago, there was a need for another settlement and hence, Kampung Baru was formed.
To get a deeper insight into the heart of this village, we spoke to Fuad Fahmy, 48, a born and bred local expert from Kampung Baru who now focuses most of his efforts into preserving his kampung and promoting tourism in Malaysia.
Fuad’s decision to pursue tourism was undoubtedly influenced by his father, who was the second vice-president of MATTA (Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents), and according to Fuad, “was one of the pioneers in the tourism industry”.
This has visibly spilled onto him, as Fuad himself admitted that his calling lies in tourism, “I tried to work in other lines and in other industries. My soul is still in tourism,” he said with a cheeky chuckle.
Welcome to my kampung!
119 years since being officially gazetted as an agricultural settlement, the complexion of Kampung Baru has very much changed. Now, countless of skyscraping infrastructure tower over this Malay enclave. Some already gleaming in glass panels, others still in concrete construction with purpose to go higher.
Fuad, who hosts tours in Kampung Baru, is determined to draw more light onto his beloved home. His commitment to ensuring that travellers get the full Kampung Baru experience extends through the streets, the mosques, the markets, and eventually to his home. When asked about the one place travellers shouldn’t miss when in Kampung Baru, he replied with an enthusiastic “My home la!”
As most of Fuad’s travellers has never been inside a Malay house, Fuad decided that he would open the doors of his own home and offer travellers the chance to get personal with the kampung way of life. “During my stops, I will bring my travellers to my home so they’ll see what’s inside a Malay house”, he said.
There at his house, they will learn about the traditional local customs that Fuad still practices today. “In my home we got the tempat sirih and everything, so I’ll explain to them what all this is about”, he exclaimed. “There is a lot of storytelling too.” While at his home, his guests are also treated with varieties of local kuih muih.
Fuad has vouched that the best time to see Kampung Baru is in the evening. When children from the surrounding schools spill onto the streets and local vendors ready their carts, Fuad takes the opportunity to fully immerse his travellers in the vibrant village. As they walk through the bustling streets, travellers will see the architecture adorned by the traditional houses and observe first-hand the day-to-day life of the locals. Travellers can also visit the bustling market nearby and hop from one food stall to another as they come out in full force. It is during this time that Kampung Baru awakes from its slumber and come to life.
What does the future hold for this vintage village?
Regardless of its timeless kampung houses and traditional delicacies, development continues to thunder on in the form of crackling jackhammers and drills.
With the government set to invest up to RM10 billion to develop this Malay enclave, this 119-year old settlement is likely to go through another drastic change.
Although there was the promise of preserving and duplicating a few traditional houses, much of Kampung Baru will likely be transformed into towering skyscrapers. As global retail outlets turn to Kuala Lumpur’s new modern city as a new route for profit, the traditions of the old village face the threat of finding themselves neglected and left in the dark.
Fuad, who is well informed about the going-ons around Kampung Baru, is not against the idea of development. But his idea of development differs greatly from those interpreted by corporate giants.
“To me, development is not high-rise buildings. Development is, you add value to what Kampung Baru has.”Fuad Fahmy
He is convinced that if the government could offer sufficient funds to the community, they could refurbish the traditional houses to make it an authentic tourist destination. Aside from that, maintaining basic facilities such as dustbins, car parks, and sidewalks would help in their cause.
With his lifelong affinity with Kampung Baru, Fuad is one to know about its potential and its rightful place in Malaysia’s treasure chest of gems. Despite the uncertainty shrouding Kampung Baru, the values instilled in its people remain firm and strong.
“Well, we are quite a close-knit community. A good example is my dad, he says ‘whatever modernization that comes to you, you don’t forget your roots’”, he said with smile, “We still have that implanted to us by our old folks.” Even today, Fuad believes the sentiments are very much shared among the residents.
“They are very proud of being a Kampung Baru folk. The feeling towards kampung is still strong.”Fuad Fahmy
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