Day 8 of The Round Malaysia Road Trip 2020 | Travels with my wife

Travels With My Wife

Still talking after all these years!

Day 8 of The Round Malaysia Road Trip 2020

We visit The Bujang Valley and try to imagine what these archeological findings mean.


I have been racing to get my blog out before my wife finished hers! But she is much quicker off the mark than me. So you can read all about the Bujang Valley on her blog over at her web site: Helen's Web Site You can also catch the video there as well! Come to think of it, you can spend a lifetime going through my wife's obsessions on her website. I have managed 42 years doing that and still find there is more to come.

But, as we are in competition to get the most hits, tell people to come to my Blog!

The Road Trip around Malaysia sequence was a series of daily videos that I made while we traveled. No doubt I shall put them altogether into one long video someday. Or maybe not! Travel Vlogs thrive upon the immediacy of the moment and the instant reaction to events. The results are thus rough and ready and, as has been explained to me, "authentic." This is a word that I hear bandied about far more often nowadays than it ever used to be. It is, apparently, fashionable. If one can fake authenticity, one can be a YouTube sensation.

I am personally impressed by the travel vlogger,
Drew Binsky. He is authentic and very disciplined. The amount of work he does, and the amount of discomfort, he must suffer while attempting to travel to every single country in the world, is impressive. But what is truly impressive, are the production values of his material.

Others with more basic production values but still impressive YouTube savvy, are guys like "
Ken Abroad" and "JetLagWarriors". Their approach is to go out every day and set themselves a challenge, such as to eat every kind of Roti Canai possible in one sitting. One ends up fascinated by their friendly interaction with local Malay culture.

My schtick is always about reading the landscape and digging down to the structures lying beneath the surface. Hence our visits to archeological sites!

When I went to school I was not taught anything about Malay history. This was despite Malaysia being part of the British Empire even when I was at school! Hence my taking this opportunity to rectify that omission.

Not that we were not taught anything about The Empire in general. It was considered an absurd aberration that had to be got rid of as soon as possible. The whole enterprise can be summed up in the film,
Carry on Up The Khyber! Given the small numbers of not particularly brilliant individuals involved in creating this thing, it is astonishing that we got away with it for so long.

Which brings me back to the Bujang Valley. Here much of the groundwork uncovering the extent of Indian influence in the region and the importance as the beginnings of Malay civilisation, was performed by none other than this man: Hugh Low.


As the British Resident of Perak, he was supposed to advise the local rulers on the niceties of modern administration, the benefits of British common law and the need for keeping in with the British and not those nasty French and Dutch and definitely not the Siamese! He lived in Kuala Kangsar, surrounded by a jungle full of tigers, and kept a couple of pet monkeys that appeared to be very affectionate towards him.

His daily routine consisted of him chatting with the various rajas and their entourages on his veranda, explaining the Chinese to the Malays and the Malays to the Chinese. He was apparently on joking terms with the rather fierce Sultan Idris, and a big chum of Chung Seng Quee, a mining magnet heavily investing in British machinery and earning the Sultan and his Rajas a sizeable tax income. He was a fluent speaker of colloquial Malay and a great student of Malay history who managed to abolish slavery in Perak.

He was helped in his low key approach by the first British resident having been brutally murdered, setting off a war that ended with most of the Perak Sultanate dead or exiled in the Seychelles. However, British gunboats notwithstanding, he was always somewhat aware of the precariousness of his situation, a sensitivity that did lead to him being accused of abetting the slave trade rather than trying to abolish it. The standard accusation of "going native" was hurled at him.

It was he who planted the first rubber trees, which in theory actually still exist. They appear in one of the later videos though I was somewhat skeptical as to whether these actually were his! He also brought in the first railway between the mining town of Taiping and Port Weld. You can see us in a later video eating Curry Mee in the greasy spoon that used to be the Railway's ticket office.

Hugh Low was a protege of James Brooke, the White Raja of Sarawak, and in his twenties wrote a book about his time with him. He entered into British officialdom when James Brooke was appointed Governor of the British Colony of Labuan, a colony that was created when Brooke attacked Brunei in an attempt to rescue the Royal family. That is, the branch of the family that he had a, let us say, bromance with. Unfortunately most of them were murdered in a palace coup and Brooke, somewhat heartbroken, tried desperately to rid himself of the burden of ruling Sarawak, trying to hand it over to the British Crown.

Brooke's antics in Sarawak were highly disapproved of by the British who wanted him arrested for piracy, but instead, because public opinion had been excited by his adventures, they ended up bringing him within the official fold by accepting Labuan Island as a possible coaling station, and setting him up as its governor. Though they were damned if they were going to have anything to do with Sarawak, and Brooke's nephew took over the reigns there. It stayed in the Brooke's family until after the 2nd World War.

Hugh Low joined Brooke in Labuan as his colonial secretary. His wife, Catherine Napier, gave birth to a son, who they named Hugh Brooke Low, and in 1851 she died of a fever in Labuan, like the wives of so many other British administrators in the region. His two children, still toddlers, were I assume shipped off back to England as soon as they could talk. He remarried thirty years later when he was sixty-one to a thirty-three year old Ann Douglas, daughter of the Lieutenant Governor of Jersey. The Channel Islands do seem to have been a favoured spot for ex-colonial officers to rest up in.

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