Monday, August 27, 2007

United Kingdom's Legacy to Malaysia

The people from United Kingdom came to Malaysia (then Malaya) as exploiter and colonialist. They exploited the resources of our country which made their country rich. They looked down upon the local people as inferior and formed clubs from which the locals were excluded. Many of our country's ills have been blamed upon them, but they did leave behind something that had benefited the country. The mission schools were premier schools and produced many illustrious leaders of the country. They built good roads and railways. And most important of all, something happened in 1876 which eventually lead to a key part of Malaysia's economy.


The event I was referring to above was Sir Henry Wickham collecting and shipping 70,000 wild rubber tree seeds to Kew Gardens in London in 1875. They were probably germinated in glass houses (hot houses) like the one shown below:

Kew Gardens, London
Glass house photo uploaded to Flickr by Heraklit under Creative Commons license

There is actually a much larger hot house but those were uploaded to Flickr with All Rights Reserved. Anyway, some of the seed survived and germinated and were taken in 1877 to Ceylon and later to Malaysia in 1883. From those few trees, huge tracts of rubber tree plantations were planted and created an industry which was one of the mainstay of the Malaya's economy at the time of its independence from British colonial rule in 1957 and still form an important part of the economy now, though it has been overtaken by oil palm.

I had visited London in 1976 with my late wife, but foolishly spent most of our time in Oxford Street. If ever I have the chance to visit London again, Kew Gardens will be one place I will like to see as a place of origin of one of our country's economic pillars. In 1976, there were no Internet and we had to hunt for accommodation on arrival, not a pleasant task in a strange place. Now you have Cheap Hotels in United Kingdom which has a site specifically for London at Hotels in London. Unlike my experience in 1976, you wouldn't have to worry about having to sleep in the railway station if you can't find suitable accommodation on arrival.

Manchester City

While there are lots of tourist attractions in London like Madam Toussauds which have wax statues of famous personalities. Unfortunately non of our national leaders were featured but I understand the Singapore Girls (SIA airlines hostesses) of our neighbor were included.

But you don't have to confine yourself to London to enjoy your visit to United Kingdom. There is Manchester City which has good, regular train connections with London Euston. Journey time is just around three hours. It is famous for its high-profile soccer teams including Manchester United. Malaysia's most successful budget airlines Air Asia has signed up for sponsorship as the Club’s Official Low Fare Airline, and has one of its plane by having one of its aircraft painted in the colors of the club and adorned with images of the club's elite players on both sides of the aircraft's fuselage. Visit Manchester City to see your favorite football team in action.

Manchester City night skyline with Beetham Tower standing tall
Manchester City Skyline with Beetham Tower standing tall recognizable by its plane lights at the top of the tower. Uploaded to Flickr by pit-yacker under the Creative Commons license

The latest addition to Manchester skyline it the Beetham Tower which is the highest building in United Kingdom outside of London. Beyond the modern architecture, there are also cultural activities like Manchester Jazz Festival considered the best contemporary jazz festival.

For accommodation in Manchester, a good place to book online is Hotels in Manchester.


Birmingham City is the second largest city of the United Kingdom and got its reputation as the workshop of the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century and the early 19th century. If you like museums and galleries, Birmingham is the city to visit. There are many renown museums and galleries including the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Aston Hall, Blakesley Hall, Museum of the Jewellery Quarters, the Barber Institute of Fine Arts which is a combination of an art gallery and a concert hall, and even the Cadbury World which shows visitors the stages and steps of chocolate production and the history of chocolate and the company.

You will see many churches and cathedrals in Birmingham, but there is one mosque which Muslims from Malaysia may be keen to visit - the Birmingham Central Mosque, one of the largest Muslim center in Europe. I am unable to find a photo uploaded using the Creative Commons license, so here is the next best I can do:

Central Jamia Masjid Ghamkol Sharif, Birmingham
Birmingham Central Jamia Masjid Ghamkol Sharif uploaded to Flickr by amortize under the Creative Commons license

For accommodation in Birmingham, go to Hotels in Birmingham.

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