January 15, 2010

Negeri Sembilan - A State of Malaysia

by Tan Hee Hui, Kuala Lumpur | Tue, 12/29/2009 12:47 PM

Negeri Sembilan’s name is derived from the nine districts or negara (now known as luak) in the state, settled by the Minangkabau people originally from West Sumatra, Indonesia.

Minangkabau features are still noticeable in traditional architecture and in the dialect of Malay spoken. One unique feature is the horn-shaped roof of Minangkabau homes.

The Minangkabau also brought with them their adat or traditions, in particular the matrilineal kinship system, which is still practiced, particularly in marriage customs, property ownership and dance forms.

The Minangkabau settled in Negeri Sembilan in the 15th century under the protection of the Malacca Sultanate, and later under the protection of its successor, the Sultanate of Johor. As Johor weakened in the 18th century, attacks by the Bugis forced the Minangkabau to seek protection from their homeland. The Minangkabau ruler, Sultan Abdul Jalil, obliged by sending his relative Raja Melewar who later become Yang di-Pertuan Besar Negeri Sembilan (He Who is Highest Lord of the Nine States) in 1773. After Raja Melewar’s death, a series of disputes arose over succession. The British intervened militarily to stop the civil war and started to establish its sovereignty in the region.

The state’s capital, Seremban, has many attractions, such as the Istana Seri Menanti, which was built at the turn of the century by two local craftsmen. The wooden palace took six years to complete and is an architectural feat as it was built without using screws or nails. In 1992 it was converted into the Royal Museum, which showcases Minangkabau architecture and other exhibits.

Elsewhere, the pretty village settings around Negeri Sembilan are reminiscent of Minangkabau influence. Located within the Arts and Culture Park (or Taman Seni Budaya Negeri) is the Istana Ampang Tinggi, which was built between 1865 and 1870. The palace has been converted into the State Museum, which showcases various old weapons as well as brass and silverware used by royal families. One also gets to see a tableau that portrays a grand royal wedding.

Beach, waterfalls

Negeri Sembilan has a popular beach, Port Dickson, located 33 kilometers from Seremban. Port Dickson lies on the shores of the Strait of Malacca. The resort town, with its miles of golden beaches and a wide range of accommodation, is a favorite playground for Kuala Lumpur city dwellers and those from Singapore.
Those who have watched the film Blue Lagoon should consider visiting the, well, Blue Lagoon – a popular spot tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Port Dickson. Although it’s not the actual location as in the film, those with a video camera can at least imagine doing another sequel to the famous film at the idyllic beach spot.

When leaving the Blue Lagoon beach, take a half kilometer drive through an area surrounded by lush jungle that will lead you to a flight of steps. The 63 steps will lead you to the foot of the Tanjung Tuan lighthouse built by the Portuguese in the 16th century. Formally known as Cape Rachado, permission must be obtained from the lighthouse’s management to check out the place and enjoy the magnificent views of the Strait of Malacca.

Having checked out the lighthouse, move on to another scenic spot – the Jeram Toi Waterfalls, located halfway between Seremban and Kuala Kelawang.
Discovered by the British in 1895, Jeram Toi is ideal for a relaxing dip in the water and family picnic. Another popular waterfall is Jeram Tebrau, located within the Galla forest reserve situated in the hills north of the Negeri Sembilan highway. The Jeram Tebrau waterfall is situated at the highest point of a hill, and making a splash here is an exhilarating experience.

Food and accommodation

There are almost 900 restaurants and stalls situated in the town of Seremban and Port Dickson alone, offering the Minangkabau traditional cuisine and an extensive array of Malay, Chinese, Indian and other cuisine. Visitors can enjoy foods such as rendang, lemang and gulai kuning. Lemang costs (US$1.50-$3) per roll.

Negeri Sembilan has various types of accommodations for travelers, depending on their budget. Star-rated hotels in Port Dickson charge visitors from $35 (three-star hotels) to $170 (five-star hotels) per night, while budget hostels charge less.

Travel tips

- One way to enjoy Negeri Sembilan is by joining a private tour. A one-day private tour in Port Dickson costs up to RM70 (child) and RM150 (adult), while a three-day, two-night Port Dickson-Seremban tour costs RM375 (child) RM570 (adult).

- Negeri Sembilan has a string of modern shopping complexes and department stores, especially in Seremban. These include establishments like The Store, Parkson, Seremban Parade, Seremban City Square and Centre Point. Duty-free items like exquisite watches and sophisticated photographic equipment are widely available at competitive prices.

- The Kuala Lumpur International Airport at Sepang is a mere 30 minutes away from the state capital Seremban. Tourists can choose to take a train from Butterworth, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore to Seremban, from where frequent buses travel to the popular beach resort of Port Dickson. The rail service to the east coast states of Pahang and Kelantan begins from the town of Gemas.

- Other places worth visiting in Negeri Sembilan include the very scenic Seremban Lake Gardens; Cultural Handicraft Complex (Kompleks Taman Seni Budaya) at Labu Spur; and Negeri Sembilan State Museum (Istana Ampang Tinggi), situated within the Cultural Handicraft Complex. Located next to the museum is the Rumah Minang, which was burned down by the British during the Sungai Ujung war.

Original title: Negeri Sembilan: Land of quiet grace