Category: malaysia

Kuala Lumpur railway station, Malaysia, 1950s.

“Deep Skull” was found in 1958 on Borneo, and since then it has remained the earliest known remnant of a modern human in island Southeast Asia. It is about 37,000 years old.

It had been thought that the skull was related to indigenous Australians. This would support the idea that Borneo was settled in two waves, first by the ancestors of indigenous Australians, then by immigrants from Asia who became the ancestors of Borneo’s modern indigenous people.

A new analysis suggests that Deep Skull is more Asian than Australian. That supports the idea that Borneo was in fact settled by one major migration, not two.

Everyday life of Malaya in the early 1960s through a surveyor’s lens.

In 1901 Colombia minted special coins for use in leper colonies. Following the first leprosy congress in Berlin in 1897, the nation minted coins in five values for use in three colonies. The point was to keep leprosy from being spread, by preventing money touched by lepers from getting circulated throughout the population.

The Philippines followed suit in 1913, followed by Japan and Malaysia. The United States produced special coins for a colony in the Panama Canal Zone. The coins were produced to protect healthy people, but in 1938 Gordon Alexander Ryrie, director of Malaysia’s Sungei Buloh Settlement, proved that the disease can’t spread by such casual contact. His colony burned the notes it had printed.

Its name means “Pineapple Hill” in Malay, and it is among the smallest patches of rainforest in the world. Located at the heart of Kuala Lampur, the virgin tropical forest Bukit Nanas has been a nature preserve since 1906. Unfortunately it has not escaped the encroaching city. Although 17.5 hectares were originally put in the preserve, only 9.3 hectares remain forest. 

Orangutans are named not for the  color, orange. Their name comes from the Indonesian and Malay words “orang” meaning “person” and “hutan” meaning “forest.” Orangutans are forest people! The term was originally used for human beings who lived in the forest, but was given to the ape by a Dutch physician and naturalist who put it in his book in 1631.

Malaysia experienced a series of hysteria epidemics from 1962 to 1971. Twenty-nine schools, in predominantly rural areas, would erupt into mass hysterias. These often coincided with major social events or catastrophes. 

One psychiatrist said he found a pattern: “The girls would scream, shout, and run aimlessly all over in terror” and complain about apparitions, such as “an ugly woman eight feet tall” or ghosts that would steal their underwear or their food. No physical cause for the upset was ever found. Each incident was probably a mass psychogenic illness – psychological in cause, not medical.

Recently, there have been more cases of mass hysteria in schools. They seem to be fanned by social media reports of apparitions. And the school authorities take them seriously, bringing in religious authorities, exorcists, and counselors. Unfortunately, these mass hysterias usually come in waves and Malaysia seems to be in the middle of another one.

29 wonderful photos that document a Malaysian wedding in the 1970s.

Penang, Malaysia, is a fascinating city. The British hoisted the Union Jack on Penang in 1786. Before the British, in the early 1700s, ethnic Minangkabaus from Sumatra and Arabs had set up trading posts on Penang Island, but it was basically undeveloped. The British set out to change that, and work began to create a new city – George Town. There’s a story that the British founder, Captain Francis Light, shot silver coins from a canon into the jungle to encourage people to clear the land as they searched for them!

George Town grew quickly and it became an important part of trading routes that linked countries like China and India. There was also a nearby tin mining boom, and local spice production. In short, by the 1830s Penang Island was a major port in the region and the economy was booming. Chinese and Indians as well as Armenians, Arabs, Jews, and Germans moved to George Town to make their fortunes. They made Penang Island a meeting of cultures, which can still be seen today as you walk George Town’s streets.