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Thursday, 22 December 2016

A Castle In Malaysia.


Talking about castles, do you know that there is a castle in Malaysia? My neighbour's daughter who got married to a Perak guy even had her pre-wedding photo shoot there. Since I came to know about its existence I had it listed as one of the must-visit attraction but to drive more than 200 km just to visit a castle without any other attractions in its vicinity doesn't sound like a sensible thing to do.
The opportune time came when we got a free 3D/2N stay in Swiss Garden Damai Laut. It just took a little deviation off our intended route to get to this castle and I am glad I finally got to tick it off the the list of places I'd wanted to see.
Kellie's Castle stands isolated along Jalan Gopeng about 6km from the small town of Batu Gajah, Perak. Located about 21km from Gopeng Toll Plaza, the castle is clearly visible from Gopeng Road. It is separated from the road by a small river (Sungai Raya) which meanders in front of it and to access the castle ground, one has to cross a bridge. 
This photo is taken from the upper floor of Kellie's Castle overlooking the bridge, the river, the parking area, a cafeteria and Gopeng Road. There is an entrance fee to be paid before crossing the bridge.
Kellie's Castle is not really shrouded in mystery as there is a historical record of its beginnings. A few parts are quite ambiguous though as accounts from different sources seem to vary slightly. The write-ups about the castle (prepared by Tourism Perak) are displayed on the various walls of the castle to enlighten its visitors. I'll narrate a summary of this interesting yet sad story as I go along. 
Kellie's Castle was built by a Scottish man, William Kellie Smith who arrived in Malaysia (it was Malaya at that time) at the age of 20 as a civil engineer. His business venture with Alma Baker who had won the concession from the state to clear 9000 hectares of forest in Batu Gajah was a huge success. With the fortune made he bought 1000 acres of jungle land and started planting rubber trees. He also ventured into tin-mining. In the meantime he went home to marry his sweetheart Agnes and brought her over to Malaya in 1903. They had a daughter the following year. 
He built his first mansion in 1909 which he named Kellas House and after the birth of his son in 1915 he started to embark on a huge 6-storey castle. Kellas House (the dilapidated building on the left)  is located behind the castle (the structure on the right).
William was rich and he was ambitious. He had plans to install an elevator in his castle which was going to be the first elevator in Malaya. The castle was also supposed to have a rooftop courtyard and an indoor tennis court. 
The castle was meant to be a fusion of Indian, Moorish and Scottish architecture. For the job he brought in 70 craftsmen from Madras, India. All the bricks and marble were also imported from India. 
While construction work was ongoing, the craftsmen were struck by a virulent strain of Spanish Flu and work was temporarily halted. To appease their gods, they approached William to build a Hindu temple which he generously consented. It is believed that there is a secret tunnel that links the castle to the temple. The temple still exist today but I couldn't figure out where the tunnel is. If it ever existed, it would have been blocked and covered by creepers after so many years. 
Sadly, before the castle was completed, William passed away. He caught pneumonia during a short trip to Portugal. His wife was devastated and decided to return to Scotland for good. She sold off the estate to a British company, Harrisons and Crosfield which left Kellas House and the unfinished castle unattended. After many years weeds and undergrowth took over. Today the property is managed by Perak Tourism. Kellas House is in ruin and the castle remains uncompleted even though the jungly growth that engulfed the buildings has been cleared. 
Kellie's Castle is believed to be haunted as there were ghostly sightings in the building by local residents. Visiting it during the afternoon, the castle didn't appear spooky. We did not feel eerie about the place as we walked from room to room and floor to floor. Except for a few rooms on the basement which are very dark, the place is generally bright and airy. 
William seemed to like the shape of a circular arch over a rectangle as most of the castle doors and windows were designed using this shape.


The walls and floors were yet to be paved and many windows and doors yet to be fixed. The castle would have been a real glamour if it was properly completed but a castle this immense for a small family is rather extravagant. Anyway it feels sad to know that William never got  to enjoy the fruit of his labour.
The monotony of the window and door design is broken in a few rooms where the domes took over the circular arches.



There are a few narrow doors that lead to rooms which seemed completely detached from the those along the main hallway.


The elevator that was supposed to be fixed never saw the light of day. This section is probably the rooftop courtyard but the location of the intended indoor tennis court couldn't be figured out. Construction was never completed anyway and we could just keep on guessing.



This is the ruin of William's first mansion seen from the upper floor of the castle.
This photo was taken during the good old days when William (far right) and Agnes (far left) were entertaining their guests in their house compound.
It was interesting to walk back in time and enlightening to learn about Perak history. This historic site is indeed a worthwhile stopover.  


Visiting Details
 Opening Hours : 9.00am – 6.00pm (daily)

 Admission Fee :
* RM 5 (Non Malaysian)
* RM 4 (MyKad Holder)
* RM 3 (secondary school students)
* RM 2 (primary school students)
* FREE (child aged six and below)

Tel : 05-365 1336

1 comment :

  1. I really like your informative post. Thank you for sharing this post.

    ReplyDelete

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