Friday, January 07, 2011
Be innovative and protective in tourist products
Posted by: NK Khoo
Melaka and Penang's historical past and multiracial cultures are hidden gem for attracting the eye balls of local and foreign tourists. Revolving tower, duck boat and ferris wheel are commodities anyone can buy with the money and install in their city like in Singapore. As an expatriate working in Kandy, Sri Lanka in late 90s during the climate of civil war. I wish to share how Kandy revived their traditional dance, religious rituals and arts through an annual Esala Perahera or Esala Procession. Today this religious ceremony has grown into one of the most splendid sights in Sri Lanka and Southern Asia. This carnival attracting a lot of devotees and foreign tourists each year, the Kandy city is jam-packed during the 5-day festival.
Penang and Melaka with their rich and diversified cultures and festivals should be repackaged and promoted to international tourists. For instance, Thaipusam and Nine Emperor Gods processions can be promoted actively and aggressively to India and the Great China markets, a combined of 2.5 billion population.
The bullock cart, a common transport in 60s and earlier in Malaysia should be capitalized and re-introduced as a tourist product especially in the Melaka Heritage City. Melaka traditional bullock cart is unique and beautifully decorated, imprinted a lasting impression on me when I first saw Melaka bullock cart in 70s as a little school boy.
We can learn from the Vigan City, another world heritage city in Philippines where horse cart or horse drawn carriage is one of the top tourist attractions. There is a bag hanging on the back of the horse to collect its droppings for maintaining street cleanliness at all times. I believe more tourists will prefer to ride the unique bullock cart city heritage tour than trishaw and thus it can also create more jobs for the local people.
Another suggestion to Penang and Melaka state governments is erecting shielded corridor to link up all major heritage sites to protect tourists from the tropical vicious heat and rain.
Chingay was first printed on the papers in 1921 in Penang was "hijacked" by Singapore as their annual cultural parade held in Orchard Road. Malaysian government is far lagging behind our neighboring nations to keep and register our cultural intangible assets in our shores with the UNESCO. Indonesia had registered batik and kris as their cultural heritage, and I afraid Singapore will register Chingay as their cultural asset very soon. We may shouting Malaysia is truly Asia, but at the end nothing is left for us by the present trend.
Melaka bullock cart rides are still available in Ayer Keroh. Used to be at Padang at Bandar Hilir which has now been developed into a shopping mall.
Melaka also used to have a cultural event called "Mandi Safar" in the 1960's and 1970's which was a cultural event. It was held at Pantai Kundur (Pantai Puteri) and there were decorated bullock carts, pantun, dondang sayang etc. Very popular until some said the cultural event was not in line with Malaysia's religious values. :(
Now, Mandi Safar is not being promoted.
If we can revive Mandi Safar, it can be another tourism product which can feature our diverse cultures, re-energise the pantun, dondang sayang heritage together with the decorated bullock carts. Pantai Kundur (Pantai Puteri) is a perfect place for this event. It can be an annual affair for visitors and locals to enjoy the sea breeze and heritage aspects of Melaka.
If Rio de Janeiro in Brazil can have their annual Madi Gra, New Orleans their annual Jazz festival or Venice their January Festival, Melaka can have our own "Mandi Safar" and Penang, their year end "Chingay" festival.