By CHONG LIP TECK
Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE
Sin Chew Daily
A local production house went to Bukit Larut to shoot a thriller. The film's director later said that the place was haunted! When I mentioned it to a friend from Taiping, he said that there were indeed haunted stories about the place and among them, it was a story about a British woman, who was on a holiday at Bukit Larut, had died of dystocia and it was then rumoured that the woman would show herself in the middle of the night. She combed her long hair while looking for her baby...
There are many British style holiday homes on the historical hill. It is a bit old. The dusky light at night, the cold breeze and thick fog make the atmosphere strange. Also, visitors are forbidden to go out in the middle of night. All these are indeed great materials for ghost stories.
Which place does not have its own stories? In addition to ghost stories, as a resort hill, I believe that a great variety of stories about the place have been speculated since the British colonial period. There might be romantic, nostalgic and mythical stories in other places to put a soul into them and establish an image. For example, there are many myths in Langkawi and the legend of Puteri Mahsuri has added a romantic and sorrow atmosphere to the island. Also, every street, every ancient temple and every building in World Heritage Sites Malacca and Penang has their own story to tell.
Great stories add connotations to beautiful lakes and mountains, as well as classic historical buildings and make them fascinating. Stories can also help further impress visitors.
Of course, the cultural connotation of a place must not be deliberately created just to please visitors. Stories must be life experiences of local residents or natural reflection of customs and traditions. Buildings must not deliberately reconstructed. A building piled up with money without a soul would not shine even if it is linked to different kinds of stories.
If the old houses on the hill are demolished, the stories would lose their significance. If the original historical monuments in Langkawi, Malacca and Penang are deliberately reconstructed, listeners of the stories would not be able to feel the atmosphere.
Cultural and racial diversity, as well as different living atmospheres of Malaysia are sources for many stories, such as the recently launched 100 Best traditional kopitiam (Chinese coffee shops) list prepared by the Tourism Ministry with the help of the Malaysia-Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors’ General Association. Chinese coffee shops tells many Malaysian Chinese stories. There must be unknown stories behind the Hainan coffee, kaya toasts and tea makers. How shop owners started the business and who usually visited the shops would be a portrayal of local life. These stories should be told after the list is revealed so that they would be retained and speculated.
Unfortunately, the list of coffee shops is in fact just a pawn of the Tourism Ministry meant for publicity. After all, it does not really benefit the shop owners. After the noise is over, everything will get back to normal without a new twist or new life.