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Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia: Try traditional skills, Eat and Stay

December 5, 202312 minute read
traditional skills

No visit to Malaysia’s State of Negeri Sembilan is complete without eating the Negeri Sembilan food. Likewise, you’d miss out on a lot without finding out more about the original owners of the land, the Orang Asli, mostly of Temuan tribal origin. They are intimately connected with the cultural fabric of the State including the Royalty. They’ve also up-kept and developed traditional skills as part of their daily lives. We visit Kg Kolam Air, home to a Temuan tribe in Kuala Pilah district, try some Traditional archery and enjoy an array of Local Delicacies. Because one day isn’t long enough, if you don’t know where to stay a night, read on!

Traditional skills

Kg Kolam Air

  • Jln Kolam Air,
  • Pantai,
  • Negeri Sembilan
  • Contact:
    • Ramli Org Asli Kg Kolam Air Pantai  +60 14-634 2528

By the time the coastal Malay community began their migration to the interior in the late 14th, early 15th Centuries, the Temuan community already lived in the area of the modern state of Negeri Sembilan and neighbouring areas. They cultivated irrigated rice using sophisticated field irrigation techniques and already had their own political structures with an organised administration. The land belonging to the local communities was led by an elected batin, the village head and a respected member of the community. He has a number of deputies who are assigned different tasks. A Pengulu balai organises holidays and celebrations and acts as a Chairman who carries out the day to day organisation. This system is still in practice today, and it was the Chairman who oversaw our visit.

The entrance to the kampung crosses the small river.

As the Malay population mostly those of Minangkabau origin spread gradually to the interior, they formed agreements with the local batins. Through mixed marriages with the Temuans, the Minangkabau gained the right to inherit power. For this reason, the cultural practices, customary laws (Adat Perpatih) and traditional wooden homes of Negeri Sembilan are strongly influenced by those originating from the Minangkabau Highlands in Sumatra, Indonesia.

traditional skills
The girls demonstrate their dancing skills, showing off their freshly woven outfits.

While some Temuans in Kg Kolam Air adopted Islam and some became Christians, the majority of the residents retained their Animist beliefs and practices. They are very skilled with the blowpipe, used for hunting and their traditionally cooked food is delicious. Cooked in hollow bamboo lengths over a wood fire, the flavours develop and mix to produce tender meat and fragrant rice. The Chairman explained the setup of the kampung (the village) and then introduced two of the locals who were skilled in accompanying the young dancers who welcomed us. Using only a pair of short logs cut from the jungle trees, which they had roughly shaped to resonate when struck with sticks, they were able to produce a variety of sound patterns and variations in tone to keep the dancers in time.

traditional skills
Tapping out the rhythm with carefully selected timber sticks and small shaped logs.

Mengkuang, also known as screw pine or pandanus (Pandanus atrocarpus) is extensively used by the Temuan people for weaving. Not only is it used for decorative purposes, but for making the walls of houses and items like mats and bags. The woven items are lasting and dry out over time. We tried out some simple weaving and later went to try using a blowpipe. Murie showed us how to load the pipe, topping out the darts with a little piece of natural rubber. He and his friend Azreen demonstrated the use of the blowpipe to shoot out some waving balloons about 50m away, before letting us try. The balloons were all still safe, it’s not as easy as they made it look.

Traditional archery at Ladang Alam Wawasan

Traditional Archery was introduced to Malaysia around twenty years ago and this is the centre of the sport in the country. We were surprised to discover that this traditional skills is actually part of a worldwide movement which regularly conducts championships, where Malaysian archers have performed very well.

traditional skills
We learn about the bow and its construction and balance

Firstly, the bows as we discovered, are not as complex as those used in the Olympic version of the sport, but lighter as they’re made of a composite material, with a simple string arrangement. Like the other version though, you have to hold the bow correctly and pull the string evenly so you don’t hurt yourself or others. After a demonstration, we each had a try and I was pleased to discover that I managed to get my arrow on the board, if not in the centre.

Bullseye? Well, at least it was on the board.

Now here’s the really interesting part! Not only do these archers win gold medals for hitting the target standing, they can also do it while riding on a horse! We watched as they did this, hitting the target each time. Imagine having to keep your balance only with your legs, while your arms are busy shooting a target!

If you are accompanying someone out practicing their skills, or it starts to rain, there is a very pleasant reception area with board games and other activities to try. Ladang Alam Warisan also has homestay chalets to rent and they have some resident emus and an ostrich.

Turn right at the sign and go to the end of the short road.

Local Delicacies – Where to eat?

Malaysians LOVE food and will eat any time of day or night. One food that’s popular with everyone is a humble plate of char koay teow or Kueh Teow Goreng, fried flat noodles.

Kueh Teow Goreng Chok

  • No. 618/3, Jalan Perpateh,
  • Kuala Pilah 72000

We popped by to enjoy this simple but filling dish for dinner and were not disappointed. Our orders were taken promptly by a helper and although you can have your dish kept basic, as I did, they’ll cater for spicy/very spicy, with or without cockles and whether you want the normal dry, or a slightly soupy version (kueh teow basah). All orders arrived reasonably quickly and correctly and we washed them down with our choices from the drinks stall in the same hawker centre. All the dishes are pork and lard free and the stall was busy, patronised by Malaysians of all communities.

The fried kueh teow is freshly cooked the traditional way over charcoal, by the owner.

You can find them on Google Maps, where visitors have rated them 4 stars. They’re open until 11.59pm daily. The stall probably does close sometimes, but these may be irregular days, as all the cooking is done by the owner himself. He told me he’d carried on the stall inherited from his father, so the food has been well tested. Mr Chok cooks using a charcoal fire, in a well seasoned wok. This is considered to give the best tasting result as the cook is able to incorporate ‘wok hei’ into the food. A bit like breathing life into the wok, it’s commonly used to describe the slightly smoky flavour from the caramelisation of sugars in stir fried food.

Kueh teow goreng Chok is popular with people from all communities.

Kodai Makan Ain (Sri Menanti)

  • Block A Perkampungan Budaya Terachi,
  • 71500 Tanjong Ipoh
  • Negeri Sembilan
    • Phone: +60 19-682 9253
  • Opening hours:
    • Daily 8am – 5pm
    • Closed Friday

Kodai Makan Ain combines the best in lunchtime food – great food in a semi open air environment and on the day we dropped by, live music which is available every Saturday & Sunday.  The restaurant is surrounded by padi fields, with plenty of parking available, and easy to find along the main road about 200m in from the big ‘Padi’ sign.

Not only is there a huge array of dishes to choose from, cooked in the Negeri Sembilan style, they have tables groaning with cakes and buns to take home and fridges bursting at the seams with fresh fruits, drinks and all kinds of dangerous looking desserts. The restaurant is self serve. You line up in front of the huge rice pot and serve as much as you need onto waxed paper already arranged on plates piled at the side. Then it’s off along the food line.

A delicious mix of chicken masak lemak with veggies.

As always, when faced with such variety, this writer suffered brain freeze and became very selective, ending up with a small (compared to others) serving of rice well covered with different types of vegetable and some chicken, all cooked in the wonderful masak lemak style. This creamy yellow sauce is mildly spicy, but it raises the level of just about any type of meat or vegetable and my meal did not disappoint. My plate was clean in no time. You can choose to eat with your hand (there are plenty of sinks handy) or pick up spoon and fork as you move along the line.

Enjoy your lunch surrounded by padi fields

Cendol Durian Bawah Pokok 796

  • No 154, Batu Satu,
  • Jalan Seremban Lama,
  • Taman Pilah Jaya, 72000 Kuala Pilah
    • Phone: +60102572796
  • Website
  • Opening Hours
    • Sunday           11 am–6 pm
    • Monday          Closed
    • Tuesday          11 am–6 pm
    • Wednesday    11 am–6 pm
    • Thursday        11 am–6 pm
    • Friday             11 am–8 pm
    • Saturday        11 am–6 pm

Malaysia has many food stalls ‘Bawah Pokok’ which translates as ‘under the tree’, because many of them started out as a simple stall, sometimes mobile, with a few seats and folding tables set up under a tree. As they became popular, these stalls may have been incorporated into a more formal hawker centre or moved to their own premises.

Cendol durian is not for the faint hearted, cendol (pronounced chendol) is a bright green short tapioca noodle served with shaved ice in a bowl with santan (coconut milk) and gula melaka (palm syrup). By itself it is delicious and aficionados (me) will judge a good serving by overall taste and the springiness of the noodle. Appearance does not count as it has been compared to all sorts of unappetising foods.

It tastes as good as it looks, but don’t be put off trying at least once.

Add durian, another food that raises strong emotions, love it or hate it. You wouldn’t eat any of the ‘branded’ durians with cendol, as they tend to have a strong and identifiable taste. The bowls of cendol durian we ate came with 3 or 4 seeds of a mild flavoured durian, full fleshed and not too strong tasting. It went well with the flavour of the cendol but was very rich, and for this participant at least was sufficient to count as dinner.

You can also have your cendol plain, or with other combinations including pulut, beluluk fruit (sugar palm, (Arenga pinnata )) corn or red beans. Available too, is ‘ABC’ also known as ais kacang, served with red beans and coloured jelly with sweet pink syrup, over shaved ice.

The prices for various options are on display.

Where to stay

Melang Inn

  •  Jalan Melang,
  • Taman Pilah Jaya,
  • Kuala Pilah
    • Phone: +60 6481 1511
  • Website

We spent the night at the Melang Inn, a small but convenient hotel in Kuala Pilah. Our room was clean but not fussy, but the twin beds were fresh and comfortable. The two pillows (one firm, one soft) were also appreciated.

The rooms are arranged around a central atrium which can be admired from the glass walled lift. We were told some rooms were without windows, although our room had a balcony overlooking the shophouses next door. However the view over the top was one of rolling hills to the north of the town. The room had a clean bathroom with a walk in shower (non-slip floor) and absorbent towels. 

The shower stall has a non slip space to stand, with a shallow channel to direct water to the drain outlet.

Free Wi-Fi was available, but apparently only for two devices, and the room was equipped with a flat-screen TV and coffee and tea making facilities. Only two small bottles of water were provided, but we were able to get more at Econsave and Mr DIY close by. These shops close at 10pm. Please note that there is a Friday night pasar malam 4.00 PM – 10.00 PM which restricts access to vehicles along Jln Melang.

A simple breakfast of nasi lemak from the buffet

 The Ruby cafe is open for light meals on an ala carte basis, 9.00am–5.30pm daily. We enjoyed a simple breakfast of nasi lemak and toast from a small buffet. Other amenities offered by the hotel include banqueting facilities and meeting rooms and there is a small garden with sitting areas.

Things to note

You might like to bring your own room shoes, as those provided are plastic and not to take with you.

Soap and shampoo are in wall dispensers, but the sink does have a separate small soap bar.

All in, we found Melang Inn clean and comfortable, with nothing to suggest we should avoid it as it’s an affordable choice and conveniently located.

You can see the hotel from the main road. On Friday evening the pasar malam occupies the road from 4-10pm.

Check out our YouTube video, coming soon, for more information.


# Accommodation, culture, Food, Malaysia, Negeri Sembilan
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