Saturday, November 22, 2008

An Unloved Planter's Bungalow in Jerai Estate (Harvard)

Yesterday, on our way to visit Opah, Papa stopped at the Harvard Golf and Country Club, which is only 10 minutes' drive away from Opah's place. Papa was curious to see the bungalow that is briefly profiled in the delightful coffee table book The Planter's Bungalow. It was once owned by the Malayan American Plantations Ltd, the only US plantation company in the Malay Peninsula. At the time the book was published in 2007, it was occupied by the staff of the golf club.

In a brief span of less than two years, so much has changed for the worse. The bungalow lays abandoned, but the old trees near it are still standing tall with the leaves on the creeping branches and lush foliages of the epiphytes providing a welcoming shade. Papa went inside the dilapidated bungalow. It is in such a terrible state of neglect. He only saw the living hall and did not have the heart to see the kitchen, and the bedrooms upstairs. But he can imagine the views of the graceful Mount Jerai from the bedroom balcony.

What can be done to restore the hitherto low profile bungalow to its former glory? Surely its owner (a deep pockets corporation?) can think of a suitable Corporate Social Responsibility project. Perhaps, it can be converted to a People's Restaurant with BBQ facilities for the public at its magnificent sprawling lawn overlooking Mount Jerai.

Note: In July 1925, 6,300 acres known as the Harvard Estates, were purchased in Kedah, Malaya. United States Rubber Plantation ran these estates under a subsidiary known as the Malayan-American Plantations Ltd.(MAP),which was incorporated into the Federated Malay States (FMS) in 1920. These acquisitions and the cost of their development were financed by the income from United States Rubber Company plantations in Sumatra, which by 1919 had the largest rubber plantations in the world.
Extracted from Yacob, Shakila. Model of Welfare Capitalism? The United States Rubber Company in Southeast Asia, 1910-1942


elisataufik said...

so sad..
are you sure it's not haunted though?
hee hee

Al-Manar said...

This is just like the ‘Pak Cik reminisces’ series in my blog. The sight of ‘Harvard’ catapulted me back, way way back to 1971, thirty-seven years ago! I was then temporarily based in Penang, housed in a well known hotel for six months, leaving my young family in KL. I became very close to a customs officer who was in charge of an anti-smuggling unit.

One fine morning he drove me in his car, officially on an anti-smuggling operation! Being my own boss there I justified my day’s outing on a kind of survey. By nine that morning, the two of us were merrily swinging our golf clubs on the nine-hole Harvard Estate course! That being a normal working day, we practically had the whole course to ourselves. We promised ourselves to pay another visit there but, sadly, never did. But I can never forget the good time we had. I have occasionally thought of that OFFICIAL golfing operation-cum-survey, grinning to myself. What a day and what a pleasant memory that is! So it is now known as Harvard Golf and Country Club. Who would have thought of that 37 years ago?

Thank you for taking my memory on a trip to a part of my remote past.

GUiKP said...

When I entered the bungalow, I didn't feel bulu roma meremang.

Pak Cik
Thank you for sharing your past. There is also a school next to the golf course named SJKT Harvard. That afternoon, we saw a lot of people carrying not their golf clubs, but yoga mats.

Kak Teh said...

GUiKP, I tried posting before this, but failed.
The Planter's Bungalow is a beautiful book. When it was launched in London, I talked to so many planters and their children about their experience there. I have yet to follow up with the interviews.

Al-Manar? Is this Abang Ngah?

am going there straightaway!

GUiKP said...

Sorry Kak Teh. I was moderating the comments at the time you tried to post comment, I suppose. Yes, saw vintage photo of you and AG in ALMANAR sometime ago. These planters are mostly Scottish, aren't they?

IBU said...

Hi, here for the first time, hopped from Kak Teh's. Prompted by ur mentioning of Ikmal HH. You know him?

The bungalow, dilapidated maybe. But beautiful I think. I imagine the bungalow in its hey day, must be one buzzing place.


GUiKP said...

Welcome Ibu. I first knew IHH when he came to see us to sort out our domestic problem with the landlord. The following year, he appointed me to welcome our juniors from Heathrow and showed them around London before they made their way to the country side. I remember taking the innocent 17 or 18 year old to Soho among other places. They stayed in Malaysian Hall for a week or so, and IHH met them a few times for motivational talk. I think it made a difference because that batch later did very well, with straight As and offer from LSE, etc. Are you related to him?

I'm sure the bungalow has witnessed many fancy dress parties, with the men in wig, nyonya kebaya and all. I've seen those photos.

kbguy said...

hi, this is my first time dropping by over here. Enjoy reading your post. About your bungalow story, the moment i saw the photo, it's sort of telling me it's haunted.. just like what I use to see in the movies. Haha.. too imaginative of me. Anyway, I will drop by again. Btw, you can catch me at

GUiKP said...

Nice to see you here, kbguy. My Wan is from Palekbang, near where you live, I reckon. See you again.

Azah said...

This actually happened all over Malaysia where most of the colonial buildings almost collapse to the ground due to neglection and unappreciation of historical values...Sometimes it is heart-wreaking seeing historical old wooden post offices left abandoned without any initiative to restore it. Why can't we follow the foot steps of Australian, they preserve these glories and marvelous buildings. I know it is all about money, no fund and at the end we lost all those precious and breath taking buildings and bungalows. Can't we do something about it?

GUiKP said...

Thank you for visiting and sharing your view. I can only hope that one of these (in addition to earlier hope) will eventually turn out to be true:

1. Badan Warisan Malaysia is initiating the restoration project.

2. The stunning colonial bungalow is going to be transformed into a boutique hotel by YTL or other corporation.

3. Local or international film-maker will use it as a location for a blockbuster movie The Malayan Planters or The Harvard Pontianak.

Raz said...

Fantastic find! I love these old plantation houses. I specialize in locating and documenting these long forgotten buildings of Malaysia's past. If anyone sees anymore locations like this please get in touch with me.

My website:

GUiKP said...

I'm thrilled that you find this blog helpful in your pursuit to record Malaysia's abandoned pre-war buildings. Superb work.

q said...

raz sent me a link to this page so thought i'd write something here then :)

my dad is now retired since 2003 but he was with the american plantation company 'uniroyal' for many years (and after that guthrie when all of the estates were bought over). he became a manager of harvard estate for 5 years until 1995 (if i'm not mistaken) so we actually lived in this bungalow. a few years before that i think he was also an assistant manager at harvard and occupied one of the single storey bungalow nearby.

we sure had some good times in this big house, and it's certainly my favourite among many plantation houses we've lived in. so it's quite shocking and heartbreaking to see its condition now.

as i went to school in my hometown in kuala kangsar, i remember the school holidays spent there especially when many of our cousins joined us too. as i then went to university in USM penang, i also spent many weekends at harvard. of course i took up golf too! :)

even the late john denver came to perform and played a round of golf there. it was also a favourite spot for the sultan of kedah, and one of the single storey bunglaows was even made into an 'istana'.

good to think of all these memories, and thanks for the photos. i should really try to get back to all the plantation houses we used to live at.

GUiKP said...

What a fascinating story, and an enchanting past. Thank you for sharing, q.

Donald Lamont said...

I was fascinated to read these comments. My father (a Scot) worked at Harvard Estate sometime in the 20s or 30s. He first arrived from Scotland in 1913 and left (having been a prisoner of war) in 1945. In a few days' time my wife and I will visit Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, to visit the places he and my mother knew well. Donald Lamont

GUiKP said...

Hi Donald.
Thanks for leaving a comment. Welcome back to Malaysia. If you need any help to get to Harvard Estate, please do not hesitate to contact me Wish you and your wife a Happy New Year, and a pleasant trip and stay.