Pit Stop at the Perak royal town, Kuala Kangsar. The 1st rubber tree in Malaysia was planted in this town. That's about all I knew about this place.
Labu Sayong or water pitcher from Sayong village, known for its health value to help migraine, lower blood pressure etc due to the special properties inherent in the local clay.
Before this, we didn't know much of labu sayong. We didn't go to the village or plan this visit. Out of curiousity, we bumped into this unassuming workshop at No. 3, Kg Setia, Enggor, run by Mohd bin Harun.
Pakcik was very open and gave us a tour of his workshop and how he makes labu sayong. His warm, friendly welcoming people made a lasting impression on all of us - a trait that we've lost in the big cities.
The traditional way of making labu sayong uses hands to mould the clay into the shape of a 'labu' (gourd-like vase) but this is too slow. Now, the clay mixture is poured into standard mould blocks. It's still a very labourious and tedious job.
The clay used to make labu sayong comes from streams, riverbanks and paddy fields, coated with river silt with high iron content. This special local clay is semi-permeable porous but yet does not leak when storing water. Another amazing thing is that the water in labu sayong will stay cool, about 19C, making it ideal in a hot country.
After shaping and drying these pots, they are smoothed and polished with simply "pebbles". The artisan is free to use his creativity to engrave and design the pots. The crafting process is tedious and time-consuming like a piece of art. No wonder it's a dying trade. It's good training for youngsters these days who seek immediate gratification in everything.
Upon completion, it is allowed to air dry for a week before firing it in a small kiln at above 1,000 Celcius for 6-8 hours. Pakcik even made his own kiln like the one above. While it is red-hot, Pakcik will pour dried paddy husks over it so that it will catch fire to create a black sheen coloured labu sayong. Without the paddy husks, the finished labu will have a natural red to brown shade, the colours will depend on the clay properties.
Guess how much is the cost of a labu sayong after such a labourious process? Between RM8 to RM10 each for about a litre plus capacity.
Pakcik took the trouble to demonstrate to the boys the art of traditional pottery using a tabletop potter's wheel. It looked very simple.
And the result? Not difficult to guess which ones were from Pakcik and from Jin.
Other product variations from Pakcik. He has a craft shop in Kuala Kangsar and sells most of his products to KL and other big cities. He could not cater to export market cos he didn't want to machinise the process too much. And it's most difficult to get experienced artisans for the design on the surface of the labu sayong.
I felt moved to support this traditional craft, and bought two labu sayong, and the water is always cool - in a natural way, better than storing in the fridge.
A visit to the royal town would not be complete without visiting the Perak Royal Museum, famous for its traditional Malay architecture built of wood without the use of nails. Originally built as a palace in the 1920s, it's located on a hilly landscape, near to the current palace.
Fine wooden carvings and woven wall-mats enhance the uniqueness of the building. It's closed for renovation, so we managed to see only from the outside.
A much deserved dim sum feast at Foh San, Ipoh at the end of our trip. The charcoal bun with light yam filling was very yummy.