|On the afternoon of the 4th of March, Rev. W.G. Shellabear and I took passage on the s.s. Malacca for the port of Klang, which we reached on the second morning after leaving Singapore. We entered the Klang river very early in the morning, and by half past six we had dropped anchor, but we failed to catch the 7 a.m. train to Kwala Lumpur, the capital of the State of Selangor, by the narrow margin of about ten seconds, and had the pleasure of watching the train as it disappeared in the distance. As we had to wait two hours for the next train, we found our way to the Rest House and ordered breakfast, which was dispatched in time to permit us to see the town, which we did on our bicycles. Entering a respectable looking shop, we were accosted by a Chinaman who spoke English very well, and who informed us that he had studied in the Free School at Penang. His employer was the opium farmer, who takes such an interest in the education of his countrymen that, with the assistance of other wealthy Chinamen, he has established an Anglo-Chinese Free School at Klang, which will soon be housed in a new building now in course of erection. This building will accommodate fifty or sixty pupils, and there are now about thirty in attendance, none of whom pay any fees. We were informed that the contemplated extension of the railway to Kwala Klang would not prove detrimental to the town of Klang, inasmuch as its properity depends far more upon the plantations in the district than upon the shipping or the railway.
The railway to Kwala Lumpur is a very good one, but the speed is rather moderate, though not so slow as to make the journey uninteresting. The high expectations aroused by what we had heard of the very fine railway station at Kwala Lumpur were not in the least degree disappointed. One is immediately reminded of the home lands by the superior architecture and the general equipment of the station. We were not prepared, however, to see such fine Government buildings as are now in process of construction, stretching along the Esplanade in the centre of the town. A hundred yards or more in length, with a lofty tower in the middle, decidedly modern and up to date in its architecture, which is Moorish in style, and costing $330,000, this building promises to be by far the finest structure east of Calcutta, if not indeed of Bombay. Such an edifice is a striking proof of the wealth and importance not only of the State of Selangor but also of the whole of the Federated Malay States, the central government of which is to be located here. Singapore and Penang must look to their laurels, for the time is not remote when Kwala Lumpur will rival if not surpass them both.
Kwala Lumpur is situated at the junction of the Klang river with one of its tributaries. The valley is occupied by the Chinese town, the railway station, the new Government offices, and the Esplanade, around which are grouped a few other Government buildings, while the European residents live chiefly on the hills to the west of the river. These hills are very numerous, and rise to a height of from one to two hundred feet. The European houses are almost invariably bungalows, with a pretty style of architecture peculiar to the Native States. The view from these hill tops is really sublime. The mountains stretching along the northern and eastern horizon and towering four or five thousand feet heavenward are a lovely sight, as they lie green and mottled under the midday sun, their appearance ever varying with the shifting cloud shadows or driving rain storms. Each hour in the day furnishes some fresh delight for the eye in these great reminders of the Maker of all things. The climate is much drier and more salubrious than that of Singapore, and the mornings and evenings are cooler if the day is hotter.
A journey of three hours to Kwala Kubu, the terminus of the railway, confirmed what we had heard, that a beautiful and fertile country extends far inland. The level of the country rises gradually, and at the same time presents a more and more attractive and interesting prospect. As we rolled along, tract after tract of newly cut jungle filled with charred stumps and prostrate trunks of trees alternated with plantations of dark green, healthy coffee trees. In every new plantation large nursery beds protected by a light flat roof of palm branches were crowded with tiny coffee trees in various stages of growth. Enterprise, push, and prosperity in embryo are written large on all these wide acres.
There are two important mining towns between Kwala Lumpur and the terminus, Serendah and Rawang, the former inhabited mainly by Hakka Chinamen and the latter by Hokkiens.
Kwala Kubu is so near the mountains that it lies in their cool morning shadow, and a clear mountain stream runs through the village. Here is the beginning of the important cart road which is now being pushed across the mountains into the very heart of Pahang. It is expected that the railway will follow in time, and that the rich State of Pahang, so inaccessible from the eastward on account of the heavy surf caused by the N.E. Monsoon, will thus be provided with an easy and unfailing line of communication with the outer world. Moreover it is proposed to construct a line of railway from Kwala Kubu to Ipoh, in order to connect the railway system of Selangor with that of Perak, so there is every prospect that Kwala Kubu will be a place of great importance in the future.
It will be understood from what has been said above that planting promises to be an important industry in Selangor, but at present the majority of the population get their living out of the tin mines, and, as is the case in mining districts all over the world, the moral condition of the people is terribly low. The Government officials seem to be quite persuaded that the Chinese immigrants should be provided with facilities for indulging in those vices to which they are most addicted, and consequently licensed gambling and opium shops are found everywhere, and until recently the houses of ill-fame bore the Government imprimatur. Murders, gang robberies, and other crimes of violence are prevalent throughout the State of Selangor. Those who sow the wind must reap the whirlwind.
The Malaysia Message
Vol. V No. 7