As one moves about the town of Kuala Kangsar, one will surely come across the Town’s historical Clock Tower which is strategically located in the middle of the Town’s central traffic roundabout. Completed in 1939 to commemorate the coronation of King George VI, which actually took place in 1937, funding for its construction was provided by the Perak State Government as well as from contributions made by the people of Kuala Kangsar. The structure originally featured a turret clock at its top with four clock faces facing the four main streets of Kuala Kangsar, presently known as Jalan Daeng Selili, Jalan Istana, Jalan Kangsar, and Jalan Taiping.
Jalan Daeng Selili is named after the first Mufti of Perak who is widely recognised as the founder of Kuala Kangsar. Jalan Istana is the road heading up Bukit Chandan towards Istana Iskandariah -Perak’s Royal Palace and the official residence of the Sultan of Perak. Jalan Kangsar is so named as it runs parallel to the Kangsar River while Jalan Taiping is the west-bound road heading towards Taiping – the administrative centre of Perak before Ipoh was designated as the State Capital in 1937.
Over the years, The Clock Tower had been featured as the centrepiece to celebrate occasions and events in Kuala Kangsar. From the annual social, cultural and religious celebrations such as the New Year Celebrations and the Sultan of Perak Birthday Celebrations, to special events such as the Coronation of the Sultan of Perak, the Clock Tower had experienced it all. However, two key events held special significance to the Tower. In 1957, in conjunction with the independence of the then Malayan Federation from Britain, the Clock Tower was re-dedicated to the country’s Merdeka and the celebrations related to it. As the Tower celebrated its 50th Anniversary, a Gold Dome was added to the Clock Tower to commemorate the visit to Kuala Kangsar of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness Prince Philip.
For the local townsfolk, the Jam Besar (literal translation : Big Clock), as it is popularly known, is a part of their daily lives. Standing majestically in between the “Old Town” and “New Town” areas of Kuala Kangsar, the Clock Tower represent the pulse of this Royal Town of Perak – not only in terms of traffic volume but also in terms of the daily activities of the people of Kuala Kangsar and its surroundings. Standing the test of time at the corner of Jalan Daeng Selili and Jalan Taiping is a building most synonymous with the Jam Besar – the Kuala Kangsar Post Office which was also built in the 1930s.
Across Jalan Daeng Selili from the Post Office is the area known as KK Old Town which featured several rows of pre-war shophouses as well as two major transportation hubs – the Town’s former Bus Station and, further down, the Lembah area with its Jeti Penambang (River Boat Jetties) where the sampans, boats and ferries used to anchor while waiting for passengers on the banks of the Perak River. Presently, the Bus Station had been moved to another location while the Jeti Penambang had reduced in importance due to advances in road transport options as well as the opening of the Sultan Abdul Jalil Shah Bridge in 2002.
Meanwhile, the Lembah area has been developed in recent years to become a bustling trading hub of local products from food to traditional crafts. This area also feature weekend street markets selling fresh produce as well as local delicacies. There are also various permanent and mobile food stalls selling local specialties including the famous Kuala Kangsar Laksa and Chendol, amongs others.
As a Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK) student in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Post Office is a compulsory stop during the weekly Saturday Town Outings to collect Money Order Remit-tences for one’s self or one’s friends. With money in pocket, those from the junior forms would then head to the Shopping Bazaar (located at the corner of Jalan Istana and Jalan Kangsar) before heading to popular Malay eateries such as the Chendol and Laksa stalls along Jalan Shahbandar, as well as Kassim Restaurant (located on the banks of the River Kangsar) and Restoren Zabidi (located just across Taiping Road from the Post Office). Alas, these once popular hotspots have fallen victim to development and in their place, there is now the Dataran Putra Kuala Kangsar which is a recreational area featuring attractions such as the London Telephone Booth and the McDonnel Douglas A4 Skyhawk fighter jet.
By the way, the senior form MCKK Boys would be frequenting more exotic eateries that feature more privacy – the most famous establishment being the Yut Loy Restaurant that feature enclosed eating booths … Ah, those were the days.
A final note – do allocate some time to walk around Kuala Kangsar Town visiting the various commercial establishment and tasting the various Malay, Chinese and Indian delicacies and, don’t forget to snap a picture or two of you and the Jam Besar.