Nov 2017 Istana Alam Shah
Istana Alam Shah

Tuesday 24 Oct saw the first of the Explorers Out & About Xtr, a programme of events which are, in some way, extra to the normal Explorers trips. This first one was to be very special indeed as it was a visit to the Istana Alam Shah in Klang, organized by Julia Stanbrook.

The day started early as we had to be in Klang for a 9am start. We were also required to be modestly dressed in the Islamic tradition so, for some, the trip organization had started weeks earlier at Jakel in Little India as suitable clothes and scarves were chosen and purchased in readiness.

The first hour of the visit was a guided tour of The Royal Gallery, housed in the Sultan Suleiman Building. We were met by Encik Munasor who is the General Manager of this beautiful colonial building and all the artifacts inside. He explained that the gallery is dedicated to the father of the current and ninth Sultan of Selangor, i.e. the eighth Sultan: Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah.

The gallery is open to the public (and is free admission!) and is to be recommended as an interesting trip. The building itself has a very interesting history having been built by the British in 1909, then occupied by the Japanese during the war, then used variously as a police station, and other government offices.


Inside, there is a brief historic description of the previous Sultans of Malaysia from the first in 1766 up to today, and then the life of the eighth Sultan really is described fully by the collection of items from his varied life – from the ornate music box he had as a child and broke when he over-wound it in 1923, to the collection of swords he owned and his military uniforms when he worked his way up from Cadet in the army to Major. It was a lovely insight into the humanity of the man to see the tearful photograph of him as he signed away Putrajaya to the Federal Territories in 2000, having lost Kuala Lumpur as the capital city of Selangor in 1974.

We really felt like we had an insight into the Sultan’s character at the gallery before the next part of the trip which was the visit to the Istana.

This was the most exciting part of the day as the Istana is not open to the public and it is a very special privilege to be accepted as visitors. As soon as we arrived we were shown into the Balai Tenagah, a banquet hall where we were graciously given the most famous and delicious Malaysian breakfast: Nasi Lemak. Also present to receive us was a member of the royal family and the Imam from the Istana Masjid.

After the delicious breakfast, the tour of the Istana began.

We saw many lavishly appointed state rooms such as the Balai Santapan Diraja which is the banquet hall for 1000 guests, and the Balai Menghadap where guests of honour such as heads of state and foreign dignitaries are received. Happily we were allowed to rest a while on the plush seating and just imagine who had been there before us!

It was very interesting to visit the Sultan’s office and see, on his desk, the ‘Keep calm and reign on’ mug complete with pencils!

Rather touchingly, we were also allowed to view the royal bathroom in all its splendor of yellow tiled walls; and a luxurious bedroom reserved for visiting VVIPs.

It was a bit alarming to see a real tiger skin rug on the floor – a throwback to a different era.

We were then taken to visit the Istana’s own Masjid and the Imam was introduced to us.

The final part of the visit was to see the Sultan’s collection of cars, motor bikes, and other related museum-quality artifacts, including several old gas pumps. It was fascinating to see his gold Rolls Royce parked near a 1972 Morris Minor Post Office red van!

This brought our morning’s visit to an end and we left the Istana feeling like we had really seen an amazing part of Malaysian heritage, thankfully well conserved and curated for future generations.
We all felt very privileged to have had this opportunity, and would like to thank all the staff at the Istana who were so friendly and welcoming to us, also many, many thanks to Julia Stanbrook for initiating and organizing the visit.


Text by Jeanie Kennedy
Photos by Julia Stanbrook