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A letter to The Star: Repackage our cultural gems

MALACCA’S and Penang’s historical past and multiracial cultures are hidden gems for attracting local and foreign tourists.

A revolving tower and ferris wheel are commodities anyone can buy with money and install in their city.

Kandy in Sri Lanka revived its traditional dance, religious rituals and arts through the annual Esala Perahera or Esala Procession. Today this religious ceremony has grown into one of the most splendid sights in Sri Lanka and Southern Asia. This carnival attracts a lot of devotees and foreign tourists each year, and Kandy city is jam-packed during the five-day festival.

Penang and Malacca with their rich and diversified cultures and festivals should be repackaged and promoted to international tourists.

For instance, Thaipusam and Nine Emperor Gods processions can be promoted actively and aggressively to India and the Great China markets, a combined 2.5 billion population.

We can also learn from Vigan City in the Philippines, another world heritage city, where the horse cart or horse drawn carriage is one of the top tourist attractions.A bag hangs on the back of the horse to collect its droppings for maintaining street cleanliness at all times.

The bullock cart, a common transport in the 60s and earlier, should be re-introduced as a tourist product especially in Melaka Heritage City. Malacca’s traditional bullock cart is unique and beautifully decorated, and imprinted a lasting impression on me when I first saw one in the 70s as a school boy.

I believe more tourists will prefer to ride a unique heritage city bullock cart than trishaw, and it can also create more jobs for the local people.

Another suggestion to the Penang and Malacca state governments is to put up shielded corridors to link up all major heritage sites to protect tourists from the tropical heat and rain.

Chingay, in the news in Penang as early as in 1921, was “hijacked” by Singapore for its annual cultural parade in Orchard Road.

The Government is far lagging behind our neighbours in keeping and registering our intangible cultural assets with Unesco. Indonesia registered batik and the kris as its cultural heritage, and I am afraid Singapore will register Chingay as its cultural asset very soon.

We may be shouting Malaysia is truly Asia, but at the end nothing will be left for us if the present trend persists.

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