Dindings – Britains’ Least Known Former Colony?


Like many of my generation, I was an avid stamp collector as a boy and I specialised in Commonwealth and British Empire stamps. Through stamps I learned something of Britain’s former possessions and protectorates with exotic names like the Kathiri State of Seiyun, Mafia Island, Stellaland, Poonch and the Cocos Islands (the Cocos were for a time part of the Straits Settlements).

But until I moved to Malaysia I had never heard of Dindings, a strip of Perak territory which was ceded to Britain in 1826 and remained a colony as part of the Straits Settlements until it was returned to Perak in 1935. This may be because Dindings never issued its own stamps, using instead either Straits Settlements or Perak stamps. Stanley Gibbons’ specialised stamp catalogue for Malaysia doesn’t even mention Dindings, possibly an oversight on their part.


Sitiawan and Pangkor Postmarks

Dindings (which was renamed Manjung on 1 January 1982) comprises the island of Pangkor and the towns of Lumut and Sitiawan on the mainland. The districts of Beruas and Pantai Remis also come under modern-day Manjung.

Railway Map 1914 showing the Dindings, shaded in British pink.

Following the signing of the Anglo Dutch Treaty in 1824 the British stepped up their involvement on the Malay Peninsula and they took control of Pangkor Island in 1826 with the aim of suppressing piracy. They also probably wanted to prevent the Dutch from returning – the Dutch had had a minor presence on Pangkor since 1661 though they abandoned the island for good in 1748.


In 1874 the Pangkor Treaty was signed with the Sultan of Perak under which Pangkor and the strip of mainland containing Lumut and Sitiawan was ceded to Britain and placed under the wing of the British Governor in Penang. Britain demanded this territory as reward for helping to bring peace to Perak between two rival Chinese clans who were feuding over tin mining.

Pantai Remis has a number of well preserved wooden shophouses.

Having obtained the Dindings, Britain did very little with it. The original intention may have been to use it as a gateway to Perak’s booming tin ore trade but it was found more convenient to use Port Weld, which had a harbour and branch railway line, to export tin. No railways were ever built in Dindings and no port was developed. With Penang not far away the Dindings were probably seen as superfluous.

This old British made pillar box outside the post office at Lumut is still in use. It is inscribed ‘McDowall Steven & Co.Ltd, London & Glasgow’, a firm of iron founders in operation from 1862-1909.

Today there is little to show that Britain was ever there – just a couple of post offices and police stations, one or two schools and churches and a number of colonial-era bungalows and government offices.

From the top of Lumut’s Bukit Engku Busu you can get a good view of the naval base and Pangkor Island behind left.

In recent years Malaysia has developed Manjung significantly. The Royal Malaysian Navy has its main base at Lumut and the bustling towns of Seri Manjung and Sitiawan sprawl over a wide area. Pangkor has become a major tourist destination but it still retains a relaxed and sleepy feel.

Teluk Gedung on Pangkor Island

By the way, while revisiting Pangkor last week I made a discovery. The drawing on the famous rock on the island which people have for years been calling Tiger Rock is not a tiger at all. You can read about my revelation on my Malaysia Traveller website.

High Road Across Malaysia – Coast to Coast via Cameron Highlands, Gua Musang & Lake Kenyir


The usual way of crossing from the West Coast of Peninsular Malaysia to the East Coast, at least for people in the Klang Valley area, is via the East Coast Expressway from KL to Kuantan. It’s an excellent road with some nice scenery and the 250 km journey can be completed in about 3.5 hours.

I wanted to try an alternative route, much longer and slower and hopefully even more scenic via the Cameron Highlands and Gua Musang and from there on minor roads though palm oil plantations as far as Lake Kenyir in Terengganu. Here is a map:

Google Maps calculates the distance as 502km and the travelling time as 8.5 hours though I would not recommend attempting it all in one day. I lingered 3 days on the trip.

I started my trans-Malaysia crossing at Kampung Pasir Panjang Laut, a small village near Sitiawan, Perak on the shores of the Straits of Malacca.

This was the western-most point of the route, a small patch of unhealthy mangrove forest in front of an interesting Chinese temple called Tua Pek Gong.

One of its main attractions of Tua Pek Gong temple was a bendy tunnel in the shape of a dragon which I entered through its mouth and emerged from its tail. The interior walls of dragon were lined with murals depicting the Ten Chambers of Hell and illustrated in gory detail the gruesome tortures which await those who do not live a moral and respectable life in this world. Enlarge the bottom right photo above for an example.

Having seen enough, I drove inland on Highway 5 through Sitiawan and Ayer Tawar.  My route road crossed the Perak River near Bota Kanan where I visited the Conservation Centre for River Terrapins.

There were some sizeable mature terrapins in a couple of the holding ponds but they were fairly shy and only popped their heads above water to take bites from floating cabbage leaves.

Continuing on Route A15, I passed a sign for Tanjung Tualang Tin Dredge. I visited this place five years ago (and blogged about it) but decided to drop in again because I had read somewhere that it is now possible to go inside this giant relic from Malaysia’s tin-mining era. Sadly that was not the case. Renovation work was still ongoing and visitors were only allowed to view the exterior for the time being.

Weaver birds’ nests at Tanjung Tualang.

Next stop was the small town of Malim Nawar. A quirky tourist attraction here was a brick chimney built by the Japanese during WWII for the manufacture of carbide, which is presumably the black charcoal like stuff shown below.

Next stop, still in Perak, was the town of Kampar, once a centre of tin-mining as evidenced by the large number of lakes left over from mining activity which can be seen in this Google Maps image.

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 7.21.35 PM
Google Map showing the lakes and ponds near the town of Kampar which were the result of tin mining.

Nowadays Kampar is thriving as a university town with the campus of University Tunku Abdul Rahman located here with other universities nearby. Here are some photos of the Kampar, mostly the old part of town.

Military historians will know that Kampar was the site of a significant battle during WWII and one of the few Allied successes in the whole Malayan Campaign. Most of the fighting took place on a series of ridges on the edge of town near the Chinese Cemetery. I tried finding the Green Ridge where some shallow trenches are supposed to remain. I know I was in the right general vicinity but failed to find any battlefield remains. I should have tried to contact a knowledgeable local guide to show me around this area.

The Battle of Kampar was fought around here.

Considering the modest size of Kampar town, it has an enormous hotel, the Grand Kampar Hotel, with 155 rooms. Since they were offering the cheapest rates in town I opted to stay overnight. I asked the front desk manager if they ever managed to fill the hotel. Seldom it seems.


I’ll continue Part 2 of my High Road Across Malaysia trip in the next blog.

Kampung Koh, Sitiawan, Perak

Kampung Koh is one of the original villages making up the sprawling settlement of Sitiawan, close to the town of Lumut and nearby to Pangkor Island.

Kg. Koh was founded in 1903 by a group of 360 Methodist Christian settlers from the Chinese province of Fujian who came to Malaya in search of better lives. They were led by two Chinese pastors – Rev. Lin Chen Mei and Rev. Dr. Huang Pau Seng – together with a German missionary called Rev. Dr. H.L. Luering.

Pioneer Methodist Church, Kampung Koh, Sitiawan

They built a church in 1905 at a cost of $900 which burnt down the following year. The current building (above) dates from 1927 and is known as the Pioneer Methodist Church.

Sitiawan Settlement Museum, Kampung Koh, Sitiawan

The church shares a compound with this 80 year old former parsonage which has been converted into the Sitiawan Settlement Museum, showcasing the heritage of the local Foochow community with photos and artefacts from those early pioneering days.

Old wells at Sitiawan Settlement Museum. 

There are some old wells in front of the museum and a plaque explains that the first well was dug by Dr. Shellabear who assisted Dr. Luering in setting up the settlement. These wells provided a continuous source of clean drinking water for the village up until the 1970’s when a piped water supply became available.

Methodist ACS at Kampung Koh, Sitiawan

Across the street is the Methodist Anglo Chinese School.

Wat Sitawanaram at Kampung Koh, Sitiawan

Next door to the church compound is Wat Sitawanaram, a Buddhist temple established by Thai Buddhist monks around 100 years ago. Since it was Wesak Day on the day of my visit the place was heaving with visitors.

Wat Sitawanaram at Kampung Koh, Sitiawan

The main hall contains a large sitting Buddha statue with a smaller reclining Buddha below.

Donating Blood at Wat Sitawanaram at Kampung Koh, Sitiawan

Many devotees were doing their good deed for the day by donating blood.

Wat Sitawanaram at Kampung Koh, SitiawanWat Sitawanaram at Kampung Koh, Sitiawan

Giant Incense Sticks at Wat Sitawanaram at Kampung Koh, Sitiawan

What else is Kampung Koh/Sitiawan famous for?

Chin PengChin Peng, leader of the Malayan Communist Party, was born here in 1924. Throughout the Emergency period he was a thorn in the side of the British and Malaysian authorities and his terrorist tactics were responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians, police and military personnel.

Shophouses at Kampung Koh, SitiawanPerhaps the dreary wooden shophouses in the centre of town drove him to revolution.

Chin Peng died in exile in Thailand last year. There are no plans to bring his remains back to Sitiawan as far as we know.

Kampung Koh Chili Sauce



Of much more interest to most Malaysians, Kampung Koh is also famous for its delicious chili sauce, a staple ingredient in all local kitchens.



The town is also renowned for its seafood restaurants meaning that the area has considerable potential for gourmet tourists who want to refuel on the way to Pangkor Island.



Last but not least, Sitiawan has a very fine beach of its own, Teluk Batik, which you can read about on my Malaysia Traveller website.

Teluk Batik Beach