Negeri Sembilan simply means 'Land of Nine States'. The
name is so-called because it once comprised nine separate districts,
each ruled by a Malay Chieftain. Seremban, its capital is easily accesible
by road and rail to Kuala Lumpur, about 50 kilometres away. Among
the main attractions of the town are the Cultural Handicraft complex,
the State Museum, the State Mosque and the Lake Gardens.
The state is often associated with the influence of Minangkabau migrants
from Sumatra who came during the settlement era into Malaya long ago.
The settlement then led to its strong unique and distinctive characteristic,
best seen in the architecture and styles reflected in the construction
of buildings as well as homes. One unique feature is the horn-shaped
roof. The Minangkabaus also brought with them their 'adat' or traditions,
in particular the matrilineal kinship system. This system is evident
until today especially in the marriage customs, ownership of property
and dance forms.
The music and dance, though not widely practised today by the locals,
is still an area which is a pride here. There are different types
of songs and dances. The songs are mostly lively and fast beat.
They mostly have a significant sound of metal-made hollow drums
called the 'cak-lempong' in the background. The 'tarian lilin' (candle
dance) is a popular dance among the Minagkabaus where the dancers
dance in the dark, with candles lit on saucers placed on their palms
being the only lights that could be seen. Then, there is also another
interesting dance performance called the 'endang'. 'Endang' is a
unique dance that requires the dancers to sit on the floor in a
yoga position or what the Malays call 'bersila' and do synchronized
rhythmic movements in accordance to the lively background music.
When you're in 'The Nine States', there are lots to explore as it
is a perfect example of a modern state embraced by rich customs
and traditions. Here is a good balance of old and new attractions.
The Seri Menanti Palace, converted to the Royal Museum in 1992,
is a classic showcase of Minangkabau structure and design. Built
at the turn of the century by two local craftsmen, the wooden palace
took six years to complete and is an architectural wonder as no
screws or nails were used in its construction. Elsewhere, the pretty
village settings are reminiscent of the Minangkabau influence.
The Arts & Culture Park or popularly known as Taman Seni Budaya Negeri is indeed a typical example where the legacy of the Minagkabau
architecture exists. It exhibits some of the rich cultural traditions and artefacts of the state. In this area stands the Istana Ampang
Tinggi (a palace which has been converted into the State Museum) in its original state since it was built in 1861. The palace exhibits
various old weapons as well as brass and silverware used by the Royal families. One will also get to see a tableau that potrays a grand royal weddings on display.
Negeri Sembilan has a popular beach, Port Dickson (also known as PD), about 33 kilometres west of Seremban. PD lies on the shores
of the Straits of Malacca. This resort town with its miles of golden beaches and a wide range of accommodation is a favourite 'playground'
for the city dwellers of Kuala Lumpur and Singapore as well as the neighbouring towns. PD also host the annual Pesta Port Dickson or
PD Fiesta between July and August. The Fiesta offers all sorts of fun and games as well as sea sports activities.
And if you've seen the film "Blue Lagoon", spend some time visiting Blue Lagoon - a popular spot subtly tucked away from the busy town
of Port Dickson. Though not the actual location as in the film, those with video camera can at least imagine doing another sequel to the famous film. Once you leave the Blue Lagoon beach, take a
half kilometre drive through an area surrounded by lush jungle which will lead you to a flight of steps. The 63 stairs will then lead you to the foot of a 16th century lighthouse, Tanjung Tuan lighthouse
built by the Portugese, formally known as Cape Rachado. With prior permission, one gets enter the lighthouse to see a magnificent view
the Straits of Malacca.
Another little town which has its own attraction is the Pedas Hot Springs. Pedas Hot Springs is where anyone can get a chance to relieve
muscle ache or body ache in private bathing enclosures. Many believe
that the hot water from the underground springs has medicinal values for certain skin and rheumatism problems.
One must also try out something refreshing for the mind and body. Ulu Bendol which is about 25 km south of Seremban on the road leading
towards Kuala Pilah, is a perfect escapade. It is cool and peaceful and has lots of space for picnickers. Not far away from this fine
spot, for those who are a little bit more adventurous, going for a hike up to Gunung Agsi is a great experience. Every step there
is to make to the top is sheer pleasure as you will find lots of beautiful birds, lizards and sometimes snakes that you hardly find elsewhere.
One should also try out some of the traditional dishes offered by
the locals like beef rendang (beef cooked in rich spices and coconut),
gulai lemak cili api (tumeric gravy with chilli).
Negeri Sembilan is definitely a state of difference. With a culture
so unique, put together with its music, lovely destinations and
delicious food, it is a wholesome package that will undoubtedly
cause one to bring home a wonderful exploration experience.