Alor Gajah: More Than An Elephant's Tale
By Mohd Bakri Darus
MELAKA, Aug 15 (Bernama) -- Alor Gajah in Melaka is a district synonymous with the legacy of Naning warrior Datuk Dol Said, who led a rebellion against the British in 1832.
The origin of the district goes back to the early part of the 12th century when
the Minangkabau people from Sumatra came and settled there, and their cultural roots are still evident till today.
How did the name Alor Gajah come about is anyone's guess. But according to folklore, the early settlers had witnessed a herd of elephants being led by a white elephant in a nearby channel, so they named their settlement Alor Gajah. "Alor" in the Malay language means a channel between mudbanks and "gajah" means elephant.
Alor Gajah district covers a vast area of 66,302 hectares with 16 small towns and 31 sub-districts. To the north it borders Tampin and to the north-west is Port Dickson, both in Negri Sembilan. It is one of the three districts of Melaka state, the other two being Melaka Tengah and Jasin.
Today visitors can savour hot and spicy Minang dishes which are unique to the Minangkabau community and greeted with thick Minang accent, similar to that of their neighbours in Negri Sembilan.
"Don't be surprised that people here talk in thick Negri Sembilan dialect. Most of us here also follow the 'Adat Perpatih' unlike the others in Melaka who follow the 'Adat Temenggung'," said Alor Gajah-born Malek Yahya, 40.
"Before the North-South Expressway was built, it was so difficult for us to cross the main road here. This stretch was the main route for all vehicles, and the only way to get to Melaka, Muar and Johor Baharu," said Malek whose house is near the road which had been upgraded to four lanes.
Malek was reminiscing the heyday of Alor Gajah town before it was by-passed by the North-South Expressway.
But since 1990s, the state government has successfully revived the district from a state of despair.
Today, it is fast developing with industrial, tourism and agriculture activities coupled with a host of educational facilities.
ALOR GAJAH HAS LOTS TO OFFER
Alor Gajah district including its town is the next destination for visitors to Melaka after Bandar Hilir and Ayer Keroh. It offers a variety of attractions, all anchored in its rich natural and historical heritage.
Melaka's scenic beaches like Tanjung Bidara, Pengkalan Balak, Pantai Teluk Gong and Pantai Kemunting are all within the district.
Then there is the turtle sanctuary in Pantai Kemunting. The sanctuary also houses the Turtle Museum and Malacca Turtle Management Centre, which is
entrusted with the task of preserving the Hawksbill Turtle that is on the verge of extinction.
As for bird lovers, they can go trekking in the Tanjung Tuan recreational forest where the bird sanctuary is a haven for migratory birds.
Those keen on astronomy should not miss the Balai Cerap Al-Khawarizmi in Pengkalan Balak, a planetarium where visitors can take a peek at the celestial world.
Besides those mentioned above, the other places of interest in Alor Gajah are the Alor Gajah Square, Durian Tunggal Recreational Dam, Durian Tunggal Butterfly Farm, A'Famosa Resort, Durian Tunggal Bird Sanctuary, Bukit Beringin Recreational Park, Melaka Tropical Fruit Farm, Sungai Udang, Lubok China Recreational Park, Railway Park in Bukit Sebang and Gadek Hot Spring Complex.
Alor Gajah also boasts a number of historical edifices. They include the Netherland Fort, Tanjung Tuan Fire House, Alor Gajah District Museum and a number of old mosques and colonial shophouses that remind visitors of a by-gone era.
The latest attraction is the D-Paradise Tropical Fruit World & Aboriginal Native Village in Kampung Brisu with 800 species of fruit trees.
Realising that there must be compelling reasons for people to come, educational institutions were set up in the district.
This has contributed to an influx of students. Their parents too take the opportunity to visit some of the attractions and do some shopping every time they visit their children.
The latest educational institution to have come up in the district is the Melaka Islamic Technology College (KITM) in Kuala Sungai Baru with 2,600 students.
The other institutions are Universiti Institut Teknologi MARA (UiTM) in Lendu, National Technology University College in Durian Tunggal, Londang Matriculation Centre, Risda College, Alor Gajah Foundation Institute, Malaysia Marine Academy (ALAM) and Universiti Kuala Lumpur.
There are also the training centres like the one for Rela in Sungai Udang, MARA Activities Centre, Kem Bina Negara Hutan Percha, Rakan Muda Centre, RISDA Training Centre in Ayer Paabas, Adtec Technology Centre, Malaysian Institute of Chemical Engineering Technology (MICET) and Youth Skills Institute (IKBN).
Like the adage, "all roads lead to Rome", the state government is taking steps to improve accessibility to the district from every direction. Among them is the upgrading of the roads to four lanes from Simpang Empat (Alor Gajah) to Melaka town and up to Muar.
The new road from Ayer Keroh and Sungai Udang will facilitate travel to Masjid Tanah, Kuala Linggi and other areas within the district.
A coastal road along the Melaka Strait from Kuala Linggi to Masjid Tanah and Klebang is on the pipeline. With all these, Alor Gajah is bound to see more visitors in the future.
Alor Gajah has come a long way from the elephant tale and the legacy of Datuk Dol Said. Visitors would definitely be mesmerised by its charm.