FOUR Automotive-Related Facts About Malaysia That You Probably Don’t Know
1. The World’s LARGEST roundabout is in Putrajaya.
It’s so huuuge that you probably didn’t even realise it was a roundabout. The Persiaran Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah aka Putrajaya Roundabout measures 3.5-kilometre in diameter; inside this vast really-more-an-oval-about are a lush parkland, the Shangri-la Hotel, the Mercu Tanda landmark and the Agong’s other national palace, Istana Melawati.
2. THE Amelia Earhart popped by the Taiping aerodrome.
The first aerodrome in Malaysia, also known as the Tekah Airstrip, was built in Taiping in 1929. It was first used by the British and European merchants for non-military purposes but through time has served both military and commercial planes.
The famed aviator, Amelia Earhart, during her historic attempt to circumnavigate the globe, stopped there on 7 June 1937 to refuel before heading to Singapore and then to New Guinea (where she was last seen before her disappearance).
The aerodrome and its control tower are still standing but in a dilapidated state. There were rumours that a developer had bought the land and planned to build over it but the government rubbished the rumours; some of the locals are still lobbying to revive the site as a leisure attraction.
3. Trishaws in Penang and Melaka were inspired by the Japanese rickshaw
The jinrikisiha or rikisha was a man-drawn vehicle that was first used in Japan in the 1860s and first came to Singapore in the 1880s. Sometime in the early 1900s, someone had the bright idea of attaching three tyres to the contraption and the trishaw was born. The Malay Chronicle published an article on 9 September 1912 with the headline: “The coming of the pedal rikisha.” The trishaw soon became a familiar sight on the streets because it could go faster and farther.
Today, you can still find trishaws on the streets of Penang and Melaka, although licenses for them are limited and they serve mainly as tourist attractions. The ones in Melaka are bedecked in garish lights and decorations, and blast techno music as they glide not quietly past (make ‘em stop).
4. Penang used to have its own trams—powered by steam, horse and electric.
Yes, just like San Francisco and Melbourne, Penang used to have its own tram system. In the 1880s, steam trams would roll past bucolic scenery between Weld Quay jetty to Air Itam Road, transporting passenger and produce; a branch line to the Waterfall Gardens (aka Penang Botanic Gardens) was laid to transport stone from the quarries (extracted by prison labour) to build many of the buildings that still stand on the Island today; meanwhile, in the town area, horse-drawn trams, which were deemed safer, were used.
When electricity came to the island in the early 1900s, electric trams were introduced and were highly popular until WWI when spare parts became scarce. In the early fifties, trolleybuses started plying the roads of Penang but even those were scrapped by the early sixties.
Part of the old tramline was unearthed during pipe-works in the early 2000s at the junction of Chulia Street and Penang Road. Good thing the local council realised its historical significance and left it intact, so you can still see when you visit Penang.
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