Thursday, September 24, 2009

Lunas (魯乃)

View of market street

The road side stall selling colorful lanterns; the moon cake festival is coming. Mooncake festival is on 15th day of 8th month of lunar calendar.

The row of single storey shops at the market

Food stall at the side of market street

Beautiful pre-war colonial shop houses

Old pre-war shop at the corner of traffic junction

The traffic junction

The row of shop houses at K118

The view of the town, the main street

The traffic junction

The pre-war house with its wood carved door unique to colonial building

The traffic is heavy, since the opening of Kulim-Butterworth Expressway(E15 or KBE)

Tan Kee roast duck shop

The main street, traffic is heavy for a small town

The entrance of K118 at the junction, which will cross the Kedah/ Penang state border and lead to P118 in Penang state , until it connected with P119(Jalan Glugor).

The junction to Lunas town, the main road(K136), Jalan Lunas

The road 136 lead to KBE or E15(Kulum-Butterworth Expressway)

Map of Lunas, Kedah

View Larger Map

Lunas Tan Kee Roast Duck(陈记鲁乃烧鸭粥专卖店), 69 I-K, Jalan Raya, Lunas

The left over for me after I went to take photo of the town; missed to take photo of the dish.

Another left over of honey duck

Salted vegetable soup

Lunas is a small town in Kedah just east of the border with Penang state. Population of 17,774(2006). Located politically at state constituency of Lunas, Parliament seat of Padang Serai. It is one of sub-district of Kulim district. It is located beside Kulim town on the west, and near the Penang border on the east. Lunas is under state constituency of Lunas, and

The town started life as tapioca and sago plantations at around 1889. There was a jetty at the stream that runs through town. From there, barges can bring the tapioca and sago downstream. The stream is Sungai Kulim. Lunas, which means "keel"(船的龙骨) is thought to have gotten its name from this water-borne transportation. The rubber estate was later developed in the area, and many are owned by the British planters. During the period, local Malay(who are paddy farmers) and Indian migrant workers were attracted to the work in the rubber estates owned by the British planters. The Chinese traders were opening business in the estate. The area where the Chinese trader gathered near the estate slowly developed into a small estate town. Lunas is now a small multiracial town. Indians are the largest population in Lunas , they work in rubber estate or owned one or two rubber estates as smallholders, and lived in the estate houses. While most of the Chinese people work as retailers in Jalan Lunas and live in residential area near to the town. Malay mainly stay at nearby villages , work in the farm or work as retailers. There are some Siamese.

Three men were credited for founding the township of Lunas. They are Soon Ah Lee @ Baba Lee(孫亚厘@ 孙厘), Loh Boon Ghee@ Loh Boon Ngee(盧文儀) and Lim Lean Teng(林连登). Loh Boon Ghee (盧文儀)is the grandfather of the famous heritage architect, Laurence Loh. Loh , who arrived in Malaya from Sumatra, after leaving Swatow or Shantou( 汕头), China, in early 1920s. (note: may be from Hong Kong port which was found in 1897, and closer in Guangdong to Huizhou; but date of arrival may be earlier, in late 19th century if it was departed from Shantou.In 1921 Loh Boon Ghee make a donation to Penang Huizhou Clan Association(槟城惠州会馆), he must have make his fortune by 1921 and should arrived earlier). He is a Huizhou Hakka(惠州陆丰人), initially worked as estate labourer, but eventually become land clearing contractor for the rubber estates. His business growth, and become rich, and start to involve in rubber business. He become a community leader and erected two shop houses at the centre of the town, which is still remained and used by Loh family business. He later built the main street, and Lunas town. Loh Boon Ghee's son Loh Leong San(卢良山) is a famous Penang personality and Hakka Chinese leader in 1970s, he was also Chairman of local Chinese newspaper, Kwong Wah Daily . Loh bought in many Huizhou Chinese from his home village in China to work in Lunas. There was a cemetery for Huizhou clan people built in 1907(光绪丁未年)to provide evidence on the contribution of the Huizou Hakka people to Lunas town development. There is a hall in Penang Huizhou Clan Association (槟城惠州会馆) built in 1921, named after Loh Boon Ghee(“文仪堂”), he was the one with highest donation(note: Soon Ah Lee was also one of the large donor for the clan house). Lim Lian Teng(林连登, 1867-1963), a Teochew(广东惠来县西区鲁阳洋乡) is the founder of Han Chiang High School(韩江中学) in Penang, there is a bronze statute of him stand in front of the school. He is also the donor of a clock tower at the main street of Sungei Petani(双溪大年). He came to Malaya from China in 1893, initially as oxcart puller, thus the name of " Gu-chia-teng or Oxcart teng". He later work in the farm in Kedah, and in 1901 he found his butcher business in Lunas, the shop was named Ban Seng Huat(万成发).He later ventured into tapioca business and made his fortune. The businesses than expanded to Kulim, Sungei Petani and Penang. Soon Ah Lee was born in Bukit Mertajam, a Huizhou Hakka(广东惠州博罗县村尾围), he later moved to Lunas to involve in business(荣业园, 荣发火较).Together, these three men built the roads and shophouses as well as the school and temple.(Note: It seems that Lunas is like Bukit Mertajam, Balik Pulau, and Titi in Negeri Sembilan are the township that Huizhou Hakka built. Another famous Huizhou city is Shenzhen(深圳市),and Huizhou(惠州市), in China). Soon Ah Lee and Loh Boon Ngee must have been closed friends as both are Hakka from the same ancestral home, Huizhou. Soon Ah Lee is a Bukit Mertajam born Baba, Loh is a sinkeh, Soon know the local culture better, but Loh bought in his fellow country men to Lunas as plantation or contract workers. Lim is a Teochew, I wonder what is the relationship between him and others(Loh and Soon)......

Lunas is a town more than 100 years old. In the year 2009, Lunas will celebrate its 120th anniversary. It was formerly a small town with one main road with some small lanes behind the main road(Jalan Lunas), the local people called the back lanes, Aw-bui-kei(阿尾街), which in Hockkien it literally means back lanes(后面街). This is the town that normally the travelers will overlook. There is no attraction here, as most will think. But the small town has attract visitors due to its famous roast duck. Lunas is currently expanding by the reason of the KULIM HIGHTECH PARK. Multinational companies located in Kulim Hightech Park include Intel, Celestica, Fuji Electric, Infineon and First Solar. The population increased due to the new residential area built in the surrounding, which cater for People people working in Kulim and the house price is cheaper than Penang. The traffic in Lunas town is now heavy due to Butterworth-Kulim Expressway(北海居林大道 or BKE), many cars bear the signplate of Penang with car numbers start with capital letter "P". Lunas is no longer a quite town.

Lunas is connected by only one main street, Jalan Lunas(K136 from Padang Serai, pass through Kulim town and changed its name to Jalan Serdang and continue to Serdang town). The main street almost 90% surrounded by shop lots and some have been converted to residences. The Lunas town can be reached from 3 directions, from Kulim town and Kulim-Butterwoth Expressway(E15) using Jalan Lunas(K136), from Padang Serai using Jalan Lunas(K136), and from Penang using Jalan Glugor (P119) to P118(K118),passing the Malay villages. The shortest route is to use Kulim-Butterworth Expressway to reach Lunas.

When the importance of rubber began to decline, so too was the fortune of Lunas. It remained a sleepy hollow until quite recently, when the construction of the Butterworth-Kulim Expressway (E15)once again brought visitors. Today Lunas is most famously associated with its duck rice.

Lunas is an old small town, but you still found many well-preserved pre-war shophouses in the main street , a traditional “wooden bungalow on stilts” post office, and the colonial-style Soon Cheng Sai mansion. It has a old rubber smokehouse(橡膠熏房) built in 1961, used by smallhoders to smoke rubber sheets. The smokehouse was not in use since 1980s, when the rubber price is low and many rubber estates were closing down. It has now being converted into museum by heritage architect, Laurance Loh, a local . Lunas also has two wet markets, one is old wet market located near the main street, at market street and another one is located at Sungai Seluang area. Other places to explore include Buddhist Hermitage(鲁乃佛教修行林), the 120 years Hock Teik Soo Temple(鲁乃伯公庙福德祠) and Sri Maha Kuttakarai Muniswarar Alayam Temple(former estate temple).

We hope that Lunas will not be rot like other old mining town in Perak, the typical example is Papan. When I visited UK sometime ago, I have opportunity to visit an old iron mining town in the West Midland in UK, a small town called Ironbridge, the conservation of the heritage town is amazing. Like other countries in EC, our small town like Lunas can be preserved for the future. It can be preserved as living heritage for Malaya rubber industry. I hope the influx of people from the Kulim-Butterworth Expressway will not adversely affect the conservation of the town. Lunas can be one day tour package for the tourist.

The old rubber smokehouse
The old rubber smokehouse of Lunas was built by grandfather of Laurence Loh, a prominent heritage Penang architect, in 1961, for the use of rubber smallholders to smoke rubber sheets. It was left unused since the 1980's, with the closing down of rubber plantations around Lunas.

In 2006, Laurance Loh restored the old smokehouse and turned it into the first site museum to showcase the Rubber Story in the country, as part of the Amazing Malaysians programme sponsored by Digi, a local telecommunications company.

The restored smokehouse consists of two sections. The first recounts the story of Lunas, how it got its name, and the prominent places to visit there. The second section is an authentic showcase of an actual rubber smokehouse - preserved for visitors to appreciate.

Soon Mansion
Soon mansion is the mansion of Soon Ah Lee @ Baba Lee. Exit from the Butterworth-Kulim Expressway , go along the main road, passing through Lunas town and immediately outside the town, you arrive at a traffic junction. Turn right. Soon Mansion is located about 100 meters after the junction, on the left side of the road. It is located at 58 Jalan Padang Serai, Lunas, Kedah; just opposite the Lunas post office. The colonial style bungalow was built in 1828.

When I visited the mansion,the gate was locked. To see the pictures of the mansion, please visit the website, which have photo of the mansion:

Lunas Food

1. Tan Kee Roast Duck陈记鲁乃烧鸭粥专卖店, 69I-K, Jalan Raya, Lunas

Lunas Schools

1. SRJK(C) HWA MIN LUNAS (鲁乃华民学校),one of the oldest school in Lunas, more than 100 years

Related articles:
1.A place for history, The star online, dated 3-12-2006,
2. Lunas and the rubber connection, by Su Mei Toh, dated 7-8-2006
3. Lunas legacy lives on with museum,
4. 魯乃首個小城擁博物館, 光明日報 dated 29-3-2007,


  1. 这个小镇我去过好几次~都是两个目的,在我们潮州人的习惯
    三十岁过后会跑去 查江山 (前世)~和想知道已经往生的亲人过得如何就去得问 下路 (死鬼)。。
    从事这个服务专门店门口时卖 白铁~因此我们都叫着去鲁乃白铁店问死鬼

  2. I noticed that you mentioned Soon Cheng Sai mansion. Why is that so? I thought Soon Ah Lee was the one that built the mansion?

  3. You ask a good question, most of the English name given was either Soon Mansion or Soon Cheng Sai Mansion. But the fonder was Soon Lee@Baba Lee((孫亚厘@ 孙厘). Soon Lee had a son by the name of Soon Eng Kong(孙荣光), and not Soon Cheng Sai; it was reported by historian Khong 邝国祥)that "二次大战之後,百万富翁孙荣光先生,正拟大展雄才,造福同乡,惜中道归天,未克成其志" in the magazine for Huizhou clan Association(槟城惠州会馆), which both father and son is the main pillar, as well as Loh Boon Ghee。The report said after WW2,millionaire Soon Eng Kong died, and did not able to fulfill his ambition or plan to the clan association.

    It is normal for early Chinese to have few names in Chinese. Anyhow, it refers to the same Soon Mansion. But it will be interesting to know why it is called Soon Cheng Sai Mansion, who is him? is he the other names of the owner? or the name of current owner? or name of Baba Li's grandson?

    Will any local historian help?

  4. Soon Cheng Sai is the eldest son of Soon Eng Hooi who is the younger son of of Soon Ah Lee. Soon Eng Kong is the elder brother of Soon Eng Hooi. The mansion is the ancestral home of Soon Ah Lee and passed on to Soon Eng Hooi and Soon Eng Kong on his demise. Soon Eng Hooi finally acquired Soon Eng Kong's share and bequeath it to Soon Cheng Sai and Cheng Sai's eldest son Soon Ewe Kheng.

  5. I grew up in Lunas, but now live in Colorado, USA. Thanks for the blog.