Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Kota Johor Lama (Fortress of Johor Lama)

“Often said that if you didn't know history, you didn't know anything. You were a leaf that didn't know it was part of a tree.” (Michael Crichton, Timeline)

Thus, allow me to bring you to one of the most historical places in Johor this time. As we made our way to the East Coast of Johor, we discovered a place that was once the capital city of Johor during the reign of Sultan Alauddin Riayat Shah II (1540-1564) up until the glorious era of Sultan Ali Jalla Abdul Jalil Shah II (1574-1587). It was, and still is, known as Kota Johor Lama.

Located somewhere 27 km away from the town of Kota Tinggi, it is believed that the fort was built in 1540 and was constructed from rock and soil. It was the actual site of fierce wars and battles amongst the local Malays and outside invading forces. This fort was the best defensive fort among all the defensive forts that were built along the Sungai Johor. After the fall of the Malay Sultanate of Malacca in 1511, Sungai Johor became the reigning centre and the defensive fort to counter attack the Portuguese invasion of Malacca. Its elevated location and its natural setting made it easier to supervise the movement of ships especially in anticipating the threats from the Acehnese and the Portuguese. Sadly, in 1587, the fort was attacked and destroyed by the Portuguese. The whole fort was burnt down and all assets including weapons and armours were taken away.

A bit of history on the great Old Johor Fort courtesy of Tourism Malaysia and Virtual Malaysia website (duly adjusted and summarized accordingly, of course).

The place was very quiet and serene. I bet not many people knew the existence of this historical site, anyway. The day was exceptionally hot and I could feel the warm sea breeze gently touching my face as we walked towards the fort, on a climbable hill overlooking the great South China Sea. The view from the hilltop was magnificent, that made even more exciting for us to walk around the place even though the scorching sun was right on top of our heads.

And if you need to learn more about what had happened during the celebrated period of the Johor Sultanate, and the complexities behind the history of Malaysia’s Monarchy, particularly Johor, there’s a Museum nearby displaying all the remnants of this historical settlement, replete with wonderful stories and pictures of the pasts. The Kota Johor Lama Museum itself was a huge stunning Malay wooden house with lots of elaborate Malay carvings on its doors and windows. For a moment, it brought me back to the golden days of Tanah Melayu, just like the one you would see in some P.Ramlee’s movies :-).

Oh yes, there were also two tombs that can be found near the fort. They were believed to be of Sultan Alauddin’s and one of his warriors. Exciting, right?

After the brief tour, we made our way to Desaru Beach. I'll tell you about it in my next entry. Stay tuned... :-)

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