The intended demolition of a Rest House at Beserah, Pahang.

ICOMOS MALAYSIA Press Release, 30th May 2021

We were saddened to read that a Rest House in the village of Beserah, Pahang, is currently earmarked to be demolished. The New Straits Times 29th May 2021.

The old Beserah Rest House: 3°51'29.3"N 103°22'07.2"E. Image sourced from Google Street.

Beserah is a traditional fishing village just north of Kuantan City. It was also famous for its dried anchovies and a particular type of dried salted fish, snapper fish, fancied by both local and international Chinese community. Now its famous for its warung along its beach serving all types of food. There are still remnants of the old days especially if one were to drive through the old town and towards the beach.

In recent years we can see development taking place around the old town with modern houses sprouting everywhere. Many of the traditional timber houses on stilts were slowly replaced with modern brick houses. Of importance to us is the old Rest House. It has a significant historical background. It is said to have been conceived and built in 1926-27. This Rest House has seen and lodged by many famous individuals including Royal Professor Ungku Aziz and Sir Hugh Clifford (British Resident of Pahang). Though architecturally simple, the building design and typology is an intact representation of its era, and is a brilliant example of sustainable architecture that is suited to the tropics. Usage of pitch roofs, large verandahs and raised floors are hardly evident in contemporary architecture, making buildings like the old Rest House rare and unique.

A 1952 article describes the old Beserah and the Rest House as follows: "The one-street village, standing on a narrow wedge of sand 15 feet above sea, has some 40 attap shop houses, dry fish stores and a mosque set among tall coconut palms.... .....The street ends abruptly at the enclosure of the sombre Rest House which has a wide verandah facing the open South China Sea."

- The Straits Times, A Sleepy Little Village, Away from it All, 25 May 1952, p4

The Rest House has for decades been a landmark for Beserah, one that is embedded in the cognitive memory of locals and visitors alike. There are multiple layers to its historical, architectural, social and cultural significance, but more importantly, it is significant enough for the local community to want to preserve and pass on to the next generation. With it gone, we will lose a dominant component of Old Beserah, together with all kind of social attachments that has been built into it. It is with these values that we see it necessary to preserve this Rest House, and it is high time for heritage and community-centric approaches to be adopted into planning/development.

The village of Beserah, once upon a time. Source: Arkib Negara Malaysia, 2001/0053096.

Demolishing this building and later the old timber shophouses in the old town, Beserah will lose its charm and its traditional value. We urge the relevant state authority to preserve and conserve this Rest House to maintain the traditional and historical values.

Preserving this Rest House as well as the timber shophouses will help strengthen local pride and attract tourism to this little village. A conservation plan needs to be prepared and gazette to ensure the protection of the traditional values of the village. On the same score, the financial outlay to preserve and to make good the Rest House is not much. The locals, as stated in the NST, are very keen to see to the preservation of this Rest House.

ICOMOS Malaysia is ready to assist the authority in the conservation plan for the Rest House as well as the village of Beserah.

Ar Steven Thang Boon Ann

Hon. Treasurer ICOMOS Malaysia.