Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Idyllic Astana of Sarawak

The Astana

Across the Kuching waterfront stands this majestic colonial building called the 'Astana'. I took this picture yesterday while having a walk along the waterfront area. What captivated me was this group of deep sea fishing trawlers that were berthed nearby, unable to carry out their activities due to the dangerously strong north easterly winds that bashed yearly the coastal areas of Sarawak during this time of the monsoon season( November to February).
Historically, the 'Astana' was home to all the rulers of Sarawak. Today it is the official residence of the Sarawak's Head of State who is also referred to as the Governor or more appropriately in the Malay word as 'Yang Di Pertua Negeri'. In those days, without the benefit of today's concrete technology, the pillars are made of square bricks like most pillars or columns of colonial buildings found in vast numbers around Kuching city. The 'Astana' as it was and is called was first home to the second Rajah of Sarawak ( Sir Charles Brooke) when it was completed in 1890.
Subsequently it was used by British Governors after Sarawak was handed over to the British Colonial government by the Brooke's ruling family since 1946 . When Sarawak formed Malaysia in 1963, it became iconic of Sarawak's state sovereignty within the federation of Malaysia. It still stands pretty to me at a distance from the Kuching waterfront. The still waters of the Sarawak River that meanders by it gives a classic post card view in idylic setting.

The roofing material of the Astana is made of the hardest timber species of Sarawak called the 'Belian' ( Eusideroxylon zwageri ) similar to the roofing shingles of this colonial building which is still standing and situated roughly opposite of the Astana, at the Kuching waterfront area.


1 comment:

Protege said...

Interesting to see a wooden roof. Here the roofs are made of roof tiles and I believe they are some sort of a ceramic material. Sometimes also a paper drenched with tar is used. The really old houses have roof made of natural material, that looks like a strong grass, or turf.
I love the top picture, as the red color is so vivid.