Ipohworld's World

Saving Yesterday For Tomorrow

magazine002027This picture was taken off Heritage Asia magazine, back in 2004. The description reads as:

Perak, as in many parts of Malaysia, has a large number of pre-war and colonial shop-houses. Distinctive in their decorative sturdy look with sculpted openings and large columns guarding the shaded five-foot ways, they were the mainstay of retail business then. Somehow, new shop houses lack that character. Quiet towns like Papan still have these old edifices.

So, is this a photo of Papan? Or, could it be another town in Perak….?

  1. Ngai C O says:


    Articles about Papan have been written on numerous occasions over the years.

    The subject matter was more or less its history – the Mandalings, tin mining, Chinese immigrants, Kathigasu, its demise with the depletion of tin in the area and lastly talk of mining the remaining tin reserves under the town.

    Sometimes I wonder whether the write-ups were done to fill the pages of magazines or tabloids. I could easily fall into the same trap and repeat what has been said many times over.

    I would like to talk about the five foot ways and suggest how it can continue to draw attention even though it looks very run down.

    Five foot ways or kaki lima or otherwise also known as verandas and corridors, came into prominence when Stamford Raffles ordered that buildings in Indonesia be built with such a feature. Hence its commonality in buildings throughout many parts of Asia.

    It really did its job of sheltering parts of the building from the sun and monsoon rain. The feature can also be found in older residential buildings, hospitals and other public structures.

    In the case of single storey structures, the extension could be propped up by wooden beams or the roof truss if not too deep. I have also seen verandas of old double storey wooden shops in small towns with wooden beams.

    Modern architecture with its reinforced concrete could do away with beams or narrower beams.

    Five foot ways served another important function until recent times. Hawkers used to set up stall in these verandas to sell things like rojak etc. Or when the shops closed for the night, they would use the space for tables and chairs so that customers could enjoy their bowls of noodles for example. The beef noodle vendor opposite the old Odeon Cinema started off this way decades ago.

    As for Papan to remain in the radar, it could form part of a visitor’s trail from Ipoh, Batu Gajah, Kellie’s Castle and so on.

    Pictures spanning its history with short but detailed descriptions could be used to inform visitors. This would go some way to provide the pull factor for visitors to want to make a stop there as one of a number of places of interest to visit.

    To me the state of the place is of less of an issue than its one time fame, importance and how it sustained a local economy. Hence, the existence of the old buildings as testimony.

    • NCK says:

      Five foot way is a local term, and shop lots with five foot way is a common feature in this part of the world. The feature shields patrons and pedestrians alike from the scorching sun, but I have doubt credit should be due to Stamford Raffles for its creation simply because a Wikipedia editor says so.

      • Ngai C O says:

        Hi NCK,

        Verandas and corridors and locally known as five foot ways if it is along shops existed elsewhere in the world prior to Stamford Raffles’s dictate.

        He probably took on the idea from elsewhere and adopted the concept when the Malay colonies took shape. Hence, it became the norm.

        The architecture of these shops were certainly not of local origins. I believe that at one time, the bricks were shipped from either India or England.

        Similar corridors exist in older buildings. It would be inept to call it five foot way.

        The name five foot way was locally coined and as I said, known in Malay as lima kaki being a direct translation. Someone said the correct term is kaki lima.

      • NCK says:

        Hi Ngai CO, I think I read somewhere that the corridor got its name because its original construction was five feet wide. As for Stamford Raffles, I know he was governor in a few colonies, but I don’t think he had anything to do with the corridor.

        • Ngai C O says:

          Hi NCK,

          You have read it somewhere; so have I.

          The fact that they happened so long ago and without any solid written evidence to back up what others say, one can only take the word in good faith until someone comes along to prove otherwise.

          In the meantime, we can be naive and think differently but there has to be some evidence to support what we say.

          I for one would not buy into anything without any substance no matter what people say.

  2. Ngai C O says:


    Following on from my last post re: Papan/Five Foot Ways, I did a further read up and found this article about its importance to the local economy at one time and I believe it is still so to some extent.

    To compile a more comprehensive picture, I think more research is required.


    • NCK says:

      Just as I have thought, the tale of Stamford Raffles’s initiation of five foot way construction came from our neighbour. This is rather new. I’d venture to guess it must be a recent creation. You know the neighbour’s propensity for telling stories and claiming ownership over foods that have been around for so long nobody knows their true origins.

      • Ngai C O says:


        One of the beauties of Wikipedia is that readers can debung any information that is not accurate. It is a pretty democratic site.

        As more up to date information comes to light, this is further updated.

        It is one of the reasons why it is such a popular tool for references.

        Trying to tell fibs will be exposed in no time.

  3. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear Ngai C O:

    Five foot ways or kaki lima or otherwise also known as verandas and corridors, came into prominence when Stamford Raffles ordered that buildings in Indonesia be built with such a feature

    It’s true that they came into prominence in British Malaya when Raffles ordered them built (albeit in Singapore rather than Indonesia). I quote from the Raffles Ordinances issued by Sir Stamford’s Town Planning Committee in 1822:

    All houses constructed of brick or tile should have a uniform type of front, each having a verandah of a certain depth, open at all times as a continuous and covered passage on each side of the street.

    The situation that led Raffles to insist on this and other planning requirements has been written up by historians. For example there’s an account in Raffles of the Eastern Isles (p. 600+), by Captain Charles Wurtzburg. My copy is via Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1954, but I believe Oxford in Asia has released a reprint.

    • NCK says:

      Ipoh Remembered, I’m afraid none of Raffles Ordinances nor the book that you mentioned can be found. I suggest you provide the links to the complete texts of the publications for the reading of whoever are interested. In fact, Raffles secured Singapore as a colony in 1819, but he was still the governor of Bencoolen, Sumatra, at the time. He had been to different places, mainly Bencoolen, and spent little time (total nine months) in Singapore, before he retired and left for good in 1823.

    • Ngai C O says:


      As I browse through the website for more information about five foot ways, I am flabbergasted by so much interest on the covered walkway with numerous articles.

      One by Jakarta Post even went as far as recommending which hawker food to try on the five foot way.

      Emirates Airline published one as well on Singapore.

      If I were to go back in time to fifty years ago, there were quite a number I would be able to recommend!!!! Like the still existing beef noodle seller. A rojak seller with its low tables and stools near Kok Kin Photo Studio, a Chinese porridge seller on the five foot way of the Lam Looking Building. Not leaving out a fruit seller at the corner of a shoplot near the Tanjung Rambutan Bus Station, that my other half used to get her grapes and oranges.

      I am sure many other readers have something to say about these five foot way vendors.

      Recently, I saw Kachang Putih sellers on the five foot way. But I am sure there are others that missed my eye.

      • Ipoh Remembered says:

        Dear Ngai C O:

        As I browse through the website for more information about five foot ways, I am flabbergasted by so much interest on the covered walkway with numerous articles.

        And predictably, there have even been lawsuits dealing with the subject! Going back to Singapore, for example, in the 1930s there was a wealthy property-owner, the Alkaff family, who wanted to renovate one of their buildings, an old one that had been constructed without a five-foot way. The law at the time (in particular, one from 1896, descended from the Raffles Ordinances mentioned above) required that a five-foot way be constructed whenever someone planned to “erect” a building. The Alkaffs argued that they were simply trying to renovate an old structure, not to erect a new one, and should therefore be exempt from the requirement. The judge disagreed.

        Which raises a question: In Ipoh today, if new buildings are constructed, how often do they include a five-foot way?

        • Ngai C O says:

          Hi Ipoh Remembered,

          To the best of my knowledge, all new commercial buildings in Ipoh and elsewhere in the tropics do have the covered walkway (otherwise locally known as five foot way) to shield from the sun and rain. At least along the front of the building. As for the side, the owner might be able to get away if the side originally had a walkway and when rebuilt, this was done away with. It would add much additional space. I am only assuming here.

          It is really a necessity. Imagine a bank entrance or Cash Machine on the wall without the cover when it rains. Where would the customers shelter when it pours down.

          In the UK high street, it is rare to see a covered walkway because it does not rain heavily most of the time. If there is, it is usually retractable tarpaulin-type awnings.

          One easy way to find out is to do an instant street view search to confirm it.

          As regards to Raffles and the five foot ways, just by reading the various articles especially on how he decided the plans for Singapore, was compelling enough that he had a direct hand on the sorts of architecture and layout at the time.

          Apparently, he also took some ideas from South China in his grand plans.

          Basically, he wanted an orderly, rigid British layout. This type of town planning layout was also manifest in Ipoh Town.

          I am not 100% sure but I read somewhere that buildings had to have some physical separation after the great fire that destroyed London.

          However what I am very certain is that party walls of terraced buildings must reach the roof to prevent the spread of fire from one building to another. This standard applies to UK and Malaysia. Whether it is enforced strictly in Malaysia is another matter.

  4. Ipoh Remembered says:

    I’m afraid none of Raffles Ordinances nor the book that you mentioned can be found.

    Dear NCK, I provided a reference to a book. Where have you looked for it?

    The Ipoh public library’s web-site indicates that the book is locally available and in good condition (the copy they have is the OUP reprint I mentioned earlier). Here is the Call Number: 959.5 WUR MR. If you are not in Ipoh, WorldCat.org tells me the book is available in at least five other libraries in Malaysia: three of them in KL, one in Penang, and one in Johore. Whereas if you are looking to purchase the book, I assume that amazon.com would be more than happy to ship the book to you (many copies are available), but I imagine the price in ringgit could tend towards the astronomical.

  5. NCK says:

    Dear Ipoh Remembered, pray tell if there happened to be a copy of the book, and the other articles written by some historians as you mentioned, available online, so that I or anyone interested could read them right then? Few people will go such distance as to buy these articles just to find out how they say about Raffles’ insistence on having five foot ways. If there is no way to read online (free reading, of course), would you be so kind as to quote here the relevant paragraphs of the articles? Not to forget the Raffles ordinances that you also no less.

    • NCK says:

      Ipoh Remembered, I hope it won’t take too long for you to provide the proof to your claim that Singapore first had five-foot ways thanks to Raffles the inventor. I may assume in your behalf that the section you quoted from your purported Raffles ordinances is true, but just a piece of advice, all towns and cities in the world have regulations, none ever claimed they were the first to have such regulations.

  6. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear Ngai C O, thanks for your explanation.

    To the best of my knowledge, all new commercial buildings in Ipoh and elsewhere in the tropics do have the covered walkway […] One easy way to find out is to do an instant street view search to confirm it.

    That’s a good idea but I don’t know where in Ipoh the newly constructed blocks are.

    And I wondered, too, if City Hall has any relevant regulations in place. (Or are they still too busy enforcing their dress code?)

    Basically, [Raffles] wanted an orderly, rigid British layout.

    Yes, and racial segregation was a key feature of his plans.

    • Ngai C O says:

      Hi Ipoh Remembered,

      Raffles was blatantly open in his segregation policies in which he demarcated the location of the communities into racial groupings.

      Singapore would have us believe that he founded the island but kept his dark and racist side under wraps.

      In present day Singapore, this mass segregation either by design or otherwise is deliberately avoided through social engineering.

      However, there is still segregation by wealth of one form or another.

    • NCK says:

      Well, Ngai CO. Raffles lost his first wife and three children to illnesses during his tenures. His own health was damaged and he died at a prime age of 45, three years after his retirement. I wouldn’t equate what he did in his times to be racist in the current sense. I suppose, besides the sense of superiority, colonial operatives would want to stick together in a foreign environment which could be hostile at times. It is the colonisation drive of the European powers, using their advanced weapons, that should be frowned upon. However, some colonies got protection from their colonial masters in exchange, and might enjoy territorial expansions as well – northern Perak and Kedah were once under Thai rule, for example.

    • NCK says:

      Of course, colonialists were no guardian angels at all. Just look at the Spanish invasion of Central and South Americas – the bloodbaths to the indegenious people, the looting of golds, and the destruction of temples. The Spanish destroyed temples to harvest building materials for their churches. What the people had built were too many for Spaniards to destroy, but their civilisations had been wiped out. In North America, the invaders were alway on the trail of expansion and engaged the indigenous tribes in constant warfares until there was no fighting left in the tribes.

  7. Ngai C O says:

    Hi NCK,

    I strongly beg to disagree. It was through attitudes and actions of people like Raffles that the disadvantaged finally stood up, protested, fought for their rights that we now live in a fairer world although there is still a lot to be done to create a more level playing field.

    As for Raffles, he was openly anti slavery but he kept an army of slave servants. This smacked of hypocrisy.

    • Ipoh Remembered says:

      Dear Ngai C O, with all this talk about five-foot ways, town planning, and racism, allow me to digress for a moment to tell a somewhat amusing story about Raffles. Alas, it has nothing to do with Ipoh — except that it illustrates true aspects of the colonial enterprise, in Malaya and elsewhere.

      Everyone knows about Raffles in Singapore; some know about Raffles in Bencoolen; a few even know about Raffles in Penang; but who remembers how Raffles rescued Malacca? Well, he did! He rescued it from … the British!

      When the British took over Malacca “temporarily” in 1795, holding it in trust for a Dutch government that was having serious internal and external difficulties, they realized what a threat it posed to Penang, their own recent acquisition. In order to secure the latter’s position as the premier port in South-east Asia, they planned to liquidate Malacca and drive its non-Malay inhabitants north to Penang, leaving nothing but jungle for the Dutch should they ever return. But even after Malacca’s (Portuguese and Dutch) fortifications were almost completely destroyed, even after countless incentives to move were offered to wealthy Malaccans, still the old port remained vital. Finally, it was Raffles who, on a quiet visit to Malacca, seeing that the port’s superior geographic location alone would ensure its continuing value, convinced his masters to stop the campaign of destruction. Malacca survived and, needless to say, the Dutch never quite recovered their position.

      • Ngai C O says:

        Hi Ipoh Remembered,

        From the little disjointed information about Raffles that I have read, he worked for the East India Company, which controlled the colonies and not the British Government.

        He did not get along with a number of people including Farquhar, who later tried unsuccessfully to discredit him. He also did not get along with the British Government.

        As for the five foot ways, he instructed Farquhar to implement his vision for Singapore. When he returned, Farquhar had not followed his instructions.

        He ordered lieutenant Jackson to draw up a plan which was known as the Jackson Plan. Hence how the buildings were to be built including the five foot ways and the rigid layout. This thing could not just appear out of thin air.

        There was even a discussion amongst architects in a symposium about how the five foot way evolved.

        It is without a doubt that it has become a common feature of standard shop front layouts following on from the Jackson Plan.

        As for Raffles and Malacca, he had his motives for what he did as a servant of the East India Company because I believe Malacca was not under the purview of the company at the time.

        The East India Company and the Dutch were fighting to control their loots especially in Indonesia.

  8. NCK says:

    Hi, Ngai CO. I guess East India Company was a wing of the British government set up to manage colonial matters in the Far East.

    I have read about Raffles’ unhappiness with Farquhar (his subordinate installed by him as the first governor in the new colony of Singapore), Farquhar’s sacking, and the Jackson Plan – all from, you might have guessed, Wikipedia. It will be interesting to know where you read, in particular, about the requirement of five-foot ways in Jackson Plan by Raffles’ bidding. Pray tell.

    As for the symposium, I think people nowadays are eager to lap up anything they read or hear and embrace it as their newfound knowledge which they are too eager to show off to others. Be they the products of rote learning. This is how a post-truth era has prevailed.

  9. Ngai C O says:

    Hi NCK,

    From my reading from different sources including Wikipedia, the East India Company was a private entity until its dissolution, when the the British Government took over the reins. It might have a charter from the crown but it was still a private company.

    As regards the five foot way in the symposium, the architects who talked about it came from the international arena.

    What cannot be disputed was its mass incorporation into shop fronts as standard architecture in Singapore and this feature spanned many parts of Asia as well.

    Until someone comes along with with irrefutable evidence to say otherwise, this is the information we have to date.

    I have no reason to doubt what is widely said is questionable. We can go forwards and backwards about the issue until the cows come home. That position will not likely change.

  10. NCK says:

    Hi, Ngai CO. It seems that what you heard in the symposium was the only evidence you have. I would like to trust your words, but how many architects in the symposium claimed that five-foot ways originated from Singapore, by Raffles’ bidding no less? One, or two? And where do you think the source of their information probably was – the very city which claimed so, because one of its earlier regulations had a clause giving such a requirement?

  11. NCK says:

    In a post-truth era, when opinion shaping is common, and when many people unwittingly help to spread falsehoods, it is wise to heed the advice of ole Descartes – be a Doubting Thomas all the time so that one wouldn’t be so easily tricked.

  12. Ngai C O says:

    Hi NCK,

    It is up to readers to make their call as to the accuracy of the information that is readily available on the website.

    You can choose to argue against, dispute it or have your own conclusions. That is your prerogative.

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