Travel

The Wonders of Rice

A RICE MUSEUM? How much could there be to say about rice, I wondered; apparently, a lot. I had the misconception that this museum, located in Gunung Keriang in the northern state of Kedah, showcased the various types of rice. Again, I wondered just how interesting that was likely to be.

After seeking the assistance of my good friend, Mr Google, I found out that the Rice Museum (or Muzium Padi in Malay) takes you on a trip through the process of how paddy is harvested, which results in the staple food of Malaysia, rice. This is one fascinating place and any newcomer to Malaysia should make a visit.

Kedah is known as the Rice Bowl State (Jelapang Padi in Malay) for obvious reasons. Built on land belonging to the government, the museum is surrounded by approximately 100,000 hectares of paddy fields and sits beneath the grandeur Gunung Keriang or Mount Keriang, just eight kilometres from Alor Star city. According to Suhaidi, the museum's assistant curator, it was built at a cost of RM24.7 million, and was officiated on 12 October 2004 by the Sultan of Kedah. You won't miss this iconic building as the exterior is painted in gold and resembles bushels of harvested paddy stalks.

Once inside this magnificent edifice, measuring at 12,000 square metres, you will be enthralled at how the rice motif is incorporated into museum's architecture; from the banisters to the gate and fencing outside. Consisting of three levels, the first level houses the many traditional tools that were once used for paddy harvesting. On the second level, accessed via the intricately designed spiral staircase, there are six galleries displaying various paintings on the history of agriculture and paddy farming in Kedah. Here, you will find trivia’s on everything concerned with rice. Visitors will be awestruck by the number of panoramic murals showcased in the galleries.

The third level is where the fun begins. Suhaidi says the distinctive point here is the grand circular mural depicting the scene surrounding Mount Keriang, I guarantee that you'll never have seen the like before. Picture being on the summit of the mountain … this is what you will see, Suhaidi announces. The mural meticulously painted and crafted by 60 artists from North Korea, measures 103 metres in circumference and eight metres in height. However, it is not just any mural. There is a revolving platform which takes you on a mini trip around Mount Keriang. Only difference is, you can remain inside. While viewing the mural, the scenery starts to revolve around you and, according to Suhaidi, it takes 30 minutes to complete the tour. It takes you through the processes of paddy harvesting, he adds; truly unique.

The third floor also showcases the many ancient tools that were used to harvest the paddy, which are not used today as a result of advanced technology. You will come across the Anok, an ancient device used for harvesting. If you're making a trip to Kedah, a stopover at the museum will be worth the journey.

Visitors can take the Alor Setar exit on the North-South highway and just look out for road signs that say Rice Museum. It is open every day from 10am to 6pm. It is closed from 12.30pm to 2.30pm on Fridays. The admission fee is RM3 for adults and RM1 for children aged seven to 12 years.

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