Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Carcosa Seri Negara - Last Call

The Carcosa Building

So we now have probably heard about the sketchy 'redevelopment plans' for Carcosa Seri Negara. All this is shrouded in typical Malaysian fashion where no clear information was obtained on tenders given and we understand that the current management was not even given time to put in a tender bid. This is Malaysia. I'm tired about the shadow play behind government doors.


I just hope they dont tear it down. This is the last lovingly restored piece of our history and it should be here for every Malaysian to bring their loved ones to immerse themselves in a time long gone and remembered only in old memories.

I spoke to a waiter and he said that the tender had either gone to Landmarks or YTL. Well if Francis Yeoh gets it he'll probably maintain the building but then afternoon tea would come at a cost of your first born child. Anyway the ends to the means eh wot old chap? Anyway the current tea set with scones, some tiny sandwiches will set you back RM60 per pax.

Upper floor corridors to the guest rooms in Carcosa

I come here about once a year. Either to spring a surprise on some unsuspecting date or to bring some English out of towner fresh of the plane from Blighty to let him enjoy some connection to his ancestors who ruled our land. But only this time around I'm buying and he's selling... (cheap ass thrill...)

Seri Negara Building

I normally come for breakfast where the crisp morning air compliments the strong coffee as I sit back and take it all in. In these century old buildings speaking in quiet tones is the order of the day. It's not enforced, just an automatic reaction almost, as if the buildings themselves were some regal old monoarchs who demanded your respect and discretion.

The main hall light at the Seri Negara entrance

The main entrace sign at the gates indicating directions to both buildings

Bart and Peekz having their afternoon cuppa.

On Monday I went with Peekz and Bart who figured we'd catch one last afternon tea at this grand old dame. Sadly they did not serve beer as they are closing down after Christmas. That means if you're reading this you've got a day and a half to enjoy a little bit of history! Pronto people!

Afternoon tea at the Carcosa

I wish many things. I wish we would love and protect our past. I wish we had people in power who would see this and embrace it. I wish a lot of things and just like that Megan Fox lap dance wish, many of my wishes bank on the actions of others. So it could mean fuck all OR the Prime Ministed is one of the few of you discriminating readers of this blog and he takes action to ENSURE that Carcosa stands till the end of times.

I found this note from Sir Frank Swettenham, the first Resident General of the Federated Malay States for whom the building was built for. He explains picking the name Carcosa. It is quaint and adds to the charm of it all.

Choice of name explained by Sir Frank Swettenham.

To the Editor of “British Malaya” [British Malaya, May 1936]


In the April magazine your correspondent in Malaya asks me, in courteous terms, to tell him why I gave the name “Carcosa” to the house that was designed and built for me at Kuala Lumpur by the late Mr. C.E. Spooner, assisted by Mr. A.B. Hubback – as he was in those days – and I have no objection to answer the question even though the simple truth may spoil a number of excellent stories. When this house was finished and occupied I read a book which interested me. It was called “The King in Yellow” and at the beginning of this book there were some verses with a note explaining that they came from Cassilda’s song in “The King in Yellow”, Act 1, Scene 2. Here are two verses: -

“Strange is the night where black stars rise, And twin moons circle in the skies, But the stranger still is Lost Carcosa.”

“Song of my soul, my voice is dead; Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed Shall dry and die in Lost Carcosa.”

I did not call the Resident General’s dwelling “Government House,” or “King’s House,” because neither seemed an appropriate name in Protected States. I did not give it a Malay name, because it was to be the residence of a British Officer; so I took a book name as has often been done before.

As to the word Carcosa, I imagine it was the Castle of the King in Yellow, but the book explains nothing about either the place or its occupant. That apparently can be found in the play, to which there are only occasional allusions. Probably it is a word created by the author’s fancy, though it looks like a combination of the Italian words cara and casa and would mean “desirable dwelling,” as indeed I found it.

The only curious fact is that this name was prophetic for, as I understand, the house has lost its name and is thus, “Lost Carcosa.” The occupant, I am told, is now styled “F.S,” instead of “R.G.”

Yours obediently, FRANK SWETTENHAM

19 April, 1936.

For more on the background details on what is happening go HERE.

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