Part of the lure of Malaysian destinations are the stories and folklores connected to these tourist attractions. Many of these legends and folklores are passed down from generations by word of mouth, while some are even written in our Sejarah Melayu (Malaysian History).
Let’s look into some of these curious but magical places named after women from local folklores.
1. Tasik Dayang Bunting, Langkawi
When translated, the name of this freshwater lake is ‘Lake of the Pregnant Maiden’. Folklore says that a man named Mat Teja and the fairy princess Mambang Sari fell in love at the lake, got married, and gave birth to a son.
Their son, however, did not live long. The couple laid their son to rest in the lake, and the princess blessed the lake so that all women who took a dip in it would become fertile.
To add to the mystery of this story, the hills surrounding the lake resembles a woman lying down on her back with a pregnant belly. The lake is also miraculously not salty, even though it lies close to the sea and is only separated by a thin strip of rocks.
2. Gunung Ledang, Johor
There are many folklore versions of the fairy princess who once lived on this mountain – her name was Puteri Gunung Ledang. Sultan Mansur Shah, the sixth Sultan of Melaka, heard of the princess’ beauty and wanted to marry her.
Upon getting wind of the news, the princess set seven impossible conditions for him to complete if he wished to have her hand in marriage.
- A golden walkway from Melaka to the mountain.
- A silver walkway from the mountain to Melaka.
- Seven barrels of tears.
- Seven barrels of young betel nut juices from the betel tree for her to bathe in.
- Seven trays filled with the hearts of germs.
- Seven trays filled with the hearts of mosquitoes.
- A bowl of the blood of the Sultan’s young son and gold.
The Sultan could not fulfil the final request, requiring him to kill his only son. The moral of the story is that the Sultan was too proud to see that the conditions set by the princess were a way of turning down his marriage proposal.
Some say that the gold and silver bridge still exists, but has either been reclaimed by the forest or can only be seen in the spirit world.
3. Hang Li Poh’s Well, Melaka
Hang Li Poh was a princess sent from China to be the fifth wife of Sultan Mansur Shah. Though there are no accounts of this marriage in Chinese records, according to Sejarah Melayu, the Sultan built a palace for Hang Li Poh and her attendants and gave them a permanent home at Bukit Cina.
The Hang Li Poh well was built by the followers of the princess to be the main source of water supply in town. This well is the oldest in Malaysia, and it is said that the well never dried up. Today, the well is not used as a water source, but as a wishing well and tourism attraction.
4. Makam Mahsuri, Langkawi
Makam Mahsuri, known as Mahsuri’s Tomb and Cultural Center, was built after the story of Mahsuri, whom locals agree was the most beautiful woman on the island back then. Legend has it that she was born in Langkawi after her Thai parents migrated from Phuket in the 18th century.
While there are many versions of the story, the gist is that she was so much of a heartthrob that even the married village chief wanted to wed her. Mahsuri eventually married a warrior, but the Siamese war broke out soon after, and her husband needed to leave to join the war.
Long story short, Mahsuri was accused of adultery because of jealousy, and the verdict was to stab her to death. Repeated attempts to kill her with different weapons proved futile, and Mahsuri offered to be stabbed by her father’s keris — an asymmetrical dagger. Mysteriously, white blood came out of the wound, proving her innocence.
5. Mount Santubong and Mount Sejinjang, Sarawak
According to folklore, Puteri Santubong and Puteri Sejinjiang were two princesses sent down from heaven to stop a war between two local villages. However, the Gods gave them one condition — they were not to quarrel with one another.
Princess Santubong was skilled in embroidery and weaving, while Princess Sejinjang was good at harvesting. With their skills, they brought peace and wealth to the village. Soon enough, the princesses fell in love with Prince Serapi, and drama ensued.
The Gods were angered and turned them both into mountains. Locals say Mount Santubong looks like a woman lying on the ground. Meanwhile, Mount Sejinjang is surrounded by three islands, representing the princess’ head smacked by a pole, where parts of her face are shattered.
6. Naga Bari Lake, Sarawak
In this lake dwells a benevolent spirit called Naga Bari, renowned for helping people, especially with infertility. The locals believe that Naga Bari is a mythical princess who came down to Earth to take a bath at this lake. Her father forbade her from helping other beings while bathing there, but one day, Naga Bari noticed a mortal man drowning in the lake and went over to save him.
When she fell in love with the mortal, her father turned the man into a dragon and disallowed the princess from ever returning to heaven. She begged for her father to reconsider, and he eventually concluded that the princess had to fulfil the wishes of all mortals that came to the lake for her to one day return to heaven.
The local Iban people believe they can seek the princess’ help through an offering ritual called ‘Miring’. The lake has never dried up even through draughts, and locals claim to have seen the princess bathing there in the early mornings.