Nostalgia and Culture are Alive and Well at Shangri-La Resorts in Penang

Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa, Penang and its sister property, Golden Sands Resort, Penang, have jointly launched a novel idea that brings nostalgia back to life.

The old-fashioned nuts-and-snacks vendor known as the kacang putih man (KP man) used to be a familiar sight during the pre-war eras right until the 1970s. Translated literally kacang putih means ‘white nuts’. The main item is a type of roasted nuts, except peanuts, and a crunchy snack known as muruku based on Indian recipes from the Tamil Nadu province.

Malaya, later Malaysia, being a multicultural land, embraced the KP man. This nuts-and-snacks vendor was a familiar sight in towns, villages and places of entertainment. The advent of cinemas and popcorn displaced the KP man from a common sight to a rarity in the present day.

Bringing living history in its authentic form allows the staying guests of the two resorts to experience Malaysian culture and interact with an icon from the past. The presence of the KP man elevates the guest experience, especially for those who have never seen him and those old enough to remember.

The KP man spreads goodwill from 5 to 7 p.m. in the garden area that connects both resorts. He can be seen daily in his white-and-green costume, vintage bicycle and wooden boxes filled with traditional snacks. Wrapped in plain white paper, the coned-shaped snack servings are presented to in-house guests the traditional way.

It took a while to find the ideal person to portray the KP man convincingly. The resort creative team found the perfect person in Zainon Ariffin, a 63-year-old former driver of the general manager. His affable manner fits the role of the traditional street vendor in his portrayal of living history.

Apart from the iconic KP man, Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa, Penang also brings its guests a unique cultural and musical experience. The Gamelan Ensemble performs for the listening pleasure of in-house guests every Friday from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Garden Wing lobby. Gamelan ensembles are traditional orchestras comprising mainly percussive instruments. Gamelan music is used to accompany theatrical performances, apart from being a standalone feature.

The resort’s very own ensemble comprises staff members from the Finance, Purchasing, Communications and Kitchen Departments. They have been trained by a gamelan guru, (Mohamad Jufry bin Yusoff) from the University of Science, Malaysia (Universiti Sains Malaysia), Penang campus, Art and Cultural Centre. The in-house musicians are committed to preserving this traditional musical form and are passionate about sharing the experience with the guests. The ensemble presents guests with the unique opportunity to experience culture and music first hand within the comfortable ambience of Shangri-La.

‘These unique experiences of living history with which you can interact and derive enjoyment from are all part of the evolving novel guest experience we intend to continue to provide. We will remain deeply committed to our social responsibility by making a positive contribution to our community, environment, colleagues, guests and business partners’, said General Manager Elaine Yue.

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