MELAKA, Dec 20 — When travelling to Melaka, experiencing a ride on a bullock cart, an icon that is quite synonymous with the hometown of Hang Tuah, should be in the itinerary.
Sadly, bullock carts, one of the country as well as Melaka’s iconic identities, are fast becoming extinct due to rapid development; there is only one workshop still making bullock carts in the state.
The sixth generation of bullock cart makers, Samsudin Abdul, 42, said that his workshop, located in Kampung Tambak Bugis, Telok Mas here, is the only one left in Melaka.
“There used to be many workshops that make bullock carts, but the number is getting smaller. There is a sheer lack of interest among the younger generation on this forgotten trade and now only my workshop remains.
“The bullock cart was once a popular mode of transportation in the state but times have changed,” he told Bernama here, today.
He said that the process of making a bullock cart takes about a month to complete provided there are enough materials, especially quality wood to make the body, wheels and awning (roof) frame, which requires several different types of wood for durability.
“For the body and wheels, I will use hardwood such as resak because it is durable, while for roofing I use softwood such as kelat, membasa, mata keli, cengai or cenerai, because it has ‘softness’ to support the awning, especially off road.
“Thatched roofs are made from ‘rumbia’ (sago palm) leaves instead of nipah leaves as they last longer, while bullocks used to pull the cart are from the Kedah-Kelantan or the Siamese hybrid breed,” he said.
Samsudin, sixth of nine siblings, said that during the bullock carts’ heyday operators were given space to be in popular tourist areas such as in Banda Hilir.
However, he said that the activity seemed to have disappeared when the area ceased being a tourist attraction.
“So I decided to work with a number of travel agents by offering tour packages at my workshop here, so that tourists can still experience this bygone days activity.
“Among the activities are a bullock cart ride around the paddy fields, rubber tapping, wearing Malay traditional attire and local food tasting,” he said.
He said these activities will not survive in the future if the state government or the relevant ministry does not lend its support.
“I am willing to share my knowledge and expertise with others but no one is interested to learn. I am now only able to teach my siblings and nephews about making these bullock carts because my intention is to preserve this heritage,” he said. — Bernama