We’re sure that you’ve heard of Royal Selangor, the famous local pewter-making company. But did you know that they have a Visitor Centre at their headquarters in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur that’s open to the public?
They are open from 9am until 5pm every day throughout the year and the admission is free. They also have a free shuttle van service from several hotels in Kuala Lumpur!
So, we decided to go and check out what it’s all about!
#1 Learn About The History Of The Company
Before we share more about what we experienced at the Royal Selangor Visitor Centre, we reckon that it’s best to learn a little bit about the background of this successful company.
Royal Selangor is a powerhouse known throughout the world for their expertise in making quality pewters. The story of how it all started goes way back in 1885 when a young chap by the name Yong Koon Seong travelled all the way from Shantou, China to Malaya.
He and many others who did the same were motivated by a common factor. If you paid attention during sejarah
class, you’d know what it is. Yes, the tin found in Malaya was the key attraction that brought them to our shores.
Yong Koon eventually became one of the first few pewtersmiths in Kuala Lumpur. His craft continued to develop over the years. Today, his business has grown so much since its inception.
Fun fact: The business is now being managed by the fourth generation of the family! Impressive, eh?
From a humble shop in Pudu Road – shop No. 219 to be exact – which was purchased with the money saved by his wife, Loh Pat, to having stores located in major cities such as Shanghai, London and Melbourne (oh, the list goes on!), there certainly are many interesting happenings throughout the journey of how they got to where they are today.
With that, in 2004, the Royal Selangor Visitor Centre opened its doors to the public, providing many insights, facts and figures of the past and present time as well as the endless possibilities the future holds.
#2 Check Out The World's Largest Tankard
If you’re not familiar with the area, do not fret. Look out for the signboards and just follow them. The friendly receptionists at the lobby are also ever willing to provide you with all the help and information you need. All you need to do is to just ask!
Before even stepping indoors, just a few footsteps away from the reception counter, you’ll already be able to see one of the main attractions at the Royal Selangor Visitor Centre.
It is none other than the world’s largest tankard!
#3 Go On One Of The Guided Tours
Guided tours are offered here at the Royal Selangor Visitor Centre at no cost. Despite the zero charges, there are two different options available. You can choose to explore the place with a tour guide or go on a self-guided tour with the help of a beacon! The latter is a newly launched feature here.
We tried out both!
Whichever option you choose, you’ll be checking out the same exhibits. But it is important to make the right decision for it does make a difference in how you experience the tour. It’s all about your preference, really.
For a more personal touch, we would recommend going with the tour guide. Don’t worry; they really do know their stuff because they have to pass an exam before they could become one!
Should you decide to go with a tour guide, the languages available are English, Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Japanese.
However, if you prefer to be in your own world, you can go on a self-guided tour. Should you choose to go with this option, you will be equipped with a beacon and a pair of headphones.
At times, they have to cater to a large crowd all at once. During such circumstance, it is possible for them to run out of tour guides and beacons. Therefore, it is best that you call in first – especially if you’re coming with a big group – to prevent any disappointment.
As we stepped in, we were already captivated by how sophisticated the presentation was. The beginning of the tour would enlighten just about anybody in regards to the background of the company.
Yong Koon’s profile and life history are presented in a way that even the little ones could understand. His creations from back in the day, which started off with household items and Chinese ceremonial objects and later progressed to pieces with the influence of Western designs, are all featured here.
It clearly shows how his creations evolved over time.
We also learnt more about the evolution of the company and how they got the royal warrant!
The tour would eventually progress to the showcasing of historical artifacts, more current creations and interactive exhibits. The items displayed are simply in a class of their own. The intricate design of each and every piece speaks volume of their craftsmanship.
We can assure you that the aesthetics were not the only reason we were impressed. It was the whole package, which includes the knowledge they offer for every visitor who would take a moment to observe, connect and appreciate the exploration.
Fascinating was indeed the word of the day.
#4 Marvel At The 'Lucky Teapot'
One of their most prized possessions has to be The Lucky Teapot
. It is basically a melon-shaped teapot crafted with great details. The Lucky Teapot is more than 100 years old!
Datin Paduka Chen Mun Kuen, the granddaughter of Yong Koon, personally told us the story behind this particular piece.
It took place in Kajang during the Second World War. In an attempt to blow off the Japanese army’s supplies, the British bombarded the place with explosives. Despite the risky situation, the people were still out looking for food.
A gentleman by the name of Ah Ham was also in search of food. However, a melon-shaped teapot he saw on the ground distracted him from his main mission.
“He bent down to pick it up and then, a shrapnel whizzed over his head. It saved his life,” Datin Paduka Chen Mun Kuen said.
He then took the teapot home without bringing back any food.
“What do you think the wife felt? Angry lah
!” she quipped.
Ah Ham kept the teapot for a long time with him. He would use it to serve tea to his guests and always, he would tell the story about how the teapot saved his life.
Many, many years later, on one fine day, Datin Paduka Chen Mun Kuen’s husband visited Ah Ham. Like the rest, he was also told the story of the lifesaving incident associated with the teapot.
He then informed Ah Ham of his wife’s association with the pewter factory. With that, Ah Ham asked him to take the teapot back to get it cleaned. And so, he did.
At the factory, the staff that had worked there for so long recognised the 'Ngeok Foh
“It was my grandfather’s stamp,” revealed Datin Paduka Chen Mun Kuen. It simply means that this teapot was made way back then by her grandfather!
How amazing is that?!
The earlier attempts to get Ah Ham to sell it to them were to no avail. Well, the teapot does carry a great sentimental value to him too.
“But after some time, as he grew old, he finally agreed to let us have it,” she reminisced.
Today, the story of The Lucky Teapot lives on at the Royal Selangor Visitor Centre.
Royal Selangor also produces replicas of the melon teapot – you can purchase them! Besides that, tea caddies that are inspired by the teapot are available too!
The storytelling session did not end without a quiz! Datin Paduka Chen Mun Kuen posed this question to us: “How do you wash a teapot?”
We were pretty certain that it’s supposed to be washed with water and soap! If you feel the same way, newsflash: that ain’t the correct answer, folks!
According to Datin Paduka Chen Mun Kuen, you’re supposed to rinse it with only water and nothing else. No need to scrub like mad either!
“Tea is not dirty,” she stated. The tea stains? Well, that is supposed to give it the extra flavour for the extra oomph! #NowYouKnowLah
#5 Check Out The Twin Towers - Made Of Pewter!
To list down all the interesting exhibits they have and why they are so would be quite a chore considering the fact that there were so many of them! However, we figured we’d highlight some of the major ones – not necessarily in order of the tour!
When you’re at the Royal Selangor Visitor Centre, you should take the opportunity to feast your eyes on the collections that were created through the collaborations with various museums all around the world.
During our trip there, we saw pieces inspired by artifacts at Victoria & Albert Museum, the British Museum, the National Palace Museum of Taiwan and our very own Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia.
Basically, the concept and design of the chosen artifacts are embodied in pewter form. They are refined versions of everyday items such as a decanter, wine goblet, letter opener and so many more.
Mind you, these creations are not just showpieces – they are fully functional! History geeks, this is definitely for you.
Also, make sure that you don’t miss the chance to check out the 9.1 meter-tall Petronas Twin Towers that they constructed with 7,062 tankards!
It is strategically placed in such a way that when you are on the first floor where the top part of the exhibit emerges, you can catch a glimpse of the actual skyscraper through the window nearby!
We were totally mesmerised by this piece. Just imagine how much effort and how difficult it must have been to construct it!
#6 Learn All About Science
Science teachers, this may just be the perfect reason to schedule a field trip to the Royal Selangor Visitor Centre for your students!
They have a wall dedicated to the periodic table and also, another wall that features the chemical composition of pewters!
They also have a HUGE weighing scale!
Hop on and see how many of y’all it takes to push down your side’s sample pan!
The Chamber of Chimes is where you are to make some noise!
As the name suggests, this is where you will find tubes made of various materials hanging from the ceiling just waiting for you to give them a ring!
They also have a row of pewter cylinders of different heights for you to hit with a rod! Science yet again!
#7 Take A Tour Around The Factory
At one point during the tour, we got to a pit stop where we were given little pewter cups filled with 100PLUS to rehydrate.
The 100PLUS are poured in the pewter cups, which are at room temperature. The moment the cold drinks are filled in, the cups immediately turn cold.
Due to the characteristics of pewter, they hold the coolness of the drink extremely well, making the 100PLUS taste better than usual!
It works the same way with heat too! Don’t believe us? Go and try it out yourself.
Moving along, you can see the actual factory during this part of the tour. We saw an impressive number of skilled workers doing their thing!
This segment of the tour is also where visitors get to witness up close live scenes of the pewter-making process – from casting all the way to the finishing. Each process is conducted at their designated stations.
We even tried our hands at the hammering process.
The instruction was simple: “Hammer above the indicated line of the pewter. For one spot, knock twice”.
However, that was easier said than done! We were missing the spot and hammering everywhere! Yikes!
Trying it out for ourselves certainly taught us a valuable lesson. These fine pieces of art are not easy to create. It takes skills and effort.
Experiencing the difficulty first-hand has definitely sparked a feeling of admiration in us towards those involved in the whole pewter-making process and a deeper appreciation towards the finished products.
#8 Take Part In Their Workshops
Well, these ain’t your everyday workshops! At the Royal Selangor Visitor Centre, they offer two types of workshops – the School of Hard Knocks
and The Foundry.
The School of Hard Knocks is where you literally have to knock hard!
Should you walk into the workshop when there are already participants doing their thing inside, prepare to be greeted by the sound of - you guessed it - hard knocks!
Basically, this workshop allows you to shape your very own bowl from a pewter disc. The on-site instructors will be there to guide you through the process.
You also get to imprint your name on it!
At the end of this workshop, the participants will get to bring back the following items:
We had a blast knocking! We must say that it was quite the test of having to knock and knock and knock to get the desired shape but we enjoyed every second of it!
The fee for this workshop is RM65 per person
. It is open to those aged three years old and above.
As for The Foundry workshop, well, this is where you get to deal with molten pewter to create whatever you please!
Don’t worry if you’re a bit blur on how it works. The on-site instructors will perform a step-by-step demonstration on how to make a few different types of creations. Hence, you can try to recreate what they showed you!
If you choose not to, that’s fine – you are free to create whatever you want!
They also provide moulds of various items that would make the whole process much easier! You can opt for this too.
We decided to let our creative juice flow. It was rather intriguing. Everything was new to us!
With the molten pewter, we made ball markers, cursive writings, bangles, and so many more. It certainly was a challenge to get them to look decent.
Even with the determination to come up with something nice, our creations were, of course, very amateurish. We couldn’t help but compare them to the amazing pieces they have for sale. They sure do have very highly skilled personnel.
With this hands-on experience, our appreciation towards the art of pewter making grew deeper yet again.
The participants of this workshop will get to take at least three of their creations home.
The fee for this workshop is RM180 per person
. You’d also have to be at least 15 years of age to be allowed to participate. This is a safety measure taken by the management considering the fact that super hot molten pewter is involved during this workshop.
#9 Take Lotsa Selfies At The Wall Of Frames
For those of you who are big on ‘doing it for the ‘gram’, well, there are definitely many Insta-worthy shots you could take at the Royal Selangor Visitor Centre. They have even marked the hotspots that are ideal for picture sessions to ensure that you don’t miss out on any!
The Hall of Frames (brilliant wordplay, isn’t it?) is one of them! Take a selfie (or selfies) with the many pewter frames of different designs that are hung on the wall.
Wherever it is that you decide to take a picture within the area of the Royal Selangor Visitor Centre, don’t forget to upload it to Instagram with this hashtag: #RoyalSelangor
This next step requires your account to be public. Just before you reach the Self-Guided Tour Headset Collection Point, there is a photo-printing machine. There, you can look for your uploaded picture with the said hashtag and print it!
Plus point: The printed photo gives you a RM20 discount when you make any purchase worth RM50 and above at The Showroom!
#10 Spend Some Money At The Showroom
The Showroom at the Royal Selangor Visitor Centre features a wide range of Royal Selangor pewterware!
From Batman figurines to chess sets to cake knives, they have it all here!
What they offer here are not just items meant to be kept in one’s display cabinet but also those that can be adapted and used in one’s daily life.
Speaking of which, this is where the shop-till-we-drop phenomenon occurs!
Quality silverware by Commyns and fine pieces of jewellery of Selberan can also be found at The Showroom. In case you didn’t know, these two are Royal Selangor’s sister companies.
You will certainly be spoilt for choice like we did!
This has to be your go-to destination if ever you are in search of the perfect gift for that special someone. They also provide engraving and gift-wrapping services. The customer service here is top-notch! It’s simply brilliant!
#11 Take A Bite At Their Carrot Cake
Ah… Food. They have a good selection of ‘em at The Café. You cannot head home without stopping by here.
The soothing ambience of the place sets the right mood for you to just sit back, relax and enjoy your meal.
Breakfast is served here. Their daily lunch special is also something you should look forward to! It changes every day. Sandwiches, pasta, and salads are available on their regular menu.
Here's a tip: do not skip the dessert! They are to die for!
Datin Paduka Chen Mun Kuen herself recommended their carrot cake but unfortunately, when we were there, the carrot cake was not available for the day.
However, we did indulge the red velvet cake and chocolate fudge cake à la mode. They were so good!
We would highly recommend these to anyone with a sweet tooth. Pastry lovers, an array of your favourite treats can also be found here.
The Royal Selangor Visitor Centre is a precious gem we have right in our own backyard. Based on what we experienced for ourselves, we dare say that it is worth a visit (or many visits for that matter)!
So, folks, you know where to head to for your next lepak
Royal Selangor Visitor Centre
4, Jalan Usahawan 6, Setapak Jaya
53300 Kuala Lumpur
: 03-4145 6122/03-4145 6000