Minangkabau Architecture

The countryside around Seremban is home to some of the most bucolic scenes in all of Malaysia. The hills are green and densely wooded, and rice fields spread across the valleys, but it’s the villages that will steal your heart with their traditional wood houses, many in the charming Minangkabau style.

Originally from the highlands of Western Sumatra, the Minangkabau people have lived and thrived in Negeri Sembilan since the 15th century. Minangkabau people are Muslims, though their belief systems are shaped by adat, customs that predate Islam. The passage of Minangkabau property from mother to daughter has endured for centuries, making the Minangkabau arguably the world's most prominent matrilineal society. The most noticeable feature is the region's distinct traditional architecture, such as homes with curved roofs and pointed gables inspired by the shape of buffalo horns.

Good examples of this architectural style can been seen in Seremban’s Muzium Negeri Sembilan and the old royal town of Sri Menanti. If you have a car it's worth driving through some of the villages, too: Kampung Pantai is 10km northeast of Seremban on Federal Rte 86, while Terachi is 27km east on Rte 51 at the turn-off to Sri Menanti.

Ancient Megaliths

There are hundreds of megaliths scattered across Peninsular Malaysia, most concentrated in Melaka and Negeri Sembilan. Their origin and purpose remains obscure, as does their age, though they are often found in Muslim cemeteries. The megaliths here could be a few hundred years old, from the time of the Minangkabau arrival, or they could be thousands of years old. Locals call them Batu Hidup (Living Stones), which may be a reference to the fact they seem to grow over the years, the result of land erosion around them. Surprisingly, megaliths aren’t believed to be sacred.

When we last visited, some stones that had been previously left in the open air were being taken away for study and display in museums, but you can see a good example at the Pengkalan Kempas Megalith Site, a 15th-century Muslim cemetery 20km east of Port Dickson.