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Love letter in a bottle part of remarkable collection


Why this elderly eco-warrior is a man on a mission

Meet Tengku Mohamad Ali Mansor. The 77-year-old ex-Army vet has a handshake like a vice, 23 grandchildren (and counting), his own Facebook page and more energy than someone a third his age.

 

He is also a man on a very important mission.

 

Back in 2005, Tokki (as he is known around here) started collecting glass bottles that had washed up on the beach near his village of Kampung Mangkuk in the east Malaysian state of Terengganu.

He now has more than 9,0000 which he houses in a museum – naturally enough called Rumah Botol (Bottle House) – that he’s set up to house his remarkable collection.

 

Needless to say, he’s a bit of a celebrity around these parts and his work has drawn national attention.

 

In an interview with the New Straits Times, he explained why he began his clean-up campaign.

 

“I felt sorry for tourists who came to the beach to play in the sand as they might get injured by the broken glass pieces.

 

“I advised the (local) kids not to break the bottles. I told them I would pay for each bottle they handed me.”

 

That initial gesture bagged Tokki 500 empty bottles and so began his environmental crusade.

As we tour his museum, Tokki jumps about like a Jack in The Box, talking just a little too loudly (his hearing isn’t what it was) but bursting with enthusiasm, delighted to share his story with his Aussie visitors.

 

He tells us that he’s been to Canberra and has a son working in Sydney, who sends him a new bottle every year on his birthday.

 

While there doesn’t seem to be any Australian pieces on display, the collection includes offerings from as far afield as South Korea, Mexico and France.

 

But pride of place goes to a bottle from China which he unearthed 18 years ago containing a very special find.

Inside was a love letter that some hopeful Romeo or Juliet had tossed into the sea, searching for love, or perhaps abandoning it forever? Sometimes email just doesn’t do the trick…

 

Walking around the museum you notice that every bottle has a small label with a number on it, right back to the slightly odd-looking brown bottle that became exhibit 1 some 17 years ago.

 

Tokki is in full swing now and asks us to sign his visitors’ book. As we do so, he shows us some of his artwork, crafted from bits of broken bottles. They are colourful, creative and clever, just like the man himself.

Our visit with this spritely septuagenarian is over way too soon but before we go, we ask Tokki if he has a message for the younger generation?

 

“Don’t waste your time”, he fires back immediately.

 

Wise words and given his father lived to be more than 100, I’d say there’s plenty of bottle still left in this venerable eco-warrior.

malaysia.travel

 


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Written by: Jon Underwood
Published: 9 October 2022

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