Labu Sayong – Amazingly Cool Water from Clay Gourds

Story idea – Local Crafts in Perak State:

With three generations and over a hundred years’ family background in the ceramics trade, Mohd Pareb Zamari of KZ Kraf Enterprise in Sayong, in the region of Kuala Kangsar, Perak, is hosting an increasing number of tourists keen to learn about the production of Labu Sayong and other local crafts.

Mohd Pareb Zamari KZ
Mohd Pareb Zamari – owner – KZ Kraf

In Sayong village, there are 99 active Labu Sayong and ceramic business owners. KZ Kraf was awarded the Perak Tourism Award in 2012 and named winner for the Ceramic Category in 2014.

We asked Mr Zamari to tell us about the background to these intriguing water-carrying gourds.

The Labu Sayong are very famous, and they come only from this region, because this is the only place one can find the right clay to make them. This village was one of the first to be established in the Kuala Kangsar district, when traders from China and Arabian countries would stop as they went through the straits of Malacca. Some years ago, they found the wreck of an ancient ship not far from here. In the remains of the ship, they found containers for liquids, and the Labu Sayong were modelled on these ancient containers.

That was how the production of Labu Sayong started in this way – not only for keeping liquids, but also rice and other things.

I learned the trade from my father and my uncle. I started learning when I was just seven years old, and finally took over the business in 2000. Today, compared to back in my father’s time, we have many more visitors. We have a lot of foreign tourists – primarily from Europe, but also from the Middle East.

KZ Pottery 3
Making Labu Sayong – using moulding technique

Please tell us more about how they are made…

The clay is very soft, and we make most of the Labu Sayong using a mould. They are fired at 950°C, and following this, they are rolled in rice husks in order to blacken the exterior of the vessel.

How does it keep the water cool?

When the Labu Sayong is filled with water, the still slightly porous nature of the clay allows the water to evaporate gently through the surface, creating a cooling effect. It’s just like getting water from the fridge, except the water from the Labu Sayong has some extra miners that come from the clay of the pot.

Where can tourists buy the Labu Sayong?

They can buy them here. We welcome large groups here, and we now host workshops where we show people how to make pottery using the local methods. Generally, classes last a full day, and the people are able to take something home with them as a memento of the visit, as well as having a traditional Malaysian meal here.

KZ Pottery 2
Adding fine touches to ceramics at KZ Kraf

This place is part of a “Craft Trail” that people are able to follow in order to discover the arts and crafts of the region.

The Craft Trail idea was launched by the federal tourism and culture authority.

How many people work here?

We have five full time staff and six apprentices – 11 in total. The apprenticeship can last anywhere between three months and one year. Six months is the norm.

What else do you make here?

Apart from labu sayong, we also sell vases, lamps and other clay and ceramic-based souvenirs. The latest additions are porcelain products, the first in the village.

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KZ Kraf Enterprise

                   No. 20, Kg Kepala Bendang, Sayong

                   33040 Kuala Kangsar, Perak

                   Mr Mohd Pareb Zamari (017-5652164)