Grandpa’s mission to rid beaches of bottles leads to museum

Tengku Mohamad Ali Mansor says he is doing his bit to keep the sea clean and prevent people from being hurt by broken glass. (AFP pic)

SETIU: A 74-year-old Malaysian man’s quest to rid the country’s beaches of washed-up glass led to a collection of thousands of bottles, now displayed in a colourful seaside museum.

For the past 15 years, Tengku Mohamad Ali Mansor has made it his mission to gather bottles washed ashore on Malaysia’s rugged South China Sea coast.

He has picked up around 9,000 of them, which he now displays in a traditional wooden house that he has turned into a museum.

They come in various shapes and sizes, from all over the world, stacked across shelves and on the floor, with an igloo-shaped mound of bottles outside.

Malaysian Tengku Mohamad Ali Mansor has picked up around 9,000 bottles, which he now displays in a wooden house that he has turned into a museum. (AFP pic)

He even found messages in two of the bottles, one with a picture of a heart and some faded Chinese characters, and a second that has been torn apart and is no longer legible.

“I did this at first to keep the sea clean,” he told AFP from his village of Kampung Penarik, near here, where the wooden museum sits next to his home.

“I want to prevent people from being hurt by broken glass, and to save the world from being littered with glass.”

A 74-year-old Malaysian’s quest to rid the country’s beaches of washed-up glass led him to amassing a collection of thousands of bottles, now displayed in a colourful seaside museum. (AFP pic)

On a recent morning beach patrol, the spry grandfather of 20 said a prayer as he stooped to pick up an empty, white-capped bottle.

The ex-soldier wiped it down before slipping it into his backpack – another one for his collection.

Tengku Ali’s obsession began in 2005, when he saw children blowing up empty bottles with fireworks.

Tengku Mohamad Ali Mansor’s obsession of collecting glass bottles on Malaysian beaches began in 2005, when he saw children blowing up empty bottles with fireworks. (AFP pic)

Worried the shattered glass could hurt people, he said he would pay them for any bottles they found, and they returned with over 500.

He then began collecting bottles off beaches. Only later, as his collection grew, did he decide to open a museum.

The site attracts a regular stream of visitors who have read about it on his Facebook page.

The bottles Tengku Mohamad Ali Mansor collect come in various shapes and sizes, from all over the world. (AFP pic)

During a Covid-19 lockdown earlier this year, he kept busy glueing glass shards together to make bottle shapes in a style similar to Japanese “kintsugi”, where broken pottery is repaired with lacquer mixed with powdered gold.

Tengku Ali vows to continue his quest as long as he lives.

“People think I’m crazy, but I don’t care,” he said.

“Allah knows what I am doing. I do this because I love this world.”