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Slippery race to the top

Malaysian youth from the ethnic Indonesian Bawean community competing for prizes by climbing a butter-smeared pole in an activity called panjat pinang in Kampung Sungai Kertas, a village in the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, yesterday.

Gleeful children and teenagers gathered to compete in the annual competition. They kicked and used sheer strength to climb the slippery pole that is over 6m tall.

Panjat pinang is believed to have originated during the time of the Dutch colonists in Indonesia.

Back then, it was a form of entertainment for the Dutch. During festive celebrations, they would erect the greased poles in villages and watch as the locals race to reach the prizes hanging at the top.

The competition and other festivities in the Malaysian village were held in conjunction with celebrations marking the birth of Prophet Muhammad yesterday, a public holiday in the Muslim-majority country.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 13, 2016, with the headline 'Slippery race to the top'. Print Edition | Subscribe