Maxwell Hill, May 2017

Note: click on any picture to enlarge it.

Maxwell Hill is one of the oldest hill resorts in Malaysia. Development started in the 1880’s with the construction of a number of colonial bungalows for government officers. One bungalow, the Nest, was privately built in 1887 and from 1904 it was used as a retreat by the Methodist Church of Malaysia. About half a year ago this bungalow got new tenants,  Suet Fun and her husband Peter, friends of us, and we were eager to visit them and see how they had changed in a very short time the look and feel of the place.

An Ipoh friend of us, Hong, and his niece Karen were also interested, so we booked accommodation for two nights and met at the jeep station at 2:30 pm for a roller coaster ride up the hill. The jeep took us to Speedy’s bungalow where Suet and Peter were already waiting for us. From Speedy it is a few hundred meter walk to the Nest

It was a warm welcome with a glass of fresh hill water. Suet explained a bit about the history of the place and showed us around the bungalow.

I had never been in the Nest before, apparently it was catering for large groups, bunk beds, rather basic. The transformation had been amazing, as if you suddenly were taken back many decades to the past. I hope the few pictures below give an impression. The Nest has become a place to relax and enjoy, good that we had booked two nights.

The rest of the afternoon we spent around the bungalow, enjoying the changing weather, sometimes mist and clouds, sometimes quite clear. Refreshing temperature.

We could not see Taiping town itself, the left picture shows deep down the reservoir belonging to the Spritzer Eco Park and far away the Straits of Melaka. The mountain in the right picture is Gunung Bubu, about twenty km away!

Recently we have bought a drone and this was a good time to test it and take videos of the Nest and the surroundings.

The wind was quite strong, Aric was a bit worried that the drone might be blown away, but it landed nicely in frond of his feet.

Superior  technology

Here is a compilation of the videos taken that afternoon.

In the meantime Suet and Peter were busy with preparations for the dinner. And what a dinner it was! Peter is a Kelabit from Bario, they have also a house there, and one of the dishes was bamboo chicken. I don’t remember the names of the other dishes, but it was delicious. We had dinner outside at the monumental table on the bungalow terrace.

And then there was Antong coffee in the living room near the fireplace where Peter had lit a cosy wood fire. Life can be good…:-)

After a windy night, we woke up with a blue sky.

We had breakfast with French toast and Bario pineapple jam. Then it was time to take more pictures.  A stick insect was exploring my breakfast plate and in the grass a swallowtail moth (Lyssa Zampa) was looking (in vain) for shelter

The Hibiscus is the national flower of Malaysia and you find them everywhere, but notice in the picture the grass and small herbs surrounding it. There was hardly a bush visible, it almost looked like the flowers came straight from the earth…:-)

We decided to take a morning stroll down to Speedy. Looking back we saw the Nest in all its glory.

Just before we reached Speedy, there was a large level field, with a nursery. In the past this has been a tennis court!. We found a nice ginger species.

I

Speedy recalled sweet memories, but also made me sad. In 2004 I celebrated my 60th birthday there with friends, when Guna was the caretaker of the bungalow. Later  it was decided to transform this bungalow into an Center for Biological Diversity. A failed project, as was to be expected in view of the limited accessibility. Now it is empty, unlocked. Sad. Compare the present situation with my birthday party, 13 years ago

Guna (yellow shirt) had prepared a nice barbecue.  How time flies.

The view from Speedy is still fascinating

Walking back to the Nest, Hong and I discovered an overgrown trail, leading steep up the slope. Hong knew that there should be another bungalow, between Speedy and the Nest, the Hugh Low bungalow. We scrambled up the trail, got scratched by many thorns and indeed, we found the remains of the bungalow!  We ventured inside, very carefully

Here are a few more pictures of your exploration. A very satisfactory mini-expedition!

In the afternoon we had quite heavy rain, very refreshing, suitable for a nice nap…:-)

In the meantime other guests had arrived.  Suet had decided to serve a banana leaf dinner and asked for our help to prepare the table.

Not only did it look splendid, the food was also delicious.

Moths were attracted by the bright light

There was another reason why Hong and I wanted to visit Maxwell Hill. Wan Amril, a friend of us, who is very knowledgeable about everything related to Taiping, had told us about a memorial stone for J.W.W Birch, the first British Resident of Perak, appointed in 1874 and murdered in 1875. He had “discovered” this stone eight years ago on the top of Birch Hill, one of the hills forming Maxwell hill. Read his fascinating report The Forgotten Memorials . Wan Amril manages nowadays the Cafe Bukit Larut at the 6th mile and he was willing to guide us to this memorial stone.

The next morning we thanked Suet and Peter for their hospitality and met Wan Amril at Speedy. From there we walked along the jeep track until near the first telecom tower at Birch Hill. There a vague trail took us after a few hundred meters to the stone

Here we have reached the stone. Mission accomplished!

As you can see a mistake has been made with the inscription. The name of the Resident was J.W.W Birch, not T.W.W Birch. Why this mistake? Another question is, did Birch really climb this hill? He was appointed as Resident, 4 November 1874 and murdered 2 November 1875. Did he have time in that year to climb this mountain?

Maybe an answer to this last question can be found in the Journals he kept in the period 1874-1875. They have been published and the National Library in Kuala Lumpur has copies. I will try to borrow one.

The plaque to the right is much more recent. Difficult to decipher, but according to Wan Amril’s report it says that on 23-7-73 at 8:02  the Raja Muda of Perak has visited this memorial stone.

We walked back to the jeep track and continued to the main telecom towers, a few hundred meter further at Caulfield Hill, slightly higher than Birch Hill. It is out of bounds, but a friendly security guard let us in, so we could take some pictures of the Cottage, the first bungalow of Maxwell Hill, built in 1884. Now used by the guards

Walking back we admired the beautiful nature, like this impressive tree

We saw an ant nest and tree fruits. It was a very rewarding hike.

From Speedy we drove down with Wan Amril to the 6th mile, where his cafe is located and many of the other bungalows

Some of the bungalows are in good condition, like Beringin (left), the Cafe (right) also looks good. Other bungalows are more rundown, or even ruined. Pity

After lunch in the Cafe, Wan Amril drove us back to the jeep station. Many thanks for his hospitality!

Here is a GE map of the winding road up Maxwell Hill, with the location of the various points of interest.   

I am looking forward to come back to the Nest!

The Upper Ampang Fall

My first visit of the Sg Ampang waterfalls was in December 2004 when my friend Khong took me to the Kemensah fall. According to Khong there were more waterfalls upstream, the Lower Quartz Ridge Fall and the Upper Quartz Ridge Fall (the links refer to his original webpages, have a look!). So the same month I came back with my Dutch friend Paul, we took a trail parallel to the river and found another waterfall. Here is the report: Kemensah Revisited.  Comparison with Khong’s webpages showed that this was the Upper Quartz Ridge fall.

Where was the Lower Fall? In January 2005 I went again with Paul. This time we decided to river trek upstream from the Kemensah Fall and found the Lower Fall, actually quite close to the Upper one. This is the report: Kemensah Finale.

In the meantime I had studied the topo map and discovered that these three waterfalls have nothing to do with the Sg Kemensah, as I first thought, but are waterfalls in the Sg Ampang. I published the falls on my Waterfalls of Malaysia website under the name Sg Ampang falls .

I had never been back to these falls, so when my friend Peter told me that he and some friends were planning to go to the Upper Fall, I decided to join. Much development had taken place during the past decade and destroyed the remote atmosphere. We had parked far away from the trail head, and started our walk along the tar road, passing several places where people where enjoying their weekend

So-called development is still going on..:-(

We passed an ATV park, very popular and one reason we parked so far away, because my friends told me that the ATV “gang” can be unfriendly and even aggressive to people who park there without using their services. Notice the encroaching civilisation of Sierra Ukay in the right picture

There was also a paintball place. With a special offer for ATV customers!

When we arrived at the trail, I discovered that the once overgrown single-track trail had changed into an ATV-highway. Where of course we had to give way to these noisy monsters.


They are all going to the Lower Ampang fall (Kemensah), which is officially named Sofia Jane Fall. We took the trail to the upper falls which fortunately is still unspoiled.

To reach the Upper Fall, you must know where to leave the trail and scramble down a steep slope, only guided by the sound of falling water. On our way down, we missed the (vague) trail, but of course, with Peter chopping his way, we managed to reach the fall…:-)

The upper fall is interesting because the river splits in two falls.

This video shows more clearly how this fall is split. The official name is Lata Neelofa

Pity there is no pool. Actually the Middle Ampang  Fall (official name Lata Pinang) is more impressive, but we decided to go back, as it might start raining. As often happens, on our way back we found the correct route up…:-). Suat shows here where to go down…:-)  The trail continues probably to Congkat (Ulu Langat region), it would be interesting to explore it.

We were just back in time before the rain. Here a few of us are enjoying an after-hike drink and dinner.

It was a nice outing, but I was a bit shocked about the “development”. Might be better on a weekday. Here is a GE screenshot of our hike. White is the tar road, as we wanted to avoid a potential conflict with the ATV gang. Red is the ATV track, green the unspoiled trail.

 

Tour Guide!

Can you be our tour guide for a day trip to Ipoh and Taiping, my friend Pat asked me recently? My pleasure, I replied, but visiting Ipoh and Taiping on a day trip would be too hectic and no fun. Let me think about an interesting program!

They also would like to visit a waterfall, so I suggested we could start with Lata Kinjang, clearly visible from the North-South Highway. But first we had breakfast in the Pun Chun restaurant in Bidor, famous for its duck noodles. The yam cakes are also delicious.

Outside the restaurant there were several stalls with fresh fruits and vegetables, which of course meant shopping!

Our next destination was Lata Kinjang. Travelers from KL to Ipoh will have seen this waterfall from the highway, but not many will have actually visited the fall, because the access route is a bit complicated. From the car park it is a short walk through nice forest to the tall waterfall.

A (sometimes) steep trail brings you to a hanging bridge from where you have a nice view

From Lata Kinjang we continued on countryside roads to the tin dredge of Tanjung Tualang. A tin dredge is a kid of floating factory in an artificial lake, created by the dredge itself.. They scoop up buckets of tin-bearing soil at the front end (left pic), separate the tin from the soil and deposit this soil at the rear end (right pic). In the heyday of tin mining there were many of these gargantuan monsters in Perak, now only one is left to become a tourist attraction. During my first visit, many years ago, I could explore the tin dredge, at the moment you can only admire the outside

There is also a small museum (under construction) and there are plans to develop the place into a major tourist attraction, including :

a food and beverage section with cafes, alfresco dining and gift shops; a garden area for weddings and other functions; a petting zoo and adventure park; a villa resort; a floating resort; an area for flea market and antique bazaar; and parking area

Keep dreaming, I would say…:-)

Then it was time for lunch. Originally I had planned lunch in Tanjung Tualang, famous for its freshwater prawns, but instead we went to Pusing and had nice food in restaurant Ming Fuong.  With quite affordable freshwater prawns.

During our lunch I mentioned to my guests the nearby village of Papan, where during the Japanese occupation in WWII, Sybil Kathigasu was helping the resistance fighters. The town is ruined, but there is a small museum in the house where she lived.

We decided to have a look. Papan is only a few streets with many of the houses overgrown with trees and bushes. Difficult to imagine that during the tin mining era it was a busy town.

Some of the houses are still inhabited! The museum was closed, we could only have a look from the outside. The future of Papan is uncertain, there are still tin deposits underneath. If the price of tin goes up, it might mean the end of the village

My plan was to visit next one of the many cave temples in Ipoh, and I decided that on our way we could have a quick look at Kellie’s Castle. When I first visited this “folly’ about twenty years ago, it was a romantic ruin, but since then it has been renovated and become a major tourist attraction. William Kellie Smith was a Scottish planter and tin miner who started building this castle in 1915. But he died in 1926 and the castle was never finished.

When we arrived at the Kek Lok Tong cave temple, we found out that we were too late, the temple gates were just closing 🙁 Really a pity, because this is in my opinion one of the most impressive cave temples in Ipoh. Click here for a blog report I found on the Internet.

It was still too early for dinner, was there an alternative for the temple? I suggested we could visit Gopeng, another tin mining town with a glorious past. Recently there have been attempts to revive it as a tourist attraction, there is  a museum , and you can find mural paintings, similar to those in Penang and Ipoh. (The links refer to my earlier blogs). It is becoming a bit of a craze nowadays, Kuala Lumpur has been following and you can find this street art also in Taiping.

Some nice ones in Gopeng are in the three-dimensional style of Zacharevic . Here Pat is acting as a model

We found a few more, various design and quality

Near Gopeng, in Ulu Geroh, you can find many Rajah Brooke’s butterflies and also, if you are lucky, the famous Rafflesia flowers. Here are two murals depicting them

Finally, after a long day, we went for dinner to restaurant Choy Kee in Sungkai. The restaurant is famous for its pork knuckle and the freshwater fish.

My guests wanted also to have again freshwater prawns (udang galah). It was a nice dinner, although we were a bit shocked by the price of the prawns. Below, clockwise from upper left: pork knuckle, kappa (kind of lala), udang galah and fish (forgot which kind).

It was a nice trip, full of variety, although we didn’t even reach Ipoh..:-)

Below is our route. The right screenshot shows the pockmarked landscape, a result of the tin mining

 

A new waterfall

Recently some of my friends joined a “hashwalk” to Bukit Lentang in the Karak region. On their way they passed a nice waterfall. Knowing about my interest in (Malaysian) waterfalls, they gave me the GPS-data and suggested that I should visit the fall myself. Of course that was a challenge I could not resist. They warned me that heavy “development” was taking place in the area, with a lot of forest clearing in preparation for plantations.

I checked the historical imagery of Google Earth. Here is the situation in January 2013. A minor road (white line) starts from the main road and leads to a Taoist sanctuary, where the trail starts.  Notice the palm oil plantations in the upper right part of the image. The rest is still forest.

Here is the situation in June 2016. Quite a shocking difference. It’s called progress :-(.

My friends Paul, Rahim and Fahmi joined me on this waterfall hike. It was no problem to reach the “Chinese temple”, where we parked  our car. Quite a large building, not really a temple, nobody around. We walked back about 100 meter, and passed a gate into a banana plantation.

Here is a detailed GE map. The red track is the track of my hashwalk friends. Our way in is in yellow, our way out in green. Click the map to enlarge. I have numbered the locations where I have taken pictures.

It looks like this part of the hike was still in the forest. But no, more recent than in the GE-map, additional clearing has taken place, everywhere we saw  scarred, burnt trees…:-( We took several wrong turns, until Rahim, with his orang asli sense of direction, guided us down the slope to the right trail. Notice that on our way back we found an easier trail (green).

A bit further along the trail (4), we had an unexpected encounter, a dead wild boar was lying where we had to cross the stream. Probably shot by a hunter, but managed to escape. A bullet hole is visible below the eye.

Soon after this encounter we reached the barren land. Here and there huts and sheds, bulldozers, cement, drain pipes, this is a huge project.

Fortunately there were clouds, otherwise it would have been very hot. An “advantage” of the deforestation is that you have nice views of the surrounding landscape. You can see far away the highway to Kuantan and the prominent limestone rock of Bukit Batu Kapur Cinta Manis. But still we were glad when we reached the jungle

It is only a few hundred meters to the waterfall. The hashwalk guys had followed a jungle trail, we decided to river trek. We found a thorny plant with a lot of jelly-like stuff dripping from the end. Not sure what it was.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were happy and excited when we reached the waterfall. Quite tall, pristine. The local orang asli probably have named the waterfall, we passed a family on our way in, but when we went back and wanted to ask, they had left their hut. Provisionally we name it Lata Guan, in honour of Guan, a hashwalker who had “discovered” the fall several years ago.

Here a few pictures of the fall. The cairn in the right picture was built by Rahim

I had brought a stove, we made coffee, had some food and enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere. There were no leeches, no bees, no other people, only the four of us….:-)

When Dutchmen see a stream, they always want to build a dam in the water. In this case it was Rahim who decided to make his private pool…:-)

Here he is enjoying the result of his hard work.

On our way back we followed again the stream

As is often the case with jungle hiking, it is easier to find the correct trail on your way back. In the left picture I am pointing at the location in the banana plantation where you should leave the road and follow the trail. In the right picture this location is indicated by a green marker.  I have also sketched the probable location of a new road (blue line) leading to the waterfall. IF that road is a public one, it would be possible to drive until very close to the waterfall.  But probably this road may be private at the moment.

A nice adventure

Klang Heritage Walk

The first impression a visitor gets of Klang is not very favourable. It’s a busy town, a bit chaotic, where you can easily get lost. But it is also a historic city, one of the oldest in Malaysia and it still is the Royal City of Selangor, although no longer the capital.

Since 2014 Tourism Selangor organises a Klang Heritage Walk every Saturday and Sunday. The walk is conducted by professional Tour Guides and free of charge!

Last September I joined this walk, guided by Alex Raj. I liked the tour so much that I wanted to write a blog about it. But I was busy, went back to Holland, forgot details. So I decided to join another time, again with Alex as a guide and this time accompanied by my friend Joe Yap.

The tour visits nine points of interest and officially takes about 2.5 hours. But with a gifted storyteller like Alex, it can easily take longer…:-)

Starting point of the walk was the Royal Gallery, one of the two officially recognised heritage sites in Klang. Built in 1909 by the famous architect A.B Hubback (Malay college in Kuala Kangsar, Masjid Jamek in KL and many more), for use as the colonial government office. In 2007 the Royal Gallery was opened in this building, housing the memorabilia of the eighth Sultan of Selangor.

A group of almost 20 pax met here our guide Alex for registration and an introduction about what we could expect during the walk. The building, in  neo-classical style, is quite impressive.

We had only time for a quick look at the exhibits. I found the panels with the history of the Selangor Sultanate very interesting, especially the panel about Sultan Sir(!) Abdul Samad, the fourth sultan of Selangor. During his long reign (1857-1898)  the Klang War took place, similar to the Larut war, but with a different background. Both wars resulted in the appointments of British Residents. Klang became the state capital, until 1880 when Kuala Lumpur took over. After Kuala Lumpur became Federal Territory in 1974, a new town , Shah Alam, was created and it became the capital of Selangor in 1978.  But Klang still remains the Royal Capital.

From  the Royal Gallery we crossed the road to the Chennai Silk Palace, occupying the building of the former Chartered Bank (1909) . Compare the two pictures, the right one is from the 1950s, when it was still a bank. The architecture is still the same, but for the rest…..?

Interesting detail: the gaudy images showing what is sold in the shop, originally had a  caption Chennai Silk Palace. Later, to avoid confusion with the Royal Palace , the last word was painted over…:-). We walked through the shop, the interior has been modified beyond recognition.

Next stop was the Royal Klang Club, established in 1901. Entrance for members only, but our guide was a member and could introduce us

The interior of the club is quite impressive and luxurious. Here images of the dining room and the bar

In the last decades of the 19th century, Klang was the main port of Selangor, until in 1901 Port Swettenham (now Port Klang) was developed. So it is not surprising that the interior of the Klang Club has a marine atmosphere. Alex advised the men in his group to visit the toilet…:-)

The Royal Alam Shah Palace is situated next to the Club. It is a relatively new building, erected in 1950 on the site of the previous Istana Mahkota Puri (1903). The Sultan’s “residence” is now in Shah Alam, but the Klang Palace is still used for official ceremonies.

We crossed the hill, where in earlier days the hospital was located and arrived at the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, completed in 1928.  Supposedly built in French-Gothic style. Many members of the congregation are of Indian origin and services are held in Tamil and other languages.

Sunday service in Tamil language

 

Next to the church is the Klang Convent school, officially opened in 1928. Both the church and the school are very attractive buildings

We walked back along the foot of the hill to Jalan Tengku Kelana, the Little India of Klang.

Many shops with herbs, spices, jewelry. No time for shopping, Alex warned us, we still had more to do…:-)

Next we reached a beautiful mosque, the Indian Muslim Mosque Tengku Kelana. The mosque serves the Indian Muslim community of Klang. Its history goes back to 1904, but since then it has been several times enlarged and rebuilt, the present building is very recent (2009)

It is only a short walk from the mosque to an old Hindu temple, the Sri Nagara Thandayuthapani temple. The present temple was built in 1925. Dedicated to Parvathi

The Kota Raja Fire Station was our next stop. Built in Victorian style in 1890, it is still in use. There is a small museum where we could act as a fireman!

Finally we had a look at the Gedong Raja Abdullah, the other official heritage site in Klang, built in 1857, making it the oldest Malay building in Selangor. It was originally a warehouse for the storage of tin, but also served as a home for Raja Abdullah, who was the administrator of Klang and participated in the Klang War. It was used by the colonial administration, it became a police station and until recently it housed a tin museum. Now it is closed, because it is infested by termites.  I am pessimistic about its future. 🙁

It was a nice and interesting walk, because Alex not only gave factual information about the various places we visited, but is also a good storyteller.

Here is a Google Earth map with the location of the places we have visited

Taiping, January 2017

On our way to Taiping, we wanted to visit the Mirror Lake in Ipoh and try to find Japanese graves in Pokok Assam. But the weather was not favorable, so we skipped it (see the end of this report), but still arrived  rather late in Taiping, just in time to have assam laksa and cendol in the Old Railway Station. We had booked a room in the Furama hotel and had dinner in Siang Malam with our friend May.

Before our dinner we still had time to walk around in the Lake Gardens, this time not only to enjoy the beauty of it, but also to start the project I had planned…:-). Notice the two bridges below, at the right. They show the same bridge, but one picture is from about one century ago.

I had collected a number of old (postcard) pictures, and the next morning I met friends from the Taiping Heritage Society for a walk through the town, looking for the location from where the old pictures were taken, and then take a new one from that location. It was not always easy but big fun, the result can be found in a separate report,  Taiping, old and new .

In the afternoon we were invited by May for High Tea in  her “Maywarmers Lodge”, where we met Suet and Peter, who are now residing in the Nest bungalow, a place I hope to visit soon. After that we met Paul and Fahmi, who had come to Taiping to visit a waterfall the next day. First we had dinner in Yut Sun, a Taiping landmark, famous for its Hainanese Chicken Chop. Then we walked to the Government Office, one of the many Taiping firsts. There was a pasar malam, many people , relaxed atmosphere.

The next day, the four of us went on a waterfall hike to two Taiping falls, the Kamunting fall (left) and the Maxwell fall (right).The last part of the Kamunting hike is very steep, access to the Maxwell fall is easy. I wrote a separate report about this hike, Taiping Waterfalls.

After the hike, Paul and Fahmi drove back to KL, we had a lazy afternoon, with dinner in Prima (popiah’s, otak otak and oyster omelet). After our dinner we visited the Taiping Mall, mainly because there are some panels with historical pictures of Taiping.

The next morning, after breakfast we first went to Pokok Assam. My THS friend Amril had given a detailed description of the field were the tombstones were to be found. Landmark was a huge tree with a small Hindu temple. in one corner of the field.

Exploring the field, we found a number of isolated tombstones. Some of them had engravings, which Aric could decipher as being Chinese. No Japanese tombstones. But one of my friends who lived in Pokok Assam as a teenager, told me that he had taken Japanese officials (?) to the graves. He thought that maybe the remains had been exhumed and taken back to Japan. Another THS friend thought the existing tombstones might have been erected for people who had died in the hospital without next of kin. It was an interesting excursion.

Here a collage of the tombstones we found

On our way back home we still had time enough to visit Tasik Cermin, the “secret” Mirror Lake near Ipoh. I had been there before, Aric would like to have a look himself. The lake is located in an active quarry and can only be reached through a tunnel. There was a warning sign at the entrance of the tunnel that access was not allowed because a few months earlier a piece of rock had fallen down and damaged the platform. We trespassed and had a (quick) look.

The quarry is located only a few hundred meters from the trunk road no 1. Driving back we noticed a sign for a Chinese temple. There are several well known temples in this region, for example Kek Lok Tong and Sam Poh Tong, but this one was new for us. The name of this temple is  Da Seng Ngan. The caretaker said it was actually an old temple, but long time covered by a landslide, and only rediscovered in 2006. More information can be found here .

As you can see in the GE map below, there are many temples on the slopes of Gunung Rapat. Could become an interesting new project…:-)

 

CNY 2017

On 28 January 2017 the Year of the Rooster started. I had created a New Year card, using a picture of a magnificent rooster belonging to a friend of mine.

The Chinese zodiac has 12 signs and 5 elements (water, fire, earth, wood and metal). This time it is the Year of the Fire Rooster.

Sometimes it is also called Year of the Chicken or even Year of the Cock, because the Chinese character used, 鷄 or 雞  , is gender-neutral

2017 is a leap year, with 13 months, the sixth month will be repeated.

As usual Aric had gone back to his hometown Parit Baru a few days earlier, to organise the festivities for day 3 of the CNY. Each year there is a dress code, this time everybody had to wear a flowery shirt, else you had to pay a fine…:-). There would be a BBQ party, a lottery and a  competition for the most original/beautiful shirt.

When I arrived on day 3 late in the afternoon, the preparations were already in full swing. It is a tradition that I visit a waterfall with my friends on day 3, but this time we failed to reach the planned waterfall after a long hike. Here is my report: An unsuccessful waterfall trip. So I was rather exhausted when I reached the family house. But in this picture I still look quite fresh with my new shirt and surrounded by flower girls..:-).

Aric had bought my flower shirt, told one of his cousins about it, who liked it so much that she bought an identical shirt for her husband…:-).

Of course many, many pictures were taken. Aric, as MC, was very busy, but still found time for some pictures. He is very popular with all the nephews and nieces

In the kampung house in Parit Baru three families have been living together, Aric’s late father and two of his uncles. That explains that there is such a crowd during CNY, when all the children and the (many!) grandchildren are coming back to their hometown.

Before it gets dark, group pictures had to be taken. Here is a picture with everybody in front of the kampung house.

In the next picture, Aric,  who was the photographer,  has split the group in families. He has five uncles, nr 1,3 and 6 are living in Kuala Lumpur. To the right the family of Uncle no 4, then the family of Aric’s father (no 2), followed by the family of Uncle no 5. To the left Uncle no 3 and 6 with a few family members. Uncle no 6 and three Aunties are not present. Nine siblings!  I find it not always easy to remember who belongs to which family, so this is a useful picture for me …:-)

Two more group photos, one with  all the ladies, and one with Uncle no 5 and his family.

Aric had planned a few fun activities. One was a competition for the most original/beautiful floral shirt. In the left picture the seven selected competitors. The guy at the right could not find a suitable shirt and had asked his daughter to paint flowers with watercolors on a white t-shirt. Not surprisingly he won the first prize…:-)

Then it was time for food, lots of food. For example 500 sticks of satay….:-) And there  were oysters! Huge size, most people liked them barbecued, I preferred them raw. Delicious.

The last activity was a lottery. Ang pow envelopes were attached to the wall of the house in two sections, one for the kids and one for the adults. Everybody had to pick an envelope, and three  envelopes contained a piece of paper with a number written on it. I am never lucky with this kind of games, but this time I had a paper with a 2, meaning the second prize!

Although very busy, Aric had still found time to create his own CNY-card

 

I wish all my followers

Gong Xi Fa Cai

An unsuccessful waterfall trip

It has become a tradition that a few of my waterfall friends and I make a trip to a new/unknown waterfall on day 3 of the CNY. We have visited Lata Naga Air (2012), Ulu Lecin (2013), Upper Damak (2014) and Lata Enggang (2015).

Last year we were not successful. Our target was a waterfall in the Beruas region, discovered by Siang Hui. But when we arrived at the trail head, we were stopped by a soldier. A military exercise was going on and access was prohibited.  Pity.

We could have tried the same fall again this year, but the soldier was vague about how long the exercise would last, possible a long time. We didn’t want to take the risk. Instead Siang Hui suggested Lata Jala in the Bidor region, a waterfall he had discovered on Google Earth but never yet visited himself.

Lata Jala, I said, I have never heard about that fall. But you have visited this fall already, he replied, and even reported about it!

And he was right, in March 2010 I visited this remote fall with Harry and Rani, here is the report Ulu Gepai . However, when I had a look at my own(!) report, I noticed the last paragraph:

At 6 pm, after 9.5 hours hiking, and covering a distance of about 20 km, we came back to our car”

A hike of 20 km, taking 9.5 hour? Forget about it, I could not do that anymore, was my reaction. But there is a shorter access route, Siang Hui said. And not only was he  right again,  I had actually used that route during a second trip, August 2010, this time with Rani and Richard.

Here is a GE screenshot of our first hike, starting at the Gepai waterfall. Click to enlarge for details. A long hike as you can see… 🙂 But notice the red line. On our way back we took a wrong trail, which probably  would have lead us to Kg Senta. Could that be a shorter approach?

Here is our second hike in August (yellow line). It was possible, using a 4WD to follow a  farm road until the end and park near a farm. We lost more than one hour by taking a wrong trail, but taking that into account, a hike to Lata Jala would take about 4-5 hours.

That seemed doable at my age..:-). So we decided to go.

But as it was rainy season, we should better start early. Also I was expected the same evening in Parit Baru, for the CNY party of Aric and his family. Siang Hui and Nick were already in Teluk Intan, celebrating CNY. Teoh was coming back from Penang, Rani and I started from the Klang Valley. The three of us decided to stay overnight in a Bidor hotel, meet Siang Hui and Nick for breakfast at 7:30 am, after that start the hike.

Discussing preparations for the hike, Rani asked me, do you remember any river trekking? In that case I will use my kampung Adidas. I don’t think there was any river trekking, I replied him. And he agreed.

On the 2nd day of CNY Rani and I met in Bidor for lunch and we checked in, the hotel was booked by Teoh who would arrive later. How  to spend the afternoon? Siang Hui suggested the Seri Kampar Fall, not far from Bidor and an easy five-minute walk from the main road. He can sometimes be a bit optimistic in his time estimate, but this time he was right…:-) First a country road, then a clear trail, a bit of scrambling at the end.

The fall, more a cascade, did not have a lot of water, but interesting to find it so near to the main road. We could not stay long, because it started to rain.

Back in the hotel, we met Teoh and had dinner. A few Chinese restaurants were open already. The hotel was located near the exit of the highway and probably catering for travelers. The room for three was quite small, but good enough for an overnight stay, and none of us snored. There was even some fitness equipment..:-)

The next morning we had breakfast  in restaurant Pun Chun, famous for its duck noodles. It was crowded, we were lucky to find a free table when we arrived.

From  Bidor it is only 10 km to the trail head. The last part is a farm road,  Teoh’s 4WD came in handy. We started at 9:15 am. Nick had forgotten to pack his old kampung Adidas, but had managed to buy a brand new pair.  Gentlemen shoes..:-) Also note the diiference in size.

The first part of the trail is clear and in use by the Orang Asli. We crossed a small stream and passed an abandoned Orang Asli house. Progress was fast and in about one hour we reached the junction with the trail coming from Gepai.

In good spirits we continued, the trail became smaller but was still clear, here and there we needed a parang. Here is the GE map of our trek, in red. As you see, the red trek doesn’t reach the Jala fall!

We encountered a minor problem when we reached the river crossing. I had forgotten to mark this crossing on my GPS and neither Rani nor I could remember whether we had to cross the (Gepai) river or not. So we tried first to find a trail at this side of the river, wasted some time and finally discovered that we had to cross the river, where we found the continuation of the trail. A few hundred meter further the trail reached the tributary Sungai Latajala with the waterfall not more than 500 meter away.

And there the reasonably clear trail suddenly stopped.

In retrospect of course we should have concluded that from there we had to river trek. But (see above) Rani and I did not remember any river trekking. So, while we waited, Siang Hui and Rani tried to find a way along the slopes of the river, trying both sides, chopping a lot,  scrambling up and down. It took more than one hour to come to the conclusion that the only reasonable approach would be river trekking.

Here is a more detailed GE map of the last part. For those not familiar with the workings of a GPS, when you stay at the same spot for some time, the GPS readings will scatter around your location. And when you are in a valley with steep slopes, the readings can be erratic, as can be clearly seen in the last sections of the green and yellow treks.

In the meantime it was already 1 pm, we had been hiking for more then 3.5 hours. Basically time enough and the weather was good, but I had promised to be in Parit Baru end of the afternoon. So, reluctantly we decided to go back.

This is the impressive fall we narrowly missed (picture taken in 2010)

On our way back we stopped for a rest, a bath and our packed lunch at the river crossing. As you can see, we have already accepted our defeat and look happy and relaxed…:-)

At 3 pm we were back at the car. After collecting my stuff in the hotel and a quick shower, I drove to Parit Baru  where I arrived in time, around 6 pm. Of course I was eager to check my 2010 report, but no need, while still on may way, Siang Hui already sent this whatsapp.

Yes, I blamed myself primarily. Why had I not read my my own report, in preparation for this hike?  Seven years ago I wrote in that report:

The last part was tough, river trekking, slippery boulders.

Even now I do not understand why I completely forgot about that.

Here are the next few whatsapp exchanges.

In my report I also wrote that there were many leeches. That is correct, I think there were even more this time…:-)

The lesson I have learned from this “misadventure” is that I better not trust my fading memory 🙁

We are seriously considering to go again, and maybe camp one night, so we have more time to explore.

Taiping Waterfalls

During a recent stay in Taiping I have revisited two waterfalls, the Maxwell Hill Fall and the Kamunting Fall. Here is a GE map of the region with my GPS data.

When the English explorer Isabella Bird visited Taiping in 1879, she stayed in the Residency and wrote:

The house on my side has a magnificent view of the beautiful Hijan hills, down which a waterfall tumbles in a broad sheet of foam only half a mile off

It was the Maxwell Fall she saw and admired, although she was wrong in her estimate of the distance, which is about 1,5 mile. You can still see the fall from the Lake Gardens. The Kamunting fall is visible from Taman Bukit Emas.

The trail head for both falls is the same. It starts from the water treatment plant. Until a few years ago you could follow the tar road until the gate, where the trail started. Nowadays the last part of that road is out of bounds, an alternative trail starts just after the bridge near the Indian temple. Here are my buddies Aric, Paul and  Fahmi at the trail head. It is quite a step climb, ropes come in handy.

Steep but not far. Soon you reach a wider trail, where you can turn right to the Maxwell fall, only a short distance away. We decided to visit the Kamunting fall first and turned left. You have to skirt the fencing of the water treatment plant,  and be careful with the barbed wire.

But after this part you reach a beautiful, romantic trail, next to a pipeline that transports water from a dam in the Ranting river to the plant. Pure bliss.

About one hundred meter before reaching the reservoir, you can see a rope leading up a steep slope to your right. Here ends the easy part of the hike…:-). You have to scramble up the slope, fortunately it had not rained. Many ropes and also clear markers. Too busy scrambling to take pictures.

After the steep slope, the trail levels a bit, you will hear the sound of falling water and soon your each the waterfall. It is a tall cascade, the rocky face is visible on Google Earth. Not a lot of water this time, but still quite impressive.

Not a real pool, but a good place to take a shower. There must be more waterfalls downstream and it may be possible, though not easy, to climb to the top. We were content with this fall and found a nice place to relax and have coffee. I had brought a stove and was the barista..:-)

Here is a short video of the Kamunting fall. Actually I don’t know if this is the real name of the fall. The river is the Sg Ranting, so the name could also be Lata Ranting.

Aric installed his tripod and with his remote he was able to take a picture of the four of us. One for the album, in my opinion.

Then it was time to go back. Now that we had reached our target, I felt more at ease and took some pictures.

After we had scrambled down the slope, we had a look at the dam, where the pipe line started. The trail also stops here, we did not explore further, but walked back.

Don’t visit this fall if you are afraid of leeches. There were many..:-). To stop the bleeding, a small piece of tissue paper is very effective.

When we reached the trail going down to the road, the Maxwell Fall was so near that we decided to have  a look. Here it is.

Also here I took a short video.

We ended this successful waterfall hike with delicious assam laksa and cendol at a stall in the Old Railway Station, one of the many heritage sites of Taiping.

 

Taiping old and new

For quite some time already I have been  playing with the idea of creating a blog post about Taiping heritage, comparing old photographs with recent pictures .

Problem was to find suitable old photographs. Searching the Internet did not give many results. Then I discovered the book Perak Postcards 1890s-1940s  , compiled by Abdur Razzaq Lubis et al. and published by Areca Books . The book starts with a chapter about Taiping and contains numerous postcard pictures, suitable for my project. I have scanned several of these postcards and downloaded them to my iPad.

Recently I visited Taiping. Armed with my iPad,  and in the company of a few friends, we went looking for the locations from where the postcard pictures  were originally taken.

That was fun, but not always easy. We had to judge the camera position, the focal length used, etc. Landscape and townscape had changed, often dramatically

Here are the results. A scan of the book page is followed by an old postcard and a new picture.

Often the exact date of the originals can not be determined. When the postcard has been sent, sometimes the postage stamp can be read.

The Taiping chapter starts with a description of the town and a picture of the Central Market.

 

The Central Market was built in 1884/1885

The market is still in use, but there are plans to relocate it and renovate the old structure.

Hopefully the result will not become like Central Market in KL…:-(

 

This postcard was sent in 1927

The present situation. Note that a few houses to the left are still there.

________________________________________________________________________

The original Taiping Railway Station was built in 1885 on the site of the present King Edward VII School. Relocated to its present location at the end of the 19th century.

The postcard is undated

 

The old railway station.And the “new” one. No longer in use as a station, now a heritage site. The modern station is situated to the right._______________________________________________________________________

 

The prestigious King Edwards School, founded in 1883 and relocated to its present location in 1905

 

 

 

 

An undated postcard. The Angsana trees in front of the school, were planted in 1910 and are already fully grown here.This postcard has a caption on the reverse side with a date: 1929And here is the present situation. Note that two of the original Angsana trees are still standing, now more than 100 years old._______________________________________________________________________

 

St George’s Institution, another famous Taiping school, opened in 1915 by the Lasallian Brothers.

 

 

 

The postcard is undated, but the building was extended with two wings in 1928, so the picture must have been taken before that time.The present building. Now a government school, but still with a cross on top of the roof.

_______________________________________________________________________

 

Opposite the original railway station a Rest House was built in 1894

 

 

 

 

The postcard is undated.The sad present situation. Until 2008 it has been a hotel, Lagenda,  I have been staying there a few times. Since 2008 it is closed and slowly going down the drain. I have called it the “Shame of Taiping”. ________________________________________________________________________

 

The government offices, started in 1895 and opened in 1898

 

 

 

 

 

The postcard is undated. Present situation. It now houses the Larut-Matang District offcice. During daytime the space in front of the building is used as a parking lot. This picture was taken during the weekend. Note that in the center an extra (fake) gable has been added with the year 1897_______________________________________________________________________

 

The Perak museum, the first museum in the country, was started in 1883 in former government offices. It was expanded with the growing collection and completed in 1902

 

 

The postcard has been artificially colored and was used in 1912Present situation. Basically unchanged after more than a century!_______________________________________________________________________

 

The Standard Chartered Bank, opened in 1888.

 

 

 

 

 

The postcard is undated.Now the building is in use as the Public Library. The “messy” foreground makes a comparison complicated, but it is clear that the the building has been substantially enlarged.________________________________________________________________________

 

One of my favourite buildings in Taiping. Built as the State Engineer’s Residence in the early 1900s. Later used as the British Officer’s Mess

 

 

The postcard was used in 1911. In this picture it is still the residence of the State EngineerPresent situation. Note that center gable has been removed

 

In this postcard the building has already been transformed in the officer’s mess.

 

 

 

 

The central part has now been modified.There is hardly any difference between old and new!________________________________________________________________________

The iconic clock tower of Taiping, built in 1881 in wood, later rebuilt in brick (1900). Longtime in use as a police post

 

 

This is a real photo of the police clock tower on Kota Road. Taken late 1930sNote how the clock tower has “dwindled” in this recent picture, surrounded by large modern structures. There is at least still one original building left, try to find it.________________________________________________________________________

 

It is not easy to compare old and new in the Lake Gardens, landscape and trees have changed often beyond recognition.

Here are two postcards of one of the nice bridges.

 

A wooden footbridge in the Lake Gardens, with the Secretary to the Resident’s bungalow in the background. The card has been used in 1912 The present situation. The bungalow is no longer visible  through the trees. Note the ugly metal railing of the bridgeAnother, later view of the same bridge And the present view________________________________________________________________________

The Perak Postcards book contains many more pictures of Taiping. In this post just a selection I have made to find out if it was possible to take new pictures and compare the two. I am pleased with the result.

One scanned postcard I was unable to identify. Here it is. It is supposed to be Main Road (Jalan Taming Sari) in the direction of the government offices. But where on Main Road? We showed the picture to several locals, but without success.

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With Google I have found two pictures that are not in the Postcard Book. Both show the Clock Tower, which makes it a lot easier to identify the location of the photographer…:-)

Although it took us time to find the location from where the image below was taken. The images comes from the book Malaysia:A Pictorial History 1400 – 2004   and has as caption View of the church (sic!) and street scene, Taiping, c. 1890 
The picture must have been taken from the 5th Cross Street (Jalan Lim Tee Hooi). Left and right you still can see two gabled houses, probably the same as in the old picture!!The last picture is more recent, dating from the 70s of the last century. For sale on Ebay  (US $ 17.99)The present situation. The left side of Kota Road is hardly recognisable, the right side has not changed so much.

A friendly request for the readers of this post. If you have old  pictures/postcards of Taiping and are willing to share, please contact me.