Taiping September 2017

At the end of our Trip up North, Aric dropped me in Taiping, where I stayed two nights in my favourite hotel Furama. My last visit was in May (read the report here) and I was missing my “second hometown” :-).

After a shower and some rest, I had dinner with Tung Lay Chun and her family. Later that evening I met Wan Amril for a drink. Both are members of the Taiping Heritage Society and knowledgeable about Taiping heritage .

Four years ago I have written a blog post Shame on Taiping! about the pitiful condition of several historical buildings in a town that proudly presents itself as  Bandar Warisan (Heritage Town). In the meantime these buildings have deteriorated further, but recently there has been some activity and Lay Chun and Amril updated me about the present situation

The next morning I went out for breakfast. A bit early, because I wanted to try the “most famous” Chee Cheong Fun in town..:-). During my last visit I had also gone to stall 37 in the Taiping hawker center near to the Bomba, but the CCF was sold out early in the morning. This time I was lucky and just in time.

Delicious food. I chatted a bit with the friendly owner of the stall, his family had been operating this stall for many decades already. Will sure come back.

After my breakfast I walked to the Lake Gardens.  In January 2017 I published a blog report Taiping Old and New in which I compared old photographs and postcards with recent pictures taken from the same location.  One of those buildings was the Standard Chartered Bank, now the Public Library. The Lake Gardens are beautiful any time of the day. I passed the Peace monument, the THS has tried to beautify this monument by planting flowering plants around it, but that was not a success. Now it looks better, with new tilings around the  brick posts, each carrying a peace message in various languages

My first target was the ruined Casuarina Hotel on the hill where once the Residence stood. According to Amril there were (serious) plans to build a 4-star boutique hotel here. The hotel has no heritage value, it was built after Merdeka. No sign of any recent activity here yet.

I was not in a hurry, so I checked the number of pillars and their location, the only remains of the former Residency. In total there are 32 pillars, see the GE image below.  This imagery was obtained in 2007, when the Casuarina hotel was still operating!

Walking back I passed the (former) First Galleria. After a few successful years it was taken over by MPT because of mismanagement. Now it is called the Taiping Municipal Gallery. It was closed. Note the sloppy way they have kept the old sign, just removing “will” (and forgetting to add an “s” to function). My Taiping friends tell me there is nothing of interest inside. Pity.

Behind this Gallery is the soon to be opened Telegraph Museum. The first telegraph line in Malaysia line was built between Taiping and Kuala Kangsar, so it makes sense to have a museum about the history of the telegraph here. Hopefully it will be managed better.

I continued my walk to the biggest eyesores of Taiping, the Old Rest House and the former PWD building. During my last visit you could enter the PWD building through all doors, no fencing at all. Squatters were living there and trees were growing in the courtyard. Recently they have cleared the interior, removed the trees and bushes. They had to destroy one of the entrance doors, so a bulldozer could enter. After the cleanup the destroyed door was rebuilt, in itself a good sign.

Also the doors have been closed in a primitive way, and in Malaysia that means you can still enter..:-). The courtyard is clean now, which makes the ruined state of the building only more obvious. The same holds for the Rest House, it is fenced off, but you can still enter. Also here the undergrowth  around the building has been cleared. According to Amril this building is designed to become a boutique 3-star hotel.

My breakfast had been quite filling, so I decided for a light lunch with cendol and pasembor at Ansari, one of the two famous cendol stalls in Taiping.

Before I ordered my food, I got into a conversation with two gentlemen, who had just finished their meal. We came to talk about Taiping heritage and one of them was the owner of two beautiful heritage houses, in Barrack Road  around the corner. We had a look at these houses and will keep in touch with each other, because of our shared interest!

I had been walking quite a lot, so I took a long rest in the afternoon. I decided to have popiah for my dinner, so I walked again to the Taiping hawker center. No popiah there, but interesting preparations for the last day of the Hungry Ghost month. During the 7th month of the Chinese calendar, the ghosts of the ancestors are permitted to return to the world of the living. At the end of this month they have to go back and Taai Si Wong (his effigy is shown in the right picture), takes care that they do…:-)

When I reached the stall of the Famous Omar Popiah near the Central Market, they were just closing. So no popiah, I went to a nearby stall and ordered satay and ketupat, also nice…:-).

After my dinner walking back, I came across a Caucasian couple and we started chatting. Not very often I meet Mat Salleh’s  in Taiping…:-). They are from New Zealand, traveling in SEA, and were  pleasantly surprised by the relaxed atmosphere of Taiping. Of course I agreed and we decided to have a drink together. We walked back to the Taiping hawker center, where we had three big Heineken for RM 21 only. Just behind Taai Si Wong…:-)

A nice day. I don’t know why, but it is easy in Taiping to meet interesting, friendly people.
The next morning I met Yeap, the president of the THS. A few months ago the Malay Mail Online published an interview with him about the deplorable state of many heritage buildings in Taiping.

He was willing to show me some of these buildings. In the GE map I have indicated with letters the locations we have visited (click to enlarge)

In the center of the town, one block behind the Old Rest House (A in the map), a dilapidated facade, overgrown by trees and greenery. Decaying for how many years already?

Two examples of shoplots. This one (B) is located on Jalan Lim Tee Hooi. MPT has put a warning sign, AWAS (Be careful)

Here is the second one (C) opposite Central Market. Again a useful warning sign by MPT…:-)

Next we visited the area around Swettenham Road (now Jalan Istana Larut). In colonial times many sumptuous bungalows could be found here, and also more simple government and army quarters. Here is what is left of an impressive bungalow (D on the map). Note the pillar structure. No fence, you can just enter. I explored the ground floor, the upper floor is no longer accessible, look at what is left of the stairs.  No wonder that useful parts of the building will disappear. It would be interesting to find out more about the history of this building.

Here are a few more pictures of deserted government quarters (E, F, H). Not fenced off, you can just enter and explore.  G is special, a gate with two posts is all that remains of what once must have been a big bungalow on a huge plot of land.

Thanks to Yeap for an interesting excursion. Next time I will explore more.

Taiping, 20-23 May 2017

After my visit to Maxwell Hill I stayed a few more days in Taiping. Main reason was to join a THS excursion to the Klian Pau church on Monday 22 May. As I had no car this time, I did a lot of walking. That is no problem in Taiping with its compact town center, where almost everything is within walking distance.

In the evening I walked to the Cross Street Bazar , thinking to have some snack food there, but I was a bit too early. The District Office looked beautiful, without the cars parked in front of it during daytime.

Walking back along Jalan Kota, I noticed that a crowd of people had assembled, apparently waiting for something to happen. Soon floats appeared, it was a temple procession, similar to the Cingay parade in Johor Baru, although on a smaller scale. In JB it is a famous tourist attraction, here even many of my Taiping friends were not aware of the event. Strange.

The next morning I went to a hawker center opposite the Taiping Mall for my breakfast. One of the stalls (no 37) is famous for its chee cheong fun, but at 10 am it was already sold out! I had curry mee instead with coffee, also not bad and cheap too for only RM 4.60.

After my breakfast I started my walk through the town, first looking for mural paintings.

The last few years Mural Art has become very trendy in Malaysia. It started in Penang , followed by Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur, Gopeng (he links connect  to blogs I have written about it). Of course Taiping did not want to stay behind. Personally I like the Zacharevic style (Penang, Ipoh) best, where often the specific structure of a wall is used to create the mural. In Taiping (like in KL) the walls are used as a huge “canvas”.

For example this recent one on a wall of the Kwangtung Association behind the district office. Students of the USM Penang were still working on it during my visit.

The artworks depict scenes related to Taiping’s past, the tin mining, the first railway, the central market. I have given the approximate location of the murals. Technically well done, but I miss the Zacharevic sense of humor.

Taiping presents itself proudly as Bandar Warisan (Heritage Town). But walking around, I was wondering if it really deserves that name. Too many of the heritage buildings are in a delapidated condition. For example the Town Rest House, one of the many “Firsts” of Taiping. The left picture shows the ruins of the Rest House behind a  wall with a pretentious text on the fence. The right picture shows a description of this “First”, built by the British in 1897 and upgraded to a double-storey brick building in 1894 (six!)

Four years ago I have written a blog “Shame on Taiping” and not much has changed since then. Here a few pictures of the building next to the Rest House. You can enter the building, but AYOR, because squatters live inside.

Of course there are also positive things to say. Look for example at this beautiful facade of Ng Boo Bee”s house at,81, Jalan Kota. Ng Boo Bee was a rich Chinese businessman, who rebuilt almost half of Taiping after the disastrous fire of 1880 and this was his residence.

Here are a few more pictures of buildings that drew my attention during my walk. The Peking hotel was built in 1929 as premises for the rubber dealer’s association. It was used by the Japanese Kempeitai during WWII. Now an affordable hotel,  the friendly manager allowed me to have a look at the interior. The Peace hotel (1928) also looks good.

I had a look inside the Central Market, built in 1884/85 and still in use. The future of this heritage building is uncertain, there are plans to relocate the Central Market and then renovate the building. Hopefully it will not become like the Central Market in Kuala Lumpur.

Of course I also spent some time in the Lake Gardens, the most beautiful gardens of Malaysia. During my many visits to Taiping I must have taken hundreds of pictures, it never gets boring.

And I discovered something new! A few Cannonball Trees , easily to be missed, because they are not located near a path, but in the middle of a field. They are native to Central and South America, but have been cultivated in many tropical regions. I had seen them in the Penang Botanical Gardens. Interesting flowers and fruits

That evening Yeap, the president of THS had invited me for a concert by a Polish accordion player, in the hall of St George’s Institution. It was an interesting performance  of classical pieces, arranged for accordion by Waclav Turek himself. I was very impressed by one of the first pieces he played, Bach’s toccata and fugue in d minor. I recorded a small part of this masterwork, originally written for organ.

The next morning, Yeap picked me up from my hotel for the THS event. The Klian Pau church is the oldest Catholic church in Taiping. Built in 1875 as a simple wooden structure on top of a hill, it was replaced by a stone building at the foot of the same hill in 1884. The official name is Our Lady of the Sacred Heart church.

THS member Rocky explained the history of the church and showed us around.

The hill behind the church is called Calvary Hill.  Read more about the interesting story of this hill  here. It was completely overgrown and in preparation for this trip, Yeap and his workers had done a good job to clear the path up the hill.

On our way up, we passed several Stations of the Cross.  In the past there may have been a view of Taiping from the top of the hill, but now it was blocked by trees.

We  also had a look at the nearby cemetery. On the slope of a hill, very Chinese (Feng Shui). Old and new graves next to each other. I was wondering if it was possible to get more information about the old grave of J. Mc.Namara, who died 18 June 1894. Surprisingly I found a reference in The Chronicle and Directory of China Etc. 1892 ! He was an Inspector Second Class in the First Battalion, Perak Sikhs, stationed at Batang Padang. His commander?  R.S.F Walker, whose statue can be found at the Perak Museum.

After a brunch in front of the church, we went back to Taiping and visited the Shun Tak Association, one of the successful restoration projects in Taiping. There is a cafe  inside, where we had lunch. The rest of the day I was lazy, only went out for Hainanese Chicken Chop in Yut Sun with friends and had coffee with Wan Amril in the Greenhouse. Next morning roti canai in the hawker center near my hotel. Food is one of the attractions of Taiping…:-)

After my breakfast I decided to try the Heritage Bus, a new initiative. According to my map, there should be a bus stop opposite the Taiping Mall. Asking around, nobody knew about it, they directed me to the starting point, near the Peace Hotel. There I found a shabby waiting area and an ultra-modern bus. I paid one Ringgit and entered the bus, with a few more locals. After about half an hour we were back, we had done the Heritage Trail, without any information or explanation. Completely useless, but nice air-con in the bus. Simple changes could make it a lot better.

In the afternoon, with friends who had arrived from KL, I visited the Antong coffee mill. We had a look at the mill, where they were roasting the coffee, and tasted a few varieties of coffee.

Located on the Antong grounds is a nice house, where in the beginning of the 20th century Sun Yat Sen’s mistress has been living.

I had visited the Coffee mill and the Sun Yat Sen house earlier, but I was interested to see a recent mural near the factory. Again large-scale, 100 meter long, maybe it will be included in the Malaysian Book of Records as the Longest Heritage Street Mural. But will it become a tourist attraction, as suggested by the TTA (Taiping Tourist Association)? I have my doubts.

The last night in Taiping we stayed in Flemington, where we enjoyed the rooftop swimming pool and the nice view of the Lake Gardens.

A Taiping visit, as usual full of variety…:-)

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!

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…:-)

 

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.

Taiping & more

By now my interest in the history of Taiping, my 2nd hometown,  must be clear to followers of this blog..:-). I am a member of the Taiping Heritage Society , which has about 600 members. It is a closed group, but you are welcome to join, if you are interested in the history of Taiping.

Surfing the Internet, I recently came across the FB page of Encik Anuar Isa, the curator of the (now closed) First Galleria . I was intrigued by this entry, published in 2014:

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Intrigued but also puzzled. The Hj Abdullah mentioned by Anuar Isa is Abdullah Muhammad Shah II , the 26th sultan of Perak. In 1875, he was accused of being involved in the murder of British Resident JWW Birch and exiled to the Seychelles in 1876. Could this be his house?

I published the picture on the THS whatsapp, asking if anybody had more info about this house. A few weeks later another THS member, Amril, also interested in the history of Taiping, replied that he had found the house and more information about it. The house was built in 1926 by a famous bomoh. Interesting but not related to Hj Abdullah and Isabella Bird never visited it.

A good reason for me to visit Taiping again and visit this house..:-)  I decided for a 3D2N trip and, as Aric was busy, asked my friends Paul and Fahmi to accompany me. Here is the report, actually about a lot more than Taiping..:-)

We left KL Friday morning and only had to be in Taiping in the afternoon, as we were invited by Amril to attend the Open House of his father, the OBJ of Larut, Matang and Selama. We decided to visit Kellie’s castle, as Fahmi had never been there.

For a history of the castle, click here. It has been renovated and embellished in recent years, making it a popular tourist attraction, although it has made the atmosphere less romantic. But still worth a visit.

Kellie's Castle

Our next destination was the Ulu Lecin waterfalls near Beruas, but when we arrived there, it started raining, so we decided to skip this and continue to Taiping where I had booked rooms in hotel Furama. Close to the Lake Gardens and within walking distance of the town center.

After a short rest and a change of clothes, we drove to the residence of the OBJ. The open house was held between 3 and 6 pm, I was expecting Malaysian timing, i.e. that it would start later. Mistake, when we arrived around 4:30, most of the food was finished already and many guests were leaving…:-)  No problem, there was still enough food and friendly company…:-) Amril was there to introduce me to his parents and I met  Abdur-Razzaq Lubis and his wife Salma, authors of many books about the history of Perak.

The Residence of the OBJ  was built in 1893 for the wife of Ngah Ibrahim. Before that time she had been living many years in what is now Kota Ngah Ibrahim in Matang. Of course both the Kota and this house have been enlarged and renovated many times. Interesting to note that the present OBJ is actually a descendant of Ngah Ibrahim.

The exterior of the residence and the main hall on the first floor.

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After the open house we went back to our hotel and walked to the Lake gardens. It often rains in the afternoon in Taiping, but this day it was very beautiful weather. Shall we make a boat-ride on the lake?  , I suggested. I have visited the Lake gardens numerous times, but never rented a paddle boat! It was fun, but more tiring than expected…:-)

A visit of Taiping is not complete without enjoying the food. Often it is Chinese food I have there, but this time it was it was mostly Indian/Malay/Mamak fare.

The next day I had arranged with Amril to meet him in the afternoon to visit the bomoh house. Our plan for the rest of the day was to visit the region around Batu Kurau, north of Taiping. Main target: the Air Hitam waterfall

We parked our car at the gate of the water catchment area.  When we were preparing for the hike, a friendly local passed us with the durians he had just harvested. He offered us one for free, and we could pick more, if we saw them on the ground.

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It is an easy walk along a clear trail until you can see the waterfall. A small trail brings you down to the river. It was a Saturday, but there were no other visitors and the waterfall was pristine, no rubbish!Air Hitam fall

It is a nice, powerful waterfall. We spent quite some time there, taking many pictures, making coffee and of course enjoying the durians. A very enjoyable morning.

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On our way back to Taiping, we had a look at “my” barbershop, near Anak Kurau. I call it “my” barbershop, because I have been there three times for a haircut and the barber knows me…:-) The shop is built against the limestone cliffs and the last time I payed RM 5 only. During my recent Taiping trip it was closed because of Ramadan. This time it was closed too, the neighbour explained that the barber had gone our for lunch. Next time, better luck..:-)

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Near to the shop, there is a cafe and a small cave. A good location to take pictures.

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A trail starting from the cafe, follows the river for a while. Beautiful limestone formations, where Fahmi could not resist to show his climbing power…:-)

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Then it was time to go back to Taiping, where we had a simple lunch in the Saiful restaurant at Changkat Jering, while waiting for Amril. He took us first to his friend, Encik Zamberi, living nearby. Zamberi could be called the local Taiping historian, he has written many books and knows a lot about the local history.

He showed us his beautiful library, apologised that it was a bit messy, because one week later there would be a wedding dinner. Then he took us to the bomoh house. The present owner, a descendant of the bomoh, is a friend of him. The friend had gone for the Hajj, the house was closed, but a caretaker opened it for us. Beautiful interior.

After this visit, Zamberi suggested to visit another old Malay house, with interesting interior details. Although coming unannounced, we were warmly welcomed by the couple living there, Malay hospitality at its best…:-)

As it was getting late, we skipped a visit to Long Jaafar’s tomb, where Amril’s ancestors are buried. It was a nice afternoon, a real pleasure to meet Encik Zamberi and Amril, I hope and expect it will not be the last time.

We went for dinner to a Yong Tau Foo foodcourt. Many shops, all serving yong tau foo. Malay style, quite different from the (Ampang) yong tau foo I am used to.

The next day, before driving back to KL, I had to show Paul the “Shame of Taiping”. Some historical buildings in Taiping (presenting itself as a Heritage Town!), are just left to themselves, decaying slowly. And not in a remote part of the town, no, just opposite the prestigious King Edwards school. Pictures without comment

The Town Rest House (1894) is another example. It has been fenced off, the fence is decorated with posters, promoting the many “Firsts” of Taiping, but one of the posters was torn. Again! In my 2nd hometown report I also wrote about a torn poster and that it was replaced after I had complained about it. Let’s wait and see if this happens again …:-)

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We had breakfast at the January cafe in the Old Railway Station. During my last visit I met Mei Chong who, with her sister Mei Chee, is running this cafe. I admire their energy and want to support them…:-)  So, when you visit Taiping ( or live there), have a coffee or some waffles in the January Cafe!  There is also a gallery next to the cafe with historical pictures of Taiping, and outside the building they have collected some old bicycles. Which we had to try of course…:-)

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After our breakfast we drove back to KL. I still had many ideas about places we could visit on our way (Pasir Salak, Batu Gajah, Papan, the Tualang tin dredge). But we had done already a lot and were getting a bit tired.

Then I got an idea. I had heard a lot about the “mysterious” Tasik Cermin, in Ipoh. Also seen pictures of this “Mirror Lake”. I knew that it was somewhere around Gunung Rapat, and could be accessed only via an active quarry and a tunnel. .According to some reports. the quarry owner did no longer allow access to the lake. Why not try to find it

How to go there? Surprisingly, by just following the Waze app on my smartphone…:-) The wonders of the Internet. When we arrived at the entrance of the quarry, there was indeed a No Entry sign. But no security guards, and we noticed a few more people walking in. So we did the same..:-)  A big quarry, we had to ask a friendly worker where the entrance of the tunnel was.

And here it is, Tasik Cermin. A mirror lake indeed. Beautiful and serene.

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The tunnel ends at a jetty with a platform where you can sit down and admire the lake. There is no path around the lake. A few pictures

Back home, I tried to find more information about this lake. One reference mentioned the coffee-table book about the history of the Kinta Valley.  I have a copy of that book, here is the relevant passage:

GunungRapat

The writers of this book?  Lubis and Salma, whom I just had met a few days earlier..:-) As I have said many times, Malaysia is a small world…:-)

It was a trip full of variety, as usual.

Taiping, my 2nd hometown

The last time I visited Taiping was during CNY 2016 , before my trip to the Netherlands. As I was missing what I jokingly call my 2nd home town, I went back last week, staying with my friends George and Jenny. We started from KL on the first day of Ramadan, not much traffic and the Tapah R&R was almost deserted.

We had lunch in the Taiping Old Railway Station, Assam Laksa and Cendol, delicious.

The Old Railway Station is located next to the modern one and is now part of the Taiping Heritage. Quite nice, don’t know who is responsible for its “renovation”, but a few eateries are operating there now, and there is a small Heritage Gallery.

One “historical” mistake struck me, the signboard says that this old station dates back to 1885. But that is not true. Yes, the first railway in Malaya was built in 1885, from Port Weld (Kuala Sepetang) to Taiping, but the Taiping station was where now King Edwards School is!  Only about a decade later,the “old” station was relocated to where it is now.

We had a look at the gallery and met the young, dynamic, manager, Soo Mei Chong, who with her sister, recently started a cafe, the January Cafe,  next to the gallery. Both gallery and cafe worth a visit.

After our lunch we passed the Rest House, another one of Taiping’s “firsts” and for many years already in a deplorable condition. Recently this eyesore had been protected by a decorative fence, illustrating the many “firsts” of Taiping (the Rest House actually being one of them..lol).

I was quite shocked to see the present condition of the fence and immediately published this picture on the Whatsapp of the Taiping Heritage Society, with a caption: Taiping Warisan?

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We had also a look at what was originally Anuar Isa’s  First Galleria, a failed project, now taken over by the MPT town council. I could enter, although it was not yet open to the public. The friendly Malay staff could not tell me much about the MPT plans. Here a few pictures of posters. Look at the prices for the planned “Hop on Hop off” bus. Another failed project in the making?

A few weeks ago the Taiping Heritage Society , had organised an event to plant new flowers around the “Peace park” in the Taiping Lake Gardens. In the afternoon George and I went there to see how it looked now. A few of the newly planted flowers had  perished already. A very Malaysian problem, how to maintain a project…

Actually the Taiping Lake Gardens could become a no 1 tourist attraction of Malaysia! BUT maintenance is needed. Instead of spending money (cronyism? ) for ugly warning signs, some of the existing landmarks could have been repaired. In the past the pillars were connected with planks, supporting colorful vegetation. And the “monument” was originally supported by Japanese Sanyo, with a digital clock, powered by solar cells on top of the structure. Sanyo was taken over by Panasonic and the monument is now a sad and sorry sight.

I had dinner  that night with my friend May, nice Indian food in Siang Malam. She told me that  a shop opposite Taiping General Hospital served a good curry mee, so the next morning George and I had our breakfast there. She was right, very nice food, a pity that the shop will close end of this year. As I forgot to take a picture of the shop, I had to use Streetview in Google Maps…:-)

What to do after breakfast? I suggested to make a short trip to Batu Kurau, north of Taiping. It is nice countryside with padi fields, limestone caves, small kampungs. Years ago I had discovered a quaint barbershop near Anak Kurau, built against a cliff. I had a haircut there for a few Ringgit and during later Taiping trips I had gone back a few times. I had left my GPS at home, so we got lost a bit and had to ask directions for “a barbershop built against a cliff”. Surprisingly everybody immediately know what we were talking about!

But the shop was closed, probably because of Ramadan. Nearby the shop there is a small cafe, also closed and a cave with nice stalactites. The footpath along the stream was new, but it ended after  a few hundred meters. Fascinating to see how the trees struggle for survival. The road continues for a few km and ends at a resort (also closed).

The resort is located next to a small stream with crystal clear water. There could well be a waterfall further upstream.

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After driving back to Taiping, we had lunch at Duncan’s Cafe. Duncan Raj is a THS-member and has recently opened this cafe as part of a boutique hotel, Maxwell Inn. I hope he will succeed as the location on Jalan Taming Sari, is a bit far outside the town center.

The THS has an active Whatsapp, where I uploaded the picture to the left, after we arrived. Not much later a few more guests came in, also THS-members…:-)  They were planning to have lunch in another shop nearby, when they received the picture, so they came over to meet me. Taiping really feels like my 2nd hometown!

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In the afternoon I (re)visited the Kota Long Jaafar in Bukit Gantang, with George, Suet and her husband Peter. Suet is a member of THS and very interested in the history of Taiping. She is a friend of George and we had met the night before in Siang Malam.

It turned out that we are both fans of Isabella Bird! This intrepid English traveler has been traveling from Taiping to Kuala Kangsar, February 1880. She had to wait in Long Jaafar’s fort until the elephants arrived who would carry her to Kuala Kangsar. Read her letter XX and enjoy. Actually she made a mistake in that letter, the KOta is not in Matang but in Gantang…:-)

Not much is left of the fort, except graves with tombstones. When I first “discovered” it, in 2014, it was  ruined. Surprisingly (?), this time, it looked much better. No idea who was responsible for the renovation.

One more  example to show how small the Taiping world is…:-) Amril is another THS member, very knowledgeable about Taiping’s history and actually a descendant of Long Jaafar. I had asked him to join us to the Kota Long Jaafar, but he was busy. After our visit we wanted to have a drink, but this is a Malay region, most shops are closed. We tried our luck at Changkat Jering, where we had a look at the busy Pasar Ramadan and finally found a mamak stall that was open.

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Having our drinks there, I got a Whatsapp message from……… Amril! He had a stall at the Pasar and had seen us passing. On our way back to the car, we met him and had a chat. Looking forward to meet him after Hari Raya.

It was only a short visit, the next day I had to go back home already. After George and I had breakfast at the Casual Market, his favourite joint, we visited Taiping’s Central Market. I have been in Taping so many times, but never explored this heritage site. Fascinating, dating back to 1884 (Old Market, on the far end in the picture below) and 1885 (New Market, in the foreground). In between Siang Malam, now another popular joint, but originally meant to provide the market workers with drinks and food.

There are plans to relocate the markets to a new location and transform the old markets into something similar to KL Central Market, a tourist attraction. Heaven forbid…

Taiping markets

To the left the New Market, right picture shows the Old Market

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Fascinating architecture. I hope THS will fight to preserve these Taiping.landmarks!

Originally I was planning to drive back to PJ after my market visit. I was aware that an Australian War Veteran music band was going to perform in the New Club, but I thought it was during the evening. Actually it was a lunch concert so I decided to attend the concert.

That gave me an opportunity to bring Yeap, the president of THS in contact with Soo Mei Chong,  the manager of the January Cafe in the Old Railway Station…:-). She looks so petite between the two giants :-)! We had nice coffee there..

On our way to the New Club, we passed the Rest House, and, lo and behold, the torn banner had been repaired! Miracles do happen…:-)

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In the New Club a big crowd was waiting for the concert. The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) veteran band was on a short tour of Malaysia, giving concerts in Taiping, Ipoh and Batu Gajah. I would have liked to attend the Batu Gajah concert in God’s Little Acre. Every year on the 2nd Saturday in June a memorial is held at this cemetery to commemorate the victims of the Malayan Emergency, quite a few of them were Australians. But I was not free that Saturday, and this concert was a pleasant alternative.

The RAN Veteran Band

RAN Veteran Band

They played well. Two more pictures. The left one shows that the players may be veterans, but they know how to use modern technology! The trombone player is using a tablet for the musical scores, instead of printed sheet music….:-)

The right picture shows two happy French horn players. Paul Baker, to the right, played as a guest in the band. He is the composer of the Taiping Suite

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Here is a short video of the concert.

Taiping, my 2nd hometown…:-). Looking forward to come back soon

Journal 1-9-2014

Time flies. My last journal was published seven weeks ago, just after I came back to Malaysia. After recovering from jet lag (not so difficult this time), I settled down in my usual routine. A morning walk in Bukit Kiara followed by breakfast (RM 1 only!) at IKEA. Spending a lot of time with my laptop, actually too much, especially now that I have become addicted to acomputer game called  Hay Day  🙁

But of course also quite a lot of social activities, like meeting friends and enjoying food. Here is a selection of (food) pictures.

Soon after I was back home and acclimatised, the urge came to visit a waterfall. So I eagerly accepted my friend Siang Hui’s invitation for a recce to a remote waterfall in the Semenyih region. It would be a long hike, we had to leave early. Three of us, my friend Teoh also joined. Maybe because I did not sleep well the night before, but after about one hour on our way, I did not feel well, a tight feeling in my chest. After a discussion with my friends, we decided to go back.

I was worried (and not only I…haha), so I made an appointment with my cardiologist for an echo and a stress test. I could see him only after Hari Raya (the end of Ramadan), so I kept quiet a bit for a while.  Quite relieved when the results were ok!

With Hari Raya we visited Aric’s hometown. It is an old Malay custom to fire impressive coconut palm canons, celebrating the Hari Raya Aidilfitri festival. And impressive it was, I was worried for a while that it might affect my hearing. I wrote a separate blog about it: Boom Boom!!

Hari Raya

After I had received my clean bill of health, I was looking forward to meet Akke and Pim and show them a few nice places in my 2nd home…-).  Akke is the daughter of friend of mine, who, with her future husband, was traveling in Malaysia. We visited the Kanching waterfalls and the Batu Caves and completed it with a delicious dinner, prepared by Aric.

Here are a few recent pictures of Bukit Kiara, where I have my daily exercise. I have written many blog posts about it, you can find them here . I am quite pessimistic about its future, JLN (the National Landscape Department) is trying to transform it into a concentration camp, including barbed wire fencing ..:-(  But still beautiful, along the budding Penchala river I have hidden another of my geocaches.

I am a member of the Taiping Heritage Society. I joined them in May on a trip to Lenggong. A few weeks ago they organised a members night and asked me to give short talk about this trip. Here are some pictures. I had prepared too much material for my talk, so I have published this material in a separate blog post  Archaeological Heritage of the Lenggong Valley

On my way back from Taiping, I decided to stop at Pos Dipang to meet my Orang Asli friend Jinnah and his family. Recently he has been our guide to the spectacular Pos Dipang waterfalls.Very nice people. They belong to the Semai tribe, my Bahasa (Malay language) is bad, but we could communicate quite well in broken English.

Jinnah & family

To end this journal, a few pictures of a trip made with Aric to a Hot Springs near Bentong. I had passed the place before several times, the hot springs were not well maintained. But now some renovation had taken place, itr looked a lot better. The water was not too hot and you could use the mud from the bottom to scrub your skin…:-)

 

Archaeological Heritage of the Lenggong Valley

In May the Taiping Heritage society has organised a trip to the Lenggong valley, see my blog THS excursion . Last week THS organised a members night and they had asked me to give a talk about the trip. Preparing for my talk, I  collected a lot of information from the Internet, but I had not enough time to present everything in my talk…:-) That is the reason for this post.

In 2012 the Lenggong valley was declared a Unesco world heritage site, because of the many archaeological discoveries made during the last decades. Most notably, the discovery in 1991 of the Perak Man, a well preserved skeleton, dating back to ~ 11.000 BP where BP stands for Before Present and Present is defined as 1-1-1950. In Geology and Archaeology  BP has replaced BC (Before Christ) and the politically correct BCE (Before Common Era)

Here is a GE map of the Lenggong region with the location of the various archaeological sites (click to enlarge). The mighty Perak river is clearly visible. The green track is from a trip made in 2007 with my friend Liz Price, Caves and Waterfalls Google Earth Map

Some comments about the various locations.

The skeleton of the Perak Man has been found in the Gua Gunung Runtuh. It is now exhibited in the Lenggong Museum. The Gunung Runtuh cave is at the moment closed to the public, but in 2007 we could still enter the cave after a steep climb..:-)  The skeleton was originally surrounded by grave gifts, in the museum now it is surrounded by high-tech gadgets to control humidity, etc!

In 2004 another skeleton has been found in the nearby Gua Teluk Kelawar, now called the Perak Woman, dated ~ 8000 BP. I will not be surprised if more discoveries will be made in the future. Because it is clear that this region around the Perak river has been very suitable for human habitation throughout the ages! Limestone caves for shelter, a river (in the past a lake) nearby, etc

The other archaeological sites in the Lenggong valley have until now only shown evidence of human activity in the form of tools and “tool shops”, where these tools were manufactured.

The oldest of these sites is Bukit Jawa,  a palaeolithic tool workshop site on the shores of an island in a lake now long ago disappeared. About 200.000-300.000 years ago. Who made those tools? This is before our species, Homo Sapiens sapiens, started the emigration out of Africa. We will only know when fossil remains of hominins are found. We visited Bukit Jawa in 2007, there is not much to see.Bukit Jawa Bukit Jawa

The toolshops at Kota Tampan are younger, about 70.000 year old. Also here no fossils of human remains have been found, but it is quite possible that the people making these tools, belonged to our species (see below). Activity in these workshops came to an abrupt end when the Toba volcano erupted, Kota Tampan tools have been found covered wit the thick layers of ash. At the Kota Tampan location the Lenggong Museum has been built.

Next in age are the toolshops at Bukit Bunuh, about 40.000 years old. Followed by the two caves where the Perak Man and Woman were found.

Much younger, about 4000-3000 BP are the graves found in Gua Harimau. And in the nearby Gua Badak, rock paintings have been found, made by the Negrito Orang Asli. Very recent, maybe only 100 year old. But interesting as rock paintings are rare in Malaysia

Altogether an impressive collection of archaeological sites, hopefully they will be preserved well after being declared a World Heritage Site.

Human migration, Out of Sundaland ?

It is about 200.000 years ago that our species, homo sapiens sapiens evolved in Africa. All humans, living these days, have a common ancestor, both in the maternal line (Mitochondrial Eve) and the paternal one (Y-chromosomal Adam). Between 95.000 and 75.000 year ago one of their descendants (Eurasian Adam), started to migrate to Europa and Asia. By analysing the mutations in the DNA of the Y-chromosome of present humans, it is possible to get an idea about the migration route followed by the ancestors.

A few years ago both Aric and I had our DNA analysed (by the Genographic Project). Here is the route followed by our (paternal) ancestor. Our routes split about 35.000 year ago, in what is now called Tajikistan. My line developing into a Caucasian, Aric’s line into a Chinese…:-) See my blog My ancestors for more information about this fascinating topic. Our ancestor

What has this to do with Lenggong, you may ask. Well, the theory of human migration is still a developing theory, with many variations. In the prevalent version, humans migrated to South East Asia from around Taiwan, going south. An alternative option is that  the migrants followed more or less the coastal line, via India, arriving in Sundaland, from there spreading in northern direction

migration

Sundaland? Yes, in the period we are talking about, the world was in what is called the Ice Age. The huge amount of ice covering the Arctic and Antarctic resulted in very low sea levels, more than 100 meter lower than nowadays. Present day Sumatra, Borneo, Malaysia formed one land mass, called Sundaland Sundaland

In the map above, the location of the Toba eruption is indicated. This dismal eruption and the following volcanic winter may have had a dramatic effect on the still very small global homo sapiens population, killing most of them and causing what is called a genetic bottleneck It is estimated that the global population of our species at that time was no more  than 10.000 – 20.000! It certainly stopped the operation of the Kota Tampan tool shops. But the people living there may have survived in small numbers, because the prevailing winds were westwards. Could it be that after the Toba eruption, further migration took place out of Sundaland?

A fascinating, though rather controversial theory, proposed by the British geneticist Stephen Oppenheimer. No surprise that USM, responsible for much of the archealogical research in the Lenggong valley, is quite happy with this theory.  Malaysia as the cradle of humanity!

A meteorite impact at Bukit Bunuh

In 2009 USM announced a spectacular discovery at  Bukit Bunuh. At this location many boulders were found of a very special material, called suevite. Suevite can be formed when a meteorite collides with the earth. The ages of these rocks, using fission track dating, has been determined as 1.8 ± 0.6 million year. There are indications of circular craters in the Bukit Bunuh region, so it could well be that between 1.2 and 2.4 million year ago a meteorite has hit here. In itself already an interesting discovery. It became spectacular when in 2007 a hand-axe was found, embedded in a suevite boulder. Meaning that around the time of impact, 1.8 million year ago, hominins were already living at Bukit Bunuh! Here is a newspaper article about the discovery: Early axes found in Perak. The picture shows  Dr Mokhtar Saidin, holding up the axe. Prof Mokhtar

After the jubilant announcement in the media, now already five years ago, it has become disturbingly quiet. I have not been able to find any reference on the Internet to a scientific publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The meteorite impact was supposed to be registered at the Earth Impact Database, but that too has not yet happened. In interviews an age of 1.83 million year is mentioned, without giving the error margin of 0.6 million year, which is scientifically bad practice. Here is a typical example: Interview with Dr. Mokhtar Saidin

Honestly, I have my doubts. Here are a few more links, in case you are interested

Bukit Bunuh, oldest Paleolithic site , quote:  “There should be on-going research to get a true picture of the people who settled in this area since 1.83 million years ago and this can change several theories about the Paleolithic people such as the nomadic theory and movement of prehistoric man.

USM Discovers Concrete Evidence That Can Chance (sic!) The History Of Early Man

THS excursion

When you have been following my Stuif’s adventures, you know that Taiping is my favourite town in Malaysia. So it is not surprising that I am a member of the Taiping Heritage Society (THS). Recently they organised a day trip to the Lenggong region and I decided to join. Actually I had visited most of the attractions on the program already, but it was a good opportunity to get to know more THS members…:-)

Departure was at 7 am from the Taiping Tesco. About 40 members took part in the trip, so a bus was chartered for the transport. After signing an indemnity form, we received our seat number and off we went. (click on a picture to enlarge it)

Meeting at Tesco

Signing an indemnity form

Ready to go

The first stop was at Lenggong town for a dim sum breakfast. Next we went to the Lenggong Archeological Museum, where we were welcomed by the Assistant Curator, Puan Nuraidah. We watched a nice, well-made documentary about the archaeology of the Lenggong valley, where in 1991 an 11.000 year old skeleton was found in one of the many limestone caves. Now known as the Perak Man. During my earlier visit of the museum, only a copy of the skeleton was shown, but in 2012 the Lenggong Valley was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site and just a few months ago, the original skeleton has been brought back to the museum.

When the museum was built, an artificial cave was created for the (copy of the) Perak Man. Now it is still there, but half in the dark, while the original has been placed in the same cave. A rather messy layout, hopefully temporary. When the Perak Man died, his grave will have been decorated by burial gifts. Now his skeleton is surrounded by modern technology. He would have been very surprised if he had known..:-)

The Perak Man

Originally the plan was to visit the Gua Runtuh, where the skeleton was found, but it is out of bounds now, probably will become a tourist attraction. When I visited the caves in 2007, you still could enter freely, although after a stiff climb. Here is a picture from my archive.

Gua Runtuh

Instead we visited another cave, the Gua Tok Giring, near Lenggong. To enter the cave you need proper equipment, so we just had a look at the outside, while our guide Neal was giving information about various aspects of caves.

Then it was time for lunch. Lenggong is well-known  for its freshwater fish restaurants and the famous fish balls. THS had booked an eight-course lunch, organiser Sharon had warned us that there were six fish balls for each of us, three fried, three in the soup…:-) Of course we obeyed her! The food was plenty and delicious.

Our next destination was the Kekabu waterfall, between Lenggong and Kuala Kangsar. The experienced bus driver managed to manoeuvre the bus to the parking near the waterfall, from where it was an easy walk to the falls. Unfortunately the hanging bridge crossing the river had collapsed. Only a few daredevils managed to reach the other side.

After the waterfall we proceeded to Sayong, a small village near Kuala Kangsar, famous for its pottery, the Labu Sayong. Here too our driver had to prove his expertise, because the factory was located deep in the countryside. We got an interesting demonstration how to decorate the pottery, for many in the group this was the highlight of the trip.

The way the guy was decorating the pot in a free style, was really remarkable.Here is a short video

Then it was time for tea, in a restaurant in Kuala Kangsar. The Ipoh Chee Cheong Fun was delicious, but the coffee….  Never in Malaysia (or even in my life…) I have had lousier coffee…:-)

The last item on the program was a visit of Kuala Kangsar, with the beautiful Ubudiah mosque and the Istana Kenangan but everybody was getting tired after a long day, so we had only a look at them from the bus….:-)

We arrived back in Taiping at 6:00 pm.  A well organised trip, looking forward to the next one. Nice group of people. What especially pleased me, as a Kwai Loh, was the racial harmony, nowadays often lacking in Malaysia.