Versatile Perak

In my opinion Perak is the most interesting state of Malaysia, regarding nature, culture and history. A rich history, many historical towns , numerous waterfalls. Nice food too..:-)

Recently I visited Perak with my friends Paul and Fahmi. We stayed two nights in the Cititel hotel in Ipoh.

On our way to Ipoh we first visited a waterfall near Sungkai, the Enggang waterfall. At the end of the road leading to the well-known Sungkai Hot springs, a clear trail starts, leading in about one hour to the waterfall.

The waterfall is not visible from the trail, but of course you can hear it.  We first arrived halfway the fall  (left picture). After some scrambling down the slope we managed to reach the bottom. (right picture)

We had visited this waterfall a couple of years ago. Not many people come here, the fall is still pristine! And the flow of water was very impressive this time.

After lunch in Sungkai, we continued to Ipoh, checked in into our hote, took some rest and went out for dinner. Many times I have eaten in one of the famous chicken taugeh kwai teow places, but this time we were looking for halal food and an Ipoh friend had suggested a few suitable restaurants. The Ipoh Hainan Chicken Rice turned out to be a good choice.

On our way back to our hotel, we passed a few interesting buildings. Left the Chua Cheng Bok building (1930s) in Art Deco style, recently painted in bright blue colors. Would you guess that the beautiful building in the right picture originally has been a Fire Station? It was built here in 1913 and upgraded in 1936. Served as Fire and Rescue Department until 1992.

For our breakfast next morning we went to the Halal Dimsum Cafe in Greentown another suggestion from my Ipoh friend. Very good dimsum!

On our program for the morning was another waterfall, the Lata Ulu Chepor, on the outskirts of Ipoh. It was a bit of  failure, I had forgotten to mark the locations of the two (minor) falls in my GPS, and we passed them without noticing them. The trail continued, might lead to a taller waterfall upstream, but we returned, found a nice place to have a bath. Crystal clear water.

I

I had in mind to visit another waterfall in the same region, but this hike had taken quite a lot of time, so we decided to skip it and go for lunch. Nasi Ganja! Using Google we had found the address. When we arrived there, we noticed a big crowd queuing, but no sign of Nasi Ganja. It turned out that this was the shop, all Ipoh people know it as nasi ganja, but the shop can not advertise with the name as ganja is an illegal drug. . Nice nasi kandar, apparently addictive…:-)

In the afternoon Paul and I explored Ipoh Old Town. Paul had published an album about Ipoh Heritage, so he could show me around. We started from our strategically located hotel.

Around the corner St Michael’s Institution, one of the famous  Ipoh schools, founded by the La Salle Brothers in 1912. The impressive building is from 1922.

Next to it the India Muslim Mosque. Construction started in 1909

Below left the entrance of the Royal Ipoh Club, records go back to 1895, but it may be even older. Right the High Court buildings, designed by Arthur Benison Hubback and built 1926-28.

Two other impressive buildings in Ipoh have also been designed by Hubback. Construction of the Town Hall started in 1914 and was completed two years later. Is is really a monumental building.

Opposite the Town Hall, the Railway Station, nicknamed the Taj Mahal of Ipoh by locals. Officially opened in 1917. The first floor used to be a hotel, the Majestic Station Hotel, and many years ago I have been staying there several times. It was already rundown at that time, dirty sheets, cockroaches. Now it is closed, although there still exists a website , promoting its  “superbly-comfortable accommodation”  !

Coming from the Railway Station, the Birch memorial is located behind the Town Hall. J.W.W. Birch was the first British resident of Perak, assassinated in 1875 at Pasir Salak by Malay noblemen, Dato Maharaja Lela and Dato Sagor.

The monument, also a clock tower, was erected in 1909 by his son, E.W. Birch, at that time the (much more popular) resident of Perak. Nice detail: the roads left and right of the monument were originally named Station Road and Post Office Road. After independence they have been renamed. The new names? Jalan Dato Maharajalela and Jalan Dato Sagor !

Another interesting detail. On  four civilisation panels around the tower, 44 famous figures in the world history are portrayed, for example Buddha, Newton, Confucius, Galilei etc. One of the figures  has been painted over. Guess who…:-)

Two bank buildings. Left the impressive building of the Hongkong & Shanghai Bank (1931), right the Chartered Bank (1924)

There are more historical bank buildings in the same district, for example the Mercantile Bank (1931) , designed in Art Deco style by Iversen.Now it is housing the Elken company, note the ugly banner on the facade. The OCBC bank is now occupying the building of the Straits Trading Company (1907).

The Perak Hydro building (1930s) belonged to the Perak River Hydro-Electric Company who built the Chenderoh dam in the Perak river, the oldest reservoir in Malaysia

Chung Thye Phin was born in Taiping and became a wealthy tin miner and (the last) Kapitan Cina. The building below carried his name and was built in 1907. In its early days it used to be a medical hall. Beautiful facade.

Walking around in Ipoh Old Town, I was surprised about the numerous interesting heritage buildings. Generally well preserved.

At first I thought that this could be the exception: overgrown decaying shoplots. But I was mistaken…:-)

Actually it is part of Kong Heng square. Not overgrown, but modern vertical gardens..:-), The first floor houses  Sekeping Kong Heng , will try to stay there during my next visit

 

Three more buildings. Left the Han Chin Pet Soo building, now housing the Hakka tin mining museum. Originally the home of the Hakka Tin Miners Club, founded in 1893 and rebuilt in 1929. In the middle a nameless house, under renovation. And right the building of the FMS Bar and Restaurant, an icon from Ipoh’s glorious past. A couple of years ago it was hoped that the glory would come back after a ambitious restoration. But during my visit it was closed without a sign of life. A failed project?

And here are two more buildings from a different era. Left the Labrooy House, modernist design, completed between 1960 and 1961. Right from the same period, the first parking garage of Malaysia!

Finally here are two street views of Leech Street (now Jalan Bandar Timah). Beautiful. Followers of my blog know that I love Taiping as my 2nd hometown. Pity you can not find similar street views in Taiping 🙁

To be honest, I was very impressed by the heritage of Ipoh Old Town. Taiping’s history starts earlier, it boasts on its many “Firsts” and is promoted as Bandar Warisan (Heritage Town), but when you compare the two towns, Ipoh deserves this title more.

Of course I had to walk through Concubine Lane. After reading negative reports about how tourism had destroyed the character of this street,  I was prepared for the worst. Actually it was not too bad, not worse than Petaling Street in KL…:-)

Two year ago I visited Ipoh to see the Zacharevic murals, see my blog Ipoh Murals. Mural Art has been mushrooming all over Malaysia the last few years and also in Ipoh there has been copycatting. Not  really a positive development.

We had dinner our last night in another Chinese Muslim restaurant, this time Fahmi’s discovery. Roast duck, Mongolian chicken, bitter gourd with salted egg. A nice, filling meal!

The next morning, before checking out,  a view from my room in Cititel.

We had breakfast in the Medan Selera near the BIrch memorial with soft-boiled eggs on toast, an Ipoh specialty. Yummie!

Our plan was to visit the Hakka Tin mining museum in the Han Chin Pet Soo building, but they have only guided tours and the timing was not suitable for us. So we started our trip back to KL.

Our first stop was at the Tanjung Tualang Tin Dredge. I have visited this gargantuan relic from the tin mining era several times in the past, was able to explore the dredge freely, climbing up to the upper level, sometimes  bit scary, but fascinating. Since a few years the situation has changed, there were plans to make it a No 1 tourist attraction and it was closed, you could only see it from the outside.

Friends had told me that it was now open to the public, and I wanted to have a look. I was a bit shocked by the ticket price, RM 10 for Mykad holders, RM 20 (!) for foreigners. Senior citizens get a 50 % discount, but still too expensive, as at the moment only the (less interesting) lower level is accessible. Although the guided tour was informative, better wait until the whole dredge can be visited.

Left the ambitious development plan for the Tanjung Tualang dredge. Rather unrealistic and completely over the top, in my opinion. Right a simpler version. I got the impression from our guide that the project has been put on hold after the recent change in government. Good, the dredge itself can become a tourist attraction, like Kellie’s castle, no need  to surround it with all kind of nonsense.

During my earlier visits the dredge pontoon was tilting because of leakage, that has been stabilised now. Right a small canteen, closed when we visited the dredge, but probably more busy during weekends. There is also  small museum.

Our next target was the Salu waterfall, 6 km north of Kampar. Easy access, two waterfalls. Suitable for senior citizens..:-)

From the carpark a cemented path leads in a few minutes to the lower Salu fall. 

The upper fall can be reached in about 15 minutes via a clear trail. There are more waterfalls upstream, but these require jungle  trekking.

Our last destination was the Tin Mining museum in Kampar. Until a few weeks ago I had never heard about this museum, but apparently it exists already for seven years! It was a pleasant surprise.

As the signboard says, it is mainly dedicated to open tin mining, using gravel pumps.Here is an interesting pdf file about Gravel Pump Tin Mining. Impressive machinery, I understand there are guided tours, which would really have been useful here.

Besides the machinery, there is a big hall with lots of information. A few scale models of tin mines give  a good impression of the process.

Both inside and outside the halls dioramas have been created of the various activities related to tin mining. Also here a guide would be useful, or leaflets with information.

After our museum visit we had lunch in the mamak next to it, and then it was time to go home.

Versatile Perak!

Loke Yew Graveyard

In 1858 a young Chinese boy, 13(!) year old, decided to leave his home province Guangdong (former Canton) and try his luck in Singapore. His name was Wong Loke Yew. He worked there in a provision shop, before starting his own store. Business went well and  in 1867 Loke Yew decided to go to Perak, where he was active in tin mining and other business. In the 1880’s he moved to Kuala Lumpur, where he stayed the rest of his life until he died in 1917.

A remarkable man, his life is described in more detail in an interesting blog Overseas Chinese in the British Empire.

I had come across his name a few years ago, when I visited the Sam Wong Yah temple in Kamunting, built in 1882. Loke Yew was a supporter and patron of this temple and  the caretaker showed me the wooden bench used by Loke Yew as a bed when he visited the temple. Proof that even though rich,  he remained a humble man.

Left the interior of the temple, right the bench.

Recently Bernard, a geocaching friend of mine, told me that there existed a Loke Yew Graveyard in Kuala Lumpur! We are both interested in cemeteries, would I like to join him in an “expedition” to this graveyard? Of course I accepted his invitation.

And an expedition it turned out to be…:-). Because the graveyard is located in Desa Tun Hussein Onn, a military residential complex in Kuala Lumpur (below outlined in green). You need a permit as a civilian to enter the village!

When we arrived at the entrance of the village, and told  an officer that we wanted to visit Loke Yew’s graveyard, it took Bernard considerable time to convince the officer of our honest intentions. It helped that the officer was interested in history and rather surprising that he did not know anything about the graveyard, although he had been living for many years in the village!  We got our permit..:-)

Naively I had expected that there would be a clear access road to the graveyard, we drove around the hill, but didn’t find any signboard. However, we noticed something that looked like a trail, followed it, and indeed, we reached the graveyard, but there was a solid fence and a locked gate.  At least I could take a picture  🙂

We didn’t give up and tried another access, from near the  school, climbing the stairs, then turning right along the wall.

We were of course more or less expecting that we would again be blocked by a fence.  But no, this time, after some jungle hiking, we could enter the graveyard!

A beautiful place, on the slope of the hill, good feng shui. Dominated by a statue of Loke Yew. An elaborate memorial hall next to it. Amazing that this exists in KL..:-)

From the top of the hill we had a view of sprawling Kuala Lumpur. Guardian lions kept watch over the graveyard.

You find these guardian lions often at graveyards. Lots of symbolism, see the Wikipedia article Chinese Guardian Lions. The lions have a “pearl” in their mouth, a stone ball which can move freely inside, but not be removed. Unfortunately there had been vandalism, the mouth had been broken and the ball inside was gone.

One of the  lions is male, the other female. Of course we had to check..:-)

There were many more signs of vandalism and graffiti. Even the secluded location does not fully protect the graveyard. Imagine how bad it would be if this place was easily accessible.

The graveyard itself looked good, the grass was cut, there must be regular maintenance, probably by the family. Not only Loke Yew has his tomb here, also several of his descendants.

Here is the grave of Mr Lu Yun Huai, born 25/5/1897, died 16/10/1941

Walking down the hill we arrived at the “official” entrance, closed and heavily protected with barbed wire.

It was a very rewarding experience!

Loke Yew may have been a humble man, but his graveyard is truly monumental!

Note: Both Wikipedia and the blog mentioned above give 9 October 1845 as Loke Yew’s birthdate , but according to the tombstone it is  9 October 1846.

 

Taiping, July 2018

After my visit of the Gunung Rapat Cave Temples, I drove to Taiping, my 2nd hometown…:-). I arrived just in time for a forum discussion organised by the Taiping Heritage Society.

When I checked in in my usual Furama hotel, the reception warned me that it might be noisy in the evening, because in  kampung Peng Loong, near the hotel, a temple festival was going on, to celebrate the birthday of Datok Keramat Empat. These Datuk temples are very interesting, you can read more about them here.

And yes, it was noisy, but it stopped at midnight. I expected Chinese opera, but it was more disco style with a scantily dressed lady singer! The times they are a changing 🙂

There was a friendly atmosphere, with food and beer. And also people were praying..:-)

The next morning I went for breakfast to the stall of Mr Tong for my chee cheong fun (see my earlier Taiping reports). I asked him if I could come to his house that evening to watch him making the chee cheong fun. I was welcome.

I had another look at the Datok temple, now of course everything was quiet. The shrine is standing against a giant tree. Walking back to my hotel, I noticed an impressive old bungalow with the year on the facade, 1915. A friendly lady, living in the house showed me the name of the bungalow on one of the gate pillars: Spring Lodge

THS had organised an excursion that morning to the Bukit Berapit train tunnels. These tunnels (there are four) are no longer in use after a new tunnel, three km long, has been excavated for the ETS train from KL to the Thai border. Bukit Berapit is a pass between Taiping and Kuala Kangsar, Isabella Bird passed here in 1879 on the back of an elephant..:-). From the no 1 trunk road, we followed a trail leading to the ruins of the former Bukit Berapit station.

From there we walked to the tunnel entrance. Until a few years ago the rails were still there, now they have disappeared, probably sold as scrap iron. The tunnel was dark, partly muddy and flooded. Great fun, although too much for some of the ladies..:-). See the captions of the images.

On our way back to Taiping we stopped at the tombs of Long Jaafar, the father of Ngah Ibrahim. Legend has it that he discovered tin in the region, after one of his elephants came back , his legs covered with tin mud.  Long Jaafar had his fort here, now only the tombs remain

Nearby, in Bukit Gantang, we had lunch at a road stall, nice Malay assam laksa. It was a nice excursion, we visited only one tunnel, I would like to explore the other ones as well.

In the afternoon I met my friend May for tea, in the patisserie next door to the Boo Bee shop of Yeap. This attractive  townhouse was owned by  Kapitan Chung Keng Kooi (1829-1901).

The recent renovation of the left half of the house is well done, and it was quite busy with a young crowd. Hope it will be a success, the cempedak cake was nice.

After tea I walked to Tong’s house, quite near to my hotel. His wife and he were already busy preparing the chee cheong fun. Interesting old fashioned process. But very hot inside, after a while I escaped to the Lake Gardens.

It was a nice evening, the gardens were beautiful as usual, with many people enjoying the peaceful atmosphere. I walked around a bit, always like to have a look at one of my favourite trees , the cannonball tree. Probably many walkers are not aware that a few of these trees are growing in the lake gardens.

Since a few months MPT has closed part of the circular road for motorised traffic, it is now a pedestrian area, called the Raintree Walk. A good move of MPT. Less successful are the planters, placed along the Raintree Walk. Click on the right picture, to see how some of them are used…:-)

The next morning I went with two THS ladies to Aulong. Aulong is a “New Village” created around 1950 during the Emergency. Its purpose was to house squatters who were living near the fringes of the jungle, to isolate them from the CT’s,  the communist guerrillas. Those new villages were fenced, with guarded gates.

I am interested in the experiences of people who lived in those new villages. One of the ladies had a classmate whose father had been living in Aulong since 1958, and we went to interview him..:-) It was a nice meeting, but not very informative, when he moved to Aulong it was already more or less a normal village.

The left picture shows a GE screenshot of Aulong. The arrow-like road pattern in the center could have been dating back to the creation of the village. The blue line is where in the past the first railway, from Port Weld to Taiping, was located. And north of Aulong you can see the former airport of Taiping.

As we were so close to the airfield,we decided to have a look. Big empty space, I wonder if there are plans to develop it. I have heard that the land is still owned by the Ministry of Defence.

I had been really very busy after my arrival in Taiping, so I was looking forward to two relaxing days in the Nest, up Maxwell Hill!. The weather was nice, here is a view from the Nest to Gunung Bubu, about 65 km away.

After the jeep has dropped you at Speedy’s bungalow, it is a short walk to the Nest, with each step you feel that you are moving into a different world, into the past…:-)

In earlier posts I have written already a lot about Suet Fun and Peter’s paradise, here a few pictures only. The food was delicious as usual, and the feeling to live in the past was stronger this time, as there was a problem with the electricity, so no hot shower…:-)   Brrr, but refreshing.

What a difference with Speedy’s. Waiting for the jeep back to Taiping town, I had time to explore. Officially all doors were locked, but I have been living long enough in Malaysia to know that there is often a backdoor still open…:-)

Back in town, I stopped for a short while in the Taman Botani, the new mega project to create a botanical garden in Taiping. I must say, it looked nice, although I personally still think the money could have been spent better, for example in upgrading the Maxwell Hill bungalows.

My last appointment before driving back to KL was with Dr Indraraja , who was going to show me  the renovated building of the Ceylon Association. I was a bit early, so that gave me time to have a look at the buildings along Station road which for me represent the Shame of Taiping, Bandar Warisan.

The two buildings between the former First Galleria and the Rest House, can still be entered. But when I did that, a half-naked squatter started shouting at me, so I thought it safer to leave the place…:-)

The Rest House is slowly deteriorating. Click on the pictures and read the signboard, the tablet and the banner. MPT should at least remove all three. The last picture shows the “entrance” I used in the past to go inside. At least that entrance has been blocked.

Let me end this post in a positive way. The restoration of the Ceylon Association has been completed, and the result is pleasing. Here is a view of the backside.

And here are pictures of the front. Pity that the ground floor windows are modern, but Dr Indra explained that the window frames were beyond repair.

Here some pictures of the interior. The ceiling is nice, with the old fan. The first floor planks were very uneven and had to be covered with a kind of laminate. The interior is still empty, furniture etc had to be removed for the restoration.

It was again a visit full of variety.

Gunung Rapat Cave Temples

Gunung Rapat is a limestone hill, south of Ipoh. When you drive the no 1 trunk road from KL to Ipoh, you will pass  a number of Chinese temples, built in the limestone caves of Gunung Rapat. One or two I must have visited in the past and several times I have been to the Kek Lok Tong temple, on the other side of the hill.

Searching the Internet I found 8 major temples on the slopes of Gunung Rapat and I decided to make it a project to visit all of them during a visit of Ipoh. Here are the results. In the Google Earth screenshot below, the locations of the eight temples are given.

We started our trip with a visit of Tasik Cermin, the Mirror Lake. Until not long ago this was a “secret” location, known only to a few people. The lake is located within a quarry and can only be reached through a tunnel. Access was not always allowed by the quarry owner. This time it looked like quarry operations had stopped, there was no entrance barrier and we were told that the lake is nowadays becoming popular for wedding shoots!

If there is no wind, the water is really like a mirror, but during our visit there was a breeze. Aric tried to operate his drone, but between the steep cliff walls, GPS reception was not good enough.

Da Seng Ngan

Our first temple. When we visited Tasik Cermin in January 2017 (read my blog here), we noticed that there was a cave temple nearby. We visited it and the caretaker told us that the temple is quite old but has been covered by a landslide for many decades, and was only rediscovered in 2006! Restoration has now been almost completed. To get funding, devotees can “sponsor” statues of the Amitabha Buddha. For more information, click here .

From this temple you can actually walk to the Kwan Yin Tong temple nearby, but we were by car, had to u-turn twice on the busy trunk road, which made it more efficient to first visit the Ling Sen Tong temple.

Ling Sen Tong 

There are three temples along the trunk road next to each other, when you leave Ipoh. Lin Seng Tong is the first one, and that might be the reason that it is quite touristy and gaudy. A bit too touristy, we did not spend much time there

Nam Thean Tong 

The second one, next to Lin Seng Tong. A 19th-century Taoist cave temple with colorful shrines.

We explored the elaborate network of steep, dark stairs. Interesting, but a bit rundown

The third temple is Sam Poh Tong, but it was closed when we arrived there in the afternoon. It even looked closed indefinitely, we continued to the Kwan Yin Tong temple

Kwan Yin Tong 

Dedicated to Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy. Numerous statues of Guan Yin. An attractive Buddhist temple

Then it was time for food, always an important aspect of our trips 🙂  For dinner we went to a food court, where we ordered deep-fried Mantis prawns, sotong with kangkung, popiah and teochew kueh, everything nice, but way too much..  Breakfast next morning at Chooi Yue, one of the famous dim sum restaurants in Ipoh. Good quality dim sum, many varieties.

Unfortunately it was raining heavily the next day, a real downpour. Before continuing our temple tour, our Ipoh friend took us first to another “mirror lake” location, a former tin mining pond at the Iskandar Polo Club. Attractive scenery.

Kek Lok Tong

We started with the Kek Lok Tong temple, the most beautiful of the Gunung Rapat cave temples, in my opinion. In the 1920’s it was already a place of worship. In the 1960’s it became part of an iron mining site, the entrance to the cave was widened to allow lorry access.  When mining ceased it was dedicated again to religious purposes and opened to visitors in the 1970s.

Interesting feature of this temple is that after entering and crossing the cave, you will exit to a beautiful garden. Because of the heavy downpour we could not visit the garden this time. Here you see the laughing Buddha, contemplating the view of this garden.

Searching the Internet, I had found two more temples on the North side of Gunung Rapat

Panna Tong

The first one, Panna Tong, was closed, so only a photo of the exterior. By the way, tong means cave in Chinese language

Miaw Yuan Chan Lin

The second one was a pleasant surprise. It is a Thai style Buddhist temple and relatively unknown, compared to the popular, more touristy  temples on the West side of Gunung Rapat. Nice environment, very scenic.

When I play tour guide again for my friends, I will include this temple in the itinerary!

Sam Poh Tong

Before finishing our temple trip, we decided to go back to Sam Poh Tong, because I had checked on the Internet that the temple was not closed forever. And indeed, now it was open, we were told that the day before they had closed early because there were no visitors!

It is quite a large temple complex, but as it was still raining, we did not explore everything. We had a look at the famous turtle pond and bought some kangkung to feed the turtles. But we did not enter the gardens, because of the rain. Will have to come back here.

In the afternoon I continued to Taiping, but that will be another post.

My friend David May has written informative web pages about many of the Ipoh cave temples, for example this one about Da Seng Ngan, with references to other temples.

 

Taiping, April 2018

My last visit to Taiping was in December and in my blog about this trip I explained why I visit my second hometown so often: “meet friends, enjoy the food, see what is new (and what is still ruined)”  It was similar this time..:-)

I drove this time, it was the Cheng Beng weekend, but on Friday traffic was still smooth. My plan was to have lunch with Pasembor and Cendol in Ansari, but the shop was closed, so I went to the Old Railway Station and had Assam Laksa there. Not bad.

Pity that the January Cafe is closed. As a result the Old Taiping Railway Station Gallery is also closed, because the two brave girls who have tried to run the cafe, rented the space on condition that they would take care about this picture gallery.

Before checking in at my hotel (Furama as usual), I had a look at some buildings along Station Road. The renovation of the Ceylon Association Building (1901) seems to be ongoing.

However, the nearby Rest House (1894) remains in a deplorable state. I really do not understand how the Taiping Town Council (MPT) can still keep the heritage signboard in front of this dilapidated  building.

In the afternoon I walked to the Lake Gardens. Recently a small part of Jalan Pekeliling (the former Circular Road ) has been closed to traffic and become a pedestrian area. A good initiative.  The famous raintrees bordering this road are getting old and a few weeks ago one of them  has fallen down on the pedestrian stretch. For the time being MPT has decided to leave the tree there, it has become a tourist attraction..:-)

The Lake Gardens were beautiful as always. If I would be living in Taiping, I would walk here daily..:-)

I had dinner with friends. They suggested to have Western food for a change! We went to Thomas Western Food on Barrack Road, where I had a tasty pork chop with cheese. I noticed that Thomas was wearing an Amsterdam T-shirt and asked him if he had visited my country. He had not, the shirt was given as a present..:-)  Will come back to his shop

Actually I came back to the same shop the next morning. I had breakfast with Dr Lee from Singapore who was back in Taiping for Cheng Beng. He suggested a shop opposite his house in Barrack Road. Stalls with a variety of food. It looked so different that I did not recognise it as the same place where I had dinner the night before!

A few weeks ago a booklet was published, Taiping the Guide,  with 128 pages of tourist information (in English and Malay) about Taiping. Free of charge for visitors. Of course I wanted to get a copy, so I went to the Taiping Tourism Office in the Old Clock Tower. But it was closed, apparently because of “change of management”. At least a notification should have been put on the door.

Searching for more information about this booklet,  I  came across an article about Taiping in the digital edition of the famous Rough Guides. Together with the Lonely PLanet guides, they were my traveling “bibles” in the past…:-). Here is an interesting quote:

Nowadays, bypassed by the North–South Expressway and replaced in administrative importance by Ipoh, Taiping is declining gracefully, its streets lined with tattered architectural mementoes of its glory days.

This collage could be an illustration

Of course many nice heritage buildings can still be found

But many basically nice heritage buildings have been “defaced”. Awful painting, giant signboards, are there no rules and regulations about what you can and can not do with historical buildings?

Walking back to my hotel in the evening I noticed a small crowd near an Indian shop. There was music, people were playing the drums. What was happening?.

Soon it became clear, a chariot was approaching, there were devotees offering and coconuts were smashed. It reminded me of Thaipusam, but, searching the Internet later, I found out that it was actually the celebration of Panguni Uthiram, an important day for (Tamil) Hindus. It is believed that most divine marriages took place on this day, for example the marriage of Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva.

This cultural diversity in Malaysia is one of the reasons that I feel so at home. Pity that politicians try to destroy it, by fueling tensions between Malay, Chinese and Indians 🙁

The next morning I went to the Nest, the “heaven on earth”, managed by my friends Suet Fun and Peter. The Maxwell Hill jeep service took me to Speedy’s bungalow, from where it was a few minutes walk to the Nest. My first visit was last year, have a look at my report Maxwell Hill, May 2017 

When I was sitting on the steps at the entrance of the bungalow, enjoying the surroundings, two hikers came up, asking me if this was the way to Gunung Hijau. When I said no, and gave them the correct directions, they asked “Do you live here”?How I would have liked to say yes..:-)

Here are two pictures of the interior.

I had a relaxing time, reading books and walking around a bit. The garden has beautiful flowers. The last morning we discovered a new-born Red Helen butterfly, just out of the pupa, still pumping up its wings. And in the kitchen a very bizarre cockroach, with a head shield resembling the head of a tiger. Apparently a Homalosilpha ustulata

Near the front porch,  bright fluorescent lights were mounted, attracting numerous moth species. Amazing variety in shape and color

The second day of my stay I decided to have another look at the Birch monument. On my way down from the Nest, I passed Speedy’s, very scenic with the misty weather

It’s a sad story. In 2004 I have celebrated my 60th birthday in Speedy’s (see the above-mentioned report) with Guna as caretaker. It was a beautiful bungalow. Later it was closed and transformed into a Biodiversity Center. A failed project, now it is empty, waiting for a new destination?

Strangely enough it is still mentioned in the Taiping The Guide booklet. The description  ends with :

The Bukit Larut Biodiversity Center will be a very interesting tourist attraction. making it a must visit in every traveler’s checklist when they are in Taiping

When I visited the Birch monument last year, my friend Amril guided me there. Now there is a sign and a clear trail leading you after 150 m (not  50!) to the monument. Why it mentions T.W.W Birch instead of J.W.W Birch still remains a mystery.  Be prepared for leeches when you visit the monument

It was a pleasant stay in the Nest, not in the least because of the food Suet Fun and Peter are preparing for their guests. Not only delicious, but also a feast for the eyes

Rather reluctantly I took the jeep back the next day. I had lunch with my friends in Prima, after which I drove back to PJ. Sunday evening (Cheng Beng!) it had taken friends ten hours to drive back, but on this Tuesday afternoon traffic was smooth

Already looking forward to go back to Taiping and the Nest 🙂

Bukit Kiara (North)

After I moved to Damansara Perdana in 2005 and got my own car in 2006, I started walking with friends in Bukit Kiara. At first following the tarmac roads but soon I discovered the maze of hiking and biking trails. I have written many blogs about  this green lung of Kuala Lumpur, click here

Often I took my GPS with me to record my hikes (and not get lost, haha)  Here is a compilation of my hikes from 2007 until now.

The yellow line marks the “prison” fence, erected by  the National Landscape Department (JLN) , marking the boundaries of a proposed Large Scale Public Park (TABB). Most of the time I walk in this part of Bukit Kiara where I have also hidden 5 geocaches

Here is the TABB part in more detail

The northern part has less trails and recently a lot of “development” is taking place

Last week I visited this northern part and explored a corner I had never visited. Trail not always clear, we lost it a few times. Marked in red.

We started from the Kiara Mas development, high-rise condominium complexes. The first part was quite shocking. Development or destruction? The trail seemed to end here.

Trespassing and crossing this desolate region we passed a few (uninhabited) huts.

We crossed a few bridges, some of them not looking very reliable..:-). Finally we reached unspoiled forest.

In this part of the hike, a lot of natural beauty still can be found.

Bukit Kiara is a former rubber plantation and here we still found a few trees that were being tapped. Although probably illegal, it always makes me happy to see it.

Further on we came across another small “kampung”, also uninhabited. Here we lost the trail and had to scramble up a steep slope to find it back.

The last part of the hike I had walked a few years before. It passes close to a residential area, there has been a landslide. Construction is still going on.

Towering high-rise buildings are visible everywhere. Finally you enter the forest again.

After entering the forest, the last part of the trail is nice, you walk beside a small stream.

 

Waterfall Nostalgia

In January 2003 Aric and I went camping at the Gombak river and during our hike I noticed a sign to the Pisang waterfall. Back home I searched the Internet and found a webpage about this Pisang waterfall, maintained by a guy named Khong. I decided to write to him and immediately got an enthusiastic reply. We met and soon became friends. He had published many waterfall pages, but recently had become more interested in birdwatching. We decided that I would manage and develop further  a website Waterfalls of Malaysia (WoM)

That was the start of what became my waterfall addiction…:-). I have collected in this blog many of the waterfalls I have visited from March 2003 until March 2006, more than a decade ago. The pictures of fauna and flora have been taken during these trips. Clicking on a link will bring you to the corresponding waterfall page of WoM.


Lata Berembun, Pahang, 6-3-2003

Lata Kijang, Negeri Sembilan, 23-3-2003

Serendah Fall, Selangor, 8-4-2003

Tanglir Fall, Pahang, 8-4-2003

Chiling Fall, Selangor, 20-7-2003

Takah Tinggi, Johor, 31-8-2003

Kanching Falls, Selangor, 12-12-2003

Gabai Fall, Selangor, 11-6-2004

Tekala Falls, Selangor, 11-6-2004

Lepoh Fall, Selangor, 12-6-2004

Lata Iskandar, Perak, 11-7-2004

Jeriau Fall, Pahang, 15-7-2004

Jerangkang Falls, Pahang, 18-7-2004

Lower Cemerong Fall, Terengganu, 14-8-2004

Pandan Fall, Pahang, 9-8-2004

Berkelah Falls, Pahang, 14-8-2004

Chamang Fall, Pahang, 15-8-2004

Titi Kerawang Fall, Penang, 28-8-2004

Siong Fall, Selangor, 5-9-2004

Upper Ampang Fall, Selangor, 21-12-2004

Trong Fall, Perak, 27-12-2004

Tebing Tinggi, Perak, 28-12-2004

Templer Fall, Selangor, 6-1-2005

Sekayu Falls, Terengganu, 29-3-2005

Lata Tembakah, Terengganu, 30-3-2005

Lata Rek, Kelantan, 31-3-2005

Gapoi Fall, Pahang, 6-4-2005

Lata Khong, Pahang, 9-4-2005

Sendat Fall, Selangor, 13-4-2005

Damak Fall, Perak, 23-7-2005

Batu Hampar Fall, Kedah, 3-8-2005

Mengkuang Fall, Kedah, 4-8-2005

Bukit Hijau Falls, Kedah, 4-8-2004

Lata Bayou, Kedah, 4-8-2005

Tanjung Kala Fall, Perak, 5-8-2005

Pisang Fall, Selangor, 22-8-2005

Lata Kinjang, Perak, 25-8-2005

Chelik Fall, Perak, 26-8-2005

Jeram Toi, Negeri Sembilan, 7-9-2005

Pulai Fall, Johore, 15-12-2005

Sg Yong Fall, Johore, 16-12-2005

Lentang Fall, Pahang, 22-12-2005

Strata Fall, Perak, 27-2-2006

Taiping, December 2017

“Do you have a plan for your next Taiping visit”, a friend asked me. “Not really”, I replied, “I just like to visit my second hometown, meet friends, enjoy the food, see what is new (and what is still ruined)”.

I booked three nights in my favourite Furama Hotel and went by train to Taiping. Aric and his family traveled to Thailand, using the same train, an opportunity to practice my selfie (wefie) skills.

At the Taiping station my THS (Taiping Heritage Society) friend Tung Lay Chun was waiting for me. She had arranged a (preview) visit to the new Telegraph Museum, but first she showed me the work going on at the future Botanical Garden of Taiping. A botanical garden in Taiping? It was the first time I heard about it

In this Google Earth map I have sketched, with a red contour, the location of the proposed Botanical Garden. The green markers indicate existing buildings and points of interest. As you see, it is a huge project, compare it with the size of the Lake Gardens

The banner suggests that the Taiping Town Council (MPT) is responsible for the project and I was told that funding is by the Federal Government. RM 10 million for the first phase!

Here is a plan of the garden. The supervisor, a nice Malay lady, explained a bit about the garden

According to a signboard, the first phase should be completed in November 2018, but when I look at the present situation, I wonder whether that is feasible. Here are some pictures.

A large parking lot, they must expect many visitors

To be honest, I have my reservations about the  project. Penang has its famous Botanical Gardens (1884), Taiping its equally famous Zoo (1961), the oldest in Malaysia. Why create another botanical garden in Taiping?  Will  Penang follow with another Zoo? A friend said that it may be better to have a Botanical Garden there than buildings and condos and of course I agree, but the money could also be used to upgrade/beautify/renovate Maxwell Hill and its heritage bungalows.

After this visit it was time for lunch. Nasi Arab, delicious!

The Telegraph Museum is not yet open to the public, but the friendly supervisor Athira didn’t mind showing us around. Most of the exhibits are already there, but they are still working on the explanatory notes.

It is apt that Taiping has been chosen as the location for a telegraph museum, as the first telegraph line was opened in 1874 between the Deputy Resident in Taiping and the Residency in Kuala Kangsar. The building, housing the museum, was built in 1884 by the department of Posts and Telegraph and has been beautifully renovated. In the beginning it was also the post office.

Here I am standing in front of the museum, in the left picture with a mail coach and in the right one with  Athira (in black) and three interns, who are helping her.

We had a look of the interior, with some machinery, digital displays, you could practice Morse code etc. It will become an interesting museum when everything is finished.

That evening I had dinner with Lay Chun’s husband in a food court near the Beverly hotel, chilli pan mee. Good food, nice company! The friendly owner of the stall was happy to be in the picture with me…:-)

The next morning, on my way to breakfast, I passed the row of dobi (laundry) shops, which use the field in front to hang and dry the laundry. Often very colorful and photogenic.

I had asked Suet Fun and Peter, the tenants  of the Nest bungalow, to join me for breakfast at the Chee Cheong Fun stall in the Taiping hawker center.

After my visit in September I had whatsapped on and off with Tong, the owner of the stall. The CCF was delicious and it turned out that Peter and Suet had met Tong before. Taiping is an even smaller world than Malaysia…:-)

I had no specific plan for the rest of the day, so when Wan Amril called me and told me that he was going to his cafeteria at the 6th Mile on Maxwell Hill, I asked him if I could join him. The 6th mile is the end point of the jeep service. Beside the cafetaria, there are a few bungalows.  As it was school holidays and also weekend, there were quite a few visitors, good business for the cafeteria.

It was a nice day, the view was quite good, deep down you could see Taiping town and far away the coastline of the Straits. Pleasant atmosphere

While Amril was busy I walked around a bit and took pictures..Left a view of the 6th Mile “village” and right a walking path, recently constructed.

Here a few pictures of one of the bungalows in the 6th mile village. According to Amril the original name was the Doll. Now it is being renovated by his mother, the wife of the OBJ.

A few other bungalows at the 6th mile are probably beyond repair.

I had my lunch at the cafeteria

There was time enough to walk the ~1 km uphill to Speedy’s bungalow, where I celebrated my 60th birthday, 13 years ago. Guna was the caretaker then. Later there has been a failed attempt to create a biodiversity center here. Now it is closed, such a pity.

It was a nice and refreshing afternoon. Maxwell Hill deserves to become a more popular tourist attraction in Taiping.

That evening I had dinner with my friend May, as usual in Siang Malam. Later we walked to the Cross Street Bazaar and the District Office, we had a look at the Ho Hsien Ku temple and we had our picture taken in front of the I Love Taiping sign. Coffee in a nearby stall was the end of a rewarding day.

Where to have breakfast the next morning? I was in the mood for half-boiled eggs and toast and decided to go to the Lian Thong shop in Jalan Kota, but it was closed on a Sunday. So I ended up in Prima, also not bad.

Time for a walk in the Lake Gardens. On my way I passed two historical landmarks, the Government Offices (now District Office) and the Chartered Bank (now Public Library). See my blog Taiping, old and new .

it is always a pleasure to walk around in the Lake Gardens

During my last visit in September I had met a gentleman at the Ansari cendol stall, see my report Taiping September 2017 . Because of our shared interest in Taiping Heritage we had kept in touch and when he heard that I was visiting Taiping again, he suggested that I should visit his sister, Mrs Kim Long, who is living in Barrack Road and who I had met for a short while in September.

After my walk I called her and I was welcome. It was a fascinating meeting with a very vital elderly lady, a treasure trove of memories about Taiping and its past. Looking forward to meet her again

I could not resist the temptation to take a wefie with her.

After my visit I had lunch in OK and cendol in Ansari. I had tasty char siew rice in nearby restaurant OK, only later I read in a review that their speciality is soup noodles. Next time!

After my lunch I had a look at the building of the Ceylonese Association, nearby at Station Road. Built in 1901, it is now being restored!  Left the front facade, right the back.

Also at Station Road, opposite the iconic buildings of the King Edwards VII school, are what I have called the  Shame of Taiping,  the former Rest House and the former PWD department (originally the Railway headquarters) . I wrote that report more than four years ago and not much has changed.

The Rest House has been cleaned up inside and fenced off, but it is still easy to enter. This time I even ventured up the first floor.

The PWD building, opposite the former First Galleria (another failed project) is actually quite attractive.

It has been cleaned inside and fenced off, but you can still enter it through the adjacent building (i anybody knows its original function, please let me know. To remove all the trees and rubbish, one entrance was widened and later repaired (left picture), but it is wide open and from there you can enter the PWD building. Before the cleaning operation, squatters were living inside this building, now there was only one, using the former ticket counter (?) as a makeshift house (right picture). He was sleeping, I didn’t disturb him. A sad situation.

The reason that squatters don’t live inside the building anymore, can be seen in the picture gallery below. Most of the flooring has disappeared! Has this been done by the owner (MPT?) or has there been illegal looting, as the wooden floor boards are valuable according to my friend Yeap.

Will be continued during my next visit. Taiping Bandar Warisan!

That evening I had invited friends for dinner at the New Bee Guan restaurant, Jalan Maharajalela, around the corner from my hotel. Food was not really special but the company was pleasant

The next morning I had dim sum for breakfast with Yeap, the president of the Taiping Heritage Society. We talked about heritage and that it would be nice if Ipoh, Taiping and the Kinta valley could get Unesco World Heritage status, with tin mining as central theme.

I had booked a train ticket for the afternoon, time enough to walk around a bit and take some more pictures

One of my friends wondered why I didn’t move to Taiping permanently…:-). There are many reasons why I will stay in PJ, but I hope to revisit Taiping many more times.

Two Senior Gentlemen in the Jungle

Here is a nostalgic report about two waterfall trips, made  with my friend George Tan, in 2009 and 2011. During a recent visit to Taiping I talked with Jenny, a mutual friend, about these trips, she thought it had been irresponsible for two senior citizens to venture so deep into the jungle on their own. And although everything went well, in retrospect I think she was right.

The first trip took place in 2009 when I was 65 year old and George 63. My waterfall friends had told me about a waterfall, north of Taiping in the Batu Kurau region. From Kampung Jelai a small road  leads to a water catchment area, where we parked the car and started walking. Here is the Google Earth map (click to enlarge)

We followed a clear trail high above the river, but to reach the waterfall we had to scramble down a steep slope. A parang came in handy and George knew how to use it.

Not surprisingly this was leech country. There are several cascades and smaller waterfalls, we did quite a bit of esploration

Here we are, two senior citizens in the jungle.

And this is the impressive Air Hitam waterfall

The hike took us about three hours, during which we did not meet a single soul, although we saw signs of life along the trail, a shelter here, a motorbike there. But ok, when something would have happened during our scrambling down, we would have had a problem.

The situation has changed, after I published the Air Hitam waterfall on my website. I have revisited the fall several times and there is now a clear trail leading down directly to the main fall. Fortunately the fall is still relatively unknown and pristine.

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Two year later we went to the Nyior waterfall in the Bubu mountain range. A much more serious adventure.

Ladang Allagar is a plantation between Terong and Beruas. Crossing the plantation you enter a Forest Reserve. The road ends at a water catchment, where the trail starts.

At first there is still a trail but soon you reach the river and from there you have to river trek

River trekking is fun, but not always easy. You have to be careful with slippery rocks

And you will get wet…:-)

Finally we reached the main Nyior waterfall. Far from civilisation, worth the effort

We stayed at the fall about one hour, enjoying ourselves. Pity there was no pool.

Walking back the same way, we had a look at a few smaller falls

Altogether the hike took us almost 5 hours, it was not a difficult one, again we met nobody but this time there were also no signs of human activity. If one of us would have had an accident, we would have been in serious trouble.

That was six years ago. For George this trip was a reason to say, enough is enough, no more remote waterfall hikes. And I decided only to go to remote waterfalls in the company of 2, preferably 3, strong, (young) men… 🙂

So, yes, it was a bit irresponsible what we did  🙁  🙁

Grit & Grace

Grit & Grace is the title of a photography exhibition, running at the moment in the former OCBC building near Central Market in Kuala Lumpur. The photographer is  S.C. Shekar and the subtitle of the exhibition is “The Grandeur of Monochrome Malaysia”

Under the same title he has published a 330-page photobook (5 kg, RM 800!) with black and white photos, covering all aspects of Malaysia. The text accompanying the photos has been written by our friend Suet Fun and that was one more reason to visit the exhibition.

We decided to use public transport ..:-) The new MRT line connects the Curve shopping center with Central Market (near the OCBC building) and feeder bus 809 took us from near our condo to the MRT station. In less than 45 minutes we arrived at Central Market!

From the MRT station it is a short walk to the OCBC building. Beside Central Market a kind of up-market copy of Petaling Street has been created, full of tourists even on this Sunday morning. A big contrast with the austere beauty of the OCBC  building  (Art Deco, 1937, designed by Coltman) at the end of this gaudy street.

The exhibition is open daily from 10 am until 8 pm (until 16 October) and admission is free.

A selection of 50 photographs is shown in the exhibition. They are impressive and show many aspects of Malaysia, landscapes, people, culture.

It was pleasantly quiet on this Sunday morning.

Many of the nature photographs show aerial views. We were wondering if they were taken by a drone, but at the reception they told us that a helicopter was used.

This is a view from Georgetown

Here is a drone picture of the same region, recently taken by Aric. To remain in style, I have made it black and white..:-)

It is a very attractive exhibition, showing the power of monochrome photography in the hands of a gifted photographer. If you have a chance, visit the exhibition.

The exhibition will also go on a roadshow to different regions of the country in the first half of 2018.

On our way back to the MRT station, I could not resist the temptation to take a few  pictures  :-).  See my report KL Heritage for more.