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.
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.
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.
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…:-)
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.
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!
I am looking forward to come back to the Nest!