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.


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

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

The view from Speedy is still fascinating

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

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

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

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

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

Moths were attracted by the bright light

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

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

Here we have reached the stone. Mission accomplished!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am looking forward to come back to the Nest!

The Upper Ampang Fall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tour Guide!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep dreaming, I would say…:-)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We found a few more, various design and quality

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

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

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

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

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