|What happened to Jim Thompson?|
|On March 26, 1967, Jim Thompson, the 'Silk King of Thailand', while on a short holiday trip in the Cameron Highlands, went for an afternoon walk and disappeared, without leaving any trace. Did he die in the jungle, was he kidnapped? Many theories have been proposed, but it is still an unsolved mystery.|
My friend Ash is planning to write an article about Thompson from an interesting point of view. His idea is to get "lost" in the CH, spend the night in the jungle without any resources and write about his experiences. He asked me to join him for a recce and of course I didn't mind..;-)
I suggested to combine this recce with a few Spencer Chapman items, our shared interest. During his survival in occupied Malaya, Spencer Chapman has stayed in a few camps near the CH. Several camps in the Sg Woh region and one camp near Simpang Pulai, the traitor killing camp.
We decided for a 3D2N trip. Where to stay in the CH? On the Internet I found a reference to the Lutheran Mission Bungalow, accommodation available for missionaries and pastors. Hm, although we do not fit in that category, why not try? So we emailed them and got a reply: Sorry, no rooms available.
Ok, then we will see...
I have been so many times to the Cameron Highlands, using the winding Tapah road, but never I took time to explore the Sg Woh region. What a pleasant surprise, beautiful forest, an old pipe line, and a romantic Orang Asli village, houses on stilts on the hill slope. Where the road ends, we talked with an O.A lady who told us that there was a waterfall. Not a long hike, but you needed a guide, because there were many trails. Clear that I have to come back, then I can also try to find if there traces of the nearby camps, visited by Chapman.
After we arrived in Brinchang, before looking for lodging, we decided to drive around first in the region where Thompson had been staying, now 43 years ago. It so happened that we ended up at the Lutheran Mission Bungalow, with a beautiful garden. While I was admiring the spectacular huge hibiscus flowers, a lady came out of the house, and after complimenting her with the garden, I asked her if rooms were available. Sure, she said, RM 35pp! She could also provide breakfast and dinner.
How lucky we were! This is a place where I sure will come back. The surroundings evoke the atmosphere of the CH before it was overdeveloped. And the bungalow is located in the middle of the region of our interest.
So after installing ourselves, we just started walking around and we discovered that the Moonlight Bungalow, from where Thompson disappeared, is more or less around the corner! This bungalow is actually private and out of bounds, but we could no resist the temptation to trespass. Nobody living there at the moment, very scenic, you could easily imagine Thompson there, starting his walk.
Of course you must have a steamboat dinner, when you are in the CH, so we went to Brinchang, my favorite village in the CH.
After that back to "our" bungalow, sleep without AC, so quiet
Next morning, after a traditional English breakfast (cereals, bacon and eggs, toast and marmalade, tea for RM 8), we tried to get lost, so to speak..:-)
Near the bungalow we had seen a small stream, leading to a ridge. After an easy start, with some scrambling at the end, it took us to the ridge, where we had a surprisingly extensive view of the Malaysian jungle, with Guning Irau and Brinchang far away.
On our way back we took a different route and finally ended up again at the Moonlight bungalow. In the afternoon we followed a few more trails, without my GPS we could have been lost easily.
Dinner at the bungalow, prepared by our hostess Sally and her cook Ahmoy, consisted of mushroom soup, chicken with roast potatoes, long beans, home-made pickles, and a jelly for desert. Only missing was cheese and port...:-)
After dinner we went to Tana Ratah, to meet some friends of Ash. Nice guys, organising outdoor events, good to keep in touch with them!
The next morning the weather was so splendid, that we decided to drive up Gunung Brinchang. Often the summit is in the clouds, but this time we had spectacular views. We had tea and sandwiches in the Boh Sg Palas tea estate, then took the Simpang Pulai road down.
With the help of Chapman's "The Jungle is Neutral" and Google Earth I had made an educated guess about the location of the traitor-killing camp where Spencer Chapman stayed for one month, in 1944. This camp is located not far from Ipoh. A traitor-killing camp! The task of the people manning this camp, was the systematic and ruthless elimination of informers. Hard to imagine this in the peaceful surroundings, where we walked around. No trace of a camp, but what can you expect after more than 60 years?
Another beautiful adventure.