Topo Maps and Taiping

I love topographic maps. For my hiking trips I have bought a few from JUPEM, ,the Malaysian Survey Department. These are modern topo maps, scale 1:50000. Here is an example, a small part of sheet 126, the Hulu Langat Map, printed in 1994. I have marked some of my hikes in red and a few waterfalls in blue.

Probably JUPEM will have an archive of old topo maps, but there is nothing online. Actually I was unable to find any Malaysian site with historic map material.

Surprisingly the National Archive of Singapore has quite a lot of historic map material about the F.M.S and Malaya. I was very excited when I found a detailed map of Taiping, printed in 1928. It consists of four sheets, with Taiping in the center.

The scale of these maps is 4 Chains to an Inch. I had to Google to find the meaning of this colonial expression! A chain is a measuring device for surveying, with a length of 22 yards = 22 x 3 = 66 foot = 66 x 12 = 792 inches. Therefore 4 chains equals 4 x 792 = 3168 inches and the scale of the map in modern notation is 1:3168.

To create the map of Taiping town, I had to “glue’ the four map corners digitally together. Here is the result, not 100% accurate, but acceptable. I have used parts of this map in an earlier blog Meeting of Old-Timers . .

Recently a waterfall friend told me that he had found topo maps of Malaya in the National Library of Australia! A total of 379 maps, printed in the 1940s. Below I show two map details, the actual survey data go back to 1913. Notice the scale, one inch to a mile, 1:63360 in modern notation, 20 times the scale of the Taiping town map. The second detail explains why these maps are in the Australian National Library. Australian soldiers were fighting in Malaya against the Japanese and later against the communists during the Emergency.

The maps are very detailed with an extensive legend.

Here is the same part of the Ulu Langat map as above. If you enlarge the two maps and compare them carefully, you will see that the two waterfalls in Sg Ampang are indicated in the 1940 map (and a few more, smaller ones). To be honest, I doubt if those numerous small tributaries in the old map have been really surveyed.

It is a real treasure trove of information. But mow back to Taiping! Here are the two maps, containing Taiping, images 94 and 96 in the NLA collection.

Again Taiping is on the side of the map, so I had to “glue” the two maps together. Here is the result. Notice how Taiping is bordered on the West side by dredging locations, North Taiping dredging, Asam Kunbang dredging and South Taiping dredging

Here is a detail with the Port Weld Railway. Two stations between Port Weld and Taiping: Matang Road Halt and Simpang Halt. Port Weld had a Police station (PS), a Post & Telegraph Office (PTO) , a Customs station (CS) and a Forest checking station (FCS) . Teluk Kertang is where Isabella Bird landed in 1879. It still had a Customs station and a Forest checking station.

And here is a detail with the winding road up Maxwell Hill, ending at the Cottage. A few of the bungalows are marked, the Nest and the Box. Birch hill, Caulfield’s hill and Gunung Hijau are marked. There is a Post & Telegraph office at the 6th mile. And, a surprise for me, a hill near the Lake Gardens (lower left corner of the map) is called Speedy’s hill. For comparison I have also taken a GE screenshot of the same region.

The NLA topo map collection has often several editions of a specific map. The Taiping map is available in a 2nd edition, printed in September 1943 and a third edition, printed in May 1945. I noticed only one interesting difference, the access road to the Taiping Aerodrome. See the two screenshots. The third edition has a note : With additions and corrections from intelligence operations .In that period Malaya was still occupied by the Japanese!

Here is a Google Earth screenshot of the same region. To make comparison easier I have marked the old access road in red. I have also indicated Aulong, a New Village, built during the Emergency. Notice the many lakes in the upper left, remains of past dredging activity.

When you find other interesting features in these maps, you are welcome to write a comment.

The Gang of Four

Probably everybody knows about the Gang of Four who became (in)famous during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. There are more Gang of Four’s in the world, Wikipedia has a list of them. There are political groups, industrial ones, there is even a rock band with that name.

There is also a Gang of Four in Malaysia πŸ˜‰ ! Here they are. From left to right: Khong Tuck Koon, Jan Stuivenberg (me), Stephen Boey and George Tan.

When I settled down in Malaysia around the turn of the century, I got interested in waterfalls. That’s how I came into contact with Khong, who had created a waterfall website. Stephen was a friend of him and George his brother-in-law. Soon we became friends, as we shared many interests, waterfalls, birds, and not in the last place food. As we were all retired. we had time to make trips together. Often daytrips, where we first visited a waterfall or watched birds, always ending with a nice lunch.

In August 2005 Khong suggested a longer trip to Southern Thailand and it was during this trip that the name Gang of Four was coined for our fellowship. The picture above is from this trip. .A travelogue and many pictures can be found in this report: South Thailand. We visited a number of nature parks.

Of course we enjoyed the Thai food, we visited waterfalls and George kept track of our expenses meticulously πŸ˜‰

In those days, my camera was not good enough to take suitable bird pictures, so mostly I took food pictures. Here is an example of a birding trip to the Selangor Coast, a few weeks after our Thailand trip. In between breakfast and lunch there was bird watching, Khong and Stephen being the real birders, George and I the “accidental” birders, as we jokingly called ourselves.

In those days there was a social media site, called Multiply, where you could publish pictures and share them with family and friends.. I had my own account, and we decided to create a shared account “gangoffour” for our trips. Multiply was quite popular, but not profitable enough and after a couple of years they announced that the service. would be discontinued. I managed to download the content of all albums and wrote a script for my own Multiply website .Here is the first Gang of Four album: Trip up North, (13-16)-7-2006 We stayed two nights in Kulim and visited several birding locations in the region. One evening we went owling in Air Hitam Dalam with Dr Neoh and his wife. We also visited the canopy walkway at Sg Sedim and met more Penang birders at Ulu Paip. On our way back we visited Chan Ah Lak in Taiping. More details in the album.

A few weeks later we made a daytrip to Lagong. Joined this time by Gilbert and Yoke Sim, two birder friends. I had just bought a new camera, a Canon Powershot S3 with 12x zoom and image stabilising. Finally I could take bird pictures myself πŸ˜‰

Our next adventure was a 3D2N trip to Taiping and the Cameron Highlands in August 2006. When I searched in my collection of photo albums for a report about this trip, I discovered that I had never written one, although I had taken almost 200 photos! Of course memories had become a bit vague but with the help of the other GoF members I managed to write a rather belated report: Taiping & CH, August 2006. The album contains 60 photos of birds, flowers, food etc. Our friend Henry Hor joined us on this trip. As I was the photographer, I am not in many photos myself. Here are a few.

With my new compact camera I managed to take this picture of a Black-crowned Night-heron. I was so happy with it that I published it on my Birding in Malaysia website, one of the few bird photos I contributed πŸ˜‰ .

Sometimes the Gang of Four invited guests for a trip. It also happened that not all four of us were free, like on this day trip to Sekinchan, 22-1- 2007. Khong could not join, but as our “sifu” he provided us with a map of suitable birding locations. A few of the photos were taken by Stephen who also wrote some of the captions.

Several times the Gang of Four attended the Raptor Watch in Tanjung Tuan. Here is a report Raptor Watch 2007, This time we went with Gilbert and Yoke Sim, not sure if George was present. We hardly saw any raptors this time.

In May 2007 we went to Merapoh, where we stayed two nights in the Sg Relau visitor center. I didn’t take many pictures during this trip and forgot details. We were hoping to see the Pitta, but I don’t remember if we did. We had to prepare our own breakfast and lunch, for dinner we probably went to Gua Musang. But I still remember the pictures of two monitor lizards I took. Making love, I thought, until my friends explained that they were actually fighting for supremacy πŸ˜‰ . .

In September we made a 3D2N trip to Langkawi. We were joined by Gilbert and Yoke Sim and this time also by Aric. We took a flight to Langkawi and rented a car there. Aric and I visited mainly waterfalls while the others went birding. Of course we enjoyed the food and the fellowship. Here is a report Langkawi (11-13)-9-2007.

Two more day trips in 2007. On 25 October we went to the coast, Jeram and Kuala Selangor. George did not join this time. .

On 7 November we went to Fraser’s Hill. this time without Khong. The smelly rubbish dump is a favourite location for bird watching! But even with my 12x zoom, taking bird pictures is not that easy.

Much easier to take pictures of flowers πŸ˜‰ .

It was an active year for the Gang of Four with six events . Collecting data for this compilation, I noticed that Gilbert and Yoke Sim often joined, and that sometimes only three gang members were present. Stephen was always there, because he had a Pajero with enough space for even six pax!

The first trip in 2008 was to Taman Negara., 3D2N, and this time only Stephen and I represented the GoF . Richard, a hiking friend joined us. The trip is included here , because Stephen contributed quite a few photos to the report Taman Negara (7-9)-4-08. We did the canopy walk, visited a waterfall and had a very pleasant time. Here a few pictures, many more in the album.

A few weeks later a daytrip to Merlimau. I managed to take a few bird pictures.

In May we made an interesting trip to the Cameron Highlands via a new, still partly unfinished road. A detailed report here: New Road to the Cameron Highlands. George did not join, but Gilbert, Yoke Sim and Aric did. The new road was easily passable, and a nice adventure. We stayed overnight in Brinchang, had a traditional steamboat dinner and visited the Mossy Forest the next day before driving back home.

In August a daytrip to Sg Buloh with the complete Gang of Four. It was my lucky day, I took these pictures.

One month later an excursion to the Chiling waterfall, with Stephen, Khong and Robert, a Kiara friend. Stephen and Khong went birding while Robert and I explored the waterfall. Lunch in the WK restaurant in Batang Kali

On 23 November 2008 the Gang of Four attended the wedding of George’s daughter. It was a festive event, where we met many friends. Have a look at the album . Here is the Gang of Four in festive attire.

A few days later we made a trip to Kedah, staying overnight in Kuala Gula. Without George , but with Gilbert and Yoke Sim and this time our friend Zen joined us. I don’t remember if we did any birding, we had a rather dismal lunch in Tanjung Tualang, stayed in a kind of Airbnb and visited the Hua Seng Keng Temple, located in the middle of nowhere near Kuala Gula. Quite interesting, especially the depiction of the Underworld. I got sick on the way back home.

January 2009 we made another trip to Taiping, 3D2N. When I looked for a report, I discovered that I had never written one, same as in 2006. So I wrote a belated report, using a selction of the pictures, without much text, because I forgot details. We visited the Tanjung Tualang tin dredge, Papan, the SBS Buddhist Sanctuary, the Wild Boar temple in Kamunting., the Lake gardens and probably we did some birding. Here is the report, Taiping, January 2009.

In December that year we made a trip to Parit Jawa. Again without George, but with Gilbert and Yoke Sim. I had just bought a new camera, a Nikon D5000. Here is the album: Parit Jawa (2-3)-12-2009. Some of the bird photos taken during the trip, , S= Stephen, K=Khong, J=Jan.

The yearly number of GoF trips was getting less. On 14 March 2010 we made a short trip to Genting. You may wonder what Khong, Stephen and Gilbert are looking at in this photo.

I don’t remember if we have seen birds during this trip. I took only pictures of a crowd of beetles. The main reason to go to Genting was probably that there was a buffet promotion πŸ˜‰

In that year we went to Taiping with Kiara friends: Mostly Makan, August 2010 , and we were invited for the wedding of Zen’s daughter, Zen’s wedding party 23-10-2010 , but those were not really GoF activities.

In December 2011 we had a “real” GoF trip, again to Taiping. Khong did not join. There is no album about this 2D1N trip, I don’t remember where we stayed overnight and where we had our food.

But we went birding. although I forgot the location

The last “official” GoF trip took place in May 2012. Again I discovered that I had never written a report about this trip. But I was able to reconstruct more or less what we did, using my pictures and also emails we exchanged after the trip. Here is the report: Taiping, May 2012. It was a 3D2N trip to Taiping, we stayed one night in the Beringin bungalow on Maxwell Hill.

Of course we met each other after this, but no more trips, as far as I remember. You will have noticed that after our maiden trip Gilbert and Yoke Sim were often taking part, making it more a Gang of Six. They were real birders, compared to the accidental birders George and me. The four real birders may have made more birding trips after 2012.

Around 2018, 6(!) years later, we decided that it would be nice to have lunch meetings every now and then. Khong, always the organiser, created a WhatsApp chat group GoF Classic, with the original Gang of Four as members. As one of our mottos was : Value For Money (VFM), the venues for our meetings were restaurants with attractive promotions.

Our first GoF-VFM lunch meeting was 16 November 2018 in the Skaters Cafe in the Royale Chulan hotel in Damansara. Notice how Stephen looks like a patriarch.

It was nice to meet and talk, so a few weeks later we had a second meeting, this time in the OUG Jade restaurant.

Our next meeting was in my condo in Damansara Perdana. I had promised my friends a lunch with traditional Dutch Pancakes.

In October 2019 we had a buffet lunch in the Kampung Kitchen, a restaurant in the Ibis Hotel, near KLCC.

And that was our latest meeting until now, a couple of months later Malaysia went into lockdown because of Covid-19.

Hopefully we can continue this tradition soon.

A Backyard Hike

About two months ago I wrote a blog about Bukit Lanjan. Although these days Bukit Kiara is open again, I still hike regularly in my “backyard”. A group of active hikers living in Damansara Perdana is maintaining the trails and exploring new ones. One of their recent discoveries is a rocky outcrop, from where you have a nice view of the surroundings. It is becoming popular now, a nice place to relax and have a coffee or a beer. Aptly named the Hard Rock CafΓ©. The red track in the GE screenshot below is a short and interesting route to the Hard Rock.

Yesterday I went again, with my friend Bee. We started from my condo and met a group of Armanee Condo parents with their kids, also going for a hike. Good initiative, in Dutch we have an expression: Jong geleerd is oud gedaan. (Google for a translation)

We started with the pink trail (see map). Last week I had noticed that parts of it were almost overgrown. I had mentioned it in the chat group and the trailblazers replied that they would take care of it. They did, here is the amazing result. Left the situation one week ago.

I like the pink trail, the few steep parts are provided with ropes.

On the rocky outcrop we met the parents and their kids again. Really nice!

A tarp is under construction for shelter in case of rain. I noticed some nice flowers

When I visited the Hard Rock two weeks ago with my friend Rahim, he constructed a nice rock cairn. They are not meant for eternity, rain or strong wind can make them collapse. One week later, a new smaller one had been created, and this time nothing was left.

Here Bee is creating a new one.

And here is the result. Mother and child. When I visited a waterfall , I always left a cairn. Here is a blog about it: Rock Balancing.

After the Hard Rock CafΓ© we did not yet go back, but continued to the maroon traill (see map). A hiker friend had spotted hanging bird nests along the trail at two locations. It was no problem to find them.

These nests have been created by Baya Weaver birds. Fascinating. The nests were not used at the moment.

The maroon trail is longer with many steep parts.. A disadvantage is that part of it runs quite close to the highway, therefore very noisy. Ropes are helpful and we found numerous ginger flowers this time.

We also found a nice jackfruit tree.. Bee spotted more fruits high up in the tree

The second location of weaver nests had only one nest, high up in a tree. To get back home we got lost for a while, finally we found the trail, completely overgrown..

We finished our hike at the Datuk Shrine next to Perdana View condo. For reasons unknown to me, MK Land had blocked the exit with barbed wire, but you can still pass without problems.

Total hiking distance and time 5 km. 3 hours (including many stops)

The Rawang Bypass

The Rawang Bypass is a highway opened in 2017 to avoid the frequent traffic congestion in Rawang. It contains the highest roadway viaduct of Malaysia, with pillars up to 58 meter above ground level. It is possible to hike from Rawang to a viewpoint high above the viaduct. Deco Diver, a friend of mine, has written a blog about this hike with a clear description of the route to follow.

We started with breakfast in Rawang. Not easy to find a shop that was open, because of Ramadan, but after some driving around we managed to find a place where we had an acceptable mee goreng.

Looking for the trailhead we overlooked the one suggested by my friend, but found another one nearby. Apparently the location is popular with Rawang hikers, signs indicate the various trails. A nice, easy walk.

The trail passes a few shrines, an Indian Hindu shrine and next to it a Chinese Datok Kong one.

After a little more than 1 km we reached the highway, which is still at ground level here. You can cross to the other side by a drain, but we continued on a maintenance road next to the highway. Easy walking, although not very interesting.

After about about 600 meter, the viaduct starts and you can cross under the highway to the other side. Mind your head πŸ˜‰ .

The view of the supporting pillars is quite spectacular, we met another group who was coming back from the viewpoint and also stopped here to take pictures.

After crossing a drain on a flimsy bridge, the climb to the viewpoint starts. There are steps and ropes to help you.

Halfway you have already a nice view of the viaduct.

The climb becomes more challenging because you have to follow the drains. and they are constructed to guide the water down, with slanting steps. Care is needed, fortunately there are ropes attached to give you support.

The steep stretch is only a few hundred meter long, you have to climb about 60 meter to reach the viewpoint. A big tree gives shade, it is a perfect place to relax and enjoy the view.

Of course we took pictures to prove that we have been there.

Aric had brought his drone.

In this drone picture you see how the highway has been cut into the rocks. Notice the yellow marker, top right. That’s the viewpoint. It is often called Bukit Matt (Matt hill), although it is not a Bukit at all.

The viaduct. The main reason to build an (expensive!) elevated viaduct was to save more forest.

After a coffee break we climbed down the same way. Going down you must be even more careful! Not suitable after rain. We saw some nice pitcher plants.

We walked back on the maintenance road until we reached the drain. Beware! Before you reach this wide drain, you will pass two very narrow ones.

There was not much water, it will be different after a downpour.

Swiftlets have built their nests inside the drain, Aric managed to take pictures of them.

Walking back to the car we noticed these markings . Physical distancing according to the SOP! A reminder that the Covid pandemic was still around. No idea if anyone would follow these rules in this natural environment.

Another Hindu shrine near were our car was parked.

The whole trip took about 3 hours. We were hungry and our friend Jennifer, who lives in the region, knew about a Hakka eatery in Rawang, where they serve Lei Cha as a specialty. We went there and it was a good choice.

They also prepare healthy juices and even Lei Cha pizza! The owner is very friendly. We will come back.

It was a nice excursion. Here is a Google Earth screenshot, where I have marked a few locations. The yellow line marks the shorter, but less interesting route.

Bukit Lanjan

In October 2005 we moved from USJ to Damansara Perdana, where we had bought a condo in Perdana View with a beautiful view of the forested slopes of the 335 high Bukit Lanjan.

In those days I walked often in Bukit Kiara, but I also explored Bukit Lanjan a few times. Here is one of my first hikes, January 2007. The GE imagery is from 2007. I have marked a few locations. MK Land had permission to develop the hill on condition that they would provide housing for the Temuan Orang Asli who were living on the hill. Bottom left you see the Desa Temuan, nice bungalows. The Armanee condo’s were under construction and a beginning had been made with the development of Rafflesia. On the top of the hill Mustapha Kamal had built his own residence.

Although the Temuan had moved to the new village, they still had huts and (durian) plantations on the hill, so the trails were well maintained.

A lot of development was going on, but our view of the hill was still unspoilt. Top left you can see the two Telecom towers.

Here is another hike, September 2009. It was durian season, we met a few friendly orang asli families and had durians.

We climbed up to the top, lost the trail, but managed to reach the Telecom towers, from where we had a nice view of the KL skyline.

Our hike ended in a funny way. We decided to walk back, following the tar road. That road has been declared private after the MK residence was built, with a guard house at the beginning. The guards at the house were shocked to see people approaching from the top of the hill. We explained that we had been jungle hiking. A guard on a motorbike escorted us down until the gate. From there we walked a trail back home

I walked a few more times in Bukit Lanjan in the period 2007-2010, in this GE screenshot I have collected my hikes. Notice de development of Rafflesia

In November 2010 we were shocked to discover that the forested hill slope was being logged. MK Land had sold part of the hill to another developer, Mammoth Empire.

We could watch the subsequent development from our balcony.

I don’t understand how a developer could get permission to build on such steep slopes. At one time even a minor landslide occurred where they had been drilling.

This is the present situation of what is called the Empire Residences, as seen from our balcony. A small part of the project has been completed, the rest has come to a standstill for several years already. The Low Yat forum has 46 pages about the Empire Residences, mostly negative. It’s a failed project, IMHO.

In the period 2010-2020 I still have been walking occasionally in Bukit Lanjan, but it became less interesting, because the Temuan no longer maintained their gardens and trails. Here and there fencing appeared, blocking access. Here is a collection of my walks in that period.

More than one year ago the COVID-19 pandemic started, causing a lockdown in Malaysia and limiting me in my freedom to walk and hike. I wrote a blog about it: Lockdown! .

Parks were closed, but I still could walk from my condo, following the tar road. During one of my walks I noticed a trail to the right, with a red-white marker ribbon. I followed it for some distance, it looked like a regular trail.

When I came back to the road, I met another hiker, Encik Wan, who told me that recently several trails had been developed by a group of active hikers, living in Damansara Perdana. They had erected a signboard about the Bukit Lanjan Community trails near my condo. A nice surprise, I became a member of their chat group.

On 16 January Wan took me to my first Bukit Lanjan trail, just starting from my front door, so to speak πŸ˜‰ . A nice hike, views of the surroundings, some steep parts, where ropes were provided.

More hikes followed. Unfortunately it became clear very soon that MK Land was unhappy with this community initiative. They started to block trail heads , removed marker ribbons and supporting ropes.

I do not understand their attitude, no harm is done and the trails add value to Damansara Perdana and MK Land’s residential projects.

Most trails are still accessible and during the past three months I have been able to explore many of them. Compared with Bukit Kiara, the trails are more rough, after rain they can be slippery. Ropes are helpful.

Bukit Lanjan is still a green enclave, but surrounded by concrete jungle and highways.

This is my favourite tree on the hill. One friend calls it Jan’s tree because I like to take pictures of the tree with my friends,

The trig marks the highest pint of Bukit Lanjan at an elevation of 335 m above sea-level. Access is not easy. On one of my hikes I met friendly people who were surveying. I hope it is not a sign for more development of the hill.

For me hiking is not just for exercise. Enjoying nature is even more important.

And not to forget: relaxing during a hike with coffee and cake ;-)!

Here is a Google Earth screenshot of the trails I have been hiking in Bukit Lanjan the last few months. I really hope they will remain accessible in the future.

Batang Kali waterfall

Since the beginning of the lockdown in Malaysia (March 2020), I have visited only two waterfalls, Templer Park and Lata Iskandar. When you know about my fascination with Malaysian waterfalls, you will understand how excited I was when my friend Edwin suggested a trip to waterfalls in the Batang Kali-Ulu Yam region. Interstate travel was still prohibited, but these waterfalls are in the state of Selangor.

There were two options, either the Kedondong fall or waterfalls in the Batang Kali river, recently explored by him. As I had visited the Kedondong fall already, I was interested in the Batang Kali waterfalls. Interested but also a bit anxious. I am getting older and have lost my self-confidence in the jungle. I discussed my concern with Edwin and we decided to limit ourself to an “easy” waterfall in the Batang Kali River. Teoh, one of my waterfall “godsons” was eager to join as well.

Edwin picked me up from my condo at 7:30 am and took me for breakfast to the 333 Kopitiam in Ulu Yam Baharu, where Teoh was already waiting for us. We had bitter gourd pork noodles and yam pork noodles, especially the second one was delicious and a reason to come back.

We parked our cars at the Kedondong Recreation Park, for safety, although it meant that we first had to walk along the road about 800 m to the trailhead. We started hiking around 10 am

From the trailhead we hiked down to a tributary of the Batang Kali river, which we had to cross.

Crossing was easy. For the first time in two(!) years I was wearing my kampung Adidas.

There was a clear trail with beautiful bamboo groves. Locals probably come here to harvest bamboo, even a temporary shed was built.

Here and there bamboo had fallen across the trail, but still easy to pass.

It was a real pleasure to be back in the jungle. Only a few leeches.

We had to cross the Batang Kali river once. Easy.

After about 30 minutes we reached the waterfall. Not a tall one, but a lot of water and a huge pool.

Of course we took a refreshing bath.

Edwin is an experienced swimmer and managed to swim behind the water curtain. I took a video, you can hardly see his face behind the water, until he dives through it :-).

Here I am relaxing near the fall. A happy man. I am always a bit worried about bees and wasps as I am allergic to their stings, but there were hardly any in this pristine location.

After frolicking around, we took the same trail back to the main road. Two ways of crossing the river, using the fallen tree (Edwin) or just getting wet feet (Teoh and I).

Around 1 pm we were back at our cars, getting hungry. Teoh had to go back to work (!), Edwin suggested that we could visit an orchid farm in Ulu Yam, where they also had a nice cafΓ©. This World of Phalaenopsis was a pleasant surprise. Large collection of orchids, friendly atmosphere

Well maintained place with not only orchids.

Although it was a weekday, there were many visitors both in the farm and in the cafΓ©. I had a waffle with strawberries and ice cream for lunch. A place to visit again.

I wanted to buy an orchid to bring home, the red one I carry in the left picture. A friendly sales guy advised me to choose the one with larger flowers, they would last longer. Three orchids for RM 30 only.

A very rewarding outing. Thanks to Edwin for taking the initiative and to Teoh for his company. Real fellowship, good for boosting my self-confidence.

Here is a Google Earth of the Batang Kali region. The red part is along the road, the green one the trail. I have also marked the locations of the 333 Kopitiam and the orchid farm.

Isabella Bird & Taiping

In several earlier posts I have mentioned Isabella Bird, who visited Taiping in 1879. In this post I will describe in somewhat more detail the visit of this intrepid English traveller.

Isabella Bird was born in 1831. Already at a young age she was bitten by the travel bug. During her travels she wrote letters to her sister Henrietta in Edinburgh and these letters have been published in a number of books.

In 1878 she visits Japan (resulting in her book Unbeaten Tracks in Japan) and on her way back to England she spends a few weeks in Hong Kong. On 10 January 1879 she has a lunch with Chief Justice Snowden. In a letter to her sister she writes :

” .. he urges me to go to Malacca on my way home. I had never dreamed of the “Golden Chersonese;” but I am much inspired by his descriptions of the neighborhood of the Equator, and as he has lent me Newbold’s Malacca for the voyage, and has given me letters to the Governor and Colonial Secretary of the Straits Settlements, you will next hear from me from Singapore! “

On 18 January she arrives in Singapore where she is the guest of Cecil Smith, the Colonial Secretary of the Straits Settlements. She writes:

“I wonder how this unexpected and hastily planned expedition into the Malay States will turn out? It is so unlikely that the different arrangements will fit in. It seemed an event in the dim future; but yesterday my host sent up a “chit” from his office to say that a Chinese steamer is to sail for Malacca in a day or two, and would I like to go?”

She has only 5 minutes to decide. And of course she goes, always eager to escape from civilisation πŸ˜‰ .

The two quotes above are from her book The Golden Chersonese and the Way Thither , published in 1883. Left the original edition, right my own copy, a reprint from 2000. You can also read it online or download it to your tablet.

The Golden Chersonese is the ancient name for the Malay Peninsula. The book contains 23 letters, in the first seven chapters/letters she describes her visits to Hong Kong, Canton, Saigon and Singapore (the Way Thither).

I have read her book with admiration and fascination. What a remarkable lady.

Before I write about her travels, first a short description of the (political) situation in the Malay Peninsula during the seventies of the 19th century.

There were the Straits Settlements, a British Crown Colony consisting of Penang, Melaka ,Singapore ( and after 1874 the Dindings), and many independent Malay states. Several of them were in turmoil, for a variety of reasons, the Larut wars (1861-1874) in Perak , the Klang War (1867-1874) in Selangor, a Civil War (1873) in Sungei Ujong {present day Seremban). The result of the Pangkor Treaty (1874) was that Perak accepted a British Resident and soon Selangor and Sungei Ujong followed. The first Resident of Perak , J.W.W Birch, was murdered in November 1875, resulting in the Perak War (1875-1875) . Turbulent times.

And to give you an impression how unknown the peninsula was in those days, from 1875 until 1882 D.D. Daly, Superintendent of Public Works and Surveys, Selangor, surveyed the Malay peninsula with this map as one of the results. His report, presented to the Royal Geographic Society in 1882, is very readable.

On 19 January Isabella Bird leaves Singapore with the SS Rainbow. A small screw steamer with an interesting history. First owned by Rajah Brooke of Sarawak, later sold to the Government of the Straits Settlements and finally to Chinese merchants. Overloaded with about 150 people, she being the only “white man and Christian”, she lands the next day in Melaka “.. after a most pleasant voyage in a steamer one would have thought too bad to voyage in”.

Melaka was part of the Straits Settlement, a sleepy town ” .. the narrow stream and bridge, and the quaint red-tiled roofs of the town, is very charming and harmonious; yet I often think, if these dreamy days went on into months, that I should welcome an earthquake shock, or tornado .. ” She stays in the Stadthuys.

From Melaka she makes an adventurous trip to Sg Ujong, first with a steam launch to the mouth of the Linggi river, then in a perahu. Her description in letter XI is so fascinating that, many years ago, I followed by car, as close as possible, the Linggi river with a friend, from the river mouth to Seremban: Linggi adventure, 15-7-2008. Here I am standing near the river, no crocodiles or tigers anymore.

Isabella’s next destination is Selangor. On 1 February she arrives in Klang (“a most mistriven, decayed, dejected, miserable-looking place “). She stays in the Residency, makes a trip to Jugra to visit the Sultan and is clearly less happy then in Sg Ujong.

A few days later she sails to Penang aboard the Abdulsamad, the yacht of the Sultan, visiting Kuala Selangor and Sabba (Sabak Bernam) on the Bernam river on their way. She spends one night in the Hotel de l’Europe (nowadays part of the E&O hotel) and 10 February she crosses over to Province Wellesley, where in the evening the steamer Kinta arrives with W. E. Maxwell, the Assistant Resident of Perak. In his company two nice Malay boys, the sons of the exiled Sultan Abdullah who will go to Melaka for their education. This is the Kinta.

They leave at night and the next morning at 7 am they reach Teluk Kertang, in those days the main port of Taiping , (“.. with a pier, a long shed, two or three huts, and some officialism, white and partly white, all in a “dismal swamp”) Nowadays Teluk Kertang is a quiet kampong with several shipyards and charcoal kilns.

In gharries (horse-drawn carriages) they drive to the residency. In Permatang they pass “ … two very large two-storied Malay houses in some disrepair, in which the wife of the banished MΔ•ntri of Larut lives, with a number of slaves.  ” That must have been Kota Ngah Ibrahim. Of course it looks very different now.

It was here that in 1876 the trial of Birch’s murderers took place, resulting in the conviction and hanging of two Malay noblemen and the banishment of Sultan Abdullah and Ngah Ibrahim to the Seychelles. The Kota is now a museum, on the first floor you can see scenes of the trial.

They continue to Taiping: “From this point we drove along an excellent road toward the mountains …. and near noon entered this important Chinese town, with a street about a mile long, with large bazaars and shops making a fine appearance, … and on the top of a steep, isolated terraced hill, the British Residency“.  The green line in this Google Earth screenshot, is probably how she went from Teluk Kertang to the Residency.

Maxwell resided in what nowadays is the District Officer’s Residence, originally built by Captain Speedy.

It must have looked very different when Isabella Bird stayed there. In her description: “The Residency is large and lofty, and thoroughly draughty, a high commendation so near the equator. It consists of a room about thirty feet wide by sixty long, and about twenty feet high at its highest part, open at both ends, the front end a great bow window without glass opening on an immense veranda.

She stays a couple of days in the Residency and enjoys it very much. “The house on my side has a magnificent view of the beautiful Hijan hills, down which a waterfall tumbles in a broad sheet of foam only half a mile off, and which breed a rampageous fresh breeze for a great part of the day”. Here is the waterfall, a bit further away than she thought, one and a half mile away from the Residency.

She continues her description: “The front veranda looks down on Taipeng and other Chinese villages, on neat and prolific Chinese vegetable gardens, on pits, formerly tin mines, now full of muddy, stagnant water, on narrow, muddy rivulets bearing the wash of the tin mines to the Larut river”. Taiping as seen from the Residency may have looked like this. One year later, in 1880, the town was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in brick.

The food is simple and Maxwell is working all the time “There are two simple meals daily, with tea and bananas at 7 A.M., and afternoon tea at 5 P.M. Mr. Maxwell is most abstemious, and is energetically at work from an early hour in the morning

She is alone a lot , visits the town and enjoys the company of the two boys. “Those boys of Sultan Abdullah’s are the most amusing children I ever saw. They are nine and twelve years old, with monkey-like, irrepressible faces. They have no ballast. They talk ceaselessly, and are very playful and witty, but though a large sum is being paid for their education at Malacca, they speak atrocious “pidjun,” and never use Malayan, in my hearing at least”. Interesting detail, the two boys, Raja Chulan and Rajah Ngah Mansur were later involved in the creation of the Perak State Anthem.

During her stay she also visits a tin mine in Kamunting. She gives a detailed description of how a mine is working and is treated well by the Chinese owner of the mine who “..  had conveyed champagne, sherry, and bitter beer! His look of incredulity when we said that we preferred tea, was most amusing; but on our persisting, he produced delicious tea with Chinese sweetmeats, and Huntley and Palmer’s cocoa-nut biscuits” She must have loved food, mentions it often in her book!

She also wants to meet Hugh Low, the British Resident, who is residing in Kuala Kangsar, the royal capital of Perak. Kuala Kangsar is less than 25 km from Taiping, as the crow flies, But there are hills and mountains in
between . Have a look at this enlarged details of the 1882 map. The only connection between Kuala Kangsar and Taiping was via the pass at Bukit Berapit, and there was no real road yet. The plan was that Isabella Bird would travel to Kuala Kangsar by elephant and a telegram had been sent that elephants should come to Taiping and meet her.

In the early morning of 14 February: “We had bananas and chocolate, and just at daybreak walked down the hill, where I got into a little trap drawn by a fiery little Sumatra pony, and driven by Mr. Gibbons, a worthy Australian miner who is here road-making, and was taken five miles to a place where the road becomes a quagmire not to be crossed”. This place must have been Changkat Jering, via Air Kuning about 6 miles from the Residency.

But the telegraph line was broken, and Maxwell who had accompanied her, was unable to find other elephants. “There was nothing for it but to walk, and we tramped for four miles. I could not have done the half of it had I not had my “mountain dress” on, the identical mud-colored tweed, in which I waded through the mud of Northern Japan. ” Actually she enjoys this walk tremendously, giving a vivid description of all the flowers, shrubs and trees she finds on her path.

Finally “After walking for four miles we came upon a glorious sight at a turn of the road, a small lake behind which the mountains rise forest-covered, with a slope at their feet on which stand the cocoa-nut groves, and the beautiful Malay house of the exiled MΔ•ntri of Larut” Nowadays the house and the lake don’t exist anymore, only the tombs of Long Jaafar, the father of Ngah Ibrahim.

Here she waits for the elephants to arrive, while being offered cocoa-nuts, buffalo milk and lotus seeds. She writes: “Beyond is the picturesque kampong of Matang, with many good houses and a mosque. Passing through a gateway with brick posts, we entered a large walled enclosure …. “ She makes a mistake here, it is not Matang but Bukit Gantang! There is still a mosque, a porch and remains of an enclosure. Of course not necessarily the same as mentioned by her πŸ™‚

Finally her elephant arrives. The ways she describes the animal (a hideous beast) , the mounting ( I dropped into one of these baskets from the porch ), the driver ( a gossiping, careless fellow ), the riding (This mode of riding is not comfortable ), the unmounting ( letting myself down by a rattan rope upon the driver, who made a step of his back ) is so vivid and often hilarious, that I decided to combine all the passages about her elephant ride into a separate document, The first elephant ride of Isabella Bird

Although the ride is not comfortable, she enjoys the scenery (The pass of Bukit Berapit, seen in solitude on a glorious morning, is almost worth a journey round the world ) and the hospitality ( I clambered into a Malay dwelling of the poorer class, and was courteously received and regaled with bananas and buffalo milk) . Because the elephant is “unruly”, she walks the last few miles and has her first encounter with leeches (surprised to find that my boots were filled with blood, and on looking for the cause I found five small brown leeches, beautifully striped with yellow, firmly attached to my ankles. )

After ten hours of traveling she reaches Kuala Kangsar. “When the sun was low I looked down upon a broad and beautiful river, with hills and mountains on its farther side, a village on the shores of a promontory, and above that a grassy hill with a bungalow under cocoa-palms at its top, which I knew must be the Residency, from the scarlet uniforms at the door”.

Here is how she traveled from Taiping to Kuala Kangsar. Air Kuning and Changkat Jering are not mentioned in her book, but this seems to me the most probable route. In red the part she had to walk. The Perak river in blue

Here is her description of the Residency: …at the top of a steep slope the bungalow, which has a long flight of stairs under a latticed porch, leading to a broad and comfortably furnished veranda used as the Resident’s office and sitting-room, the centre part, which has a bed-room on each side of it and runs to the back of the house, serving for the eating-place. It is as unpretending a dwelling as can be. It keeps out the sun and rain, and gives all the comfort which is needed in this climate, but nothing more. Even simpler than the Residency in Taiping.

The Residency as described by Isabella is no more there. In 1885 Hugh Low rebuilt the Residency , there exists a picture of it. The right picture gives a view of Kuala Kangsar in the 1870s,

In 1905 the Residence was demolished to make place for the King’s Pavilion, accommodation for the British High Commissioner to the Federated Malay States . Now it houses a school.

When she arrives in the Residency, she finds out that “Mr. Low, the Resident, has not returned, and I am not only alone in his bungalow in the heart of the jungle, but so far as I can learn I am the only European in the region“. She is received by the butler, has a nice bath, unfortunately her valise has not yet arrived, so she is obliged to re-dress in her mud-splashed tweed dress. She is annoyed when she sees that dinner is prepared for three, as she is not in the mood for social conversation. But it turns out that the other two guests are Mahmoud and Eblis, the two pet apes of Hugh Low!

She is fascinated by these apes and writes so often about them in her letters that I have collected these passages in a separate document Isabella Bird and the apes of Hugh Low .

On the night of her arrival, the Sinhalese clark of Hugh Low suggests that she could make a trip the following day, this time riding the Royal elephant of the Sultan. “He is such a height (they say ten feet!) that, though he lay down to be mounted, a good-sized ladder was needed for the climb upon his back”. They ride in the jungle for seven hours on the left bank of the Perak river, passing several Malay kampongs. She enjoys everything, almost intoxicated by the beauty of the flowers, the butterflies, the majestic trees. After several hours they arrive at a kampong where they dismount for lunch,  “looking out from deep shadow down upon the beautiful river lying in the glory of the noonday sun, its banks bright with birds and butterflies”.

The locals tell her guide that it is possible to ford the Perak river. “The mahout said that the elephant was a “diver,” and would probably dive, but that there was no danger to us except of getting very wet” She likes the idea of crossing the river to the other side and doesn’t mind getting wet. So they go: “the elephant gently dropped down and was entirely submerged, moving majestically along, with not a bit of his huge bulk visible, the end of his proboscis far ahead, writhing and coiling like a water snake every now and then.”

After crossing the Perak river (and getting wet), Low’s clark says “”I’m going to take you to Koto-lamah; no European has been there since the war. I’ve never been there, nor the Resident either.”

The war he is talking about is the Perak war and it was in Kota Lama that the decisive battle between the British army and the warriors of Maharaja Lela took place: The Battle of Kota Lama Kanan. That was on 4 January 1876, just three years before Isabella’s visit! While crossing the river, her guide says “A few months ago they would have been firing at us from both sides of the river “

I have visited Kota Lama Kanan recently . Very peaceful and rural, difficult to imagine that a battle took place here. But at the mosque we found a cannon, the caretaker told us that it is one of the two cannons used in the battle. From the mosque you can walk down to the river. It doesn’t look very fordable here.

The reception of Isabella in Kota Lama Kanan is not unfriendly, although many men are armed with parangs, spears and even muskets and one of the woman she meets is the widow of Maharaja Lela! “However, though as a Briton I could not have been a welcome visitor, they sent a monkey for two cocoa-nuts, and gave me their delicious milk; and when I came away they took the entrance ladder from one of the houses to help me to mount the elephant.”

They ride back on an overgrown elephant track, passing several lairs and tiger tracks until they reach Kuala Kangsar, where they have to cross the Perak river again, this time in a dugout. Here are two illustrations from her book, a dugout and a street in Kuala Kangsar.

When Hugh Low hears about this adventure, he is at first displeased, saying that the clerk was ignorant and foolish, but later he admits that it has been useful to show that the region was pacified now. “..but, he added, it would appear somewhat odd that the first European to test the disposition of the Koto-lamah people should be a lady

Her stay in Kuala Kangsar is full of variety. She meets Malay Royalty, Raja Yusuf (regent of Perak), Raja Idris (the future sultan) , the two sons of Abdullah, goes bird-shooting with Captain Walker and of course there are the apes.

So it is reluctantly that she leaves Kuala Kangsar. Hugh Low likes her company,. “Mr. Low kindly expresses regret at my going, and says he has got quite used to my being here, and added: “You never speak at the wrong time. When men are visiting me they never know when to be quiet, but bother one in the middle of business.”

Her trip back to Taiping is uneventful and much faster than when she came by elephant, one week earlier. I rode a capital pony, on Mr. Low’s English saddle, a Malay orderly on horseback escorting me, and the royal elephant carried my luggage.

She stays a few more days in Taiping before leaving for Penang, from where she sails back to England on the 25th of February.

I have concentrated in this blog on her travel adventures. The book contains a lot more, there are separate, quite informative, chapters about the states she has visited. Of course she is still a product of the Victorian era, fully convinced of the superiority of the Brits. She can be quite blunt in her opinion about the Malays and especially about the Chinese.

Taiping, October 2020

Wow, are you going to Taiping again, my friends asked me, your last visit was in August, only six weeks ago! What could I say, I was just missing my 2nd hometown. So on Thursday 1 October I took the ETS again. I was a bit shocked, especially in the train, by the lack of social distancing, but fortunately I was sitting next to a friendly lady, who was on her way back from visiting her grandchildren in KL. A retired teacher like me, we had a nice chat.

In Taiping, my friend Lay Chun, fetched me from the station. First we had lunch in 3939, a popular hawker center. I had prawn mee.

One of the reasons that I wanted to come back to Taiping so soon, was to see with my own eyes the pillars of the former Residency. In 2013 I wrote a blog Shame on Taiping! about the deplorable condition of several heritage buildings in Taiping. The Pillars and the ruins of the State Rest house/ Casuarina Inn on Residency Hill were one of them. After that report I visited the hill almost every time I was in Taiping.

This picture is from September 2014. I have marked two pillars in this and the following pictures with red crosses.

August 2020. During my last visit we took drone pictures (left). The two pillars have become invisible, completely overgrown (right).

On 19 September a gotong royong (cleaning operation) was organised by the Taiping Heritage Society and many other NGO’s, with a follow-up the next week. I was eager to see the result, so I asked Lay Chun to drive to Residency Hill before dropping me at hotel Furama.

I was really amazed at the effect of the cleaning operation. What a wonderful job had been done, with the support of the Taiping Municipal Council (MPT). All the pillars had been cleaned and were visible again.

Also a start had been made with the cleaning of the State Rest House. This relatively new building was built around 1970, to replace the Rajah Rest House and the Town Rest House. To make space for it, the former British Residency was demolished, with only the pillars left standing.

When I was there, I chatted a bit with Encik Hasmi from the Heritage Unit of the MPT, who was showing the place to a group of interested visitors. I really hope this initiative will result in a new lease of life for the pillars and the Residency Hill.

After taking a rest in my hotel, I walked to the Lake Gardens. Dinner that night with my friend George , who also happened to be In Taiping. Again in Pusat Makanan 3939.

It has become a tradition to visit Mrs Long, the sister of my Singapore friend ST Lee, during my Taiping visits This time I had breakfast with her and her friend Ms Chong in a nearby Indian shop.

She is a well-known and beloved person in Taiping, it was nice to see how happy people were to meet her.

Although she is 90 year old now, she is still full of energy, we walked around quite a bit . The two pictures below epitomise for me the charm of Taiping, a mixture of beauty and decay. Not all Taipingites will agree with me, but personally I wouldn’t mind if the town remained like this forever πŸ˜‰

Ms Chong is living in a beautiful house on Station Road. One of my favorites, every time I passed it, I admired the architecture and wondered how it would look inside. So when she asked if I would like to come in for a while, I accepted her invitation with pleasure.

After our walk we went to Ansari for cendol and pasembor.

The owner of Ansari was visiting India and can’t come back (yet), as Malaysia has closed its borders because of Covid-19. Therefore his two sons temporarily manage this famous landmark of Taiping.

It was a very pleasant meeting, very nice to see how lovingly Ms Chong was taking care of her friend.

I had rented a bicycle in Furama, very convenient in Taiping. In the afternoon I used it to ride to the Residency of the OBJ. Toh Puan Nori , his wife, had organised a meeting with senior Taiping citizens, to talk about Taiping’s history.

I had prepared a selection of slides. It was an animated discussion, especially about the Pillars and the New State Rest House. I wrote a separate blog about it: A Meeting of Old-Timers .

The next day, Saturday, there was a new round of gotong royong at the Residency Hill. When I arrived there, on my bike, there were already many people from various NGO’s. Here is a video.

To be honest, I didn’t really take part in the actual cleaning, I mainly took photographs (and was photographed). And I had my breakfast, the catering was well organised.

At around 11am the gotong royong was finished. Time for a real adventure! With friends I visited Menggelunchor, a water slide near Kuala Kangsar that was popular in the early 20th century. Here we are standing in front of it, from left to right Syafiqi who guided us to the slide, my THS friend Halim, me and Pak Yang , an outdoor enthusiast. For a detailed report click here.

There was time enough for more. First we visited the Green Stone Camp, a project of Pak Yang, on the banks of the Kangsar river. Remote location and clear water, still under construction, a place to keep in mind.

Then it was time for lunch. We had assam laksa in the well-known Laksa Buyong stall in Bukit Gantang. I had told the others that I would pay for the lunch and was surprised that I only had to fork out RM 6.50 ! It turned out that Aifa, the owner, didn’t charge us for the laksa, as a reward for a useful discussion with Syafiqi and Halim about business! I only had to pay for the drinks. Malaysia boleh!

Our last destination for the day was a disused railway tunnel near Bukit Gantang. Two years ago I had visited other tunnels near Bukit Berapit, but never this one. Access was a bit difficult πŸ™‚ .

This is the tunnel, the last one before you reached Taiping in the past. It’s a pity that also here the rails and sleepers have been removed.

Recently Pak Yang and his friends have found and cleaned the platform of the Bukit Gantang station (right picture). In the left picture we are walking to the station, following the former railroad.

Via these steps, the passengers climbed up to the railroad tracks to board the train.

It was a wonderful day. Here are the GPS tracks of the trip.

The next morning I had breakfast with George, Chee Cheong Fun at Mr Tong’s stall.

As I had no commitments that morning, I decided to take my bicycle and just ride around, taking pictures here and there. Beautiful buildings, buildings that needed repair, or even had vanished completely. The first one near the Esplanade, the other three on Swettenham Road. As I mentioned above, it’s this mixture that I find attractive.

Even the former Perak Railway Buildings have their charm, although it is of course a shame that the authorities have let it go down the drain, without any fencing, so squatters and drug addicts can use it freely. One year ago I wrote a blog about it: Taiping Bandar Warisan .

A good location for another gotong royong?

During my last visit to Taiping, I had a look at an apartment in Crystal Creek and reported: “ The view from the balcony is spectacular, but we found the general atmosphere of Crystal Creek disappointing. Many condo’s are for sale, or used for AirBnb. A bit of a failed project, despite its own waterfall?

I got a friendly comment on this report by Grahame, living himself in Crystal Creek: “I cannot argue that the finish to the public areas and the recreational facilities is very disappointing. But, and it is a big but, our condo and life in this location is fantastic!! “

We got in contact via e-mail and whatsapp and decided to meet. Here we are having lunch in Double Tap, after our first choice, Doli, had a long queue. Very nice Western style, food.

After lunch Grahame and Safina invited me for tea in their condo. And I agree with them, the view from their balcony is fantastic, and the condo itself very comfortable.

Another view of the Lake Gardens.

I had invited Yeap and Halim for dinner that evening, stipulating that I would be the host. Nice Thai food in the West Joy Cafe. Pleasant company, but when it came to paying the bill, Yeap wanted to pay. Sometimes Malaysian hospitality can be a bit overwhelming πŸ™‚

The last morning I had breakfast at Lian Thong for another favorite of mine Roti Goyang. eggs on toast.

My train would leave at 2pm, so I had a few hours left to work on another “project” of mine. The main river of Taiping is Sg Larut, which splits in several tributaries. With the help of Google Earth I have sketched many of these tributaries here.

Using my bike again, I cycled around town , looking for sign boards where roads were crossing tributaries, expecting that one of them would still be named Sg Larut. Here are a few, none of them is Sg Larut.

Google Maps names the tributary below Sg Larut, but that is wrong, it is Sg Batu Tegoh

For Taipingites, can you identify which tributary this is πŸ™‚ ?

The advantage of cycling is that you reach places that are a bit too far for walking. Here are two buildings I had not yet photographed before. Left the Masjid India (1969) and right the Buddhist Chan Shan temple (1953)

On my way back to my hotel, I passed this interesting villa, near the OBJ Residency. Built in 1940 in late Art Deco style. Pity that it has been neglected.

That was the end of another rewarding visit. Fortunately on my way back to KL, social distancing was no problem. both in the ETS and the MRT.

Menggelunchor


On the Internet recently I found a book called An Illustrated Guide to the Federated Malay States, published in 1910. You can read it online, or download it in a variety of formats. It makes fascinating reading, a real travel guide, full of interesting details and practical travel tips.

Of course it describes Taiping (“The town itself is one of the most picturesque in Malaya“) and even Bukit Gantang ( “… has always been a great place for tigers“).

Before reaching Kuala Kangsar (“The town of Kuala Kangsar lies on the right bank of the Perak river , at the point where the Kangsar debouches“) a few pages are devoted to the water slide of Mengelunchor, a popular attraction in those days.

There is even a photo in the guidebook where people climb up steps besides the waterfall and then slide down.

Menggelunchor? I had never heard about it and was intrigued. I Googled for it and found a few historical references. Apparently it was a popular tourist attraction in the early 1900s . Here is a description from the book The Malay States by Philip Coote, published in 1923.

From the description above, the water slide should be in the region of Padang Rengas and on the slopes of Gunung Bubu. I gave the photo to my Taiping friend Halim, asking him if he could find more info. He had never heard about Menggelunchor himself, but after asking around, told me that one of his friends had recognised the fall and was willing to take us there. That was exciting news.

On Saturday 3 October we met Syafiqi, who would take us to the waterfall. Actually we were Facebook friends because of our shared passion for waterfalls, but we had never met πŸ˜‰ . We were joined by Puan Kamariah, Suhaina and Pak Yang.

Between Padang Rengas and Kuala Kangsar, a narrow unmarked road took us under the North-South Highway through nice countryside with orchards and scattered bungalows. After about 3 km the tar road ended. We parked our cars and followed the clear trail for a few hundred meters.

Soon we arrived at a waterfall. Syafiqi told me that the river is Sg Dal, a tributary of the Sg Kangsar and that the name of the waterfall is now Lata Bubu. Quite an attractive waterfall .

Here is a short video of Lata Bubu.

A short flight of steps leads the top of the waterfall. The steps look old, could they date back to the early 1900s? At the top there are remains of an old lock, maybe to create a shallow pool at the bottom of the water slide?

Here is the Menggelunchor water slide. Comparison with the old photo shows that there was not enough water this time to slide down. The small steps next to the slide have gone, could they have been on the white rock where I have tentatively marked some red stripes?

Here are the intrepid explorers πŸ˜‰ . From left to right Syafiqi, Halim, Me and Pak Yang. Mission accomplished (picture by Syafiqi)

Syafiqi told us that at the top of the slide there were remains of a swimming pool. Of course we climbed up to have a look. And indeed, it must have been a swimming pool, a bit similar to the New Club swimming pool in Taiping.

After this successful exploration, we climbed down the steps again and walked back to the car.

Here is a Google Earth map of the region. I have marked the location of the Sg Kangsar.

Syafiqi told me that YouTube had several videos of Lata Bubu and I found a few interesting ones. This one shows the Menggelunchor and was taken in 2016, only four years ago. Try to imagine how one century ago, adults came here on elephants to enjoy the fun (and have a nice picnic afterwards).

This video is from the same year 2016 and shows the swimming pool above the slide in full action.

Back home I searched for more historical information. I found the first reference to Menggelunchor in the book About Perak by Swettenham, published in 1883. The link is to the online version. On page 62 and following he describes the Menggelunchor , “Though of ancient origin, it is not well known, even here“. Here is a part of his description, making it clear that he, the British Resident of Selangor, also enjoyed the fun tremendously.

Finally I show here three newspaper clippings, found in the Singapore Newspaper archive. When you search for Menggelunchor, you will get dozens of hits. The left one (13-4-1926) is about a visit of “Mr George Windsor” to Perak. Mr George Windsor is actually Prince George, Duke of Kent , 23 year old during this visit. The right one is about a European party that got lost (20-5-1930) after visitng the Menggelunchor.

The Sultan of Perak regularly invited VIP guests for a visit to the water slide and a lunch. In this case the King of Siam, 3 October 1924. Did they also slide down the Menggelunchor, like Swettenham did?

It was a fascinating excursion and a pleasure to write this blog.

A Meeting of Old-Timers

Knowing of my interest in the history of Taiping, Toh Puan Nori, the wife of the OBJ Larut Matang & Selama, suggested that she could invite a group of senior Taiping citizens for a discussion about Taiping’s “recent” history. Of course I accepted her suggestion gratefully and on Friday 2 October I went to the OBJ residency, where I met a small group of old-timers, most of them members of the Kelab Cinta Taiping. I had prepared a selection of slides and Wan Amril had prepared a projector.

It became an animated discussion with input from many. As several attendees were interested to have copies of my slides, I promised them to put my selection online. Here they are, with some comments.

I started with two Google Earth screenshots of the Residency Hill, resp. 2007 and 2019 imagery (click to enlarge). In 2007 the Casuarina Inn is still intact and the pillars of the former Residency are clearly visible. In the 2019 image they are overgrown and the Inn has become a ruin.

In December 2004 I have been staying one night in the Casuarina Inn. It was a bit rundown, but still acceptable. Huge rooms.

During a Taiping visit in 2017, I spent a few hours at Residency Hill, marking the location of all pillars, 34 in total.

Here is the condition of the pillars and the Casuarina Inn a few months ago.

A few weeks ago the Taiping Heritage Society and many other NGO’s took the initiative for a gotong royong (cleaning operation), supported by the MPT (Taiping Town Council).

During our meeting we discussed a lot about the buildings on Residency Hill. Wan Amril had found an article published in Berita Harian, 29 June 1969, that was very helpful. The Residency had been demolished already and behind it the new State Town House would be built. After completion the Town Rest House and the Rajah Rest House would be closed. Teoh KL told us that his father was the first contractor who had leased the State Town House in 1972. And Toh Puan Nori remembered that when she visited the Residency building in 1961, it was no longer occupied.

According to this 1949 article in the Straits Times about Taiping in the 19th century, it was Hugh Low who in 1887 became the first British Resident to live in the Taiping Residence (before that year he resided in Kuala Kangsar). Swettenham, Treacher and many others followed. Slowly Taiping declined, Ipoh took over and in 1937 became the capital of Perak. The Berita Harian article mentions that part of the Residence became the Land Surveyor’s office. Where there other occupants and when became it unoccupied? We could not find answers to these questions.

One more remark about the pillars. I think that there have been more pillars, but that some (10) of them have been removed to create space for the driveway to the State Rest House. Here is my educated guess :-).

In this 1928 Map of Taiping, the building is still marked as Residency (1). I have also marked he locations of the Rajah Rest House (2) and the Town Rest House (3). The map consists of four parts, very interesting, here is the link.

I could not find many photo’s of the Rajah Rest House. On this photo you see that it was quite a big place. Many attendees at the meeting had good memories about this place. We could not find out when exactly it was destroyed (to make place for a parking lot!)

Here is part of a hilarious article about The Inns of Malaya (1930). Both Taiping Rest Houses are very bad, the Town Rest House is noisy and dusty and should be “abolished”, the Rajah Rest House should change its furniture as it harbours unpleasant insects. So at least in 1930 the Rajah RH was already there.

Here are two Google Earth screenshots of the Town Rest House and the Perak Railway Building.

Around 2005, I also have been staying a night in the Town Rest House, then renamed Lagenda Hotel. After a couple of years it closed.

Although it is now a ruin, Taiping, bandar warisan(!) , still includes it in the list of heritage attractions.

Next to it there are the ruins of what originally was the Perak Railway Building. Here is a page from Anuar Isa’s report Taiping’s Many First

Actually two buildings the wooden building is from 1885, the brick building slightly newer. Many memories, the brick building was occupied by several departments. When readers know more about it, please comment.

Nowadays it is so ruined, that it is beyond repair in my opinion.

I have been following the fate of these buildings for many years, here is a report Taiping Bandar Warisan (2019). And here is an older report Shame on Taiping (2013), also about the Residency hill. When I wrote this report, I didn’t know much yet about Taiping’s history, so the report contains errors. I confused the Residency with the Residence of the Assistant Resident, a common mistake that is prevalent until today, for example in this recent STAR article !

Two more GE screenshots of the Taiping Aerodrome and the Port Weld Railway line. I was interested to know if any of the attendees had memories about either of them. But we had not enough time to discuss.

About the railway line, the orange line is the present track. The green one is the original Port Weld line, ending at what now is KE VII school. The yellow “bend” is a later modification of the Port Weld line, so it would join smoothly to the Ipoh-Butterworth line.

Present situation of the Aerodrome. Left an aerial view, taken by a drone. Right the remains of the control tower and the arrival hall.

Another part of the 1928 Taiping map. I have marked two locations, the Kempe Club (1) and a Ruined Bungalow (2) along King Edward Road (now Jln Sultan Jaafar)

Compare the map with two GE screenshots, 2005 and 2019 imagery. The Playground and the Tennis Courts have completely disappeared, it’s jungle now. Many attendees had memories about the play ground, it was a popular place for sports.

Here is the Kempe Club, founded in 1922. It’s a bit strange that it is not in the 1928 map, possibly the data used for the map are older. When I visited the club, I was invited inside. The interior has know better days, but the building is still in good condition. Interesting detail, when the Taiping Rotary Club restarted after the war, in 1956, they had their weekly lunches in this club.

The ruined bungalow along King Edward Road is one of my favourite ruins. I was hoping to get information about the people who have been living here. I was told that more of these bungalows existed, but many of them have already disappeared.

I had included a few slides about Maxwell Hill, but there was no time to talk about it. This is what is left over from Hugh Low’s bungalow, located between the Nest and Speedy’s. It was quite an expedition , with Law Siak Hong (Perak Heritage Society), to “rediscover it. I would have liked to know if any of the old-timers had visited this bungalow.

And finally two photo’s of Speedy’s bungalow. Left my 60th birthday party in 2004, when Guna was the excellent caretaker. Later it was transformed in a Biodiversity Center, in itself a good idea but it failed in my opinion because of the difficulty of (jeep) transport and insufficient promotion.

It was a very rewarding meeting, there are enough topics for a follow-up. Toh Puan Nori had provided food and drinks, thanks a lot for her hospitality.

From left to right Teoh Kok Liang, who had come specially from KL to attend the meeting, the OBJ, Toh Puan Nori, me and Wan Amril. Thanks everybody.

I was so busy talking and explaining, that I forgot to take notes. If any of the attendees, or other interested Taipingites, have additional information, please comment.