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Taiping, THS weekend, November 2014
THS stands for the Taiping Heritage Society, of which I am an active member. On 23 November they organised a day trip and they had asked me to be the guide for the Kota Ngah Ibrahim, a fort outside Taiping. I had done my homework, you can find the information I have collected on a special THS trip page.

As you may have noticed from my earlier reports, I am interested in the history of Taiping and fascinated by Isabella Bird, the English travel-writer who visited Taiping in February 1879. See for example this report A Heritage Trip, September 2014

On my way to Taiping, I stopped for a while in Bukit Gantang, between Kuala Kangsar and Taiping. Encik Anuar Isa, the founder of First Galleria had told me that in Bukit Gantang the remains could be found of a fort, built by Long Jaafar, the father of Ngah Ibrahim. Driving slowly I found a signboard and an entrance gate, that clearly had known better days...:-). A few hundred meter further, an overgrown path led to the Makam. Makam means Tomb, there is no fort anymore, only a few tombs remain.

Signboard to the tombs

The entrance gate

Overgrown access road

The Makam Long Jaafar

Several graves

On 16 February 1879 Isabella Bird has spent a few hours here, waiting for the elephants that would carry her to Kuala Kangsar. In her fascinating travelogue The Golden Scersonese, 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 inclosure ..."

There is still an entrance gate and next to the gate a mosque! But she was mistaken in the name of the kampung! It was in Matang that she arrived from Penang, a few days earlier. Matang - Gantang, the confusion is understandable...:-)

In Taiping I had booked a room in the Furama hotel. Nicely renovated and conveniently located near the Lake Gardens. I had dinner with friends Yeoh and Girlie, and the next morning dim sum breakfast with my friend May.

The mosque next to the Kota

Bukit Gantang

My room in Furama hotel

Dinner with friends

Dim Sum breakfast with a friend

It became a busy day with several "heritage oriented" appointments.
First I met Kesevan, a THS committee member, who took me to the King Edwards school. This famous Taiping school was started in 1883, as Central School, on Station Road, and later relocated to where earlier the station of the Port Weld railway was situated.
During removations, some parts of carriages and other railway equipment had been found and put into a kind of monument. When we went there, school holidays had just started, so the teacher who could have told us more, was on leave.

Opposite the school is one of the "Shames" of Taiping, the Rest House, dating back to 1904 and now in ruins. The fence was broken, we could just walk inside!

My next meeting was with two other THS committee members, Sharon and Yeap. After lunch we walked up to Jelutong Hill, where the bungalow is located where Isabella Bird stayed in 1879, as a guest of the Assistant Resident Maxwell. Now it is the residence of the District Officer. Pity we could only have a look at the outside. We were surprised to see that the official address is Bukit Birch. Birch was the first British Resident in Perak, murdered in 1875.
Nearby, in the Lake Gardens there is another heritage object, the Ng Boo Bee fountain. Also not really well maintained, a common problem in Malaysia.

In the afternoon I went to the First Galleria and had a stimulating discussion with Anuar about the history of Taiping. He is very knowledgeable and can be very strong in his convictions..:-)

Taiping is famous for its food and food courts. I had dinner with May in an Indian shop in one of these food courts, Siang Malam.

The next day, the THS trip started early, at 7 am. Forty people had booked for the trip, a bus load full..:-)

The King Edwards VII school

The railway station was here

Some remains of the old station

Shame of Taiping: the Resthouse

The ruined interior

Residence hill

We can not enter..:-(

Isabella Bird stayed here

The Ng Boo Bee fountain

Dinner with a friend

Start of the THS trip

Our first destination was a charcoal kiln in Kuala Gula. Neal, our guide for the trip, gave an explanation about the working of a charcoal kiln. Mangrove wood is used to make the charcoal. Building a kiln is an expert job. And after filling the kiln with the mangrove wood, and starting the fire, the temperature has to be controlled very accurately. We could see several kilns in the hall, in various stages of the process.

Neal explaining

A kiln under construction

Mangrove wood

A working kiln

Possible to enter another one

Our next destination was the Hua Seng Keng Temple in Kuala Gula. A Taoist temple located in the middle of nowhere. The specialty of this temple is that you can visit hell and see what will happen to you there as punishment for your sins. Similar to the famous Haw Par Villa in Singapore. Not suitable for senstive souls...:-) Each sin has its own punishment.

But at the end you will get a cup of tea. The tea of forgetfulness! Notice that also THS members are queuing for their cup of tea...

Hau Seng Keng temple

Hell entrance

The Judgment








But after the punishment...

The tea of forgetfulness

Next stop was at a Belacan "factory". This famous shrimp paste is made from fermented ground shrimp mixed with salt. Not really much to see, but a lot to smell...:-) And, very important for the ladies in the group, there was a shop with local produce!

From there we continued to the Kuala Gula Bird Sanctuary where we watched a very interesting video about this haven for migratory and resident birds. The sanctuary is famous for its colony of Milky Storks. We noticed a group in the field when we arrived, too far to take a good picture, but I could take a close-up of this "ugly bird" in a cage, near the hall..:-)

Then it was time for lunch. Delicious seafood, for many participants the highlight of the trip...:-). In the afternoon we visited another traditional "factory", where they prepared "Salted duck eggs". Using nice old-fashioned machinery.

Belacan, drying in the sun

Could be an abstract painting


Interesting video

A Milky stork

Seafood lunch

Chan Ah Lak, distributing the fish balls

Selecting the eggs according to size

Putting salty paste on the eggs

Covered with burnt padi

On our way back from Kuala Gula, the busy program took its toll, many participants were in Morpheus' arms during the bus ride back.

We decided to skip a few items, a walk in the Matang mangrove forest, and a visit of Teluk Kertang where Isabella Bird landed in February 1879.

But we went to the Kota Ngah Ibrahim. I had visited it several times, but now I had collected information about the history of the fort, so it became more interesting. I had a look at the tomb of Ngah Ibrahim and at the memorial erected for the Japanese occupation of the fort during WWII. There is also an old well, in those turbulent times (Larut Wars!) it must have been important to have your own water supply.

In Morpheus' arms

Kota Ngah Ibrahim

Ngah Ibrahim's tomb

Memorial for the Japanese occupation

The old well

Last stop during this trip was at Antyong's Coffee Mill. I have been numerous times in Taiping, but had never heard about this place until now! For many participants this was another highlight of the trip, because you could sample their various kinds of coffee, FOC!, and there was also a shop.

More interesting for me was the Sun Yat Sen house, on the Antyong grounds. Sun Yat Sen stayed here regularly during his trips to Malaysia and his second wife has been living here for many years. The interior of the house has been preserved well.

Explanation of the Antyong coffee mil

Shopping spree!

Sun Yat Sen's house

The interior

Sun Yat Sen with his wife..:-)

It was a nice trip, well organised, although personally I would have preferred more "heritage" content. The next day I drove back home , but of course not before I had once more admired the Lake Gardens...:-)

The Lake Gardens

lightlingmk2 wrote on Dec 7, 2014:
Well done Jan. I live in Taiping most of my life and yet don't know some of the places you mentioned.

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