The Beauty of Bukit Larut


Isabella Bird, the Victorian lady, described in ‘The Golden Chersonese’ the beautiful Perak countryside when she visited Malaya in 1879. She was on an expedition and stayed with the Assistant Resident of Perak, William Edward Maxwell in Taiping. Maxwell Hill, or Bukit Larut as it is now called, was named after him.

Isabella Bird wrote about the ‘bracing air’ and ‘the cool nights’. She was fascinated by the trees and plants in the jungle. She was excited that in a day’s journey she counted one hundred and twenty-six different trees and shrubs, fifty-three trailers, seventeen epiphytes and twenty-eight ferns. She described the butterflies, colourful birds, orchids and flowers. She was enthralled by the colour schemes of the flora and fauna as well as the swirling mists and multi-coloured hues of the sky above the jungle.

Her journey through the hills of Taiping and the surrounding countryside was undertaken over 130 years ago. We are proud that Malaysia is blessed with an abundance of natural attractions. We have locations that are so wild and barren, or extensive in their spread, or simply awesome in their isolation. For those who have visited these places, all are affected in one way or another. Very few are unmoved by their beauty. The vast majority leave with greater respect for God’s power and the frailty of man.

News of a cable car project up Bukit Larut is the latest announcement for Perak. Should we treat this disclosure as a masterpiece, or a misguided act?

A constant stream of day-trippers will have dire consequences on the fragile ecosystem. We may not feel directly involved in the destruction of the natural beauty, but have we not heard or even experienced ourselves, how other hill stations have lost their charm? They have become too commercialised, polluted, congested, too big and too warm. Litter is another problem. We want progress, but ignore its downside. And we are only too aware of the state’s ‘tight restrictions’ and ‘strict requirements’, or rather their lack of regulating these.

Once Bukit Larut has been ‘modernised’, with food outlets and other amenities for our instant entertainment and gratification, the destruction will be hastened. Sadly, our children and grandchildren will never fully enjoy nor appreciate what was once a heaven on earth.

Why can’t the existing facilities be smartened up? Begonias, thunbergias, daisies and ferns all of which Isabella mentions, or other native flowers could be grown in abundance. Why not make the hill a focal point for gardeners with terraced or landscaped gardens and the sale of seeds or cultivated bulbs as a crowd puller? Preserve the beauty but provide jobs, too.

Another attraction is to serve English teas, as it should be, with scones and strawberry jam, a delightful array of cakes and delicate sandwiches, served with favourite English teas such as Earl Grey or Assam. Not mee goreng or cucur bawang or pisang goreng! Maxwell Hill was a retreat for the expatriate community and still is a haven for nature lovers. Don’t destroy the reasons which made it famous but instead work on improving these positive points.

Taiping is the wettest place in Peninsular Malaysia. The hills above it are constantly shrouded in mist and cloud. Similarly, the reasons for championing this cable car project up Bukit Larut are also unclear.

Isabella Bird marvelled at our magical countryside. Between then and now, who knows how many species of flora and fauna have been destroyed? Sadly, at the rate we are going, it is possible that much of that richness and beauty may not be around for our grandchildren to enjoy.


6 thoughts on “The Beauty of Bukit Larut

  1. Well, go to Taiping Town, along Jalan Kota, stop at Beh Yang Toh’s real estate agent’s firm, a lot of houses and land for sale. Cheap or expensive, find out for yourself.

  2. Hi, tq 4 yr explanation. Wud u by any chance know of anyone who wants to sell me a piece of cheap land (abt 1/2 – 1 acre) anywhere in Bkt Larut, Au Long, Simpang or anywhere in Perak for my retirement? Best regards.

  3. Moon Lim, Bt. Larut has got nothing to do with any Chinese Village. In Taiping, you have Aulong New Village, Pokok Assam and Simpang New Village.

    Bt. Larut or better known as Maxwell Hill(1880), was the first health resort to cater to Government servants especially the Europeans, and there are about 7 bungalows, a garden for flowers and and some vegetables and a meteorological station.

    The bungalows are the Cottage, Box, Nest, Hut, Federal Bungalow, Sri Kayangan and Gunung Hijau Rest House. I think some the bungalows mentioned are not in use at the present moment. I could coolly say that it doesn’t fulfill a holiday resort standard. Probably its a misplace at the moment and I am sure U can’t locate any Chinese new Village at Bt.Larut.

  4. Hi, I would love to live in Bukit Larut in my twilight years. Would you know of any Chinese Village land (about half an acre) for sale? Would love to hear from anyone of you. TQ and have a good day!

  5. Thank you YAM for the report.

    The proposed cable car to this last ‘pristine’ hill station to bring more visitors to Bukit Larut is misguided and unsustainable. It will destroy the tranquail serenity of the last hill station in Peninsula Malaysia which stil. To pay for the cable car, you need to increase the critical mass. And that is the problem – how many more people can this hill take before rubbish flies in the face of flowers and butterfiles? If more accessible tourist attractions cannot be kept clean and well-maintained, what more with ‘remote’ hill stations?

    All the other hill stations in Peninsula Malaysia are suffering dire environmental degradation. They are over-built, over-commercialised and they are doomed. Not all tourist attractions have to cater to the masses. Bukit Larut should be preserved as a haven for nature lovers, hikers and gentle tourists who enjoy passive activities in the quiet misty atmosphere away from the maddening crowd. Why, I know a foreign friend who visits Taiping and overnights in the hills to avoid the air-conditioned rooms in the heritage town of Taiping.

    Let’s appreciate the Land Rover service; this low-impact mode of transportation has a perfect record.
    Let good sense prevail, stop this invasion of Bukit Larut, before we lose this goose which lays the golden eggs, before we destroy this last hill resort with short-sighted development, before we lose the balance in maintaining the ecologically sensitive mountain habitats for our priceless fauna and flora, and the supposedly intelligent human.

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