By Jerry Francis
It has taken about two decades to turn scenic Gunung Lang, which is nestled in the midst of limestone outcrops, into a recreational park with a potential for becoming a tourist attraction. Despite all the time spent and an expenditure of over RM11 million, Gunung Lang still fails to achieve its desired objective which is to be a recreational park as a getaway for city folks and also to attract tourists . . .
A Scenic Cocoon in the Heart of Ipoh
So why its obscurity?
Gunang Lang still lies in scenic majesty undiscovered and unexplored by Ipohites and tourists alike. Ask the average man-in-the-street about Gunung Lang and chances are one would be greeted with a blank stare and the retort, “Gunung What?”
So what is the reason for its obscurity and at whose feet should the blame for its lack of prominence be placed?
Gunung Lang is located just north of the city off Jalan Kuala Kangsar and easily accessible by road. It has a lake surrounded by greenery and limestone outcrops. It was first identified and adopted by the Rotary Club of Ipoh for development into a family recreational park; much publicity was given but with very little progress. It was unique then as it could only be approached through a cave, which has now been sealed off for safety reasons.
As the proposed project would be a major undertaking, it was later decided by the Ipoh City Council that it would take it over. It allocated a lot of funds towards its development, which was supposed to have been completed in 1995.
However, the question of who would develop it was hotly debated later. The uncertainties arose when the state government announced that it would consider a proposal by the State Agriculture Development Corporation to develop the site as an agro-tourism project.
It was not until 2000 that it became clear that the city council would develop the park according to the design of the National Landscape Department, which was engaged as consultant.
Back to Nature Concept
The department also made the large allocation for the redevelopment of the park on a “Back to Nature” concept for both adults and children. The aim was to preserve its natural beauty as much as possible. There are about 100 plant species at the site seldom seen elsewhere in the county.
Covering an area of 30.35 hectares out of which 14.16 hectares consists of the lake, the park is divided into two sections.
It was opened in October 2000 and was closed after a couple of years for renovation and reopened in 2004. There is a man-made cascading waterfall (operates a few hours daily) with a large sign that is lighted up at night and can been seen from the highway.
Across the lake, which is stocked with fish such as lampan, tilapia and kelia, lies an inner landscaped park that is accessible only by boat. The boat trip, which takes about five minutes from the jetty at the office building, costs RM3 for adults and RM1.50 for children and senior citizens for a return trip. There are three boatmen and the boat departs whenever there are visitors.
Situated in the park are two watch towers, three kampong houses, a playground and mini zoo with deer, ostrich and rabbits. There are picnic grounds, a campsite, foot-paths, a boardwalk along the lake and plenty of Heliconia and Bougainvillea bushes.
The park is open from 8.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m. daily except on Fridays when it is open till 4.00 p.m. There are few visitors during weekdays, however during weekends, the place is crowded with school children and companies hold their family days here.
A. Jeyaraj, who visited the park recently, noted that the place is relatively clean and a team of 22 workers carry out the day to day maintenance. It costs the city council RM200,000 annually to maintain it.
Lack of Visitors
In spite of being on the outskirts of the city and within easy reach by those with cars, the park has not been attracting visitors as many residents are not aware of its existence and even those who have heard of the name do not know where it is situated.
The inherent seclusion and tranquility of the place provides a perfect retreat for families to enjoy their weekends of relaxation. The surrounding limestone hills draped in lovely greenery is a living tapestry for the eyes.
There is a lack of signage especially along the highway to divert some traffic to the park. Even at the entrance to the park there is no proper signage.
At the jetty there is a plaque giving general information. However, there is no site plan of the area and visitors going to the other side of the lake have to walk aimlessly not knowing what the attractions are.
The kampong houses need sprucing up. This is an eco-park and the plants and trees should be labeled and brief descriptions given. The focus should be more on landscape rather than as an animal park. Maybe the deer and ostrich can be let loose or given to other petting zoos.
With few recreational activities there is little to do in the park other than strolling. The park needs hiking trails, hill climbing and exploration of the caves for the more adventurous.
Nor Sarul Rizal bin Kassim, assistant officer of the city council’s landscape and recreation department located at the park, said that University Pendidikan Sultan Idris in Tanjung Malim has carried out a study on the park for the past two years and would submit its proposals for improvement soon.
Aggressive Marketing Necessary
Menteri Besar, Dato’ Seri Dr. Zambry Abdul Kadir, has called on the city council to upgrade Gunung Lang into a recreational cum tourist spot for both local and foreign visitors. “I’ve asked MBI to find ways to improve the park so it will become a viable tourist attraction,” he said.
There is no denying that it is a great location with a lovely environment of limestone hills and a cave, but the marketing for the facility is very poor. The city council should go on a more aggressive marketing drive to let members of the public know more about it scenic attractions.
Ipoh has its scenic attractions. It is time that a concerted effort is made to promote one of its hidden treasures.
For enquiries, call: 05-5062088.