The first anniversary celebration of Lenggong Valley as a World Heritage Site was officiated by Regent of Perak, Raja Dr Nazrin Shah. A five-day carnival was held which included an art exhibition, display of traditional dishes from 18 villages, cultural shows and performance by singer Jamal Abdillah who is known as Raja Pop Malaysia.
Menteri Besar Dato’ Seri DiRaja Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir said the carnival was to help promote Lenggong Valley and to create awareness among people to appreciate the priceless heritage of the country.
The recognition by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) on June 30, last year, meant that Lenggong Valley is listed on the world tourism map and is soon to become a popular tour destination for many. This is the fifth site in Malaysia, in addition to George Town, Malacca, Mount Kinabalu and Niah Cave, to be recognised as world heritage site.
Zambry added that since the recognition, the number of tourist arrivals had increased from 2,000 to 5,000 per month. This positive increase can be attributed to the recognition and has also opened the door wider for the state’s tourism industry, particularly in Hulu Perak where development will take place.
The state government together with the Ministry of Tourism and Culture and National Heritage Department are preparing and developing the tourist infrastructure in Lenggong Valley. However, this may take some time to materialise. The opening ceremony ended with fireworks display.
The life and times of tin mine ‘towkays’ of Kinta Valley from the earliest days of the tin mining industry are being documented and displayed to public in an exhibition entitled “A Tin Mining Family”. Designed and produced by Commander Ian Anderson (Rtd), Managing Director of Ipoh World and sponsored by Amber Synergy Sdn Bhd, the exhibition is held at Ipoh’s historic Falim House for three months beginning May 12 to August 11.
Over 20 famous towkays and their families are being featured via documents, artefacts, interviews and photographs, some of which date from before 1900. Besides a wide range of mining implements, visitors can also check out rare toys, unusual kitchen equipment and original wheeled vehicles.
The different sections of the exhibition hall also showcases their homes, cars, servants, and of course, their tin mines and other successful business ventures.
Of particular interest are the evils that were faced by mining coolies back then – opium, gambling, prostitution and triads. These are featured as they formed an integral part of the mine workers’ lives.
In short, this is an exhibition that one can learn about the mining towkays and the mining industry in-depth. It serves as a great educational tool for students.
Visitors will be delighted to know that a free shuttle bus service to and from Ipoh Railway Station and Falim House is offered during weekends. The first bus departs from the railway station at 10.45am. The exhibition is open daily from 10am to 6pm.
“A Tin Mining Family” was formally opened by Mayor Dato’ Roshidi Hashim in conjunction with the official launching of Tin City Ipoh, a property development project by Amber Synergy Sdn Bhd.
A Dynamic Exhibition presenting the towkays – gentlemen, entrepreneurs, businessmen and philanthropists
Ipoh World Sdn Bhd has assembled a forthcoming new exhibition, “A Tin Mining Family”, which will open at Falim House, Falim, Ipoh on Sunday, May 12 and run for three full months, ending on Monday, August 12.
The exhibition showcases the life and times of Ipoh’s many families of tin mining towkays – the entrepreneurs – how they and their households lived, their cars, their servants, their very successful tin mines and other business ventures. Not forgotten are the clan associations, hospitals and schools these philanthropists founded locally.
On the other side of the coin, the four evils that faced the mining coolies – Opium, Gambling, Prostitution and the Triads – are included as an integral part of the mining story.
There are also special sections on Falim House, the hawkers who called there and soft drinks manufacturer F&N who has been part of Ipoh and Falim for more than 100 years. And for those who wish to rest their legs, a rare and vintage film featuring tin mining in the Kinta Valley, both pre and post-war, will run continuously.
With more than 210 old photographs, some dating from before 1900 and a very wide range of artifacts, this is a chance for visitors to get close to real mining equipment, rare toys, unusual kitchen equipment, original local wheeled vehicles and more, much of which will bring back memories long forgotten while at the same time provide important education for young people. Photo opportunities will be many.
Sponsored by Amber Synergy Sdn Bhd and produced by the ipohWorld team (www.ipohworld.org), the exhibition is led by Commander Ian Anderson, a retired British naval officer who is married to an Ipoh girl and lives permanently in Ipoh. Ian is well known for his enthusiasm for local heritage and history and has produced an exhibition unlike any other and one that should not be missed. The collections on show are all from ipohworld, a project sponsored entirely by Tenby Schools Ipoh, with some items dating back to well before 1900.
“The Exhibition would not be possible were it not for Tenby Schools for seeing our vision and supporting it since 2006. We are also indebted to Amber Synergy Sdn Bhd which has generously covered the entire costs of this exhibition,” said Ian.
He continued, “In the medium-term, ipohWorld hopes to promote a keen and sustained interest in the history and heritage of Ipoh through a permanent Heritage Centre which will enhance visitors enjoyment with additional, ever-changing and interesting exhibitions each year. We’re optimistic that such a centre would attract more tourists to Ipoh in line with the Perak State Government’s plans.”
On behalf of Amber Synergy Sdn Bhd, the sponsors, Dato’ Poo Tak Kiau said that they were delighted to be able to help ipohworld stage the exhibition which he was sure would be of great interest to local residents and tourists alike.
“What’s more”, he added, “the exhibition will be a wonderful educational tool for schools and colleges. I hope that they’ll take advantage of it to introduce their students to important local history that is generally glossed over or forgotten.”
When asked for more details on the Exhibition, Ian said, “Trust me, it’ll be a wonderful experience. But you’ll have to wait until May 12 when the Exhibition opens to the world”.
Opening hours are from 10am to 6pm daily and entrance is free.
The Perak Heritage Society recently launched an exhibition and book launch entitled “A Celebration of Perak’s Built Heritage” which showcased the joint works by the Architectural Faculties from the National University of Singapore and University Malaya.
The joint NUS-UM studio projects which took place in 2010 covered Taiping while the 2012 study covered Ipoh, Old and New town.
At these study projects, students took measured drawings of the buildings at the site locations which allowed them to be exposed to the methodologies of historical documentation and analyses of the places and buildings.
The findings of their studies are now on exhibition and are being displayed in images of the town, plans and drawings as well as architectural models of selected shop houses.
The study has also been compiled into two books for Taiping (Returning Taiping) and Ipoh (Familiar Spaces Untold Stories) respectively and which are being sold at the exhibition. During the launch copies of the book were presented to the shop house owners where the students did their analyses.
Present at the exhibition was Ipoh born architect Ken Yeh. Yeh who has his office in Australia described the publications as “a good reference and understanding of how our forefathers built our town which creates the sense of appreciation for our heritage architecture.” Fellow architect Lim Take Bane concurred and added that “we should always respect our elders”.
The UM-NUS Joint Studio Programme Exhibition is being held at the Lim Ko Pi Gallery, upstairs of Lim Ko Pi restaurant on Hugh Low Street from February 26 to March 10 from 12.30pm to 4.30pm daily, closed on Mondays.
The University of Malaya and National University of Singapore recently held a joint architecture study of Ipoh for 20 students, 10 from each university, who stayed in Ipoh for two weeks. Named the ‘UM-NUS Joint Studio Programme 2012’, this programme has been ongoing for several years with an earlier programme covering Taiping in 2010.
According to Mr Roland Sharpe Flores, Visiting Senior Fellow, School of Design Environment, NUS Department of Architecture, the programme allows students to be exposed to the methodologies of historical documentation and analyses of places and buildings.
Additionally, it enables its students to engage with the town’s residents as part of its cultural study segment.
Flores explained that Ipoh was selected as “it had a significant stock of shop houses with its historic core fairly intact”, and its development was historically significant referring to the Great Fire that destroyed many parts of old town.
Unlike Old Town which was developed organically with some blocks having different sized shop lots, New Town that emerged after the fire, was a planned modern development that featured wider roads and alleyways to provide for fire breaks and services.
For the students, their two week stint here was an eye opener where they noted a variety of architectural styles. All of the students interviewed described their two week stint as “an enriching study experience”.
A point noted by all the participants was that preserving one’s heritage is always a good practice especially for the next generation. Flores gave advice saying that “whenever a new preservation was happening, to publicise it so that more restoration can occur”.
The students, who were also taken on a tour of Kuala Kangsar (KK) by Perak Heritage Society VP Law Siak Hong, also found KK very interesting saying “there is so much to see”.
Is there a ‘niche market’ for architectural tours here?
Finger pointing comes easy when the blame game comes into play. It is definitely chic to point the other way when all fingers are pointed at you. Blaming someone else for a mistake is not something new. In fact, it is a time-honoured habit which we picked up when we were young. No one worth his salt can deny this. We are all guilty of being an accomplice in the complicity.
It may not mean much if the outcome merely affects one victim, as there is recourse for a redress. However, if it affects the community as a whole, then there is reason for a re-look at policies implemented.
The last couple of weeks have witnessed some very interesting developments taking place in the city. Foremost, is the unwarranted destruction of a declared heritage site, the iconic Majestic Theatre, once an important landmark in Ipoh. Crafted by renowned Danish architect, B.M. Iversen the building was pulverised for no rhyme or reason other than to make way for a building project.
The insensitivity of some is puzzling, to say the least. Don’t they consider heritage the same way they keep their bank account balanced? Or do pecuniary rewards far outstrip aesthetic values? These people do not have an iota of conscience left, otherwise they would not have done something so despicable.
That is on the part of the new owners. To them owning a piece of real estate means they are at liberty to do whatever they please. What is more disturbing is the reaction of the authority, in this case, Ipoh City Council. A local council that prides itself in acquiring ISO standards should not be so callous as to allow a private entity to do whatever its heart desires. It is tantamount to subverting the public’s trust in the council. Must it be construed as such?
Last week one lingering problem was resolved with the timely intervention of a senior politician. Flash flooding in Taman Lapangan Ria is pervasive and has become a bane with residents of the housing estate. The problem was introduced by an irresponsible developer who decided to jump-start his project without considering the well being of the nearby residents. His poorly designed retaining wall, ill-conceived drainage system and misplaced sewage pond caused havoc to the Taman Lapangan Ria residents.
When the residents’ complaints fell on deaf ears they decided to take it to the state government. That was their final salvation. Senior Executive Councillor, Dato’ Hamidah Osman was all ears and through her efforts the problem was amicably resolved. Does it need someone high up to intervene when it could be settled with a little imagination?
A close friend who bought a terrace house in Taman Botani had to wait nearly a year for his renovation plan to be approved by Ipoh City Council. In the process, he was called up a number of times to explain certain inconsistencies in the architectural plan. He could not get an answer from the officer of the housing department why his simple renovation plan was withheld when those who openly flout the council by-laws were left unmolested. The numerous illegal renovation works in Canning Garden is a case in point. Ah Foo, the contractor he engaged to redo his house was unfazed by the whole episode. He said nonchalantly, “Bos, tak payah plan, MBI boleh kautim” (Boss, no need for plan, MBI can fix it.)
Is this apathy or a case of selective persecution by the local council? We can say so of our Judiciary, the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Police and lately JAWI (Federal Territory Islamic Department) but Ipoh City Council? Hello, Ipohites need your help, as our money is keeping you afloat! Has the council taken the path of no return? Heaven forbid if it does.
The developer demolishing the Majestic Theatre has blatantly ignored MBI’s stop-work order issued on June 19 and proceeded to continue demolishing work.
On June 18 Ipoh Echo had received complaints that demolition of the Majestic Theatre was ongoing without the safety requirements such as boarding up the work area. Another requirement to display the project notice board indicating the work being done was missing.
Subsequently it was learnt that the owner had not applied for approval to demolish the theatre and a stop work order was issued to the demolition contractor on June 19.
Follow up visits to the site on 21 June revealed that work had not stopped with the left front façade now demolished. Also missing was the boarding and notice board.
The boarding for the site was seen arriving on Monday afternoon June 25. By this time the entire front façade was a heap of rubble and only the back portion was still upright.
A check with MBI’s Building Department confirmed that the owner of the premises had ignored the stop work order.
Ipoh Mayor Dato’ Roshidi Hashim when contacted said that legal action has been initiated against the owner under the Strata, Buildings and Drainage Act 133 which carries a maximum fine of RM50,000 or 3 years jail or both.
In October 2009 a row of pre-war shop houses being demolished collapsed onto Jalan Kamaruddin Isa in Fair Park killing two men. Following that incident, for safety reasons, all demolition work plans had to be submitted to Ipoh City Council for approval before work could commence.
They are called cemeteries or graveyards – places where dead people are buried, and they would be the most uncommon stop. Well, not for my friends and me. During the past weekend, we spent a good hour exploring one. We strolled freely at this well-kept ‘God’s Little Acre’, in Batu Gajah. I was told that this cemetery has been a part of the Anglican Holy Trinity Church since the mid 1880s.
It may not be like the latest memorial parks with beautiful landscapes, but it is well-worth a visit. Buried here are 116 planters, police officers, miners and civilians, killed in the Emergency (1948-1960). We also found the oldest grave dated 1886, soon after the town of Batu Gajah was created as the Administrative Centre of Kinta Valley.
In 1980, retired Superintendent of Police, Dato’ R. Thambipillay started the tradition of the annual commemorative ceremony. The ceremony is a solemn occasion. It is attended by foreign dignitaries representing the countries of those who gave their lives so that we could live. The ceremony takes place on the second Saturday of June. On this day, surviving old-timers return to honour their colleagues and friends.
As we strolled, we spotted the graves of some famous personalities of Perak like Alma Baker, Cecil Rae, Labrooy and other FMS servicemen. Here, too, lies planter Donald Baxter, the son-in-law of the Danish architect, B.M. Iversen. Baxter was killed in a salary heist in 1964 somewhere near Tanjung Tualang. His stone is one of a kind, a block of marble selected by his wife, Ruth and Iversen himself. It can be easily identified. (Source: Law Siak Hong, Perak Heritage Society.)
To get to the cemetery, drive under the archway facing the main building of the Batu Gajah Hospital, you will pass the Jail and the Anglican Church. Go straight to the end of the road. You can’t miss it. Cemeteries are our heritage so please visitors, be respectful when you are here in the place of the “unseen residents”.
The heritage charms and the rich stories locked in ‘God’s Little Acre’ could be turned into a tourism spot.
Ipoh, the Town that Tin Built, is beginning to come alive and heritage preservation is playing a big role. Since the collapse of the tin industry in the late eighties Ipoh has slowly but surely been on a downward spiral. Many of its youth, attracted to the more progressive cities of Kuala Lumpur and Penang, have left Ipoh in a mass exodus, earning it the label of being a retirement town. Concomitantly, old buildings, some of them well worth preserving, have been left to rot and decay, some even collapsing, as in the case of Concubine Lane.
Movement at Last
Finally things are beginning to move in Ipoh. Ipohites with nostalgia, as well as property developers, are beginning to take an active interest in preserving Ipoh’s rich heritage and some of its buildings. If we drive along several roads in New and Old Town, we will notice that progress has been made in certain old shop lots which have been upgraded with their exterior façades maintained while their interior have been modernised.
Currently, we are seeing a proliferation of this ‘preservation of Ipoh’ with the ‘restoration’ of multiple units of properties which their owners say will be turned into boarding houses or boutique hotels or “restored just to keep the spirit of Ipoh alive”. A welcome spirit indeed and one which Ipoh Echo has set out to explore and document.
‘Sekeping Kong Heng’: A Guest House
Over at Old Town amongst the Heritage Trail lies the Dramatist Hostel, more popularly known as Kong Heng coffee shop famous for its kai see hor fun and other local food fare. The property which is bordered by Leech Street (Jalan Bandar Timah), Jalan Panglima, the adjacent lane till Belfield Street (Jalan Sultan Yussuf) was purchased by its current owners in 2008. This is a 3-storey building where actors stayed and rehearsed and performed at the Chinese Opera Theatre next door which has since been demolished but the hostel remains.
One of its owners is renowned landscape architect Ng Sek San, an Ipoh boy, who said that “Ipoh was a good place to grow up” and felt that “it should be preserved for the next generation”. However, for Ng “restoration is not just about restoring, that would become a museum. I want something that is living. Every building has a spirit. We should visualise and build around that spirit.”
Late last year Kong Heng coffee shop was closed for five days for a clean-up and that was all the attention paid to it. Not so for the hostel that Ng has transformed into a guest house – ‘Sekeping Kong Heng’ (a slice of Kong Heng).
The wood walls of the partitioned rooms on the first floor have been replaced with concrete sheets and each room has been fitted with its own bathroom. There are eight rooms on this floor.
On the second floor, the open floor now has two bathrooms plus two suspended air-conditioned glass houses above the rehearsal floor which can also be used as a function room. As Ng explained “we provide the space and allow the users creativity to take over, which should appeal to young people”.
While the main Kong Heng building has been restored the kitchen at the back has been maintained and made an excellent example of adaptive reuse by building another two storeys over it which adjoins it to the original building by the staircase in between.
The first floor annexe is ‘literally’ a covered open-air family room. It can accommodate one double and four single beds. The bedroom walls are of wire mesh and the tall uncut trees keep the room cool and comes with a mosquito net.
The second floor annexe is an open-air communal room with tables and chairs. The “kitchen is planned to become a café later on” while the there are no plans yet for the ‘store’ which has been cleared of its intruding roots. The space between the two buildings has been paved with cobblestone and the entire ground floor is kept cool under a canopy from the original matured trees.
From the main road, the building appears that nothing has changed other than the paved lane and newly-planted trees. But then Kong Heng coffee shop is just 25% of the total property. As for the cost, Ng says he pays more for labour than material as he uses mainly local material. Ng only uses T5 fluorescent tubes (it’s environmentally friendly) and has installed grease traps (I don’t want to pollute the Kinta River). His plan for the rest of the property is “not thought of yet”.
5-Star Boutique Hotel In New Town
Unlike Kong Heng, 63-year old Fong Soo Har, the owner of Tin City Hotel which is still under construction, has his hotel’s plans all laid out.
The hotel located on three units of shop houses along busy Brewster Road (Jalan Sultan Idris Shah) is scheduled for completion in May next year. It will be a 5-star boutique hotel, eight storeys tall and will have just 26 rooms with two being duplex penthouses on the top floor which also houses the swimming pool. The hotel will also be the first in Ipoh to have an elevated car park for 12 cars.
Eight years ago Fong began investing in property in New Town and subsequently purchased three units along Jalan Sultan Idris Shah for the hotel and another seven units across the road. His reason for investing in Ipoh is because “I love Ipoh. KL is like New York – too busy. I grew up in Ipoh. I love it here and want to keep it looking like before.”
Fong was born and raised in Tronoh. His father owned a tin mine there but when he grew up he made furniture cabinets at Gunung Rapat and later expanded his business to a factory at Lahat.
He left for New York in the late 80s “when business was very bad” also making furniture cabinets there. After two years working with a friend he started his own business in New York.
The original building was a three-storey building with half-moon French windows for its frontal façade. Fong maintained the front façade because “that is what it looked like driving down Brewster Road”.
In order to ensure his ideas stayed focused, Fong brought in his New York architect Renny Booth whom he worked with for over 14 years.
He chose the name Tin City Hotel “because the whole hotel will be a tin mine story”.
Fong hasn’t worked out the details for the interior yet but he plans to put a replica of a palong on the top floor complete with water flowing down to the pool area which can be seen as one drives along Jalan Sultan Idris Shah.
More Restoration in the Pipeline
Lim Ko Pi is a Kopitiam-style coffee house, located at 10‑16 Hugh Low Street (Jalan Sultan Iskandar) before the intersection with Belfield Street. It is one of two red buildings (to the right) with the yellow Oversea Building in between.
Interestingly, its owner Lim Chai Hock is a Kedah citizen who married Ipoh girl Lee Yoke Chee and with their three daughters are all interested in preserving Ipoh’s heritage.
Lim who has worked around Malaysia, currently works overseas. He compared Ipoh to China Town Kuala Terengganu “which is less than a kilometre long but has been well preserved and is a huge tourist attraction there”. Lim hopes to duplicate that model for Ipoh explaining “Ipoh is a hundred years old and spread out and preservation opportunities are everywhere.”
One of the reasons he purchased 10-16 Hugh Low Street is because the Oversea Building “is a landmark in Ipoh and should be preserved”.
To cement his conviction that Heritage Tourism in Ipoh has potential, Lim has since made some very significant property purchases. Another landmark he has purchased is the 3-storey SPH De Silva building at the intersection of Belfield Street (Jalan Sultan Yussuf) and Station Road (Jalan Dato Maharajalela). This ‘Neo-Renaissance design building is one of Ipoh’s oldest commercial buildings and restoring it “contributes towards the city’s fine streetscape”.
At the intersection of Hugh Low Street and Chamberlain Road (Jalan CM Yussuf), Lim has also purchased seven shop lots which, wife Lee says, will be painted the seven colours of the rainbow. The reason for the purchase: “the buildings are still in their original condition but more importantly they all have a balcony which makes them unique”. Already two of the buildings have been painted red and yellow.
Lim’s vision for his properties is to restore and preserve them. All the properties are currently being upgraded and restored. However, his plans for 10-16 Hugh Low Street is to turn it into a boutique hotel with nine rooms, function room and two diners.
The efforts of these three entrepreneurs are testimony that the spirit of Ipoh Heritage is catching on. The heritage activity that may have started at the Old Town Heritage Trails has now spread to New Town so maybe it is timely that the Kinta Heritage Group should come out with heritage maps 3 and 4 which will cover New Town.
Hopefully with the featuring of the efforts of these three entrepreneurs more individuals, and possibly corporations, will come forward to preserve Ipoh town for the next generation to be able to appreciate its past.
Malaysia’s oldest prehistoric rock paintings found at Gunung Panjang, Tambun (Gua Tambun) was the focus of a group of students led by Professor Dr Lynn Hollen Lees from the University of Pennsylvania. The University Malaysia Kelantan students are currently attached to the Ministry of Tourism (Perak) on a 4-month practical training.
The day trip was organised by the Perak Heritage Society as part of its efforts in promoting historical heritage to visitors. The 2-hour hike was strenuous but worthy and, in spite of a heavy downpour, it did not dampen their spirits.
Perak Heritage Society’s Law Siak Hong was on hand to brief the visitors. They had to climb 128 rocky steps to a ledge to observe the huge paintings at close quarters. From that vantage point they could also see Ipoh with the Kledang hills in the background. It was a remarkable sight to behold.
Evidence of vandalism is obvious as some of the paintings have been defaced. Steps to protect these 2,000-year old rock paintings have been taken but they are not sufficient. The difficulty in accessing the location is what that keeps intruders away. But for how long?
According to Professor Lynn, the paintings were similar to rock and cave paintings she had seen in other parts of the world. The site was gazetted by Ipoh City Council in 1986 and was declared a national heritage by the Department of National Heritage on January 10, 2010.