Formerly named Kroh (or Keroh), Pengkalan Hulu, a small town located in Perak’s northern most district of Hulu Perak, is more popularly known as the gateway to Thailand’s paradise town, Betong.
Little is known about Pengkalan Hulu’s tourist attractions. Therefore, in this issue of Perak Tourism Newsletter, we will attempt to unravel places of interest, both known and unknown, found in this quaint, hilly provincial town, which is covered in thick fog in the morning and where the air is always fresh and invigorating.
Visit Malaysia Year 2014 is soon upon us in the blink of an eye. It will be launched with a bang in Kuala Lumpur during the first week of January.
Meanwhile, we in Perak have been very busy with promoting our state and working extra hard, especially these past two months, including distributing promotional materials such as buntings and CDs to hotels and travel agents, to assist in their promotional efforts.
Not only are we trying to entice domestic travellers, we are also ‘selling’ our tourism products to the international market. In November, we participated in Travel Malaysia Exposition 2013 in Singapore and World Travel Mart 2013 in London.
In Singapore, we also took the opportunity to hold a corporate presentation. It was a platform for buyers and sellers to meet. Over 40 travel agents from Singapore and six product owners from Perak participated in this event.
While in London, we had our own booth at the Malaysia Pavilion to promote Perak. Hosted by the Malaysian Ministry of Tourism and Culture, we were quite successful in introducing Perak to travel agents from Europe. They were particularly interested in the Royal Belum.
Also, it is with pleasure to announce that our mobile application, TravelPerak, is ready for downloading at Google Play and iTunes. Yes, it is available for both Android and iOS platforms! We look forward to your feedback on ways to improve it.
We have also revamped our online presence with a new website which is accessible at www.travelperak.com, and boosted our social media presence. Connect with us on Facebook (Perak Tourism), follow us on Twitter (@PerakTourism) or contact us at our email: [email protected]
Driving from Ipoh, take the North-South Expressway, exiting from Kuala Kangsar. From there, get on the trunk road to Gerik and continue north to Pengkalan Hulu, following the sign boards by the left side of the road. This stretch is uphill and winding all the way, as Pengkalan Hulu is some 380m (1250 ft) above sea level. So drive carefully, especially when it is raining. About 190km from Ipoh, this road trip takes approximately 3 hours.
As said, Pengkalan Hulu is a small town, encompassing only 873.70 km² of land. Despite this, there are about ten motels, hotels, rest houses and chalets for visitors to choose from. Popular among tourists is Chalet Air Panas (Hot Springs Chalet), just 2km from Betong. VIP chalets range from RM85 per night for four persons to RM162 per night for one person. Budget-friendly accommodation is also available in the form of normal chalets and dormitories.
There are two hot spring pools here. Although some claimed the water is too murky, well, that is its natural state.
For further information, contact Chalet Air Panas at:
Email: [email protected]
Office hours: 8am – 9pm (Monday – Friday)
& 8am – 5pm (Saturday & Sunday)
GPS Coordinates: N 05° 43.423 E101° 00.888’
Gua Gendang (Cave of Drums) is Pengkalan Hulu’s most unique tourist attraction.
This limestone cave is located in Kampung Tasek, some 9km from Pengkalan Hulu town. Together with Gua Itik, a smaller adjacent cave, these caves make for serious jungle trekking and cave exploration activities for hardcore outdoor buffs.
Surrounded by lush tropical forest, Gua Gendang is believed to be used as a hideout by communist terrorists during the Malayan Emergency (1948 to 1960).
Those who brave the trail down to the cave, descending some 120 steps, will be rewarded with the best that Mother Nature has to offer.
Besides the opportunity to check out the formations of amazing rock textures, stalactites and stalagmites, the roaring water cascading into the cave from the seven nearby waterfalls simultaneously beating against the interior walls of the caves is like a wondrous drum performance, hence the name of the cave. Turn off your torchlights, close your eyes and feel the beat of the drums. It is so ecstatic!
But that is certainly not all that Gua Gendang has to offer. Imagine exploring a cave that is half submerged in water, and at some points, you may even have to “commando crawl” through some of the narrower stretches inside the cave.
A good nature guide is required, and safety precautions have to be taken, because the final part of the cave requires one to dive underwater before emerging in Kedah, the neighbouring state!
An expedition to Gua Gendang, first by a four-wheel drive vehicle, then jungle trekking, followed by cave exploration, is definitely not for the faint-hearted. But for those who seek challenges and thrills of this nature, Gua Gendang is the ultimate destination in Pengkalan Hulu.
GPS Coordinates: N 05° 38.736’ E100° 57.793’
This still unexplored Gua Khalid near the development of PPMS Tanah Hitam, is also known locally as Gua Komunis because, like Gua Gendang, it is believed that the communist terrorists used the cave as their hideout during the Malayan Emergency years, 1965 to be precise, based on what had been written on the wall.
This cave, located some 10 minutes’ drive off the main Gerik – Klian Intan Road, is accessible only by four-wheel drive vehicle. Another 10 minutes of trekking over a treacherous trail is required before one reaches the cave.
Although some adventurous locals like to come by for a picnic, the exploration of this cave is more suited for those who wish to research on the Emergency period. There are many Mandarin texts found written on the cave walls. But Mandarin-speaking locals have not been able to decipher the real messages behind the writings.
GPS Coordinates: N 05° 36.985’ E101° 01.283’
Oldest & largest open-cast tin mine
Visitors to Pengkalan Hulu should not pass up the opportunity to visit the oldest and largest active open-cast tin mine in Malaysia, operated by Rahman Hydraulic Tin Sdn Bhd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Malaysia Smelting Corporation Bhd.
The tin mine, situated in Klian Intan and encompassing a land area of 700 hectares, was started in 1907 by the British. It now has a staff strength of 700 people, producing 250 metric tons of tin ore per month.
More of an educational tour, visitors are first taken to the viewing deck for an overview of the mine pit. With Gunung Paku in the background, it is most scenic, especially in the morning before the thick mist clears.
Besides checking out the different stages of the mining process, the guided tour includes a stop at the plant nursery and fish pond, a major greening and land rehabilitation effort with assistance from the Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM).
Although the tin mine is open to visitors since 2006, only group visits are encouraged, with a minimum of 15 to a maximum of 30 persons per group. Prior permission has to be obtained from the management of Rahman Hydraulic Tin.
GPS Coordinates: N 05° 37.861’ E101° 01.818
Pong Dam & Hydro Power Station
Not much is known about both the Pong Dam and Pong Mini Hydro Power Station, except that they were built by the British circa 1924. The power station is some 40 minutes by 4WD from the Gerik – Klian Intan road, first passing through the Kg. Bukit Asu aboriginal village, before reaching Kg. Pong, a Siamese village. The dam is a further ten minutes’ drive away.
Today, both are properties of Rahman Hydraulic Tin. The dam was an ex-mining pond and it supplies water to the power station, which generates 11,000 kilowatts of power per day to the company’s tin mining operations in nearby Klian Intan.
GPS Coordinates (Pong Dam): N 05° 31.477’ E100° 59.195’
GPS Coordinates (Pong Hydro Power Station): N 05° 31.648’ E100° 59.709’
S.J.K. (C) Kung Li
By itself, this Chinese primary school in Klian Intan is like any other school in a small provincial town. However, it is in the spotlight because it was built at the site that was used by the Japanese Imperial Army to teach Japanese language during the Japanese Occupation. Although the original wooden building had long been replaced by a concrete block, it is believed that the stairs with 288 steps that connect Jalan Besar to the school at the top of the hill are still the original ones constructed by the Japanese.
S.J.K. (C) Kung Li has a student enrolment of less than 40. It is open from 7am to 2pm from Mondays to Fridays only.
GPS Coordinates: N 05° 38.035’ E101° 01.219’
Bowling is a popular indoor sport here. The 12-lane Pengkalan Hulu Superbowl charges a flat rate of RM3 per game. So, it is not surprising to see families and groups of friends converging at the arena every evening.
Opened since July 2011, the arena has just kicked off the Pengkalan Hulu Superbowl Cup, a challenge trophy with a cash prize of RM200 for the winning team. Weekly mini tournaments are also held, where cash prizes of RM150 are up for grabs.
Rental of bowling shoes is RM1, while socks are RM2 a pair.
2pm – 12 midnight (Monday – Thursday)
3pm – 12 midnight (Friday)
12 noon – 12 midnight (Saturday / Sunday / public holidays)
Add: Dewan Sultan Idris Shah II, 33100 Pengkalan Hulu, Perak.
GPS Coordinates: N 05° 42.170’ E100° 59.858’
The 9-hole Kelab Golf Pengkalan Hulu was opened to the public in the 1990s. It was formerly an airstrip used to resupply troops in the forward bases during the Emergency years.
Membership fee is RM2,000 for the public and RM1,500 for civil servants. Non-members are charged RM30 green fee a day. Current membership stands at some 100, from Perak, neighbouring states and even Thailand.
Said to be one of the more challenging golf links in Perak, the club hosts about four major golf tournaments annually. They are Piala OBJ Perak in May, Piala Presiden, Piala YDP and Club Championship in December.
The only golf club in the district of Hulu Perak, it has recently expanded to offer accommodation under the name of the Good View Motel. With 19 rooms, the motel can accommodate up to 40 guests at a time. Room rates start from RM70+ per night.
Add: Jalan Pejabat, 33100 Pengkalan Hulu, Perak.
Golfing hours: 8am – 3.30pm
GPS Coordinates: N 05° 42.166’ E100° 59.704’
Dataran Gading/Tasek Takong
A long time ago, when Pengkalan Hulu was ruled by Raja of Reman, a small pond was built to enable his elephants to bathe. The water was always murky, which was how the town got its name, Kroh.
This pond has since been developed into Tasek Takong, with a square at the entrance of the lake named Dataran Gading (Ivory Square).
This recreational park is well-utilised by the locals, especially in the evenings and on weekends. It is also the venue for the annual fishing and decorative raft competitions.
GPS Coordinates: N 05° 42.166’ E100° 59.704’
A popular eatery among the locals is a floating restaurant by the name of Restoran Terapong, just by the bank of Tasek Takong. Open from 4pm to 1am daily except Wednesdays, it serves a wide variety of local, Thai and western food. The dish to try here is the Thai-style seafood tom-yam.
Add: Jalan Padang, Taman Tasek Takong, 33100 Pengkalan Hulu.
Tel: +6019-5920732 (Razman)
GPS Coordinates: N 05° 42.174’ E100° 59.775’
Restoran Terapung No. 2
Just a short distance away from Restoran Terapung, near Kelab Golf Pengkalan Hulu, is Restoran Terapung No. 2. Despite its name, these two restaurants are run by different owners.
Open from 10am to 2am daily except Saturdays, the signature dish here is “nasi goreng terapung” (floating fried rice).
Add: Jalan Tasek, 33100 Pengkalan Hulu.
Tel: +6019-5654539 (Akib)
GPS Coordinates: N 05° 42.044’ E100° 59.744’
Those interested to visit the attractions highlighted in Pengkalan Hulu, but do not fancy the hassle of arranging their own trip, may contact En. Haniff Faiz bin Misnan from the Pengkalan Hulu District Council (Tourism Unit). His mobile number: +6017-846 5346.