Tag Archives: Bandar Baru Kampar

Kampar – Malaysia’s First University Town


By James Gough

Just ten years ago when anyone mentioned Kampar, the only images that came to mind were claypot chicken rice, Kampar chicken biscuits and the hills that run parallel on the east side to the main street of town. Flash forward ten years and a new image leaps into awareness. Kampar is UTAR or University Tunku  Abdul Rahman with its wide and spacious campus grounds, a wide expanse of lake with young student cyclists whizzing past every few minutes. But this is not the original Kampar of memory but Bandar Baru Kampar or Kampar New Town located north of the old town.

utar 11a-001

Collapse of Tin Brought New Life to Kampar

Bandar Baru Kampar or Kampar New Town was the result of the collapse of the tin industry in Malaysia in 1985. Located to the north of Kampar town, it was started by Tan Sri Hew See Tong, 82, a former tin miner and former MP of Kampar from 1995 till 2008.

Hew, who lived all his life in Kampar, felt it was his ‘duty and responsibility to do something’ for his hometown, Kampar. When his own mining operations ground to a halt in 1989, Hew used his ex-mining land to the north of Kampar to venture into housing and industrial development, giving birth to the creation of Kampar New Town from a sandy yet scenic landscape.

New Economic Activities

At an interview with Ipoh Echo held at the Grand Kampar Hotel, Hew elaborated that his initial initiative attracted electronic companies to his new location. Though the companies are no longer here “their technology had become outdated”, it was the start of a new economic activity which spurred property development and became a catalyst for the Kampar of today.

However, it was Hew’s initiative to successfully encourage Tunku Abdul Rahman College (TARC) to set up a branch at Kampar, that was the cornerstone that has made Kampar what it has become today, a University Town.

*clockwise) Tan Sri Hew See Tong, GrandKampar Hotel and Bandar Baru Kampar
(clockwise) Tan Sri Hew See Tong, Grand Kampar Hotel and Bandar Baru Kampar

Hew’s original offer to the management of TARC was the use of five shop lots with a RM1 rental per year and a donation of 20Ha of his ex-mining land as a permanent site for the college. Hew also garnered the support of then MCA President Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik. Hence on May 2003, TAR College was officially opened in Kampar.

The subsequent setting up of the main campus of University Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) located in Kampar was also facilitated by Hew. Engaging the assistance of former Menteri’s Besar Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib and Datuk Seri Tajol Rosli as well as MCA leader Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan, the Perak State Government subsequently granted UTAR a 520-ha piece of ex-mining land to build its campus.

Excellent Study Environment

UTAR was officially opened in June 2007 and is located in a scenic location flanked by placid lakes and picturesque mountains.

UTAR's study environment is quiet, comfortable and conducive
UTAR’s study environment is quiet, comfortable and conducive

Its campus houses five faculties which include the Faculty of Arts and Social Science, Business and Finance, Engineering and Green Technology, Information and Communication Technology and Faculty of Science. It also has facilities such as a gymnasium, basketball court, volleyball court for sports and extracurricular activities.

A walk through the campus starting from its Block A, Heritage Building, via the walkway which  follows the edge of the lake links the subsequent blocks and provides a panoramic vista for the visitor to view how former mining ponds are integrated together with the landscape and buildings creating a very conducive environment for studying and youth activities.

Similarly the students’ accommodation located across the lake are within cycling distance and bicycle traffic tends to increase before and after classes and during meal times at New Town.

UTAR has facilities for sport and extra curricular activities
UTAR has facilities for sport and extra curricular activities

Journalism student Lena Toon who is currently interning with Ipoh Echo till August, described the overall study environment as quiet, comfortable and conducive. Toon who lives in  Ipoh commutes by bus on weekends and like the majority of students, cycles to class.

Extra-curricular activities are plentiful with Wushu being particularly well attended. Its Club President, Lecturer Lee How Chinh admitted that his students’ passion for the sport made it the most active club for two straight years and contributed three of five participants at the Asian University games in Laos last year.

Time for dinner at Bandar Baru Kampar
Time for dinner at Bandar Baru Kampar

An early evening visit to Kampar New Town revealed the hordes of students literally flock to the town centre mostly on bicycles for their evening meal while at the field across, other youths were still playing Frisbee. Notably too at New Town were the outlets of Old Town White Coffee, McDonald’s, Domino’s Pizza as well as K-Box Karaoke and even a gym and skating rink all within the centre.

Spin off  Services

Besides property development which was created to provide accommodation and commercial services, other services here include retail shops, a supermarket, restaurants, hotels and bicycle shops.

According to Hew, TARC has 2000 students while UTAR currently has over 14,000 students and is increasing on average 10 per cent each year. UTAR has a capacity for over 20,000 students and Hew anticipates UTAR’s population to increase to 18,000 by the year 2018.

An issue about insufficient accommodation was heard during UTAR Kampar’s recent second convocation day held at its 4000 capacity Tun Ling Liong Sik grand hall. The event was held over three days in order to accommodate the students to share their proud achievement with their parents.

Kampar’s main hotel is the 155-room Grand Kampar Hotel centrally located in New Town though there are several budget hotels located in the town.

Room for Improvement

Hew, when asked if he had done his duty and responsibility, acknow-ledged that “yes, Kampar has been revived”.

He elaborated that assuming the 14,000 students that were living in Kampar spent an estimate of RM14 million per month, based on RM1000 per month expenditure, the town would be flush with RM168 million per year just from tertiary education.

Adding that there was still a lot of room for improvement Hew highlighted the recent opening of the Westlake International School within the same locality as UTAR which provides students the opportunity for a globalized environment.

Westlake International School offers students opportunities for a globalized environment
Westlake International School offers students opportunities for a globalized environment

The international school which started this year offers the Cambridge International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) curriculum that is recognised worldwide. The current enrolment is over 100 students but has a capacity to accommodate 3000 students ultimately.

Hew shared his other planning projects over the next five years which includes service apartments for short-term stays (1-2 months) for visitors, a condominium for overseas students and their families and a 5-acre Kampar Walk close to Westlake.

Kampar’s Heritage Tourism

Another area for economic activity says Hew, is tourism. Hew who has been involved with the tin industry all his life, has created a tin museum depicting the various aspects of early mining activity.

Hew’s vision for tourism could be put to the test. Moving through Kampar’s main road are several Chinese clan houses, a post office and a hospital. The 100-year-old Chinese temple is still there as is the Catholic Sacred Heart Church at the end of the road just past the Merdeka clock tower built to commemorate Malaysia’s independence day.

Kampar Heritage Tourism.(clockwise) Tin Museum, Kampar main street with Merdeka Clock Tower in the foreground. Clan houses beside the Chinese Temple.
Kampar Heritage Tourism.(clockwise) Tin Museum, Kampar main street with Merdeka Clock Tower in the foreground. Clan houses beside the Chinese Temple.

What was equally amazing was one of the houses on the main road belonged to Imam Prang Jabarumun, the Assistant Penghulu of Gopeng, a Mandailing’ who in the 1890s played midwife to the birth of Kampar originally called Mambang di Awan (fairy in the clouds).

In the book ‘Kinta Valley’ by Khoo Salma Nasution and Abdur Razzaq Lubis “Imam Prang Jabarumun, upon discovering a very rich tin field had been discovered at Mambang di-awan, demanded that Kinta District Officer JBM Leech follow him immediately to lay out the township”.

Leech acknowledging the site to be valuable selected a township site and named it Kampar after a little stream close by. For Leech, Mambang di-Awan was too long a name for a Chinese mining village.

Leech later in 1891 described the progress of Kampar ‘from the most backward to one of the most prosperous’. He added that “it has grown from a cluster of huts into a large and flourishing mining village with 154 shops which had been laid out with the usual blocks of ten 20 ft building lots”.

These shoplots still exist on the main street and would make a good heritage tourism product for Kampar.

Apparently Hew is right again. There is still a lot of room for improvement.


KAMPAR – From Tin Mines to Tertiary Education


By Jerry Francis

Kampar, like most mining towns in the rich alluvial tin deposit region of the Kinta Valley, plunged into a depression when the international tin price collapsed in October, 1985. Several tin mines on which the town’s economy largely depended, gradually ceased operation. Also affected were scores of supporting industries, such as foundries, hardware shops, machinery workshops and timber traders. As a result, thousands of workers lost their jobs. Without any alternative employment opportunity available, most of the young people left as immigrant workers to Japan, Taiwan, Europe and the United States and sent their hard earned money home to their dependants. Kampar founded in 1887, thus became like an old-folks and children’s home. However, in just over two decades, Kampar has emerged from the tailings of the tin mines into a fast growing hub for tertiary education in Perak.

The revival of Kampar was possible largely because of the vision of a former veteran tin miner Tan Sri Hew See Tong, who gave a kiss of life to an otherwise dying mining town.

Tan Sri Hew See Tong

“Hew, a miner since 1949, was an advisor for a number of years to the International Tin Council (ITC) in London, which was established in 1956 to manage a buffer stock to keep the tin price at a steady level until 1985 when its buffer manager could no longer maintain the price due to rising cost of production and an increase in production by non-member countries. As a result ITC collapsed and so did the tin mining industry in the country.

After the tin mining industry collapsed, I managed to carry on until the drop of the tin price became unbearable”, said the 79-year-old Hew at a casual interview in a coffee-shop.

New Township
On ceasing mining operations in 1989, he decided to diversify and use his ex-mining land just north of Kampar town for housing and industrial developments. And so, a new township – Bandar Baru Kampar, sprang out in the midst of the vast sandy landscape.

Beautifully designed shophouses in Bandar Baru Kampar

This gave some clout to his efforts. Hew’s hope was to develop the new township to be a catalyst in bringing much deve-lopment and growth to the region.

He started off by luring three foreign electronic companies to set up their operations in the new township and provide employment for about 7,000 workers.

Need for Progress
Despite some critics accusing him of having a personal agenda, the soft-spoken Hew crusaded on with his vision to bring progress and new hope to the residents of his birthplace. “I felt we needed to do something and so decided to make Kampar a hub of tertiary education”, he said.

Hew then went on to persuade Tunku Abdul Rahman College (TARC) to set up a branch. His offer of five shop lots at a nominal rental of RM1 per year and a donation of 20.2ha of his ex-mining land for the college’s permanent site was too good to refuse.

And with the support of Tun Dr. Ling Liong Sek (former MCA president), he managed to get TARC to come in and the branch campus was constructed and officially opened on May 18, 2003. Today, the branch campus, surrounded by beautiful scenery and lakes, offers outstanding facilities and resources that further promote excellent teaching and learning.

Hew was also instrumental in getting the University Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) to set up its main campus in the new township. It was with the help of two former Menteri Besars of Perak, Tan Sri Ramli Ngah and Datuk Seri Tajol Rosli, and an MCA leader Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan that a 520-ha piece of ex-mining land surrounded by lush greenery and lakes was allocated by the Perak Government to UTAR.

The university was officially opened on June 1, 2007. UTAR has progressed steadily to be a comprehensive university providing “a diverse portfolio of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes with a niche in research and consultancy”.

Main square of Bandar Baru Kampar

Future Developments
Under its second phase of development, UTAR is constructing a grand-hall with a capacity for 3,500 people and a number of lecture theatres. Currently, UTAR has an enrolment of 12,500 students and TARC has 2,100 students.Bandar Baru Kampar has about 4,000 houses, 300 commercial buildings, two government schools, a large supermarket and a seven-storey hotel. Housing developments are still underway.

The Federal Govern-ment is proposing to build a satellite hospital in the township to cater to the residents of Lower Perak and MARA is planning to set up its university at nearby Gua Tempurung.

With plans for expansion by the two education institutions, the student population is expected to hit well above 20,000. Kampar is therefore primed to move further with the education sector as the main driving force of its economy.

Providing accommodation and essential needs of the students alone offers great prospects to the economic and commercial activities of the township as well as the old town. Already, restaurants, hotels, internet cafes and retail shops are among others thriving in the town.

Confidence in the economic boom of Kampar is shown by the number of commercial banks (8) which have their branches in the town. With its population on the increase to well above 70,000, the sub-district was upgraded to a full district – the 10th in Perak last year.

Tourism Potential
Having seen Kampar turn around to become a hub of tertiary education is not sufficient for Hew to rest on his laurels. “My dream is to see Kampar become both a hub for tertiary education and a tourist destination.

“There is potential for tourism development in Kampar and its surroundings”, he claimed. He pointed out the bird sanctuary in the area, Gua Tempurung and the old tin dredge in Chendrong as among the tourist attractions.

As for his role towards tourism, Hew said he, together with some former miners, were working on setting up a gravel pump mines museum to be located in the township.

“We want to show the young generation and the generations to come, the contribution of the tin mining industry to the economy of the country as well as remind the residents of the town’s heritage”, he said.

The old town was once famous for its chicken clay-pot rice, chicken biscuits and fish-ball noodles. Bus-loads of tourists were known to make a bee-line to the town to savourthe delicacies. However theconstruction of the North-South Highway soon made the detour to Kampar too tedious and foodie visits dwindled. With the new focus on tourism, Kampar should soon see the full buses returning, making Kampar a full destination rather than a detour.