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Sungai Pari - Pari river

Hope for Success the Second Time Around

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By James Gough & A. Jeyaraj

Sungai Pari - Pari river
Sungai Pari

There is good news ahead for residents along Sungai Pari and Sungai Pinji. Under the third rolling plan of the 10th Malaysia Plan, RM50 million has been allocated for the flood mitigation project which since the first attempt failed in 1992, hopefully  should stop the flooding which has besieged residents of Pari Garden, adjacent Lim Garden, Merdaka Garden, Hock Aun Garden, Gugusan Manjoi, Tai Le Village and Buntong especially the last big one which happened in the early hours of 20 February 2012 when the Pari River overflowed its banks and flooded many of the suburbs that ran parallel alongside it.

Failure of Flood Mitigation Project in 1992 Cause of Current Woes

A resident of Pari Garden that lies adjacent to Lim Garden had awoken at the usual time of 6am and walked into a watery kitchen floor to realize that the Pari River was flooded, a sensation he hadn’t felt in over ten years ago.

At Lim Gardens school children going to the nearby Tarcisian Convent had to wade through a flooded road knee deep high for 50 meters to get to school. Similarly motorcyclists were seen pushing their vehicles through the flood waters and further up on Jalan Hassan a motor car was seen motionless with flood waters swirling round it’. Merdeka field off  Jalan Lumut was a ‘placid lake’ while a former resident of that area recalled it was over 20 years since he had seen Lim Garden experience a flood of this extent.

At Gugusan Manjoi the situation was worse. At 11am when Menteri Besar Dato Seri DiRaja Zambry Abdul Kadir toured the location the water level at the Pari River was almost the same height as the top of the river bund. Here over 150 people had to be evacuated and another 20 families had to be moved to the nearby community hall.

At the homes located parallel with the river the flood waters were still 1 foot high while at the other bank Search and Rescue personnel were seen ferrying the sick and elderly by boat to their lorry to be evacuated. The scene at Jalan Raja bridge Manjoi was very busy as MBI personnel were seen clearing debris from under the bridge which was hampering the flow of flood waters. Four lorry loads of debris had already been removed and more trucks were waiting to be loaded.

On the eastern river bund 300 meters from the bridge a technician was repairing a pump which failed to discharge water from the retention pond back to the Pari river while 1km upriver at Merdeka Gardens where the discharge pump was working no flooding occurred.

Root Causes and Proposed Solutions

Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) Perak
Datuk Abdul Razak Dahalan

Datuk Abdul Razak Dahalan, Director of the Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) Perak when interviewed said ‘the flooding at Lim Garden and surrounding areas on 20 February 2012 was due to excessive rain fall. An exceptionally heavy four hour downpour had caused a sudden increase in the volume of water flowing into Sungai Pari’. He cited the case of flooding in Thailand which was due to heavy rainfall.

Razak also said that ‘the floodgates along the river were damaged while the fibre floodgates were stolen’ explaining that if garbage is thrown into the drain then the rubbish would get stuck between the floodgate and pipe and the gate would not shut tight resulting in a backflow of water. Razak added that after the flooding, RM2.5 million would be spent on upgrading and replacing the floodgates.

He said that the housing project in Lim Garden is one of the earliest approved projects where the houses were built on low lying areas.

Initiative by DID

A report  titled ’Flood Risk Mapping for Pari River’ done by River Engineering and Urban Drainage Research Centre (REDAC) of USM Engineering Campus, 2002 states that a flood mitigation project for Pari River was initiated by DID in 1992 originating from Meru River at the upstream down to Kuala Pari Village at the downstream, covering a length of 8km.

The report added that ‘flooding in 1996 and 1997 proved that the flood mitigation had failed to control the floodwaters’ adding ‘that the river bunds were breached causing water to overflow to surrounding areas’. The report also stated the affected locations which were the same affected locations this year.

Studies on Pari River

According to Razak many studies have been carried out about flooding of Sungai Pari and the problem was identified as early as 1930.  When asked whether the recommendations of these studies were implemented, Razak responded that only a few of the recommendations had been implemented due to lack of funds.

Future Plan

The RM50 million allocation for the new flood mitigation project will include the following:

Retention Ponds: Three regional retention ponds will be built. One is currently being constructed at Merdeka Garden at a cost of RM3.8 million and is scheduled to be completed by November this year. Two others will be built upstream. Additionally a number of mining pools along the river will be converted to catchment ponds. Currently these mining pools have been leased to individuals and acquisition of the land is in progress.

Upgrading of bridges: All low decked bridges such as the Jalan Raja bridge Manjoi will be raised. This job would be jointly done by DID and MBI. Bidding for one of the bridges is already out. The level of the service deck adjacent to the bridges will also be raised.

Replace retaining slabs:  Concrete retaining slabs along Sungai Pari has fallen off in many places. These slabs will be replaced by stones.

Upgrading of drains: The state government has set up a fund for the upgrading of drains. All developers in the state carrying out project works must contribute to this fund as some drains over 40 years old are damaged and do not serve their function.

Successful Example Set by Kinta River Mitigation Project

As the DID implements the Pari River flood mitigation project, it is hoped that their endeavour this round will be a permanent solution, similar to the Kinta River mitigation project. The Kinta River Flood Mitigation Scheme was launched a year after the 1926 ‘Great Flood’ in Ipoh which inundated Old Town and its goal was to make Ipoh ‘Flood-Free’.

Kinta River - Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Kinta River

The scheme was exercised in three phases (1929-1930) and included constructing a channel through Ipoh Town, diverting the Sungai Choh and clearing the Kinta River and its main tributaries. The scheme worked but flooding still continued though not as seriously.  Subsequently the Perak State government together with five major mining companies undertook to divert and straighten the Kinta River. By the 1950s the project had straightened 38 miles of river from Ipoh to Kuala Chenderiang which resulted in Ipoh not having seen a major flood since.

Hopefully too flooding on the Pari River will be history in the next few years. To borrow the words from a song,  “Success is Lovelier, the Second Time Around”.

Ipoh Property Getting Noticed

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By Sylvia Looi

Ipoh PropertyDevelopers in Perak are bullish over property development in the state with some feeling its capital Ipoh has finally entered the major league of property investment by getting noticed. CEO of Superboom Projects Peter Chan, the developer of the award winning condominium project The Haven in Tambun, said the lull in the building industry currently being experienced elsewhere in the country is a good sign for Perak and Ipoh in particular.

Ipoh is One of the Least Risky Places for Investment

Peter Chan, CEO of Superboom Projects
Peter Chan, CEO of Superboom Projects

“Buyers will look for the least risky places to invest and Ipoh will definitely be one of them,” he told Ipoh Echo in a recent interview.

Chan, who has stayed in Ipoh for the past 10 years, based his opinion on the leads and lags factor. “Ipoh is fast becoming the number 1 property investment destination as seen from the steady rise in property prices here over the year,” he said. “The time has come for the successful to own a second home or a getaway home,” he added.

Citing The Haven as an example, Chan said locals formed the bulk of purchasers. Chan foresees that Ipoh will be the next centre of attention in the coming years.

“Ipoh has a good prospect with the Electric Train Service and the extension of the Sultan Azlan Shah Airport runway which will lead to more flights and more destinations being offered,” he said. The low cost of living in Ipoh makes it another attraction to investors, added Chan. “Best town in the world is Ipoh with its laid-back lifestyle,” he enthused.

 

Ipoh Property
Tumbuh Merata’s project at Jalan Pasir Puteh

Double Storey Doubled

Agreeing with Chan, Tumbuh Merata Sdn Bhd director Tony Khoo said the price of double-storey projects in the city had almost doubled since three years ago. “A double-storey house for RM180,000 then, can now fetch between RM290,000 and RM300,000,” he revealed. Khoo was however quick to add that property prices are still relatively low in Ipoh as compared to other cities.

Khoo added that most purchasers of properties in Ipoh now, are middle income earners with more disposable incomes. “Compared to 10 years ago, properties in Ipoh are being snapped up by Ipohitess working overseas and planning to retire in the city,” he noted.

The local property scene, according to Khoo, lacks medium-cost units, which he blamed on the high land costs. “Coupled with high building costs, developers cannot sell their projects at a bargain,” he explained. He said, however, that purchasers would weigh in factors like locality, whether a project is gated, its design and pricing before deciding on investing in a project. “Bank policies are also affecting our sales as we can’t close a deal if prospective buyers can’t get a bank loan,” he added.

Khoo said projects with safety features will definitely be a plus point for purchasers when considering a property to invest in due to growing concern over high crime rate. “I would say 70% of buyers will go for it if they can afford it,” he said, adding that the only drawback of a gated community is the high monthly maintenance charges they have to incur.

 

Ipoh Property
Kinta Real Estate development

Locality

Kinta Real Estate Sdn Bhd managing director, Dato Poo Tak Kiau, however believes that the location of a project determines the marketability of a project. Citing Bandar Baru Meru as an example, Poo said due to plans to relocate Government offices there, projects there are being snapped up like hot cakes.

“Even before the dust for the first phase project has settled, investors are queuing up to purchase the second phase,” he said. Citing Meru Desa Park as another example, Poo said the price has appreciated from more than RM308,000 to more than RM400,000 within six months.

In Bandar Meru Raya, a 24”x90” terrace house project which was fetching RM400,000 previously is now changing hands at RM600,000.

With a hypermarket, central bus station, hotel, convention centre, education centres and amusement park being built in Bandar Meru Raya, Poo reckons that when the entire Bandar Meru Raya is fully developed, the prices of properties will skyrocket.

Poo said another location that investors should be on the lookout for is Kampar. “With Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman, there will be more demand from students for accommodation,” he said. Citing the Taman Mahsuri Impian as an example, Poo said investors are assured of rental returns. “Purchasers can be assured of between 13% and 27% return on their investment,” he added.

Loans

On complaints by some developers that difficulties in obtaining loans for buyers are causing them to lose some deals, Bank Negara Malaysia said this was to ensure individuals do not borrow beyond their means.

In a report on online news portal The Malaysian Insider on March 22, Bank Negara Malaysia assistant governor, Dr Sukhdave Singh, was quoted as saying that “while easy loan approvals may give a boost to economic activity in the short term, there would be a price to pay in the long term that would be borne by the whole economy”.

“Credit guidelines are not intended to deny loans to genuine borrowers with genuine needs and who can afford to repay,” Dr Sukhdave Singh was quoted as saying.

The ruling came into effect in November 2010 when the central bank announced a maximum loan-to-value ratio of 70% for third housing loans to curb excessive investment and speculative activity in the residential property market. Financing for the purchase of first and second homes was, however, not affected by the ruling.

The central bank said the measure would help ensure housing remained affordable and promote home ownership among Malaysians, which was an important item on the national agenda.

Perak chapter of Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association Malaysia (REHDA)
Dato’ Francis Lee, REHDA Chairman

REHDA Confident of Property Boom in Coming Decade

The Perak chapter of Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association Malaysia (REHDA) is confident that Perak’s property market will take off in the coming decade.

Its chairman Dato’ Francis Lee said that apart from the laggard pricing from Peninsular Malaysia, Perak’s house prices are also increasingly laggard from the cost of delivery of the housing development.

“With the increase in household income over the last few years and the current low interest regime, the affordability index is at an all time high for the intended target group of purchasers,” he told Ipoh Echo through an email interview.

Lee said that the Government’s measures to curb speculation by way of a revision of rates to ‘Real Property Gains Tax’ and a 70% ceiling on housing loans, would have little impact on the housing market scene in Perak.

“The other positive measures implemented to promote home ownership by way of ‘My First Home Scheme’ and ‘1 Malaysia Public Housing Scheme’ (PR1MA) will be supportive of the housing industry in Perak,” he said.

Lee noted that investors contemplating a purchase of a property in Perak will be comforted by an assurance that the prospective property is comparatively cheap and defensive in value and has capacity for strong capital appreciation into the future.

Perak Cheap by Comparison

“A cursory review of the average transacted price of housing properties within Peninsular Malaysia for 2010 and 2011 shows that the price of properties in Perak for the corresponding period is indeed very cheap by comparison” he said, pointing out that the average transacted price for properties in Perak for 2011, consisting of transactions in both the primary and secondary market, is RM122,275.

“This ranks the pricing of housing property in Perak at the tenth spot in Peninsular Malaysia and only ahead of Perlis, Kelantan and Terengganu,” he added.

“As the major variance for the cost of delivery of housing properties within Peninsular Malaysia is the land cost, there is no rationale for the vast laggard pricing and the prices for housing in Perak will inevitably move upwards in the coming years,” he noted.

Current Stock of Housing

Lee said for low-cost housing, there were 90,606 units in Perak in 2011 representing 23.32% of total housing stock. “This is largely represented as mandatory delivery of low-cost housing by housing developers under corresponding state guidelines,” he said.

Lee noted that single-storey terrace, two to three-storey terraced and detached houses form the bulk of the housing stock in Perak, tallying at 264,667 units or 67.83% of total stock.

“With the increasing household income of the last few years and a growing affluent population, there will be a corresponding growth in the percentage of delivery of semi detached, detached and condominiums in the coming years,” he added.

As the ‘Population and Housing Census of Malaysia – Preliminary Count Report 2010’ reports that there are 559,405 households in Perak as at census date, this would mean that 169,188 households in Perak are living in non-conventional housing in the form of small holdings with rural residence, shop houses with residential facilities and residential premises built on TOL (temporary occupation licence) land, said Lee.

“The fact that the price of housing in Perak is much laggard from Peninsular Malaysia pricing, it would be fair to infer that there is no element of a property bubble subsisting in Perak,” he said.

Minimum Wage Implementation – FMM Warns of Backlash

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By Sylvia Looi & James Gough

The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) Perak branch has warned of a backlash if minimum wage is implemented across the board and simultaneously in the country. Its chairman Dato’ Gan Tack Kong said if minimum wage was implemented, it would lead to a host of problems such as retrenchment, increased operating costs and may even affect investments in the country.

ipoh echo issue 143, cover story, Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM), sylvia looi, james gough
FMM Perak Branch Chairman, Dato’ Gan Tack Kong

“Give SMEs Three Years to Adjust” – Dato’ Gan

Citing a multi-national company, which pays between RM500 and RM600 for an unskilled worker prior to the introduction of minimum wage as an example, Gan said by increasing the salary of the worker to RM900, the company might end up retrenching the worker.

“This will lead to a black market for the workforce whereby hard pressed retrenched workers will be willing to return to work below the minimum wage,” he told Ipoh Echo, adding that among the sectors that would be deeply affected by the move are plantation and construction sectors, which are labour intensive sectors.

He added that to push for higher productivity to substantiate the higher wages, employers may be forced to increase their workers’ working hours.

“This may affect the morale of workers especially those in the rural areas, who tend to lead a more laid-back life.They may not take it kindly that they need to work longer hours thus may opt to stay at home instead,” he said.

FMM, noted Gan, had received complaints that the implementation of minimum wage would increase manufacturers’ production costs. Giving a manufacturing company in Teluk Intan as an example, Gan said with the introduction of minimum wage, the company estimated it would need to fork out an addition of RM400,000 monthly for their employees’ wages.

“One of the reasons companies chose least developed states to invest in was the low cost and abundance of workers but with minimum wage, these states will be less attractive,” he said.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had, on the eve of Labour Day celebrations recently, announced that employees in the peninsula would get RM900 monthly while workers in East Malaysia would get RM800. It covers employees in all economic sectors except those in the domestic service sector like maids and gardeners.

The move would take effect in six months from the date the Minimum Wage Order is gazetted.

For small-time employers or micro enterprises, the effective date had been extended by another six months to give them time to make preparations so their businesses would not be affected.

To avoid the negative effects of minimum wage, Gan suggested wages to be determined by market forces. “Unskilled workers should also receive constant training to ensure their skills are on par with the wages they receive,” he said.

SMEs, Gan added, should also be given three years to adjust to the move. “This is to allow them to plan ahead,” he said. He also said the implementation should be carried out according to zones. “Start with the more developed states first before moving to other areas,” he said.

ipoh echo issue 143, cover story, Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM), sylvia looi, james gough
Tony Khoo

Concurring with Gan, developer Tumbuh Merata Sdn. Bhd.’s director Tony Khoo said those without experience cannot expect to be paid a high salary. “While the move will ensure protection for those entering the workforce for the first time, it may lead to a slowdown in taking in new employees as employers will be reluctant to pay the minimum wage,” he said, adding that sectors like manufacturing and construction should be exempted from minimum wage.

Khoo, who felt the move was bulldozed through without consultation with all sectors, said if it is implemented, it will lead to a higher priced employment market.

Meanwhile, the Perak Branch Chairman of the Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MICCI), Mr Leong Hua Kooi, echoed similar sentiments as Gan and Khoo saying that “productivity should be the driving force for higher income where higher productivity will naturally lead to a higher income.”

ipoh echo issue 143, cover story, Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM), sylvia looi, james gough
MICCI Branch Chairman, Leong Hua Kooi

Leong feels that  the availability of foreign workers is keeping wages down. “Foreign workers are generally work orientated, flexible and have a higher productivity, hence we have to improve the productivity of our own people.”

“The education system too must be improved to produce skilled workers relevant to the market. Producing graduates who are unable to find jobs will not help. The Government must now look seriously at improving the overall productivity and competitiveness of our industries to be fair to the business community”.

The various industries, from hotels to manufacturing, have now provided suggestions on how to implement the minimum wage whether in cash or in kind such as fixed incentives or possibly commissions or accommodation and get it recognised as part of the minimum wage.

Overall MICCI members are waiting for a clearer definition of implementation guidelines.

Ipoh Barat MP M. Kulasegaran, who also sits on the parliamentary caucus on labour and migrant workers, meanwhile said the introduction of minimum wage was long overdue.

Although welcoming it, Kulasegaran felt the implementation was haphazard. “More consultation on the matter is needed with all stakeholders before it is announced,” he said, adding that the quantum of RM900 for peninsular and RM800 for East Malaysia was too low. “How do you sustain in big cities like Kuala Lumpur with RM900?” he questioned.

Kulasegaran agreed with Gan that the pitfall of having minimum wage is that it would strengthen the dependency on illegal foreign workers as employers would be hard pressed to go into black markets for cheap labour.

Meanwhile, the State Exco for Industry, Dato’ Hamidah Osman, when contacted, responded that as at the time of Ipoh Echo going to press, she had not heard of any feedback on this issue.

Acknowledging that the minimum wage of RM900 was “reasonable” she nevertheless noted that this policy “only affected the private sector” which has been offering a very low wage.

Hamidah also acknowledged that this policy “will burden industry but will nevertheless help the lower income earners”.

Hamidah added that currently government servants like drivers or Pegawai Am Rendah, enjoy an “all-in starting salary” of over RM1,000 which is higher than the minimum wage.

Reiterating that she still did not have the full scenario she nevertheless repeated that she would be sitting with the relevant NGOs to hear their views on this issue.

cover story ipoh echo issue 141 - Kong Heng

Shining Through: Ipoh’s Heritage Spirit

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By James Gough

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.

cover story ipoh echo issue 141 - ‘Sekeping Kong Heng’
‘Sekeping Kong Heng’

‘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.”

Adaptive Reuse: Building 2 stories above the old kitchen area.

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.

(l-r) Ng Sek San. 2nd floor with suspended glass houses

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”.

Adaptive Reuse

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.

Open-air family room. Mosquito nets provided

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.

Open-air Communal Room

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.

(l) Tin City Hotel owner Fong Soo Har..'the whole Hotel will be a tin mine story'. (r) Fong (l) on his daily round.

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.

(l-r) Fong with architect Booth. Posing along Brewster Road (Jln Sultan Idris Shah)

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”.

The view from the top. Main street and roof-tops.

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.

Lim Ko Pi. A kopitiam-style coffee house.

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.”

(l-r) 10-16 Hugh Low Street. Oversea Building (in yellow). formerly OCBC Bank being upgraded. Lim Ko Pi is on its right side.

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”.

The 'Neo-Renaissance' SPH De Silva building being upgraded.

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.

cover story ipoh echo issue 141
Two units of the planned ‘rainbow’ shop lots

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.

Meru Valley Golf and Country Club - Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

Golf in Perak – Untapped Tourism Potential

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By James Gough

Meru Valley Golf and Country Club - Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
On the Green. The 6th Hole at MVGCC’s Valley Nine

 

Perak Tourism CEO Ahmad Fathil - Malaysia
Perak Tourism CEO Ahmad Fathil

Moves are afoot to promote the game of golf in Perak. According to CEO of Perak Tourism Ahmad Fathil Abdul Ghani, the state is providing allocations to golf clubs organising events such as the recently-held Perak Ladies Open held in February and the Grand Finale of the upcoming World Amateur Inter-Team Golf Championship (WAITGC) 2012 organised by Tourism Malaysia from November 6 to 8 this year at the Royal Perak Golf Club.

Structured Golf Packages Welcomed by Tour Agents

Acknowledging that golf in the state has positive potential, he added that a meeting with the stakeholders and local tour agents will be held soon to initiate a structured golf package. “The package won’t just focus on Ipoh but other clubs at Lumut and Taiping and must cater to all. In Ipoh we have good food but we must also consider shopping for the wife and theme park activities for the family. The package too must target the foreign and domestic golfers.”

Tour agents when contacted welcomed the move by Perak Tourism to promote golf saying that “any product promotion is best undertaken by the state” as it takes on average six months and more after a promotion has started before they begin to see any bookings.

History of Golf In Perak
The game of golf has been played in the Kinta Valley for over a century. Introduced by the British during their presence here, a fine example remains of the original style and can be seen at Batu Gajah’s Kinta Golf Club, a nine-hole course turfed with trimmed cow grass over undulating grounds that reveal a picturesque green landscape aligned with its surrounding environment.

The club began as a turf club known as the Kinta Gymkhana Club, situated on the plateau 350 feet above sea level and had a seven furlong race track with the lawn in the inner track being used for cricket and golf. When the Club shifted to Ipoh after WW1, the grounds were turned into a golf course and named The Kinta Club and rated the best nine-hole course in Perak at the time.

The next course built was the Ipoh Golf Club, the early name for the Royal Perak Golf Club (RPGC), which was first formed at the turn of the 20th century. Its members initially played on a nine-hole course at the Perak Turf Club’s racecourse.

Due to its increased membership, the club acquired 180 acres (stretching from Tiger Lane to Gunung Rapat) from the State Government for the construction of an 18-hole golf course before shifting to its current location at Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah (formerly Tiger Lane) in 1932. Up till the nineties the RPGC was the only 18-hole golf course in the Valley.

Blossoming Interest
With interest in golf gaining widespread popularity during the nineties, courses in Ipoh such as Meru Valley Golf and Country Club (1992) and Clearwater Sanctuary Golf Resort (1994) were opened to cater to the market.

This saw the creation of a golfer’s paradise all within close proximity of Ipoh City, perfect for a golfing weekend, that is, good game, good cuisine, affordable stay plus easy accessibility especially from Kuala Lumpur and Penang.

Royal Perak Golf Club - Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Royal Perak Golf Club

Royal Perak Golf Club
RPGC is located right in the heart of town and is generally a favoured walking course for most golfers although it has buggy facilities.

Seasoned golfers say that it may be ‘flat and appear friendly’ but it is ‘mature and can be quite unforgiving’. Driving your ball into a rough or wooded area will need some course management discipline if you don’t want to blow-up your game.
It has hosted some major events such as the Malaysian Open Golf Championship in 1974 where Graham Marsh carded a 65, the Mizuno Tournament Championship from 1979-1981 and the Benson & Hedges International Golf Series also in 1979. A regular fixture of the club and MGA calendar was the Perak Masters Open Championship inaugurated by DYMM Sultan Azlan Shah first played off in 1987.

Meru Valley Golf and Country Club
Meru Valley Golf and Country Club (MVGCC) is a mere 10 minutes west of Ipoh City. Situated at the foothills of the Kledang-Saiyong Mountain Range it is a resort with a breathtaking 27-hole international championship golf course aptly named the Valley, Waterfall and River Nines.

The favoured combination of nines is the Valley and Waterfall which offer challenging holes against a picturesque backdrop of valleys which slope downwards from the clubhouse towards cascading streams, water hazards and jungle lined fairways.

In 2008 it won the CNBC International Property Awards for Best Golf Development, Asia Pacific and the 5-Stars Award for Best Golf Development, Malaysia. It has also played host to the Perak Amateur Golf Championship for the last five years.
The club is also a residential golf resort and home to seasonal golfers who stay during the winter months and never fail to have their daily morning round with many preferring the fresh morning walk instead of taking the buggy.

Clearwater Masters Tournament 2011 - Clearwater Sanctuary Golf Resort, Batu Gajah, Perak, Malaysia
Clearwater Masters Tournament 2011

Clearwater Sanctuary Golf Resort
South of the city at Batu Gajah is Clearwater Sanctuary Golf Resort. This 27-hole golf course was designed by Aussie professional Tim Woolbank and has been built around disused mining ponds and named the Raintree, Lakes and Wetland nines.

Clearwater Masters Tournament 2011 - Clearwater Sanctuary Golf Resort, Batu Gajah, Perak, Malaysia
Champion Barry Henson

As the names imply, having a round here will present the golfer with picturesque rows of shady raintrees surrounded by serene lakes whilst driving their golf ball down challenging fairways. Not surprisingly the Resort has been described as the “Most Scenic Golf Course” and rated as the “5th Best Golf Resort in Asia” by Golf Malaysia Magazine.

Numbers Remain Static
All of these courses offer golfers a fun and challenging round of golf. Yet despite the quality of the golf courses available, the number of rounds played per month has not increased and has consistently remained at an average of 2,500-3,000 rounds per club per month all these years.

The game is mainly played by its club members. It is the walk-in guests who average 1-2 flights and the occasional group tour arranged by tour agents and the corporate game that contribute to the extra numbers.
The corporate game is where a major corporation such as Maybank, will hold a game for its staff and customers as a public relations exercise which will see close to a hundred rounds being played. The scenario is the same at all the three clubs who declare that they average one corporate game a month.
According to a spokesman for Meru Valley Golf and Country Club, the club which describes itself as “a residential golf resort offering full country club facilities”, it additionally has its regular seasonal guests who come over during winter, stay a few months and play a round every day.

Perak Golf Courses Not On Tour Itineraries
A survey of the websites offering golfing packages throughout Malaysia and South East Asia revealed that Perak golf courses are not indicated in their itinerary. Local agents when contacted also confirmed that they “don’t do golfing packages”.

Hopefully all of the plans being mooted will start to bear fruit in the very near future as it will attract another sector of visitors, the corporate sector.

This segment of visitors is known for looking after its corporate customers with a 2D1N stay consisting of an afternoon of golf followed by good dining, wine and song, and another round of golf the next morning before departing.

Cultivating this corporate clientele will give the tourism industry a much needed boost and possibly take the industry to another level.

Fore!

Orang Asli Gopeng - Ulu Groh Christmas Day service

The Orang Asli Christian Community of Gopeng

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By James Gough

They wore crown headdresses (‘pelilit kepala’) and costumes made of palm fronds. Mellifluous melodies of Christmas Carols were coming from their mouths and yet, “is that Bahasa Malaysia I am hearing?” Such was my initial confusion when I first saw the Orang Asli christian community from Gopeng perform during the state government’s annual Christmas celebration a few years ago. And thus began my fascination with this indigenous group.

Orang Asli Gopeng - Ulu Groh Christmas Day service
Ulu Groh Christmas Day service

Orang Asli Gopeng

“Developing Leaders for local Ministries is the challenge for the Future” – Rev. Eduan

Christmas 2010 saw me at a Christmas service at Gopeng’s Shalom Church. It was a Sunday Service on December 26 and the afternoon service was a lively affair with the congregation of Orang Asli singing carols and reciting testimonies.

For Christmas 2011, determined to meet the Orang Asli parishioners from Gopeng, I contacted the Pastor of Shalom Church, Rev. Jack Mongudai, a Sabahan, and had the pleasure of caroling with Shalom Church parishioners over two nights at Kg Pos Raya, Gopeng and Kg Ulu Jelintoh.

Ethereal Scene for Christmas Carols

The Orang Asli community at Gopeng live at 4 main villages of Kg Ulu Groh, Kg Ulu Kampar, Kg Ulu Geruntum and Kg Ulu Jelintuh. The total population at these 4 villages is over 5,000 of which 1,000 are Christians.

An evocative scene of flickering candles at Kg Pos Raya, where a parishioner had recently shifted into a low-cost house, was ethereal as the carollers sang and read by candlelight since electricity had yet to be connected. Kg Ulu Jelintoh was a kampong setting and the magic of Christmas was emanating from the Christmas carols at their homes, culminating with the entire group of carollers congregating at the Ulu Jelintoh Chapel with the rest of its Christian community for prayer followed by a fellowship pot luck meal prepared by the families there.

orang asli gopengChristmas Service at Kg Ulu Groh

I had felt that my assignment would not be complete if I didn’t witness a Christmas service right in the heart of Gopeng’s Christian Orang Asli territory, Kg Ulu Groh where 95% of its community is Christian.

Hence, on Christmas morning I drove up to the chapel at Ulu Groh a good 15km from Gopeng town. There were over 120 parishioners in the congregation that morning, all smartly dressed, children included.

This morning was also the first time I met Reverend Eduan, a born and raised member of the Ulu Groh community, who led the chapel service that morning.

The praise and worship service as always was lively and inspiring but this time I witnessed dancing girls with tambourines in hand dancing to Christmas carols which added another dimension to the meaning of joy associated with Christmas.

orang asli gopengMissionary District

The Gopeng Shalom Church is an Anglican denomination church which was part of St Peter’s parish, Fair Park, Ipoh. The Shalom Church was opened in 1999. Fifteen years later in 2011, it was classified as a Missionary District Church and has over 2,000 parishioners. Its ministry services 17 locations bordering from Gopeng to Kg Air Denak; Tronoh to Kg Choh; Tg Rambutan, Ulu Kinta and Gua Musang (Kelantan), and its services are conducted in Bahasa Malaysia.

According to Dr Teoh Soong Kee, St Peter’s Church advisor in charge of the Bahasa Malaysia Ministry, the villages of Kg Ulu Groh, Kg Ulu Geruntoh and Kg Ulu Kampar in Gopeng are the main locations where their congregation is located, and the Orang Asli Christians have been in the area for over 50 years.

Teoh could not indicate when the Orang Asli were converted but it is documented in the book Kinta Valley by Khoo Salma Nasution and Abdur-Razzaq Lubis that the “Anglo Chinese Boys School on Lahat Road was the first English school as well as the first Christian Mission School in Kinta.”

The school was founded by Reverend W.E. Horley who also opened other Christian Mission Schools in Kampar, Telok Anson, Taiping and Sitiawan and also took charge of the schools in Tronoh, Tapah and Gopeng.

Home Grown Leaders

Over the last 50 years, explained Teoh, the Missionary District has produced two  Orang Asli pastors, Lizune Bah Chong who was born in Kg Air Denak, Tronoh and Reverend Eduan Bah Chimpok, 42, a third generation Christian born in Kg Ulu Groh, Gopeng.

According to Eduan, his grandfather Bah Nuyop was the first Semai resident from Ulu Groh to be converted to Christianity in 1962. “At that time the missionaries were Methodist. When I was 7 years old I was sent to board at Anglo Chinese School, Kampar where I lived till I returned after Form three”.

Eduan recalls that there “were around 50 Orang Asli youths at the school then from throughout the state, Teluk Anson (Teluk Intan), Sungai Siput, Tapah and Sitiawan. Besides Sunday service we participated in other activities in the youth ministry.” At age eleven Eduan recalls being asked to become a pastor but he never gave it a second thought then.

Orang Asli Christian community of GopengEduan only considered becoming a pastor in the late nineties after a serious illness. When he recovered he decided to become a pastor and enrolled at the Malaysian Baptist Seminary, Penang where he received a Bachelor in Theology. During his nine years with the seminary he continued to serve his parishioners around Gopeng.

Eduan is now based at St Peter’s Church, Ipoh and takes care of the Bahasa Malaysia speaking parishioners. “These parishioners are mostly from East Malaysia, are educated and comprised of army and police personnel and students. Our service is in Bahasa Malaysia, so we also attract Indonesians.”

Eduan describes his mission work with the urban and rural community as challenging because their needs are totally different.

The rural community is generally uneducated and the service is to teach and build a foundation while the urban community is educated and requires more than the “Sunday service which was all that was available when I started in 2009. Now we provide classes for children, discipleship and theology, all in Bahasa Malaysia and I am currently training leaders to help in these Ministries.”

With all these activities Eduan still has time for mission services which is currently at Sungai Siput and Chenderiang.

So my last Christmas was time well spent getting to meet another community living around the fringes of Ipoh, the smiling and friendly Orang Asli Christians of Gopeng.  Gathering from the way Reverend Jack and Eduan are going about their mission services I dare say we can anticipate an increase in their community.

Papan-Lahat - site of potential landfill

Papan Landfill urgent as Bercham fills up

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By James Gough

Implementation of Ipoh’s Solid Waste Sanitary Landfill located just north of Papan is becoming urgent as the one in Bercham is reaching maximum capacity. However, regulatory requirements set by various agencies have not been fulfilled as revealed by the State Department of Environment (DOE) office that a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study of the site has not been completed. Ipoh Echo conducted an investigation into the status of the proposed project.

Papan-Lahat - site of potential landfill

“The project would carry on even if it has to be modified” – UPEN

The proposed area for the Papan landfill is a vast and picturesque valley of disused mining ponds amidst lush greenery against a backdrop of the rolling hills of the Kledang Range. The ponds, filled with tilapia and patin fish are juxtaposed with cows and buffalo grazing the wild grass as one comes across abandoned farms of lemons, marrow, papaya, jack fruit and young oil palm trees. The farmers of these plots had abandoned their farms in early January this year after receiving eviction notices sent to them by the Batu Gajah District Office which gave them 14 days from December 28, 2011 to vacate their premises.

Helpless fish and cattle breeders

While the vegetable and fruit farmers harvested their crops and left, the fish and cattle breeders were left in a quandary. A total of 30 of these farmers and breeders who had been toiling their land from 5-21 years, all of them illegally, turned to their respective state assemblymen, YB Sivakumar (Tronoh) and YB Lim Pek Har (Menglembu) for help. Their only plea to Ipoh City Council was to allow them to continue to earn their livelihood at the same location or at least provide them an alternative site. Interestingly though is that several of these farmers have their plots located next to the Asian Rare Earth radioactive depository for many years and now due to the setting up of the future solid waste landfill, have to vacate their farms.

Papan with Asian Rare Earth in the background
Buffaloes grazing under the shadow of ARE Depository (the white hill in the background)

Asian Rare Earth Depository

The Asian Rare Earth Depository is a radioactive storage facility to store rare earth which was produced by Asian Rare Earth refinery (ARE) a Mitsubishi Chemicals company in the 80s. Its presence caused a sudden surge in leukaemia, birth defects and miscarriages to residents in that area. After much public pressure the plant was closed in 1992 and its waste of over 80,000 steel barrels was ‘entombed at a designated hilltop depository’. The entire clean-up is reported to have been completed in 2011. The monitoring of the ARE facility falls under the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB), the department that monitors and enforces nuclear activity in the country.

Papan Sanitary Landfill

The Papan Sanitary landfill came into existence in July 2008 during a state council meeting and was subsequently gazetted in October 2009. The site is located in between the towns of Papan and Lahat and covers an area of 560.24 acres or 226.73 hectares and was intended to be the next landfill site after Bercham which is just 96 acres in size.

Unlike Bercham which has a population of 125,712 residents and 158 housing estates within a 5km radius the new site has 53,516 residents and 34 housing estates within the same radius.

Bercham landfill reaching maximum capacity
Bercham Landfill

Based on its location and size the site would accept solid waste from the Districts of Ipoh, Batu Gajah, Kampar and Central Perak. The lifespan of the landfill is projected to last 35 years.

The new facility is classified as a Level 4 sanitary landfill site and its infrastructure includes facilities for system leachate collection, controlled collection and release of methane gas, facilities to wash and clean the garbage transport trucks and have a daily closing or intermediate cover to prevent odour. Ipoh City Council has last November appointed Selekta Spectra Sdn Bhd as the concessionaire for the project who will also build and operate the facility.

EIA Report

At its preliminary stage, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (MHLG) appointed a consultant to carry out the Department of Environment’s (DOE) Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study.

Map of Papan-Lahat landfill
Map of Papan-Lahat landfill

During the course of the study the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB), the department that monitors the Asian Rare Earth radioactive depository, raised its objection, saying the landfill site was located well within the 1.7km buffer zone from the ARE Depository explaining that no development should take place within the buffer zone. A review of the site map of the facility confirmed that two-thirds of the landfill site was well within the buffer zone.

This being the case, Dato’ Chor Chee Huang, the Minister of Housing and Local Government (MHLG), announced last June that since two-thirds of the site could not be utilised for the landfill the project was ‘not viable for a long-term project’ and subsequently ‘aborted’ the project. The Ministry subsequently wrote an official letter several months later informing the Perak State Government that it had dropped the project.

MBI Takes Over Project

When MHLG aborted the project Ipoh City Council (MBI) took over the project  and proceeded to implement the landfill project.

At the initial stage to start our report Ipoh Echo approached Ipoh City Council for a copy of the site map and discovered that indeed the landfill location was within the 1.7km ARE buffer zone.

A subsequent check with the Director of AELB, Raja Dato’ Abdul Aziz, verified that the map in question was the same which the Board had based its objections on. Abdul Aziz also clarified that “the buffer zone is 2km in radius. However, since it encroached onto the Lumut Highway, the Board reduced the buffer zone to 1.7km”.

Ipoh Mayor, Dato’ Roshidi, when asked about the restriction for the buffer zone, seemed unsure about the buffer zone although he responded that the “Council would strictly follow the regulation for the setting up of the landfill site.” Roshidi further added that his main concern was to alleviate the problem of the 150,000 residents living close to the Bercham dumpsite. Similarly, Dato’ Abu Bakar, the Director of the State Economic Planning Unit (UPEN) also responded that the project would “carry on even if it has to be modified”.

EIA Study Not Completed

A check with the State Department of Environment (DOE) office revealed that should MBI change its plans in any way, a new EIA was needed. A spokesman for the DOE however stated that a detailed EIA for the site was not done. The EIA initiated earlier by the Housing and Local Government Ministry was aborted when just at the Terms of Reference (TOR) stage, at four months instead of the usual nine months.

The spokesman added that “a detailed EIA report for a sanitary landfill is very important because the landfill discharges a lot of pollutants”. The spokesman further added that “per DOE regulations no work can be carried out at the site until the EIA is approved. Should any work take place prior to EIA approval, DOE can take the appropriate action.”

Just before going to press, Ipoh Echo reconfirmed the above findings with Mayor Roshidi who acknowledged accordingly and again reiterated that the Council would comply fully to all the required regulations.

Undoubtedly the implementation of the new sanitary landfill at Papan is important and now made more critical as the Bercham dumpsite is also full. Considering the close proximity of a solid waste landfill next to a radioactive depository, it is assuring to note that the relevant authorities are aware of the sensitive location of the site and will ensure all the regulatory requirements are fulfilled before the start of landfill operations.

Icons May Be Ready But Are All Systems Go?

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By James Gough

Over the last two months, Dato’ Hamidah Osman, Perak’s State Executive Councillor for Tourism, together with her team from Tourism Perak, have been going around the state checking on all 10 Tourist Icons of Perak to ensure the state is ready for the anticipated influx of 5 million tourists targeted for Visit Perak Year 2012. Well, the products may be ready but are the service providers that provide the feeder services also ready?

Ancillary Services Critical to Success of VPY 2012

While Hamidah has traversed the whole state from Gua Tempurung, Gopeng to Royal Belum in Grik and took in the Royal Town of Kuala Kangsar and Pangkor Island as well, all part of the 10 Tourist Icons of Perak, questions arise as to the ancillary services, such as: Are the buses and taxis that physically transport visitors to the icons available? Are there sufficient tour guides around to explain to visitors the wonderful points of our tourism products and in the visitor’s native tongue? Are the local tour agents supportive in promoting and ferrying inbound tourists to the 10 icons?

Meanwhile, the promotions for all these sites have been moving along, such as: wrap-around buses highlighting VPY 2012; billboards on the highway, between KL and Ipoh, portraying alluring Pangkor Island; and similarly displayed at KLIA, LCCT, Singapore and KL Sentral.

In actual fact the entire state machinery has been working towards the success of VPY 2012, with MB Dato’ Seri DiRaja Zambry Abdul Kadir chairing a meeting at his residence one night before a public holiday where all state executive councillors and district councils were present.

However, a recent negative report by Ipoh Echo about the inadequacies of the service provided by the Tourist Information Centre at Ipoh Padang, and a recent outburst by the Chairman of the Malaysian Chinese Tour Agents Association, has glaringly highlighted a disconnect to ensure the success of VPY 2012.

Kidd Road

Tourism is About Pleasant Memories

Tourism is all about pleasant memories. Tourists who have enjoyed their visits will go home and tell a few friends and would consider coming for a second visit. On the other hand, it is a well-known marketing fact that a dissatisfied tourist will tell many more people to avoid a destination like the plague.

Recently, Ipoh Echo received feedback from a visitor about difficulty visiting the Icons of Perak. The visitor is what the industry terms as FIT or Foreign Individual Tourist. She tried enquiring about getting on a local tour but was told that if she could get a group together, then the local operator could organise one. To get to the the Royal Town of Kuala Kangsar, the only option she had was to hire a taxi that would take her to the places of interest. The taxi man did take her to a few of the locations on the brochure and the tourist felt very disgruntled as she felt that the price she paid for four hours of the taxi time was way too high since the actual travel time to and from Kuala Kangsar took up at least one and a half hours, and not enough time was left to explore the sights.

Similarly for Gua Tempurung, getting there was the problem. There was no public bus service so it was by taxi and at higher cost. Fortunately, there was a group of students at Gua Tempurung that morning so she paid the nominal group tour fare and joined the guided tour.

But should a tourist have to put up with the hassle of having to ‘search’ for transport to get them to a tourist site? Logically after spending millions to promote the tourist sites the next step should be to make the sites as easily accessible as possible.

Tourism Retreat Findings

In April this year MOTOUR Perak, a branch of the Ministry of Tourism together with NGOs and the State Government organised a Perak Tourism Retreat. Its goal was to analyse the tourism industry state-wide and make recommendations on the way forward. Identifying the six tourism clusters, Northern Perak, Taiping, Kuala Kangsar, Ipoh, Pangkor and Kampung Gajah, was one of the results of the Retreat.

Buying a bus ticket to Lumut

Inadequate Bus Services

Another finding from the Retreat was the inadequate bus services. Although a bus service was available to the various Districts it did not extend directly to the tourist sites themselves. Some examples are: Gua Tempurung, Gopeng, Banding Lake at Royal Belum or Lenggong Museum, all of which are a considerable distance from the main roads.

Similarly for Ipoh, although there is a bus service, commuters say that the bus schedules are not published and do not run on time. Commuters are unaware of the Ipoh City Tour bus service, although it was launched in the middle of this year, to ferry visitors and tourists to and from their hotels to popular places of interest, food courts and restaurants.

The alternative mode is to use a taxi. However, taxi fares here do not run on a meter and are at the whim and fancy of taxi operators.

Kidd Road Bus Terminal

Entry Points and First Impressions

The Retreat also identified Ipoh to be the ‘main gateway into the state” as the airport, railway station and express bus companies are located here. The recommendation proposed was to ‘create a tourism-focused area in Ipoh’ from which to ferry visitors ‘to other tourist attractions in the state’.

Of the three transport modes, the express buses ferry the most number of visitors or commuters into the state annually and is said to be several millions more when compared to air and rail modes.

Medan Gopeng Bus Terminal

Unfortunately, the entry points for bus commuters at Medan Gopeng and Kidd Road Bus Terminus, provide a most dismal first impression of Ipoh due to its shabby image and haphazard operations structure.

A check with Dato’ Samsuddin Hashim, the Chief Executive of Perak State Development Corporation, the owners of Medan Gopeng terminal, confirmed that the Corporation will be taking over the management of the terminal but, due to an on-going ‘legal issue’, the upgrading of the bus terminal area can only be carried out after the first quarter of next year.

Samsuddin added that the upgrading plans included discussions with Ipoh City Council and the Drainage and Irrigation Department who would look into the large drain adjacent to the road before entering the bus parking bay.

The immediate plan is to relocate the hawker stalls currently outside the complex into the Silveritage Complex area and landscape the exterior. This will be completed by December.

Ipoh Airport is currently under expansion and is scheduled for completion by September next year.

Tour Agents and Inbound Tours

There is a perception that local travel agents promote more outbound than inbound tours. “Not so,” says MATTA Perak Chairman Ranjit Singh, adding that its members do promote inbound packages. The inbound tour charge is around RM200 and usually “caters to a van load which is approximately 6-8 passengers” at a rate of RM25-RM35 per head.

Tour Guides

The role of the tour guide is to bring life to a product. All tour guides are licensed and can practise throughout the country. The Ministry of Tourism has a guideline that for any coach with more than 8 passengers it must be accompanied by a tour guide. According to several sources this ruling is being implemented strictly in KL and Penang but not so in Perak.

Private Sector Participation

According to Syahruddin Abdul Hamid, the Director of MOTOUR Perak Office, the Tourism Industry is very much a “Private Sector Led Industry”. Hence in order to ensure that VPY 2012 succeeds in meeting its goals, a dialogue must be held with all the stakeholders and industry players to iron out all the ‘disconnects’ in the system.

A check with Dato’ Hamidah acknowledged that she was aware of the issue and would be sitting with all the industry players. “Let us not forget that 2013 is Visit Malaysia Year. Lets fine tune during 2012 and reap the full benefits for 2013,” added Hamidah.

The Heritage of Chemor

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By Yoon Lai Wan

Panoramic view of Kinta Valley
Tambun Rock Painting

Perak, the treasure trove of peninsular Malaysia is a land full of fascination. Tantalizing food, sun-kissed beaches, enchanting landscapes and heritage trails are some of the examples which make up the heartbeat of this beautiful state. To walk in the footsteps of our ancestors, to feel the ambiance of the past and to learn to appreciate the rich heritage that exists in our own land was the call of the day on a recent Perak Heritage Society (PHS) excursion to Chemor.

Neolithic Rock Paintings, Chinese and Indian Temples, On the Chemor Heritage Trail

The event, lead by Law Siak Hong and his team was opened to the public and an enthusiastic group of 14 people turned up for the memorable occasion. In reality, this nostalgic trail is a loop which starts from Tambun and ends in Tanjung Rambutan.

Tong Wah Tong

Gunung Panjang

Gunung Panjang, Tambun was our first stop. This place is famed for its Neolithic rock paintings dating more than 2,000 years back. One needs to take a leisurely walk along an overgrown trail and climb a flight of steep concrete steps before reaching

Gua Tambun where the Tambun Rock Paintings are found. We were enthralled by the red-pigmented paintings which bears a slight resemblance to the aboriginal paintings of Australia. It has been noted that there are more than 600 prehistoric rock paintings but they are rapidly fading due to exposure to natural elements through time. Illustrations of dugongs, deer, tapirs and wild boars can still be seen and with a vivid imagination, many others may start appearing too.

The Golden Dragon

Flora & fauna is abundant in Gunung Panjang. We took our time to soak in the beauty of nature and were admonished to not deviate from the path as we may unknowingly tread on some artefacts and destroy a part of history.

Tong Wah Temple

Tong Wah Tong or Tong Wah Temple, located along Batu 7, Jalan Ipoh-Tanjung Rambutan was our next stop. Most of Ipoh’s cave temples nestled among the many limestone hills in Kinta Valley but this interesting site is wedged half way up Gunung Layang Layang. One has to be physically fit to climb a flight of 168 steps before reaching the main entrance. Do take a breather while ascending as one can be rewarded with a great panoramic view of Kinta.

Pasembor stall

At the entrance of Tong Wah Tong, two gigantic murals depicting a green dragon and a tiger are paired off on each side of the wall. The murals of the mythical Chinese dragon & tiger are symbolic to ward off evil spirits. Having been there before, I noticed that the green dragon has been repainted gold. I was told by a temple helper that the reason for doing so is that golden dragons represent themost sovereign of the metallic dragons and they are also the mostdedicated to defeating evil.

On entering, an impressive altar is seen inside the main chamber. We were also shown a meditation centre located on another level.

Tanjung Rambutan was our next destination. This is a multiracial small town where everyone is living in harmony. On the main road, one can spot a gurdwara (Sikh temple), an Indian temple, a mosque and a Chinese temple quite close to each other.

Mandailing architecture

Pre-war architecture like SJK (C) Tat Choi and the railway station can still be seen. The rustic railway station, built in 1897, has seen better times. Sadly, it will soon be Mandailing architecture demolished to make way for the new double track. Trains do not stop here anymore but one can still visit this nostalgic place to look at the architecture and try the local delicacies which are being sold around this station. Don’t miss the Railway pasembor stall which opens from noon till dusk (closes on Friday). The pasembor is simply one of the best that I have tasted.

Kampong Mandailing

Kampung Mandailing, Chemor was our next call. Kak Nadimah, a descendent of Raja Bilah, was there to welcome us to her lovely house built in the 19th century.

The antique lamp

We were shown her collection of heirlooms. Solid antique furniture, four-poster beds, collections of lamps and bottles,a giant cookie press and the beautiful century-old tekat(embroidery) were artistically displayed. Kak Nadimah, being the perfect hostess who not only speaks excellent English but is a fantastic cook as well, treated us to a spread of Malay/Mandailing cuisine which included her specialty, the Kuih Makmurfilled with pineapple jam. Chronicles of her father, the former head-man of Kampung Mandailing were later shared with us.

Chemor railway station which was built in 1896 was our next stop. Shady trees and wild flowers lined the path leading to the station. Manned by Hassan, the station master, this place has also seen better days but trains do stop as key drops are still carried out here. Hassan graciously showed us around as we noted a phone with single line, antique train ‘keys’, and mechanical lever frames.

Chemor Railway Station

Hospital Bahagia

Our final stop was back to Tanjung Rambutan. This time we headed for Hospital Bahagia, Ulu Kinta (HBUK). With Gunung Korbu, the second highest peak in west Malaysia standing majestically within a short distance, one can feel the invigorating fresh mountain air blowing gently in the valley invigorating and refreshing the soul. This place is indeed the perfect location for a psychiatric hospital.

HBUK, built a century ago on 503 acres of land, was formerly known as Central Mental Hospital, Tanjung Rambutan. We were much honoured to be escorted by James Anthony, the supervisor of HBUK, around the vicinity. A brief history of this place was shared with us and we were taken round in a bus to visit the wards, gardens and lovely old colonial buildings which have stood the test of time.

Keys

Heritage trails evoke a sense of nostalgia. I hope that we will not let the old world charm disappear from our lives. As we are living on borrowed time, it is imperative that we preserve the rich culture and heritage found in Perak for future generations to appreciate.

 

 

 

 

Maha Mariamman Temple
Mechanical lever frame
Government quarters

Hello Australia, Ipoh Is Ready For the Next Class

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By James Gough

SMJK Poi Lam, Ipoh did itself proud when it received certificates signed by the Minister of Education for the Victorian State of Australia to honour the Poi Lam students who participated in the video-conference linkup which was part of the Victorian Education Innovations and Next Practise Showcase held in Melbourne earlier this year.

Ever Improving Technology Now Shrinking The World To Create The Global Classroom

Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has advanced so drastically in the last 20 years, leapfrogging from fixed landlines to the smartphone that everyone now carries one in their pocket. Similarly the computer which originally took up a whole room has shrunk down to 10.1 inches and for many people is an all-in-one office.

While the majority of us use this new technology individually there is a group of teachers that have been utilizing this ever improving technology religiously to enable the structuring of a global classroom.

Video Conferencing

In early September, I received a text message from Veronica Woo, the English teacher with SMJK Poi Lam at Jalan Panglima Bukit Wahab, inviting me to witness a Skype video-conferencing session with an Austrian school HLW St. Veit a.d. Glan, Austria.

The Austrian teacher, Katherine Zablatnik, who teaches English and History had invited a photographer and reporter along to report on its activities, hence I too was similarly invited.

The video conference was held at Poi Lam language room which had the usual trappings of computers, monitors and printers. However, on the wall were clocks with different times for different world capitals similar to what you see at the check-in counter at an airport.

While waiting for Austria to get linked up, Veronica got in touch with Anne Mirtschin an ICT Teacher with Hawkesdale P12 College, Victoria Australia. When connected, Woo introduced me to Anne, explaining about Ipoh Echo’s profile and that it was publishing Tourism Perak’s monthly newsletter. Woo then flipped through Ipoh Echo’s July 16 edition which featured a report about Visit Perak Year 2012 and briefly gave an account of the coming event to Mirtschin.

When Austria was connected the video streaming was intermittent. So Veronica switched off the video but communicated using just the audio. All the while the Poi Lam students in the room had been attentive to what was being communicated between Australia, Austria and us in Malaysia.

How It Started

The idea of a global classroom took off in 2005 during a ‘Celcom Youth Ambassador’ project titled, “Tomorrow’s School Project”. While other schools focused on charity, Woo focused on communication and found a partner with a New Zealand school. At that time, the mode of communication was to record their activities on a CD and exchange via conventional mail.

Friendship Group photo. Lau holding the Malaysia flag while Mirthschin holds the Australian flag

Later, Hawkesdale College came into the picture when an Australian exchange student, who was based in Poi Lam, informed Anne Mirtschin whose first question to Woo was, “Do you speak English?” When Woo answered in the affirmative the exchange of ideas began or as Woo described it “we started with baby steps first”.

Hawkesdale College: A Small Rural School

Anne Mirtschin has been a teacher for 25 years and is currently the Information and Communications Technology teacher at Hawkesdale P12 College, SW Victoria, Australia. This is a small, rural school of 250 students and approximately 30 staff. The majority of students come to school on a bus and are culturally and geographically isolated. There is no mobile phone service at the school or where she lives. She is married to a local farmer and can be seen after school and during holidays, helping her husband with sheep work.

However, she is passionate about applying technology to learning and eLearning, rural education and global education. Her activities with education and ICT have been recognised by winning the ICTEV (ICT Education Victoria) Leader of the Year 2009 as well as being named joint winner of Microsoft Innovative Teacher for Victoria 2008-09 among others.

Communication Tools: Language

SMJK Poi Lam is a Chinese-medium school. However, its English Language Section under Woo has been very active. During the recent launch of Visit Perak Year 2012, its Choral Speaking group gave an a cappella performance expounding the various tourist attractions found throughout the state.

Earlier in May, the school participated in the Victoria Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) Innovation Showcase held at the Melbourne Convention Centre Australia. Anne Mirtschin who did a presentation there had called Woo to participate at one of the live video conferences.

In September 2011, two of its students created a Book Trailer to participate in the Globalstorytelling Project as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival in Melbourne. The 1-2 minute trailer had to be produced using computer software and could include text, images, voice and music. The stories were then shared using computer software over a shared wikispace. The purpose of the project is to learn about different cultures in different countries. The Book Trailers were projected on the big screen during the festival.

Communication Tool: Skype

As mentioned earlier, technology, specifically the improvements made by Skype, the software application that allows users to make voice calls and video conferencing over the Internet simpler, has enabled the proliferation of the global classroom.

In early October when Mirtschin visited Poi Lam School together with her husband Bruce, the school held an event during the morning assembly to honour all the participants who took part in the Victorian Education Innovations and Next Practise Showcase.

In appreciation...Lau presenting the certificate to Mirtschin; from right is Evon Yew followed by Woo

During the event Mirtschin presented Certificates of Appreciation signed by the Victorian Minister of Education to all the participants of the May Showcase. SMJK Poi Lam Principal Mr Lau Swee Min reciprocated similarly by presenting Certificates of Appreciation signed by the Perak State Director of Education to the guests.

The event held during the morning assembly greeted the guests with lion dances, martial arts demonstrations and students dressed in national costumes carrying the flags of both countries. Additionally, the English language Choral Speaking and Choral Reading groups rendered their presentations.

Principal Lau, in his speech, acknowledged that the advancement of the internet has brought a new dimension to the way students acquire knowledge saying, “global learning is not confined to just books and the classroom but through an exchange of ideas and experiences from people around the world.”

Lau hoped that the linkups with Hawkesdale and other colleges would bring a positive impact and change to the students of Poi Lam. Lau also indicated that the school planned to pursue linkups with a school in China and Bulgaria and all would communicate using the English medium.

When asked if there were any issues with the setup of international links the team unanimously agreed that it would be the different time zones and the different accents although both were just initial issues that can be resolved.

The morning’s event concluded with the usual group photograph which saw Lau and Mirtschin crossing their country flags in a show of friendship and comradeship between Australia and Malaysia.

Without a doubt due to the effort and passion pursued by Veronica Woo and with the support from her school SMJK Poi Lam, the proliferation of the global classroom is here to stay. Most of the procedures to enable a smooth global classroom have been tried, tested and ironed out.

Woo had made this statement several times over the last 5 years, “the classroom is my world and the world is my classroom.”

Thanks to Woo the global classroom can be found in Ipoh.