Tag Archives: James Gough

Gas for Growth – An Urgent Call for Kinta Valley

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Cover Story

By James Gough

The availability of natural gas supply has been a hot topic in the Kinta Valley recently. The issue was raised twice in the past two months, the first in September at the FMM’ (Federation of Malaysia Manufacturers) dinner while the Malaysian International Chambers for Commerce and Industry (MICCI),  highlighted the same topic at its luncheon a month later. On both occasions, Dato’ Mohamed Zahir Abdul Khalid, State Exco for Investment, Industry and Corridor Development, represented MB Dato’ Seri DiRaja Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir during which he described the natural gas supply issue as a “perennial topic” but reassured that the state government was committed to making the “project a reality”.

Natural gas

“Natural Gas Supply to Kinta valley will be my KPI” – Zahir

Gas for Growth 5
Dato’ Mohamed Zahir

Ipoh Echo met with Zahir a few weeks later to follow up on the subject. He intimated that the state government had already met the Minister of International Trade and Industry, Datuk Seri Mustapha Mohammed and Second Finance Minister, Dato’ Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadziah. Both had agreed in principle to provide the “shortfall fund” of RM40.9 million.

His subsequent meeting with the Minister at the Economic Planning Units, Datuk Seri Wahid Omar revealed that EPU similarly supported the proposal and indicated that the state could use the federal government’s ‘facilitation fund’ to get the project started. However, no indicator was given when the fund would be released. Nevertheless, Zahir acknowledged that natural gas was a positive factor for the state. He would lobby for the funding and had now made this topic his personal ‘Key Performance Index’ (KPI).

History

Dato’ Gan Tak Kong
Dato’ Gan Tak Kong

According to FMM Perak Chairman, Dato’ Gan Tak Kong, of all the energy sources available, natural gas is the most cost-effective energy for industries. He added that although gas prices are reviewed every quarter, the switch to gas would provide savings to companies.

The request for natural gas was first made by Gan to the State Government and Gas Malaysia in 2004. The initial proposal envisioned a 150km pipeline stretching from Ayer Tawar to Chemor, estimated to cost RM160 million.  The proposal would have been realized in 2006 but due to the shortage of natural gas, Gas Malaysia Berhad was forced to shelve the project.

The scenario changed with the establishment of Petronas Receiving Terminals at Malacca and Pengerang, enabling natural gas to be imported and supplied to more industries throughout the country. Since 2012 , FMM together with the State Economic Planning Unit (UPEN) have held discussions with the Energy Commission and Gas Malaysia Berhad to make the Kinta Natural Distribution System a viable project.

Two Phases

The outcome of the discussion was to implement the project in two phases. Phase one of the pipeline will be from Ayer Tawar to Lahat, a distance of 85.822km costing RM102 million and benefiting 16 companies. The project duration is 24 months and a savings of RM40 million could be realized over a period of 3.5 years.

The capital contribution required for phase 1 is RM96 million which will be provided by Gas Malaysia Berhad and the industries. However, there is a shortfall of RM40.9 million from the contribution and this is where the government has been requested to assist.

The second phase of the project will continue from Lahat to Chemor where 35 customers have been identified.

Gas for Growth 4

Gas, Investors and Reinvestments

Should the supply of natural gas become a reality in Kinta Valley, potential investors will be attracted while existing industries will want to reinvest to expand their production lines.

Gan gave the example of Kamunting and Kamunting Raya Industrial Estate in Taiping where natural gas is available. Toyo Tyres has invested RM800 million while two glove manufacturers have pledged to invest RM1 billion to expand their existing production lines and possibly creating employment for 3000 local workers.

Similarly, in the Lahat area a multinational company has plans to reinvest RM50 million “if” natural gas is made available, while a glove manufacturer indicated it might want to revive its production operations.

Nihon Canpack Berhad provides services to canned-beverage drinks. Based in Bemban Industrial Estate, it has been requesting for natural gas since 2004. Its factory manager, En Rosdy Abdullah is full of support for natural gas supply providing multiple reasons of its benefit. “Converting the plant machinery to natural gas is a one-time cost factor which can be recovered in a short time,” he told Ipoh Echo. The factory started with 60 workers and one production line. It currently has two production lines and 200 workers. Rosdy forecasts that the savings derived from the conversion to gas will enable the factory to move into automation.

The reason for automation is due to the difficulty in getting labour. Skilled labour is difficult to get while unskilled labour, though available, is mobile and uncertain. The minimum wage while benefitting the worker does not correspond to improved productivity. Hence the introduction of natural gas provides industries more options to improve productivity, create a better working environment and hopefully, will attract workers.

And by extension, the Bemban Industrial Estate will attract more factories and create more job opportunities.

Revival of Industrial Estates

According to Gan, Perak has several industrial estates that are underutilised. He highlighted the Sri Iskandar High-Tech Park and the Pharmaceutical Park both at Sri Iskandar as well as the Ceramic Park at Chemor which was created around the availability of natural gas supply.

“These industrial parks are good for the state but they require gas to be cost competitive,” he reasoned.  “Investors are on the look-out for locations with cheap energy source. If they do come one can expect the Kinta Valley to grow and be vibrant,” he added.

Critical Mass and Catalyst

David Ho
David Ho

One individual who has experienced the benefits of switching to natural gas is David Ho, Managing Director of Hovid. Two years ago Ho converted to natural gas at his factory, Carotech at Kampong Acheh, Lumut and realized a savings of over 50 per cent from his energy bill.

Ho described gas as “a basic necessity and part of the infrastructure for the state. Manufacturers who use a lot of energy can have big savings and this is an attraction”. Speaking with much passion, Ho explained that providing gas will bring economic growth to the ‘corridor from Ayer Tawar to Chemor’.

Prolonged economic growth especially in the Kinta Valley will create a critical mass that will create jobs and employment and become a catalyst to attract Investors and workers to the state.  Every state needs a catalyst and the Kinta Valley can be to Perak what Klang Valley is to Selangor or Sri Iskandar to Johore.

“The growth of the Kinta valley will affect the whole of Perak. The longer we delay the introduction of gas, the more Ipoh will lose out from investment,” added Ho.

Natural gas - 2

Overwhelming Support for Gas Supply

All those interviewed had positive support for gas supply except possibly for glove manufacturer MAPA located at Meru Industrial Estate. Its General Manager Lim Kim Hock’s only lament was that he would have to wait for Phase 2 before he got his supply and he had been “kept waiting for many years”. A check with a spokesman from UPEN also indicated a positive response describing “if the gas supply is firm it would leapfrog industrial development in the state”.

The overwhelming positive response was not just for its cost savings. Rosdy Abdullah stated that natural gas was clean and green and would reduce his maintenance time. As for Ho, he elaborated that once the gas pipeline was completed, the next beneficiaries would be the consumers and identified the hotels and shopping malls that used a lot of air-conditioning.

It is becoming apparent that the implementation of natural gas is an option we cannot ignore any longer. Gas is certainly an attraction for industry to invest and expand in Ipoh which would create better job opportunities. This in turn would encourage our children to come home to work and play and in doing so create that critical mass needed as the catalyst for more growth.

That being the case, delaying the introduction of natural gas will not be to our advantage.

Ipoh’s Nightlife Renaissance

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Ipoh’s night life has improved, so said several people working outside of Ipoh, when they returned over the extended Merdeka weekend recently.

Ipoh's nightlife has improved. Lau Ek Ching Street at night.
Ipoh’s nightlife has improved. Lau Ek Ching Street at night.

 

Indeed their observation is spot on, for over the last two years,  the night scene has been heating up all around town with more outlets opening and being upgraded in Greentown, New Town and also Old Town at the heritage enclave surrounding Concubine Lane.  These new outlets offer more than just drinks and are now offering a wider variety of light snacks and meals for the family, with live music included.

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The new outlets provide drinks plus a wide variety of snacks and meals for the family

The Changing Scene

Just two years ago when returning children came home to Ipoh for long weekends and holidays, their night hangout joints would be at Ipoh Garden East. On major public holidays, the roads leading to the pub stretch between Medan Ipoh 1 to 5 would be jam packed with cars and patrons would socialize, party and eat at the scores of pubs, coffee houses and eateries there. It was the place for a night out in Ipoh which ultimately earned it the title of being called the Bangsar of Ipoh.

Jalan Medan Ipoh 5 at Ipoh Garden East
Jalan Medan Ipoh 5 at Ipoh Garden East

The choice was pubs and karaoke outlets at Medan Ipoh 4 while Medan Ipoh 5 was where the food stalls were located and where whole families would come out for dinner and supper. The other alternative night outlets then were in Greentown with similar watering holes and establishments. However the variety and concentration of outlets in Greentown could not compare to Ipoh Garden East. As such Ipoh Garden East had remained the night location of choice for close to 15 years.

With the proliferation of more hotels both starred or budget now opened throughout the whole of Ipoh, an inevitable outcome was a demand for new establishments both for entertainment, drinks as well as food within the proximity of these hotels.

Gastro Bars

A new F&B (food and beverage) concept that has now caught the fancy of Ipohites, and has seen the establishment of quite a few of them, is that of the Gastro Bar. Originally conceived in the west to combine elements of good gastronomy with the more relaxed pub style drinking, the Gastro Bar is best epitomized by some of the newer establishments that have popped up all over town, one of these being Bricks & Barrels.

Calvin Leow of Bricks & Barrels
Calvin Leow of Bricks & Barrels

Owned by brothers Calvin and Kenny Leow, both Ipohites and former Michaelians, they established the outlet as they found it difficult to find an enjoyable outlet for a drink and some music when they returned home to Ipoh from Kuala Lumpur where they work as engineers.

They enjoy a social drink, don’t smoke, love to cook and return home regularly. So they came up with the concept of Bricks & Barrels, based on the English pub and where one can dine comfortably on good, even gourmet food while being entertained with live music.

The location at Lau Ek Ching Street was selected because its facade was similar to an ‘English town house’, two heritage houses joined together where the front and back walls are opened to create one expanded unit to enable happy hour chill out meals whether at the front yard or more privately at the back air-well area.

Besides attracting the evening happy-hour crowd of office executives, it also has a family meal following who patronize the outlet for its good food.

Calvin Leow describes B&B as a Gastro Bar. “Actually it was originally created for the whole family. However, the initial concept was for just a bar. Now that our kitchen is being better recognised we want to attract whole families.”

The families usually come in for dinner and leave when the drink crowd comes in although some stay on for the live music.

Drinks with a Decent Meal

The concept of having drinks with a decent meal has certainly paid off for James Kennedy the owner of Barbeza outlet at Medan Ipoh.

Barbeza is one of very few outlets in Ipoh Garden East that has lasted for five years without changing hands, unlike scores of other neighbouring outlets that have changed hands several times.

Kennedy attributes his success to the fact that he caters to his customers’ requirements and creates events to consistently attract his regulars. Additionally, his kitchen, which serves Italian cuisine, contributes 25 per cent regularly to the monthly revenue and has a regular family following who come for their meals in the early evening. Regular pizza takeaway orders are also a common request.

What’s Available?

Over at Greentown the scene has grown. As is usual, pubs have changed hands over the years although Mikes Place at Lebuh Satu has remained at the same location and with the same owner since it started 10 years ago.

What has also changed with each change of ownership is the theme of these outlets. Secret Garden over at Jalan Cheah Cheng Lim is a pair of old colonial bungalows with spacious compounds converted to a coffee house that serves drinks and full meals. Bar.Racuda, another bungalow outlet recently opened several months ago, offers similar and very interesting food and has live music during the weekends.

Over at Greentown, Quiz nights on Monday at Healy Macs or Chill out at The Museum
Over at Greentown, its Quiz night on Monday at Healy Macs or Chill out at The Museum

Obviously anticipating better times ahead, Bryan Ngan who first started the Haven (across from the Syuen Hotel) five years ago, has opened another outlet called The Museum Wine Bar at Persiaran Greentown 6. Museum offers live music and serves tapas (small snacks which may or may not be hot) while the Haven which was recently upgraded, offers karaoke with light food, both western and local. At the Haven which has limited parking, Ngan employs a security guard for customers to park their vehicles at the back lane which helps to alleviate their concerns on security.

Then there is Healy Mac’s, the “real Irish bar” which has great food, though, at premium prices and live music six nights a week. Monday nights here is Quiz Night (centre pic) where tables of customers participate in a quiz with the goal of a tower of beer as the final reward.

Ipoh Old Town

Over at Old Town while the area is becoming active in the day, the nightlife is still confined to the heritage enclave around Concubine Lane.

The dominant outlet here is Yoon Wah, a ‘Tai Chao’ food outlet that introduced snow beer to Ipoh over a decade ago. Its shop, located at the east corner of Concubine Lane has expanded across the road while its al-fresco tables line a block along Jalan Bandar Timah.

At Oldtown, capitalising on that Heritage theme
At Oldtown, capitalising on the Heritage theme

In July this year, Plan B, a franchise outlet from Kuala Lumpur, opened right next door to Kedai Kopi Kong Heng. Designed to blend in with the heritage image that is Old Town, the outlet is understated in its decor, discreetly cosseted by clever landscaping with bright open spaces and is air conditioned. It operates daily from 9am till 10pm and serves western food.

Interestingly, Dr Mike ‘Gurmil’ who owns Mikes Place in Greentown, has himself ventured to open his second outlet in Old Town calling it Mikes Place 2 (MP2, top pic) with his immediate neighbour being Yoon Wah.

Capitalising on the heritage theme, he has upgraded a unit on Concubine Lane into a cosy and chic outlet with decor that retains as much of that Old Town image as possible. Obviously aware of the challenges with opening a pub, MP2 opened recently in August for four days in a week and serves light fare.

Ipoh New Town

New Town, a makeover of chic pubs and clubs
New Town, a makeover of chic pubs and clubs

The location in Ipoh which has seen the most makeover activity over the last two years is New Town. The change probably started with St Patrick’s Irish Pub along Jalan Raja Ekram and gradually spread to its neighbouring back street at Lau Ek Ching street which saw the start of Bricks & Barrels and subsequently another two pubs and a dance club.

The party growth has since spread to the opening of two clubs, SOS on Jalan Yang Kalsom and House Music Club on Jalan Sultan Idris, both of which are well patronized especially on weekends.

Fussy Ipoh a Testing Ground for New Concepts

 “If you can sell a new product to Ipoh you can sell it anywhere” – Calvin Leow of Bricks and Barrels

Ipoh is certainly no laggard in the area of F&B concept contribution to the larger world. We can now see Ipoh White Coffee outlets everywhere in Malaysia and touting the fame of our delicious Ipoh bean sprout and chicken noodles.

Due to Ipohites’ demanding standards, another concept developed in Ipoh might soon find its niche throughout the country, and probably beyond, is Bricks & Barrels.

Bricks & Barrels’ business concept and design which owner Calvin Leow described as being ‘Vintage Industrial’, has attracted a following and is due to open its first franchise in KL at the end of this year.

Calvin Leow is from Ipoh. He well knows that Ipohites are fussy and “if you can sell a new product to Ipoh you can sell it anywhere”. Considering that Bricks & Barrels will be celebrating its second anniversary in November, Leow’s gut judgement to create something different will show dividends soon and is another feather in the cap for creative Ipohites.

James Gough

Ipoh Limestone, an Environmental Management Challenge

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By James Gough

The scenic hills of the Kinta Valley have always been a talking point by many groups. The environmental NGOs would like to preserve the hills for future generations while the state government considers them as a source of revenue, which were leased out to the quarry operators over 30 years ago. Back then the limestone extracted was used for roads, cement and the construction industry and was mainly produced by companies such as Tasek Cement or Hume Cement. Subsequently, marble furniture came into fashion, as well as the introduction of calcium carbonate powder or CCP which found use in a whole string of industries. With the demise of the tin-mining industry in the early 1980s, quarrying for rocks and marble has become the most active industry in the valley.

Ipoh Limestone, an Environmental Management Challenge-1
Imerys Quarry Manager Mohd Yazid explaining their top down quarrying operation.
Inset: Imerys Minerals plant at Simpang Pulai

 

Demand for white limestone

The Kinta Valley limestone consists largely of calcite (calcium carbonate or dolomite). The colour is mainly white, and even though it is tinged with a touch of grey, it has no effect on demand.

The demand for white limestone is high because of its usage. It is used in a wide range of industries such as to whiten paper, in paints as a bond, in plastics as a filler and an alternative to oil based resins and a multitude of other uses which include latex gloves, skin whitening and toothpaste.

Ipoh Limestone, an Environmental Management Challenge-2

Limestone Formation

Ipoh Limestone, an Environmental Management Challenge-7
Dr Kamaludin Hassan

“The largest amount of limestone in Malaysia is found at Simpang Pulai and the Kinta Valley,” said Dr Kamaludin Hassan, the Director of the Mineral and Geoscience Department, located at Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah.

Kamaludin also acknowledged there are substantial amounts of granite in the valley though most of it is found along the Kledang Range, west of the valley.

The Kinta Valley stretches from Kampar to Tanjung Tualang in the south, Chemor and Kanthan to the north and Simpang Pulai to the east.

The whole of the Kinta Valley is underlain with limestone, the major bedrock present in the form of hills above and under the ground.

Kinta Valley’s limestone is actually meta-sedimentary-rock and is believed to have been formed between the Triassic (230-190 million years) to Permian (280-230 million years) periods.

 

The Beginning

Audrey Shanta-Poh, the Managing Director for Uniko Calcium Carbonate Industry, has been in the industry since the 1980s. Poh’s factory supplies calcium carbonate to the paper industry.

She related that in the ‘80s her immediate neighbours then were the hills and the jungles. Over the years, more limestone-processing factories have sprung up at Simpang Pulai and they are now her new neighbours.

Another of the ‘80s start-up companies is Sri Martek Marble Industries which manufactures marble furniture. One of the factory’s founders, who declined to have his name revealed, stated that their factory initially was making marble tiles but subsequently branched out to TV cabinets, table tops and other marble-based furniture.

Limestone boulders to be cut to size at Sri Martek Marble Industries
Limestone boulders to be cut to size at Sri Martek Marble Industries

Sri Martek Marble is currently one of very few marble furniture manufacturers still around. With a market that is not expanding and costs increasing, one of the reasons why it has survived thus far is because it owns it own limestone hill, which is the source of its raw materials.

By managing its quarry operations and controlling its raw material yields, the company has remained competitive.

Ipoh Limestone, an Environmental Management Challenge-6

Government Revenue

The state government earns its revenue from quarry operations. Whenever a lorry load of rock leaves the quarry, the lorry is weighed at the weighbridge and a royalty charged according to the weigh-bridge ticket.

This procedure applies to both the granite and limestone quarry operators. There are no additional charges for downstream processed products, for example, calcium carbonate powder.

However, if the limestone or granite rock is exported unprocessed as a raw material, the state government imposes an export levy.

According to Dr Kamaludin, the revenue earned from the limestone and granite industry amounts to RM50 million per year.

 

Producing calcium carbonate powder at Simpang Pulai
Producing calcium carbonate powder at Simpang Pulai

Early Quarries

The early limestone quarry owners who began 30 years ago had applied for a portion of a hill to begin their operations. Sometimes a hill would be owned by three quarries. The owners would carry out blasting on their side of the hill and when they had exhausted the lease on their side would have to leave a boundary between owners measuring 1 chain or 66 feet as part of the government requirement. This was a waste and would scar the landscape.

Simpang Pulai – Support Industries and Infrastructure

Ipoh Limestone, an Environmental Management Challenge-8
Chong Sook Kian

Dr Kamaludin attributed the reason for the large number of limestone quarries in Simpang Pulai to the quality of limestone found there. Perak Quarry Association (PQA) President, Chong Sook Kian, however, differed slightly. He said that logistics and infrastructure were what had prompted the proliferation of quarrying activities there.

Chong said that it was more cost effective to extract and sell limestone from Simpang Pulai than from Gua Musang, Kelantan which also has large deposits of limestone.

Acknowledging the abundance of quality limestone, Chong explained that when the tin industry collapsed, foundries in the Kinta Valley were willing to support the quarry players. In time, the quarries were the biggest users of foundry products, casting equipment parts and replacing wear and tear parts for their crushers.

Other related factors were logistics and nearby markets. Quarries use lorries to transfer their products to the ports of Penang and Port Klang. Their markets, which are made up of the paint, plastics and glove factories, are located on the west coast.

Interestingly, a multi-national company, who wished not to be named, confirmed that it used the Lumut Port, 70 km away, to ship its products to Singapore and Indonesia by barges and to India by sea vessels. “The service provided is most satisfactory,” said the company source.

Each quarry would use the services of at least two foundries, one mechanical and one electrical and five lorry transport companies.

According to Chong there are 64 quarries in Perak and each had an average of about 50 workers. Considering that each quarry engages the services of foundries, lorry transporters and other general services, the limestone and quarry industry has a sizeable workforce.

Multi-Nationals and New Technologies

In the early 2000s Imerys Minerals (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, a French minerals-based solutions provider started their limestone quarry at Simpang Pulai.

Unlike the local quarry operators, Imerys produces high-quality ground calcium carbonate (GCC) to a gauge which is finer than what most of the local operators are capable of producing.

In 2005 Imerys initiated an Environment Management System (EMS) which would make efforts to rehabilitate the bare landscape created by quarrying activities.

Ipoh Echo visited Imerys to view their EMS and met with their Quarry Manager, Mohd Yazid Mohd Dan. Yazid explained that the company’s environmental rehabilitation programme was to educate workers to comply with environmental health standards.

Ipoh Limestone, an Environmental Management Challenge-3
Imerys’ environmental rehabilitation programme creates visually pleasant images

To enable a sustainable programme, Imerys purchased the quarries adjacent to it and, subsequently, owned the whole hill.

It then constructed a road to the top and initiated a top-down quarrying operation. To mitigate the bared slopes, it collected the natural flora from the area, such as angsana, cherry trees and lemon grass and cultivated them in its nursery. They were subsequently replanted along the hill slopes ultimately presenting a greener and a more visually-pleasant image of the quarry as opposed to bare slopes.

According to Yazid, the replanted cherry trees had over the years managed to attract monkeys and squirrels back to the area.

The top-down quarry operation would eventually reduce the hill to ground zero and would then be used for other economic activities.

Ipoh Echo was alerted about the environmental rehabilitation work done by Imerys by Dr Kamaludin. Imerys’ approach to quarrying and environmental rehabilitation was very positive and, if done by all players, would improve the image of the industry.

PQA President Chong too agreed that the quarrying methods by the French multi-national company are safer, professional and environmentally friendly. However, cost and economies of scale will prevent local companies from doing the same.

Kamaludin stated that the whole of the Kinta Valley was underlain with limestone which translates to it having an infinite supply of limestone. As such “local companies should form groups and work towards rehabilitation” added Kamaludin.

Considering that there is an abundant supply of limestone, wouldn’t it be proper to initiate rehabilitation programmes now?

 

Ramadan 2013 – Sharing A Culture

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Ramadan, the month-long fasting period in the Muslim calendar that precedes the festival of Hari Raya Aidilfitri, started on Wednesday July 10.

The Ramadan Bazaar at Stadium Perak
The Ramadan Bazaar at Stadium Perak

The weather that afternoon was hot and dry and as usual during Ramadan, the stall holders who rent Ipoh City Council’s Ramadan bazaars dotted around the city, begin to populate these stalls around 3pm and activity begins. As in previous years Ipoh Echo sent a team to check out the various bazaars.

Ramadan Bazaars Gaining Popularity With All Ethnic Groups

Without a doubt the food was superlative at most of the locations visited but it was not just Muslims shopping for themselves and their families who were milling around. As more and more people came, getting closer to the time for breaking fast, there was more than a small number of non- Muslims seen at the bazaars picking out food either for tea or for their night’s dinner.

Medan Gopeng

The Ramadan bazaar at Medan Gopeng has 137 stalls that offer a wide range of buka puasa (breaking of fast) delicacies. Ipoh Echo decided to meet the people behind the food and spoke to some of them.

At Medan Gopeng traders (l-r) Ainy, Roslida and Erina
At Medan Gopeng bazaar traders (l-r) Ainy, Roslida and Erina

Ainy Nurul Hidayu together with her daughter Roslida Abdul Rahman has a stall that sells the full range of dishes for a meal. While mum Ainy prepares the main dishes like grilled fish, Roslida focuses on the desserts like doughnuts and pelita jagung (corn pudding). They have been selling their Ramadan goodies here for over 13 years. The rest of the other months of the year they have a premises close to Carsem known as Sri Permata Corner.

A few stalls down is Rina Catering. Its owner Ms Erina Wati has been trading at this bazaar for a “long time, since I was young”. Erina, now almost 40, took over the business from her mother and has an outlet at the nearby Megoplex shopping mall. She sells the main food dishes but here she prepacks Nasi Briyani which moves off the counter fast.

Murtabak Yop's Ahmad Firdaus (left) with brother Ahmad Zaidi ( right)
Murtabak Yop’s (left photo) Ahmad Firdaus (left) with brother Ahmad Zaidi ( right)

Ahmad Firdaus, in his late 30s, runs his stall called Murtabak Yop, which as its name implies,  sells only murtabak.  He has been selling murtabak for 26 years at the night markets around Ipoh. At the night markets he sells on average 400 murtabak per day. However, at this bazaar he averages 800 murtabak per day. His normal workforce is four but during the Ramadan month he has eight workers while his brother Ahmad Zaidi, 42, a teacher, comes by to help out.

Firdaus’s preparation of his murtabak is like an operations floor with one team preparing the ingredients, another wrapping up the dough and another cooking over the hot plate all working hurriedly in anticipation of the after-work crowd.

Mydin Hassan, 64, of Mydin Cendol is another food trader who has been trading here for 15 of his 18 years in this line. Unlike the food operators, Mydin sells takeaway cendol and says that his earnings are less than on normal days where he sells in the area around nearby Ipoh Jaya.

For all of the above operators here with the exception of Mydin, they acknowledge that their daily Ramadan earnings here are, on average, better by 25 per cent.

 

Tanjung Rambutan

At Tg Rambutan, Iniza Ayam Percik run by siblings Zaleha and Zawawi Zambri
At Tg Rambutan, Iniza Ayam Percik run by siblings Zaleha and Zawawi Zambri

Over at Tanjung Perdana, Tanjung Rambutan, there are 85 stalls at that Ramadan bazaar selling a similar variety of fare. Siblings Zaleha and Zawawi Zambri have been operating their outlet Iniza Ayam Percik since this location started four years ago. The siblings have been in this business for 16 years, having inherited the business from their father who now buys the chickens while the siblings do all the rest. Their ayam percik is cut into various parts such as thigh, breast, wings, etc. and sold at different prices.

 

Bercham Ramadan Bazaar 1 Malaysia

(left photo) Azman Shah has labelled Bercham (Mobil) Ramadan 'Bazaar 1 Malaysia' because of its multi racial customers
(left photo) Azman Shah has labelled Bercham (Mobil),  Ramadan ‘Bazaar 1 Malaysia’ because of its multi racial customers

The Ramadan bazaar at Bercham (Mobil) has only 15 stalls but does a brisk business. A large number of their customers are non-Muslim. Ms Yee who works and lives nearby this location was buying murtabak and has been doing so for two years, “it has variety and is nice”.

In fact trader Azman Shah, who claims to sell the best ‘mini murtabak in Bercham’, dubbed this location as ‘Bazaar 1 Malaysia’ because of its multi-racial customers. Azman who admitted that he works as a clerical staff with CIMB Bank Ipoh Garden, has been selling at this location for seven years.

Sharing a Culture

Ramadan bazaars no longer belong exclusively to Muslims breaking fast. The variety and delectable food have won over the palates of the other ethnic groups and even tourists are flocking to the bazaars, tempted by the smells and sizzle of the large choice on display.

Non muslim residents S. Muniandy at Medan Gopeng and IPG Students Bernadette, Eugene,Nisha and Lyerilye at Tg Rambutan
Non muslim residents, S. Muniandy and family at Medan Gopeng and IPG Students Bernadette, Eugene, Nisha and Lydrielyn at Tg Rambutan look forward to the annual event

Nearby residents like the family of S. Muniandy look forward to the annual event as they stroll to Medan Gopeng at 4pm in the afternoon to buy kuih for their tea. Similarly for third-year students of Institut Pendidikan Guru, Hulu Kinta, Tanjung Rambutan, the variety of food is a welcome break from their daily fare and they had been patronising the Tg. Rambutan bazaar each year.

As I doubled back to Medan Gopeng before the breaking of fast at 7.33pm that first evening I stopped at Jamek Mosque, Kg Melayu, approximately 400 metres before the bazaar. Earlier a friend informed me he normally broke his fast at the mosque and invited me to join him.

At Jamek Mosque, Kg Melayu retiree Mukhtar Ahmad (right photo) together with  his congregation await to break their fast
At Jamek Mosque, Kg Melayu retiree Mukhtar Ahmad (right photo) together with his congregation await to break their fast

However, he was not there but retiree Encik Mukhtar Ahmad, 67, was present. Mukhtar, who is a member of the mosque committee said that for him breaking fast at the mosque had a special meaning for him which he enjoyed.

Cleaned out trays and stoves at Medan Gopeng. Roslida, Erina and workers of Murtabak Yop after breaking their fast
Cleaned out trays and stoves at Medan Gopeng. Roslida, Erina and workers of Murtabak Yop after breaking their fast

After the meal, I headed over to Medan Gopeng to see Roslida loading empty trays into her van, Erina playing with her grandkids amongst empty food trays and the murtabak workers having a meal next to their cleaned hot plates.

A Muslim Ramadan no doubt, but a sharing of a culture in which all Ipohites can participate.

James Gough

Stadium Perak Ramadan Bazaar

The Stadium Perak Ramadan Bazaar is one of the more popular seasonal food bazaars in operation during the fasting month of Ramadan.

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It is located at the stadium’s spacious car park where over 400 part-time and professional traders sell foodstuffs to eager buyers. What is most suitable about this bazaar is its locality and accessibility. The din created by an over-zealous crowd coupled with the after-office traffic adds on to the attraction. It is as if the whole Ipoh is being aroused by the aroma of barbecued chicken and beef, which seems to hang in the air.

Mohd Zahari, 35, a bona fide Ipohite and a fitness instructor by profession, has been operating a stall at the bazaar since 2010. Asked what made him do the unthinkable. “It’s not much about the money but the fun of doing business once a year,” he answered. Mohd Zahari sells fried kway teow and fried mee. He lays the piping hot noodles on huge trays and sells them in packets. Priced at RM2 a packet, the noodles are a bargain. Zahari has his regulars who begin to patronise his stall soon after opening time at 4pm.

Ramadan 2013 – Sharing a Culture - 10

Majuri Hafiz, 28, is another of the faceless traders who have been plying their trade at the stadium bazaar. He has been selling Ayam Golek Madu (Roast Honey Chicken) since 2008. “The demand for my roasted chicken is high. I get to sell over 200 chickens a day. It’s tough but the money is good,” he said. Majuri marinates the birds overnight using a number of herbs, spices and condiments. “It’s a recipe passed on by my late grandmother,” he said. His whole chicken sells for RM12 a piece.

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Another stall which is a hit with patrons is Robaza BBQ. Owner Zakaria Musa, 51, sells skewered chicken, lamb and beef barbecued over fire. The aroma is an attraction in itself. It is easy to locate Zakaria’s stall as it is at the entrance to the car park. The sight of a milling crowd that grows by the hour is a good indication of the stall’s popularity. Lamb sells at RM4.80 a stick, beef at RM4 while chicken at RM3.

The three are just a cross-section of the many that do business at the stadium car park during the fasting month of Ramadan.

Rosli Mansor

Remembering Perak’s Turbulent Past

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By James Gough

Every June, they come to remember. This is a solemn time as High Commissioners from United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Nepal; Malaysian Military, Police and Veterans’ representatives converge in Ipoh for the Veterans Remembrance events which are held at Taiping, Ipoh and Batu Gajah.

“We should always remember and honour them for the sacrifices they’ve made.”

The services, which are held over three days, have seen a number of Commonwealth Veteran Clubs such as the Malaya-Borneo Veterans Association of Australia religiously attending over the last several years. The presence of these Commonwealth veterans prompted the Perak State government to host a “Veterans’ Night” dinner last year in recognition of their past contributions.

Remembering Perak’s Turbulent Past-1

Remembrance Ceremony at God’s Little Acre

God’s Little Acre is a cemetery located at Batu Gajah, which holds its annual remembrance ceremony on the second Saturday of every June.

Interred here, besides army and police personnel are civilians, tin miners and planters who were killed during the Malayan Emergency (1948 to 1960).

According to R. Sivalingam, Chairman of the God’s Little Acre sub-committee as well as Chairman of the Malaysian Palm Oil Association, Perak Branch (MPOA), the original memorial service was organised as part of Police Week celebrations in 1982 by the then OCPD of Batu Gajah Dato’ R. Thambipillay. Subsequently in 1984, the Perak Planters’ Association (now renamed MPOA) took on the role to organise the annual event.

Among those buried here are the three British planters, Arthur Walker, John Allison and his young assistant, Ian Christian, who were shot by communist guerrillas on June 16, 1948 at Sungai Siput, 18 miles north of Ipoh.

The cold-blooded murder of these planters prompted the government to declare a state of emergency, initially at Ipoh and Sungai Siput and subsequently over the whole of Malaya, two days later.

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Remembrance Trail

Before the remembrance services became an annual affair, there was the Warriors Day event which took place at the cenotaph located at the grounds of Ipoh Railway Station. However, this was not scheduled as an annual affair.

After the God’s Little Acre ceremony was organised annually, with regular attendance by the Commonwealth dignitaries, the event at the cenotaph was added as part of the programme.

The other locations that participated in the annual remembrance ceremony included the Kamunting Christian cemetery at Taiping. Those interred here are British, Australian, New Zealand army personnel and a few Sarawak Rangers who perished during the Emergency (1948-1960).

At Kem Syed Putra, Tambun Road those laid to rest are Gurkha soldiers that died during the Emergency, as well as during the Confrontation with Indonesia (1962-1965).

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Remembering Perak’s Turbulent Past-4Remembrance and Perak History

On one of the four walls of the cenotaph is a plaque citing the “Gallant Members of the Armed Forces, Police and Civilians who sacrificed their lives defending the nation during The Malayan Emergency 1948-1960, Indonesian Confrontation 1962-1965 and The Re-Insurgency Period 1972-1990”.

Indeed for most of the post-war Emergency period, a lot of activities took place in and around Perak. After the war there were food shortages and high inflation causing civil unrest which, ultimately, led to the declaration of Emergency in 1948.

Perak had been the major contributor to the country’s economy largely through its tin wealth and was considered as “economically important to the Federation”. As such the state became a hotly contested target for the government and the communists.

As an indication of the amount of Emergency activities that took place in Perak, the blackest areas throughout the Emergency were those around Sungai Siput and Ulu Kinta. In fact, they were the last in Malaya to be declared “white”.

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The Briggs ‘Resettlement’ Plan

One of the initiatives introduced by the Government then was the Briggs Plan whose strategy was to cut off all supplies to the Communists be it food, money, information, and even recruits.

The plan was to create new villages and resettle the rural squatters there. The new village perimeter would be fenced with 10-foot high barbed wires and a curfew imposed from 6pm to 6am. Residents were body searched when leaving for work in the morning and were allowed to take food for one individual for one day.

This social engineering plan involved almost 1 million Chinese squatters and created settlements such as Kampong Bahru Rapat, Kampong Bahru Bercham and Ampang Bahru, to name a few. The other strategy was to provide a sense of security for the residents in the hope that they would provide support and information for the government.

The Emergency ended on January 14, 1960 when the whole of central Perak was declared “white” at a ceremony at the Ipoh Town Padang.

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The Re-Insurgency (1968-1989)

While the Emergency was fought most gratefully alongside Forces from the Commonwealth, the Re-Insurgency, which lasted from 1968 till 1989, was fought by our very own Malaysian Armed Forces and Police personnel.

The Communist Terrorists who had escaped to the sanctuary in South Thailand in 1960 returned in 1968 by launching an ambush against Malaysian security forces in the Kroh-Betong salient in upper Perak killing 17. The attack marked the start of the Re-Insurgency sometimes referred to as the 2nd Emergency.

The Re-Insurgency lasted till 1989 during which time, the mettle of our Malaysian security forces was tested through terrorist acts of sabotage and assassinations.

One particular daring act was the assassination of Perak’s Chief Police Officer Tan Sri Koo Chong Kong in 1974.

Koo was on his way home at Jalan Tower off Jalan Raja DiHilir for lunch in his official car and had stopped at the traffic lights along Jalan Hospital when two men on a motorcycle, dressed as students in white uniforms, opened fire at him. Koo’s bodyguard cum driver died on the spot. Koo was rushed to the hospital 100 metres away but was mortally wounded. Koo’s assassination was one of many targeted at police and Special Branch personnel.

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In the book, ‘The Turbulent Years in Perak’, memoirs of former Perak NST Bureau Chief Jerry Francis, he described the many instances of communist terrorist activities right at our doorstep. They took place “at such unsuspecting areas as the Kledang Hill jogging site and populated areas in Menglembu and Buntong”.

Francis’s accounts, which covered security operations extensively, also talks about communist camps at the Bukit Kinta Forest Reserve and a few kilometres south at Kramat Pulai. It mentions the joint security operations along common borders by Thai and Malaysian forces thus disrupting communist logistic operations. It also describes the construction of the east-west highway as “a success for the people and government in winning the battle of wits against the communists”.

In December 1989, a Peace Accord was signed between Thailand, Malaysia and the outlawed Malayan Communist Party at Hatyai, Thailand which concluded the Re- Insurgency period. Some 1200 communist members laid down their arms and were given the option to either return to Malaysia or remain in Thailand.

A monument was built to remember these troubled years. The monument, named The Malaysian Army Insurgency War Memorial (Dataran Juang Tentera Darat) was erected in 2009 and is located at Kem Banding close to the bridge at Lake Temenggor.

Having lived all my life in Ipoh it surprises me that there were so many battles and skirmishes taking place all around me while I was growing up. Thankfully, for peace-loving Ipohites like us, our safety is assured owing to the presence of these brave security personnel. We should always remember and honour them for the sacrifices they have made.

Kampar – Malaysia’s First University Town

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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.

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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.

 

IPOH – From Bean Sprouts to Sprouting Hotels

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By James Gough

Hotels in Ipoh before 2009, were very few. In our September 16, 2011, report under the topic ‘Ipoh City Council’s Plans for VPY 2012’, we reported that Ipoh had six 3 and 4-star hotels and 71 3-star-and-under hotels available with another two big hotels, MH Hotel and Kinta Riverfront and Suites, coming on stream at the end of that year. Fast forward to 2013 and a quick snapshot around town revealed a hotel in many corners all around town. Come 2015 and there will be a total of 98 hotels just for Ipoh.

Will Tourism Growth Sustain the Growth in Hotels?

With the proliferation of hotels all over Ipoh, the question that comes to mind is that of  sustainability. Will occupancies keep up with the increased supply of rooms?

Ipoh hotels 1 

MBI’s Hotel Report

At Ipoh City Council’s monthly board meeting in March, Mayor Roshidi produced a report on the number of hotels (star rated and budget hotels) that had been approved by the Council’s One Stop Centre over the last two years. The data did not include the existing hotels opened earlier.

The data revealed 46 approved and operating hotels, one 5-star, one 4-star, eighteen 1-3 star and 26 budgets; with those planned and under construction totalling 39. (One 5-star, three 3-4 star and 35 budgets). These include the Weil Hotel (300 rooms), Casuarina Meru Raya (150 rooms) and Cititel. Of those approved but not yet rated – 13. This includes the Ipoh Convention Centre (250 rooms) bringing the total of all these new establishments in the last two years, and those coming online in the next two years, to a total of 98 hotels just for Ipoh.

In terms of occupancies, it is surprising that despite the entry of new hotel players over the last two years, there has not been a dilution in occupancies and all operating hotels have reported to be doing well.

So what has contributed to this positive state of affairs?

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Upcoming Casuarina Hotel at Meru Raya

VPY 2012 Promotions Contribute to Longer Stays

The promotions for Visit Perak Year (VPY) 2012 may have started late (in the middle of 2011) but it nevertheless got the message through that Perak was a tourist destination that had yet to be fully discovered.

According to Vincent Ee, the President of the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH), Perak Chapter, Perak’s three main active tourist destinations are: Taiping, (known for its heritage), Manjung, (and to a greater extent) the attraction of Pangkor Island, and Ipoh known for its delicious food and heritage. All three have shown an increase in visitors.

Although promotions have been going on for years, attractions such as Gua Tempurung and Kellie’s Castle have reflected improved visitor figures for the last two years. Ee attributed this to the good VPY 2012 promotion work that was carried out.

Ee stated that the promotion had contributed positively to better room night figures which translated to an approximate 12 to 15 per cent improvement of extra nights stayed at MAH member hotels.

Considering that there were more hotels opened in the last 18 months, the improved room occupancy reflected a positive and healthy tourism market.

According to Tourism Malaysia Perak’s hotel guests data, the number of visitors to Perak for 2012 amounted to 2.42 million.

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Maggie Ong, Director of Syuen Hotel
Maggie Ong, Director of Syuen Hotel

Management and marketing

Ms Maggie Ong, the Director of Syuen Hotel, who is also the Deputy President of MAH  reconfirmed that even though the room supply has gone up, its MAH member hotels were still healthy and recorded an average 60-65 per cent occupancy rate last year.

Undoubtedly, budget hotels do take away some room nights from the star-rated ones but different customers have different budgets and each hotel will attract their level of customers accordingly.

One strategy that the bigger hotels use to attract visitors is to organise seminars and conventions and introduce stay packages with local tours thrown in. This has opened up new markets and is bringing in new visitors to Ipoh. For example, during the recent school holidays, Impiana Hotel threw in a free entry to Lost World of Tambun as part of its holiday package.

Networking

A positive development adopted by several of the older hotels was the initiating of a network of information sharing and cooperation amongst MAH members to standardise prices and tourism activities and to recommend customers when there is a spillover from large events.

This network initiative ultimately benefits the customer in terms of seamless service while at the same time contributing towards a harmonious hotel industry environment. Currently, this team of network members are working on the “International Waiters Race” event, and meet punctually every month.

Tourism Products: Food, Heritage and Ipoh Town Itself

A main attraction for Ipoh has always been about its food, be it chicken and bean sprouts or a whole menu of local delicacies. Then, later came about the Heritage Trails of Old Town. While these two attractions continue to draw the visitor to Ipoh, Ipoh town itself is a popular draw for the adventurous visitor where all the attractions in Ipoh are within walking distance.

Occasionally, it is common to see visitors arriving by train, foregoing the taxi and preferring to walk 2 to 3km to their hotels instead, and in the process take in the sights of the Heritage Trail before arriving at their destination.

Similarly, due to the proximity of the hotels to the popular food outlets, most visitors prefer to walk compared to driving and having to look for a parking lot. Due to this fact, Syuen Director Ong has designed a poster-size map to be placed in the hotel identifying the popular food spots and attractions around town.

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Future Challenges: Attract More Foreigners

Ipoh’s hotel industry may be healthy for now but with more hotels coming on stream over the next 12 months will it remain status quo?

According to Ong, the tourism market can still grow and gave the visitor composition which consists of 60 per cent domestic and 40 per cent foreigners as an indicator that the foreign visitor base has volumes of potential for growth.

“Foreigners visit for the Heritage Trail. However, they lament that there is insufficient product knowledge of the heritage products which leaves them dissatisfied,” added Ong.

Another lament the visitor has is the difficulty of access to tourism products, such as, the Lost World of Tambun, Gua Tempurung or even Kellie’s Castle. Sadly this issue was reported by Ipoh Echo two years ago but apparently it has not yet been addressed.

Another challenge that bears consideration is that of direct air links. With the upgrade of Sultan Azlan Shah Airport completed, the relevant authorities should initiate direct air links with ASEAN cities such as Bangkok, Jakarta and Manila. Should a direct link with Guangzhou, Southern China be possible, Ipoh will see a consistent flow of visitors even though it will be for food visits initially.

Cleanliness and safety is another issue raised by visitors and is one of the challenges that needs addressing.

Ipoh City Convention Centre

Work on the Ipoh City Convention Centre (pic below) is just starting at the former Bougainvillea Garden in between Syuen Hotel and MBI. When completed in two years time it will consist of a 250-room hotel and have a seating capacity for 2500 convention participants.

Assuming that its first convention in the future is fully attended, it will be a windfall spillover for all the hotels in the immediate surrounding vicinity.

Considering the convention scenario and assuming the measures to attract more foreign visitors are initiated, Ipoh’s hotel industry can, not only grow but in all probability, thrive.

Ipoh hotels 4

GE13: “The Mother of All Elections”

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By James Gough

The 13th General Election held on Sunday May 5, referred to as “The Mother of All Elections”, registered a very high voter turnout of about 84 per cent nationwide. The results of the election in Perak were announced in the early morning of Monday May 6, at the official residence of Perak Menteri Besar Dato’ Seri DiRaja Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir. At around 2am Zambry took to the podium to announce that BN had been re-elected to administer the state of Perak for another 5-year term. It had won 31 state seats as compared to Pakatan Rakyat’s 28 state seats. Of the 24 parliamentary seats in Perak both BN and PR had won 12 each.

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GE13 Mother of all elections 1“The atmosphere was like a neighbourhood gathering”
Gathered there were the BN candidates and the party’s volunteers who had helped during the 15 days of campaigning since Nomination Day on April 20. Present were former MB Tan Sri Tajol Rosli, incumbent MPs for Tambun Dato’ Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadziah and Padang Rengas Dato’ Seri Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz.
In his first address as the newly-minted Menteri Besar, Zambry thanked the voters for giving him the mandate to serve them for another five years. “I am humbled by your trust in me to serve you for another term. I am aware of our responsibilities, which is to fulfil our pledges in line with our “janji ditepati” (“promises fulfilled”) slogan, he said.
GE13 Mother of all elections 3Admitting that BN Perak had won by a slim majority of three seats he added that it was still better than that in 2008 when PR won by a similar margin. “It’s the reverse now”, he exclaimed. Zambry won his state constituency of Pangkor (N52) with a majority of 5,124 votes.
Earlier on the night of May 5, the DAP candidates for Ipoh Timor and Ipoh Barat were informed of their party’s clean sweep at their respective counting stations.
DAP’s Ipoh Timor candidates of Thomas Su (P64), Wong Kah Woh (N25), Ong Boon Piow (N26) and Howard Lee (N27) received their good news before 11pm. Present was BN’s parliamentary candidate, Kathleen Wong who graciously congratulated Su on his win.
However, Ipoh Barat candidates M. Kulasegaran (P65), Cheong Chee Khing (N28) and A. Sivasubramaniam (N30) received their good news after 12.30am on Monday, May 6.

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The elected BN candidates

High Voter Turnout

Ipoh consists of the five parliamentary seats:
P63: Tambun including N23 Manjoi and N24 Hulu Kinta
P64: Ipoh Timor including N25 Canning, N26 Tebung Tinggi and N27 Pasir Pinji
P65: Ipoh Barat including N28 Bercham, N29 Kepayang and N30 Buntong
P66: Batu Gajah including N31 Jelapang and N32 Menglembu
P71: Gopeng including N43 Sungai Rapat and N44 Simpang Pulai.

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The elected Tambun candidates (L-R): Mohd Ziad, Dato’
Seri Ahmad Husni and Dato’ Aminnudin
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Elected: Dr Lee Boon Chye (Gopeng P71)

Due to earlier calls for voters to return home to vote, voter turnout was very good with successful candidates winning by large margins. This was evident for Tambun, Dato’ Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadziah (BN), turnout: 85 per cent, majority 9,325; Gopeng, Dr Lee Boon Chye (PKR) turnout 83.4 per cent, majority 15,300 and Ipoh Barat, M. Kulasegaran, turnout: 80.9%, majority 29,038, to name a few. With the exception of Tambun, the other four parliamentary seats were won outright by Pakatan Rakyat.
At the 2008 polls, Sungai Rapat (N43) under Gopeng was won by Dato’ Hamidah Osman (BN). This time however, she lost to Radzi bin Zainon of PAS (2,638 votes). Sg Rapat has 42,873 voters comprising of Malay 59 per cent, Chinese 31 per cent and Indian 10 per cent.
On the morning of Sunday May 5, voters from Canning could be seen walking to their polling station even before 8am. By 10am lines of voters could be seen queuing up to cast their votes although by afternoon the numbers appeared to have dwindled.
Overall, the process was generally smooth and the atmosphere was like a neighbourhood gathering where whole families could be seen greeting old friends at the registration table. One parent remarked that coming to the polls this time was like ching meng, the Chinese all souls day where whole families would return home for the occasion.
Over at Buntong, the queues were still busy even at 3pm which prompted some of the polling workers to wonder if all voters could be processed in time.

Another interesting observation of the voter turnout was the large number of youngsters at the polling stations. It prompted V. Sivakumar to exclaim, “It’s a wonderful sight everywhere.”
Ipoh Echo subsequently interviewed the successful parliamentary candidates to get their views on problems affecting their constituencies.

GE13 Mother of all elections  9
Elected: M. Kulasegaran (Ipoh Barat P64)

 

One pertinent issue that was highlighted to all the candidates during the campaign period was the failure of the local council services, specifically regarding SLR (sampah, longkang and rumput) or rubbish, drains and uncut grass. The others are gaping potholes and poor street lighting. Voters complained that the services available are poor.
Voters complained about the disposal of commercial waste. They regarded it as poor although shopkeepers are paying extra. The other consistent complaint was the poor public bus service and the exorbitant taxi fares and, interestingly, frustration over parking space at the General Hospital.
Dato’ Seri Ahmad Husni was not available for the interview. The new state assemblyman for Hulu Kinta, Dato’ Aminnudin Mat Hanafiah admitted that local council issues and public transport services were highlighted during his campaign walkabouts.

Members of Parliament for Gopeng, Dr Lee Boon Chye and Ipoh Timor, Thomas Su Seong Kiong stated that the Ipoh airport should be better connected to regional airports like Bangkok or Manila to enable investors and tourists to access Ipoh faster. Dr Lee added that Gopeng, with its established eco-adventure resorts and caves, would benefit from more tourists arrivals while Su stated investors had indicated a need for direct flights to Ipoh.
Ipoh Barat candidate M. Kulasegaran highlighted that flooding, while being addressed, still occurs. Security and squatters are the other problems that have yet to be resolved.

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Elected; Ipoh Timor P64 led by Thomas Su Keong Siong (3rd from left)

Dato’ Seri Husni had earlier hinted on creating more libraries and co-curricular facilities such as basketball courts within his constituency. These are long-term goals for youth development and leadership skills.
Regarding economic activities and upgrades, all are agreeable that more industries offering more opportunities for skilled workers, should be created. This should be followed up by establishing vocational colleges. This could help raise the standard of living of the constituents.
The elected candidates felt the pulse of their voters and will be sitting with their respective state assemblymen and teamsters to work out a workable solution or solutions.
All of the candidates spoken to are agreeable on one pertinent point – the eyes of the rakyat have been opened at last and they are demanding for a better future.

GE13 It’s Time to Decide

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By James Gough

The day of reckoning is here, specifically on May 5, the day Malaysians throughout the country go to the polls. Ever since the dissolution of Parliament and the Perak state assembly on April 3, there has only been one single topic that every Malaysian talks about every day – the upcoming election. Caretaker Menteri Besar Dato’ Seri DiRaja Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir announced the list of BN’s candidates on April 16. The informal Opposition coalition of PAS, PKR and DAP made known their candidate list two days later on April 18.

Barisan National
Barisan National
Pakatan Rakyat
Pakatan Rakyat
Ceylyn Tay  (BN) & Wong Kah Woh (DAP)
Ceylyn Tay (BN) & Wong Kah Woh (DAP)

Malaysia’s Mother of all Elections

A glaring difference in this year’s lineup is the large number of new and young candidates compared to the previous election. The line-up includes Canning Councillor Ceylyn Tay (BN) running for the Canning state seat. She is up against incumbent Wong Kah Woh (DAP). Over at Bercham Lim Huey Shan (BN) will square off with Cheong Chee Keoing (DAP); both are new faces.

Another notable change is veteran politician Lim Kit Siang. He is giving up Ipoh Timor parliamentary seat to move to Gelang Patah, Johor. He is replaced by Thomas Su Keong Siong, previously State Assemblyman for Pasir Pinji, a constituency of Ipoh Timor.

However, none of the above can beat the ‘David vs Goliath’ contest for the parliamentary seat of Tambun. Incumbent Dato’ Seri Husny Hanadziah (BN), the country’s second Finance Minister was MP for the last four terms. Husny is being challenged by a rookie, 27-year-old Siti Aishah Shaik Ismail (PKR). Siti is an IT and Communications diploma holder who entered politics barely three years ago. She campaigns by going house to house in the morning and holding ceramah at night markets.

Siti, born in Manjoi, states that, of Tambun’s 90,000 voters, 65 per cent are low-income earners. Forty one per cent of the constituents are below the age of 40. She feels they will give her a fighting chance in making an impact on the voters.

Siti Aishah Shaik Ismail (PKR) – 3rd from left & Dato’ Seri Husny Hanadziah (BN) – 5th from left
Siti Aishah Shaik Ismail (PKR) – 3rd from left & Dato’ Seri Husny Hanadziah (BN) – 5th from left

Both BN and PR have come out with their manifestos pledging to carry out changes if voted into power. PR announced their manifesto on April 8 while BN announced theirs on Monday April 15 which led to accusations of copying and stealing of ideas. Nevertheless, BN has a clear advantage as their manifesto has a list of actions already implemented and delivered for the benefit of the rakyat. If you want an update on issues that are being talked about, attend the many ceramah taking place around town.

Since the dissolution of Parliament on April 3, DAP has been conducting ceramah almost every week. Their ceramah programme can be accessed at dapperak.org. Ceramah locations and timings, stretching from Kampar to Taiping, are on display.

DAP ceramahs held around Ipoh are well attended. Can this be used as a barometer of their popularity? It remains to be seen on May 5.

The question on each voters’ lips is whether the ruling BN government can retain the administration of not only the country but that of the state of Perak?

DAP ceramah at Bercham with Lim Guan Eng at the microphone
DAP ceramah at Bercham with Lim Guan Eng at the microphone

For senior voters, the memory of how BN came to power in Perak still lingers on while others feel that the economic stability provided by Zambry’s government over the last four years is a positive alternative for the state and future generations.

Barisan National
Zambry launches BN Perak’s manifesto ‘Aku Janji’

Despite prevailing sentiments most Perakeans share a common trait. Many of them have encouraged their children, studying and working outside of Ipoh, to return home to vote. Could this be the beginning of better things to come? Your guess is as good as mine.

Hockey Hub Ipoh Growing in Strength and Stature

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By James Gough

Sultan Azlan Shah Cup International Hockey Tournament 6The recently-concluded Sultan Azlan Shah Cup (SASC) International Hockey Tournament, the 22nd in the series, was considered the best ever edition of the annual game. This was proudly declared by tournament organiser, Dato’ Hj Abdul Rahim Md Ariff. Due to its significance, this international hockey tournament, the longest running invitational tournament in the world has been featured in the International Hockey Federation’s (IHF) annual calendar of events putting Ipoh on the world Hockey map.

Champions Australia
Champions Australia

“The organisation is world class in all aspects” – Gary Marsh, IHF Tournament Director

The invitational, the brainchild of HRH Sultan Azlan Shah, was intended to provide the home team an opportunity to play with world-class hockey teams following the country’s fall from grace in the early 1980s. The tournament, limited to 7 top-ranked teams in the world, made its debut in 1983.

This year’s tournament was held from March 9 till 17. Six teams, Australia, Korea, New Zealand, India, Pakistan and Malaysia were in Ipoh to wrest the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.

Sultan Azlan Shah Cup International Hockey Tournament 1Without doubt the Malaysian team this year played a more spirited game compared to previous years. But that was not the reason for Rahim’s happiness. His joy was to witness and hear the infectious cheers of the crowd who filled the Azlan Shah Hockey Stadium to support the national team. The scenario was repeated for the whole duration of the tournament, especially when Malaysia was on the field.

The invitational is normally held during the mid-year school holidays to enable students and families to watch the matches. No entrance fee is levied and the attendance has been fairly good, increasing as the event progresses. The crowd is a mixed bag of locals and foreigners. The majority of the locals are from within Perak with a sprinkling of outsiders. However, foreign fans are made up of team officials and their “Imported” supporters.

Sultan Azlan Shah Cup International Hockey Tournament 3Since the Asia Cup will be held in Ipoh in August, the SASC was pushed forward to March. The week-long tournament was held at Stadium Azlan Shah, Ipoh with a seating capacity of 12,000. The home team’s sterling performance was the reason why the stadium was packed every other evening. They were the main draw.

Malaysia, ranked 13th, won their opening match against South Korea, ranked 8th with a slim 3-2 margin. The home team normally wins or draws in the preliminary rounds only to lose when the going gets tough. This raises the ire of fans who would then tag the team as “Jagoh Kampong” (village champion) the moment they begin to fumble. However, this was not the case this time around. They came out on top once again in their second game against New Zealand (ranked 6th) beating the Kiwis 2-1. The crowd on the second day was much larger considering it was a Sunday night.

Sultan Azlan Shah Cup International Hockey Tournament 4On the third day when Malaysia faced World No. 2, Australia, the stadium was filled to the brim. The fans were out in force to provide the much needed support considering that Australia had earlier beaten India 4-3 and steamrolled Pakistan 6-0.

Our Malaysian boys played their hearts out. Their determination saw them holding the mighty Aussies to a 1-1 draw. The equalising goal was scored by a Malaysian forward 44 seconds before the air horn was sounded. Immediately, vuvuzelas blared and drums pounded throughout the stadium. The atmosphere was ecstatic.

Malaysia’s next two games ended in a draw, 2-2 with Pakistan a similar 2-2 with India. The two draws paved the way to a much anticipated final with Australia, the other finalist.

Electrifying Final

Sultan Azlan Shah Cup International Hockey Tournament 2The stadium was packed to overflowing. To accommodate those who could not get in, a huge LED screen was erected in the car park where, according to Rahim, close to 2000 had gathered to watch the game.

The VIPs present during the final included members of the Royal family. HRH Sultan Azlan Shah who was indisposed, did not attend the tournament like previous years. But it was reported that he had followed every match on TV along with his grandchildren.

The Royal entourage was well represented that night. They included HRH Raja Muda Perak Raja Nazrin Shah, Raja Puan Besar Perak Tuanku Zara Salim, daughter YTM Raja Eleena and the wife of the late Raja Ashman Shah YTM Dato’ Seri Noraini Jane. Menteri Besar Dato Seri DiRaja Dr Zambry Abd Kadir was there too.

When Malaysia opened account in the 4th minute through Faizal Saari, the entire stadium erupted. Unfortunately, Australia equalised in the 29th minute and took the lead a minute later.

Malaysia drew level in the 49th minute. But with barely 4 seconds left before the final whistle, Australia scored to claim the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup with a 3-2 win over Malaysia.

The final match, as with all the earlier games, was fast and exciting. The Malaysian team this year played with a new found vitality. They took the challenge seriously and fans were on the edge for the entire 70 minutes of each match. This was unlike before as the tempo would taper off with time.

Perhaps the team’s new found strength and spirit are attributable to Malaysia’s new hockey coach, South African Paul Michael Revington. Or perhaps it was due to the foreign teams fielding their junior players while Malaysia fielded a mixed bag of junior and senior players throughout the tournament.

Whatever the reasons were, the enthusiasm displayed on the blue turf had a tremendous impact on fans’ turnout and TV viewers. Astro, the official broadcaster for the tournament, recorded a viewers’ average of 340,000 each time Malaysia took to the field. This figure is normally seen during finals of the European football leagues.

Hockey Courses

Gary Marsh
Gary Marsh,
Tournament Director

The coaches and umpires courses were held simultaneously during the tournament. The courses, held at the Raja Ashman Shah AHF-MHC Academy adjacent to the stadium, saw an enrolment of 36 from 11 Asian countries.

This year the academy focused on the AHF (Asian Hockey Federation) Level 2 Coaching Course and AHF Umpiring Course. The courses were held during the tournament, as the games were recorded and used for study and observation. The academy, which is acknowledged by AHF as a centre for Asian hockey, was started in 2011. Its objective is to train and prepare coaches, umpires and technical officials to manage competitions in the participants’ countries.

Mr Gary Marsh, the Tournament Director appointed by the International Hockey Federation (IHF) to oversee this year’s competition described the organisation as superb. “It’s world class, in all aspects,” he exclaimed. “The competitive team spirit shown by all the participating teams was excellent despite this being an invitational tournament,” he told Ipoh Echo.

Marsh further described the entire Ipoh set up, namely the tournament’s facilities, the academy and the courses offered as fantastic and being essential for the development of the sport in the country. What further impressed Marsh was the fanatical home fans. “They came with their entire families and this added to the atmosphere of the game. It was friendly and I loved every minute of it.”

Asia Cup

In August (August 24 to September 1) Ipoh will play host to another international-class hockey tournament, the 9th Men’s Asia Cup.

Eight teams, including Malaysia, will be participating. The event will be treated as a World Cup qualifying tournament. All participating nations will be fielding their first team and Malaysia can expect a gruelling fight to the finish.

Paul Michael Revington
Coach, Paul Michael Revington

According to Rahim, the IHF has recently expanded the World Cup Tournament to accommodate 16 teams instead of 12 previously. With this expansion it is hoped that Malaysia will make the cut.

When asked whether the home team was preparing for the World Cup, Coach Paul Revington’s reply was crisp. “My most important assignment is to help Malaysia win the Asia Cup so we can qualify for the 2014 World Cup in the Hague next year.”

Alluding to the final against Australia, Revington was truly amazed by the team’s fighting spirit. “If we remain consistent and embrace the challenge, we’ll forge ahead. Hopefully, this is a harbinger of good things to come. And once we start running, we’ll be unstoppable,” he remarked.

2014 Tournament

Due to the fixtures of the World Cup in May 2014, the 23rd edition of the Sultan Azlan Shah International Hockey Tournament next year is tentatively slated in the March-April timeframe.

Fans can expect a very exciting outing because the teams participating would have qualified for the World Cup. They would use the tournament as a testing ground for their teams.

It appears that only after 22 tournaments that Ipoh’s home-grown product is finally getting the recognition it is due. Considering that it is a permanent feature in Ipoh’s calendar of events, perhaps we should try to package the tournament for sports buffs, both local and foreign.

Towards this end, the efforts of Ipoh City Council, Tourism Perak and that of the Perak Hockey Association should be galvanised for the benefit of all. Haji Musa Dun, CEO of Tourism Perak, is receptive of the idea and has given his stamp of approval.