Tag Archives: Perak Heritage Society

Celebrating Perak’s Built Heritage


The Perak Heritage Society recently launched an exhibition and book launch entitled “A Celebration of Perak’s Built Heritage” which showcased the joint works by the Architectural Faculties from the National University of Singapore and University Malaya.

Shop owner Kamalar pointing to a model of her home the Singhalese Bar
Shop owner Ms Kamala pointing to the model of her home, the Singhalese Bar

The joint NUS-UM studio projects which took place in 2010 covered Taiping while the 2012 study covered Ipoh, Old and New town.

At these study projects, students took measured drawings of the buildings at the site locations which allowed them to be exposed to the methodologies of historical documentation and analyses of the places and buildings.

Detailed models and measured drawings
Detailed models and measured drawings

The findings of their studies are now on exhibition and are being displayed in images of the town, plans and drawings as well as architectural models of selected shop houses.

The study has also been compiled into two books for Taiping (Returning Taiping) and Ipoh (Familiar Spaces Untold Stories) respectively and which are being sold at the exhibition. During the launch copies of the book were presented to the shop house owners where the students did their analyses.

Architects (l-r) Lim and Yeh 'a good understanding for our heritage architecture'
Architects (l-r) Lim and Yeh ‘a good understanding for our heritage architecture’

Present at the exhibition was Ipoh born architect Ken Yeh. Yeh who has his office in Australia described the publications as “a good reference and understanding of how our forefathers built our town which creates the sense of appreciation for our heritage architecture.” Fellow architect Lim Take Bane concurred and added that “we should always respect our elders”.

The team from University Malaya and National University of Singapore
The team from University Malaya and National University of Singapore

The UM-NUS Joint Studio Programme Exhibition is being held at the Lim Ko Pi Gallery, upstairs of Lim Ko Pi restaurant on Hugh Low Street from February 26 to March 10 from 12.30pm to 4.30pm daily, closed on Mondays.


PTA To the Fore

Hj Odzman Abdul Kadir, President of Perak Tourism Association (PTA)

Much has been said about the MBI-administered Perak Tourism Information Centre, which gained notoriety due to its many shortcomings. The situation is further compounded with Visit Perak Year 2012 fast on its heels. A feeling of déjà-vu pervades among those responsible for its upkeep.

Sensing a major catastrophe looming if nothing is done to address the problem(s), President of Perak Tourism Association (PTA), Hj Odzman Abdul Kadir (pic), took it upon himself to do the needful.

As a follow up to Mariam Mokthar’s observations in Ipoh Echo Issue 129, Ipoh City Council has initiated actions to rehabilitate the beleaguered centre. And this includes a possible name change, pursuant to recommendations made by Executive Councillor, Dato’ Hamidah Osman recently. A meeting between the Council’s tourism staff and concerned Ipohites on Friday, October 14 may see some positive changes taking place in the days ahead.

Odzman feels that the centre should not only function as a nominal tourist information booth but a source for a myriad of tourist-related activities, such as the sale of handicrafts and souvenirs and the collection and collation of tourism data.

As time is of the essence, a gradual conversion is envisaged. The Perak Heritage Society and other like-minded individuals will be involved directly in the implementation process.

High up on PTA’s agenda is the formation of a pool of trained volunteers to man the information centre. A short course for front-liners is in the pipeline beginning in Ipoh on Monday, November 14. Those keen in participating or wishing to help out can contact Odzman on his mobile: 012-5186070 for details.


Old Railway Stations: Going, Going, Gone!


We, the Perak Heritage Society are very concerned about the eventual total loss of the evidence of our railway history, a heritage that belongs to all Malaysians. It appears that in the upgrading of the railway infrastructure, none of the first stations and bridges will be retained.

As the double-tracking and electric rail project of the northern line from Ipoh to Padang Besar progresses towards completion, we lament that no stations, not even those over a hundred years old will be safe from demolition, despite promises that selected stations will stay. Stations over one hundred years old are antiquities; they are supposed to be protected by law.

Railway stations are critical components of our industrial heritage. It is a fact that the first railway was built in 1885 to transport tin to Port Weld (now Kuala Sepetang) for smelting in Penang and then to England for industrial applications, especially in the canning of food. Soon, as the country grew and prospered, more lines to the ports were built, and then towns were linked for the transportation of goods and people. Why can’t these historical buildings be incorporated by design into the new station as a museum piece? They have been strategic landmarks in their town for over a hundred years.

We understand that the royal town of Kuala Kangsar wants a new, modern station. Despite good intentions of saving the 1899 station for posterity, problems with acquiring adjacent land for a new station became reasons for its removal. As saving grace, the new station should prominently display well-researched and designed panels with stories and photographs of the old station.

As for the Chemor station, it is incomprehensible that while the Ipoh Local Draft Plan 2020 earmarks it for preservation, KTM has decided to go ahead with demolishing it. Are the authorities working in tandem or are they engaged in a power game?

The PHS suggests that these charming old stations be retained, including those in Batu Gajah and Tanjung Malim on the southern Ipoh-Kuala Lumpur stretch. They can be commercially viable, creatively adapted into local history gallery, reading room, eatery, visitors’ centre, or some other happening place for community-linked activities, to help promote the culture of sustainable living. In the case of Chemor, the railway quarters there can become ‘homestays’.

For all the effort that KTM has put into saving the paraphernalia of railway, it has sorely missed out on the most important and obvious of its services: the original, charming, well-constructed historic railway stations of the FMS (Federated Malay States Railway), the precursor to KTM (Keretapi Tanah Melayu).

It is our fervent hope that decision makers at KTM and the powers that be rethink the demolition of their historic buildings in Perak. Let us not deprive the future generations of this heritage in the name of “upgrading” and development.

Let us, instead, inculcate in the young the love for our shared heritage by preserving what ought to be preserved and not destroying them in exchange for all things new and gleaming. As long as our no-maintenance culture continues unabated, the new will soon tarnish while our love for heritage and history takes another beating.

The understanding and reconsideration of KTM in the matter is of utmost urgency for this is the last chance to save the last of the stations. What is gone is gone forever.

The PHS is prepared to work with KTM in finding ways to involve local businesses and community groups in bringing about the suggested re-uses and adaptations.

Mohd Taib Mohamed
President of Perak Heritage Society

Kinta Valley’s Fading Heritage

Demolished. The block of townhouses on Jalan Chung On Siew

Ipoh and the Kinta Valley are in danger of losing its branding and outstanding universal value as a Tin-Mining UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Rampant demolitions of heritage structures and pre-war buildings over the years have raised the fear among the heritage community namely: Perak Heritage Society and the Kinta Heritage Group.

The community are saying that the “indiscriminate” removal of the old structures if not controlled would resulted in nothing left to show for the tin-mining heritage of the Kinta Valley.

Perak Heritage Chairman Mohd Taib has inquired whether there is a plan to initiate “legislation related to heritage conservation. If there is, what kind of enforcement is in place before property owners are allowed to demolish their buildings?”

Director of Kinta Heritage Group, Mr. Jek Yap, has similar sentiments. “A list of important heritage sites and buildings has already been established. Now clear and precise guidelines must be established before these ‘gems’ can be protected.”

Among the old structures demolished were two pre-war buildings in the city. One building at the junction of Jalan Theatre and Jalan Tahwil Azhar (Osbourne Street), and the other was off Jalan Sultan Iskandar (Hugh Low Street), in the New Town sector.

Another structure removed was a block of pre-war town houses along Jalan Chung On Siew. Boxed in between Jalan Chung Thye Phin, Jalan Ali Pitchay and Jalan Chua Cheng Bok this block was the set for an Ang Lee film, “Lust Caution” depicting a Shanghai scene.

Last portion of the Gopeng pipeline, located across the trunk road south of Gopeng Town, an icon of a glorious tin mining industry which had a global story behind it involving Asian and European participation, was also removed.

Although the company that originally purchased the entire pipe had given an assurance earlier that it would not remove the last portion of the pipe nevertheless it came down citing “reasons of safety for the public” as why it had to be removed.

The value of these pre-war structures like the Gopeng pipeline and pre-war buildings are actually legacies of administrators, Malay aristocrats, millionaires and workers who financed and built Ipoh city. Hence these old buildings contain immense historical significance and cultural value. Let’s not forget that Ipoh is the ‘City that Tin Built’.

It is apparent that the intention of all parties is to preserve our heritage. However without any guidelines or legislation, which only the state authorities can initiate and enforce, ‘heritage vandalism’ will continue to be rampant.

So let’s not forget that heritage statement, “Once Gone, It’s Gone Forever.”

More information about Ipoh’s heritage can be found at Perak Heritage Society’s website: http://perakheritage.wordpress.com as well as Ipoh World blog site: http://www.ipohworld.org/blog.

Saving the Last of the Giant Tin Dredges


Saving the Last of the Giant Tin Dredges

The last tin dredge in Chendrong, along the Batu Gajah-Tanjung Tualang Road, is described as “a heritage icon” of the once world renowned tin mining region of the Kinta Valley. Following a report that the dredge was in danger of flipping over and sinking, Ipoh Echo highlighted it and even carried out an on-line poll to gauge the views of the people, especially those in the Kinta Valley where the  tin mining industry had meant a lot to them, on whether to preserve it or not. The result has been an overwhelming “yes” for preserving the tin dredge, although it is clearly understood that it would be a mammoth task and as well as a costly one. It is also agreed by those favouring the preservation that the tin dredge by itself and on its own could not be sustained as a viable project. Other activities need to be developed around it.

Promises to Save the Dredge Comes With Major Financial Implications and Wise Planning

David Palmer

Subsequently, the state government through its state executive councillor in-charge of tourism, Dato’ Hamidah Osman, stated that the tin dredge would be saved. Dato’ Hamidah said there had been discussions of relocating the tin dredge to some other suitable locations. However nothing has been finalised until the full scope and cost of the project has been determined.

The Perak Government’s plan to preserve it as a monument of the tin mining industry and as a unique tourist attraction has been received with approval from various quarters in the state. “Ideally it should be part of a Tin Museum with the dredge being the main attraction and promoted strongly to attract the tourists to enable it to be sustainable,” said David Palmer, a retired mining consultant and the last CEO of Osborne & Chapel, the company that introduced hydraulics to the mining industry and operated mines in Perak and Selangor. “The dredge, as it is, needs to be upgraded and be made safe and sound for tourists to appreciate it. If possible, the dredge should be relocated to a viable and easily accessible location.”

Heritage Buffs Join the fray

The preservation of the dredge had also caught the attention of the local heritage buffs. Chairman of the Perak Heritage Society, Law Siak Hong, said “everything must be done to preserve it. Not only did it help make Kinta Valley world famous, it helped provide the wealth which built our country’s infrastructure and development”. “The dredge was presented by the mining company to the state for the people. That should be the inspiration for its conservation and subsequent re-use” added Law.

Elizabeth Cardosa, executive director of Badan Warisan Malaysia, had similar sentiments. “Tin mining played an integral part in our nation’s economic growth and a tin dredge is part of this legacy,” she commented. She added that the Tanjung Tualang Number 5 Dredge, if repaired, and well managed, would provide an excellent way to share the story and the very important role played by tin mining in the Kinta Valley, and in the development of the nation as a whole.

An on-line debate, started following a commentary written by the director of Ipoh World Ian Anderson on his views that preserving the dredge would be a “drain on resources forever”, resulted in a wealth of ideas to make it a viable tourist attraction by injecting economic activities in the vicinity of the dredge. Among them is the idea to induce various developments, such as allocating a piece of land for the construction of a large petrol station with attached fast-food outlets and shop-houses.

Dredge co-centre of attraction

A reader, engineer Aaron Ong, felt that the dredge could be successfully preserved as a heritage by making it a co-centre of attraction with the existing tourism based industries. He stressed that the dredge by itself and on its own could never be a centre of attraction. “No one would drive miles along empty roads to visit a dredge no matter how nicely dressed up” he said.

Therefore, local folk should be enticed to set up shops for their famous Tanjung Tualang’s freshwater prawns in clean and hygienic surroundings, with lots of open air for alfresco dining and ample parking; and using state machinery and media to promote this as a tourist spot.

“Sure this will take at the fastest a couple of years, so in the meantime some public money will have to be used for maintenance. But after this, the public money will be withdrawn and the owner/maintainer has to think of ways how to make the tourists appreciate the dredge so that the dredge will be self supporting,” Ong said.“I will certainly agree to the use of limited public money for maintenance of the dredge for the first two years, on condition that an economy is developed to boost and upgrade the existing prawn based tourism for the benefit of the local folk. I mean who wouldn’t be happy? For sure these people will be happy.”

Big Spruce Up

First and foremost, he said the dredge would have to be thoroughly repaired to display condition. All the riggings and the winches have to be inspected and made fast so nothing loose could come crashing down on the heads of visitors. Paint up the sides in bright beautiful colours like what they did to the Penang ferries. Next fix it up with beautiful lights inside and outside.

Ong have seen how ships and buildings far older than the dredge have been saved and preserved in Europe for future unborn generations so that their rich history is not lost to time. “To save the dredge, if not too late, the government would have to use public money for limited maintenance. By limited I mean, to arrest and recover the list and to make the hull waterfast. That is a priority. If this is not done, the dredge would list past its centre of gravity and would totally collapse. “How much is needed I have no idea, and it depends on a detailed hull examination by a competent engineer, and may even require the services of a professional diver, welder from a salvage company. If the leak is localised and not too serious, a ballpark figure maybe in the region of 10’s of thousands, perhaps” he said.

Costing Taxpayer

Responding to Ong’s suggestions, Ian Anderson says “It is a good idea and if it could be achieved then that would be great, but, and it is a big BUT, it does need a far-sighted developer to come in with several million to put up, up front. Meanwhile the dredge will still be costing the taxpayer, or someone, however many millions it will take to bring it up to an acceptable tourist level in terms of maintenance, repair and safety.”

The dredge was built in 1938 by the consulting engineering firm of F.W. Payne and Co. It started operations at Teja, Gopeng, and after 44 years ceased operations and moved to its present location in 1982. The company responsible for managing the dredge, Century Mission Sdn Bhd is unable to repair the pontoon due to financial constraints.  Meanwhile, with the pontoon rusty and leaking the situation of the tin dredge is getting worse each day. Ipoh Echo hopes that the commitment made by Dato’ Hamidah to save the dredge will materialise in the very near future to preserve the last visible heritage of the tin mining industry that brought the Kinta Valley the fame and glory that it enjoyed in the past.


Dripping from the Keg of Time


Kampong Tales

By Yusuf Martin

 It has been an odd year, a back and forth year, an uncertain but wonderful year.

In this past inequitable year, I shook warm hands with the local newspaper the Ipoh Echo, beginning an exciting new quest into the various New Years and beyond – with thanks to a certain generous woman, who has a penchant for antiquities and food.

2009 was also the year when Perak Academy, Perak Heritage Society and the oral history project all welcomed this mining pool wanderer, battered jeep and all, and entered my aging father-in-law’s voice into posterity.

This was the exceptional year when Gopeng got its very first museum – with grateful thanks to some very determined people – it was also the year when Gopeng nearly lost some of its old water pipe, amidst all kinds of wrangling and stubborn materialisms. It was in this fragile, unsettling year, that the last remaining tin dredge began to tilt on its base, threatening its previous stability, and stared into a distinctly unknowable future. It was a year in which rogues, bent on mischief elsewhere in Perak, sought to profit from collected historical artefacts.

As the last few dregs of the year were dripping from the keg of time, I was to recall that this was the year of my introduction to the still, quiet, tranquil wonders of Papan, and its fading beauty. Dodging Batu Gajah and its seller of the most remarkable mee rebus, I travelled, in my jeep, through lanes and roads to discover an altogether different type of feast, in the sumptuous museum at Papan. Although off the normal beaten track, the Papan museum is firmly wedged in Perak history as an historical site, with dedication to the war hero Sybil Kathigasu.

Ultimately, for me, it was a bookish year. It has been a year when several Perakian authors became published nationwide, and one book retracted. A year when I attended launches of books galore, yet encountering no book as illuminating, as a chunky, silver coloured tome explaining Ipoh and its shining history, from the age of tin.  This welcome launch came prefaced with a fascinating, evocative lecture, and a thought-provoking stroll down memory lane, amidst friends.

In many ways, it has been a glorious year. These twelve months have been the time in which I have listened to celestial music, produced by a cerebral local artist, and have vibrated to the stringed beat of Malaysian culture and her musical traditions. This has been the most extraordinary year, when I have met with artists, musicians, actors, directors and a whole host of very talented people – discovering, meanwhile, a distinct lack of acting ability within myself.

Ultimately, it has been another year of challenges. It has been a dizzy year, of ladders and cats on hot roofs. A time when I finally conquered my longstanding fear of heights, by extracting said cats from said roofs, and briefly considered a fresh career dressed in red and white, slipping down chimneys.

It was a most remarkably wet year, of floods, and children fishing in streets, hoisting immature black tilapia into convenient containers, running, or rather wading, back to their doting mothers, full of glee and, of course, fish.

Trailing towards the year’s nadir, it has been, literally, a rubbish year. That is to say a year’s end concerned with rubbish, trash, garbage, waste. There, sitting on my galvanised wire fence, above roaming predator height, one full week after my wife had placed it there before leaving for her job in Kuala Lumpur, was our rubbish.

Each increasingly fragrant day that dawned I thought, “Well, they’ll pick it up today, surely, just to clear it up before Christmas, they will, won’t they, yes of course, says I, they’ll never leave it over Christmas”, but, how wrong can one man be? It was approaching Christmas morning, when I realised that yes, the rubbish collectors would, indeed, leave our rotting discards stinking, fly ridden over Christmas, because, well, they had.

Normally my sympathies would have gone out to the loaders of rubbish, the heavers of waste and potential fathers of Lonnie Donegan, but the stench was getting beyond bearable and the feral dogs braver and braver by the day.

The kampong gossip factory slipped into gear to deliver a myriad, and one, reasons why the rubbish collection had ceased. Arguments with bomohs, striking private labourers, dismantled waste truck – stories abounded.

Next door Pakcik, oracle and news vendor to the kampong, informed my wife, upon her return after one week of working in Kuala Lumpur, that the rubbish truck, was just that – a rubbish truck, and had been towed away to be fixed.

A fitting climax to another remarkable year, some might say, and they would be right – let us see what a fresh year holds.

Cinema in Paradiso?


by Yusuf Martin

Perak once again rings to the unique, and some might say quite mystifying, sounds of camera tracks being laid, spotlights being erected, dollies being pushed, best boys, props masters, carpenters, costume designers, an earnest producer wrangling and an eminent director directing. Yes, the illustrious and industrious film people are back in town.

For more than a delicious decade Perak has been a favoured spot for enterprising film crews, be they TV or cinematic. Malaysia’s lushly green and mountainous state draws eagle-eyed location hunters like bees to nectar, mainly due to its immense natural beauty, and because it still has enough antique buildings left standing to represent any number of bygone ages. Though, at the present rate of ‘renovation’ and upgrading, one wonders if Ipoh and its surrounds will have any aged buildings left the next time a film company comes to call.

Back in the early 1990s, a Gitane smoking, baguette munching French film crew descended upon Perak, bringing the illustrious, and, I for one, might also say quite delectable, Catherine Deneuve with them. There they made that masterpiece of French cinema – Indochine (1992).  It is rumoured that a certain Robert Raymer, Malaysian writer- par excellence, also had a cameo role in that film. Time moves inextricably on and a little later the English film Director John Boorman brought Patricia Arquette to Perak, to shoot Beyond Rangoon (1995).

Anna and the King with Chinese actor Chow Yun Fat followed in 1999. Local film maker Amir Mohammad made his, subsequently banned, The Last Communist, here, released unseen in 2006, while another local boy, local to Ipoh that is – Patrick Teoh, TV/movie star, writer and former radio personality, starred in Kinta 1881 (2007), also made around Perak. In the very same year Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon man, Ang Lee, got us all hot and bothered by filming Lust, Caution (2007) in and around Ipoh’s old town. Maybe the kopi drew him.

Now it is the turn of local film and TV director Bernard Chauly, Red Communications and Astro TV, who are making an eight-part series concerning the Second World War heroine, mid-wife and resistance fighter Sybil Kathigasu. 

Filming started recently in Papan, utilising local traditional houses as well as the actual building where Sybil had set up her dispensary and, later, free clinic. Bernard Chauly, known for his recent film Pisau Cukur (Gold Digger, 2009), and Goodbye Boys (2006) has brought Elaine Daly, former Miss Malaysia (2004), known for her numerous film and TV roles, to play the role of the brave Sybil Kathigasu. This is entirely fortuitous, as Ms Daly is a dim distant relative of Sybil’s.

The Astro Citra eight piece series, of one-hour episodes, which incidentally forms part of the Suatu Ketika (a Time in the Past) sequence, has a working title of Apa Dosa Ku (What is my Sin).  This new TV series follows Sybil from the Japanese occupation of Ipoh, to its eventual liberation, by the British.  The TV series comes after the enormously successful theatre production – Sybil, which was a two-act play directed by Dato Faridah Merican (2008) based upon Sybil’s collective memoirs – No Dram of Mercy (1954).

In October of 2009 a resounding call went out for local participants to appear at auditions in November. Actors, extras, Eurasians, Chindians, Malays, Indians and an assortment of other races were needed to appear in this new production of the Sybil story. Many came but few were chosen. One local enthusiast, Audrey Poh, Ipoh book club member, part founder of Perak Heritage Society, former committee member and secretary of the Perak Society of Performing Arts answered that call. In the Red Communications production for Astro Citra, Audrey girds her loins to play Sybil’s best friend, and the godmother to Olga, Sybil’s older daughter.

Law Siak Hong, esteemed current president of Perak Heritage Society, creator and curator of the Papan museum for everything Sybil, has been working closely with producer Angela Rodrigues, director Bernard Chauly and their hard working film crew, to make everything run as smoothly as possible during the shooting for the production.

Contrary to what I have written above, the Red Communications film crew have been diligently subtle in their approach to film making, perhaps adhering to Star Trek’s Prime Directive (Starfleet’s General Order #1) of non-interference.  Despite the film crew working in the town, Papan is barely disturbed. It is only the interior ‘shots’ which require some minute disruption to daily lives, with puzzled house residents looking on, perhaps somewhat bemused by the coming and goings.

‘Apa Dosa Ku’ (What is my sin) airs on Astro Citra channel in March 2010. It is an eight-part series, of one-hour episodes, under the Suatu Ketika banner.

Who knows, maybe, someday, someone might make a film of Tash Aw’s The Harmony Silk Factory, set in and around the Kinta Valley.