By A. Jeyaraj
I recently visited the Perak Herbal Garden located in Kampung Kepayang, off Jalan Simpang Pulai – Batu Gajah. I was very impressed. It is a suburban nature park comprising of about 22 hectares and home to more than five hundred species of plants and trees, including medical, cosmetic and aroma-therapeutic. The theme ‘Knowing the goodness and wonders of natural treasures’ is appropriate for the park. Nature lovers can spend the whole day there and it is a good place for a picnic.
There are two main enclosures, one comprising herbal plants and each plant has a notice stating its name and remedial uses. The other one is a nursery where plants are sold costing between RM4 and RM15 which is cheap. Herbal products are sold at the office.
The garden is well maintained by the Perak Agricultural Department. The grass is cut and the whole area is clean with hardly any garbage.
There park has recreational facilities for jogging, cycling, camping, three ponds for fishing and a bazaar on Saturdays.
During weekends there is a free tram ride around the garden which takes about half an hour.
Everything about the garden is good except the lack of visitors. This is one of the tourist icons being promoted by Tourism Perak. In fact, a number of people I spoke to were not aware of the existence of the garden. I visited the place twice, once during a weekday and on a Saturday. During the weekday, I was there for more than two hours and during this time, besides my friend and myself, there was another man with his son. There was not much difference on Saturday; just two families came to buy plants and they soon left.
I saw the tram passing by and there was only one family in the tram. When I took the tram there were two ladies and a child. During the next trip there were a number of small girls probably from the nearby housing estates and not actual visitors.
The tram ride is pleasant and for a change instead of seeing concrete jungle we can see greenery everywhere. There is also a nice view of the surrounding hills. During the ride I only saw one person fishing and he looked like a staff member. There was nobody along the route. During the tram ride there must be recorded commentary in English and Malay providing information about the trees and plants.
The signage is not adequate and I had to ask the staff in the office how to go to the main herbal site. The few signages provided are only in Malay and if we are targeting foreign tourists then we must have English as well. All the brochures are also only in Malay, we need an English version as well. When I visited tourist sites in neighbouring countries, I noticed that English is widely used.
During the Saturday bazaar, there were a few stalls selling local products but there were hardly any customers. I wonder whether it is economically worthwhile for the traders to open their stalls.
The cafeteria is a big let-down, serving a limited variety of food. Ipoh is a food haven and I know of people coming from Singapore just to eat. There must be a mini food court selling the delicacies of Ipoh. This would attract the residence from the neighbouring housing estates.
My concern is so much money is being spent to maintain the place, but it is not attracting tourists and even many Ipohites are not aware of it. The Agricultural Department is doing a good job. It is up to Tourism Perak to promote the place. Since the garden is educational, it must be promoted to school and college students.
The garden is along the same road as Kellie’s Castle which is quite popular and it would be a good idea to promote the place together with Kellie’s Castle.