Ever wondered what the secret is to have the most enjoyable trip possible on Malaysia Day? On September 16, 10 YMCA Ipoh Toastmasters Club members went for a Papan heritage trail walk with a cultural heritage activist.
It was a rare experience, walking among ruined buildings on a quiet misty morning. Facing across the only main road was a row of derelict buildings with trees almost covering the masonry and birds swooping in and out, enjoying the wilderness. It reminded me of “Combat”, an American television series in the 60s, where Rick Nelson and Vic Morrow walks through war-torn towns like Papan.
In the mid-1800s, due to tumultuous conditions, many Chinese from Fujian and Guangdong province in the south-east coast of China came to Malaya in the hopes of escaping a life of poverty in China. Clans such as Hokkien, Cantonese and Hakka fled their homeland to pursue a new life in Malaya, some of them came to Papan during the tin rush period.
We started our walk from the Goddess of Mercy Temple in Papan which has epigraphy dating back to 1847. Then, we headed to a big bungalow which is situated on the left-hand side before the entrance to Papan town. In 1906, Dr Sun Yat Sen, a revolutionary leader, had visited this place for soliciting funds for the cause of the revolution in China.
Our next stop was the Sybil Kathigasu museum which was closed. However, I knew that Kathigasu’s family came here on December 16, 1941. Here they found accommodation in this shophouse which was to become famous as the refuge of many resistance fighters.
From here we proceeded to a shophouse which is notable to be haunted.
Since some of our group had certain phobias, we quickly walked to the Mandailing mansion. Here we saw a timber house called Rumah Asal built in 1882. We meet Pn. Hafizah Kamaruddin, the great grand-niece of Raja Bilah. We were told that Raja Bilah succeeded his uncle Raja Asal in 1879. He made his living as a tin trader, moved with his people to Papan. Later he built this mansion which is made of local hardwood such as cengal, merbau and damar laut. At the main entrance door, one can admire the fanlight decorated with a pierced carving of foliage and birds.
From the Rumah Asal, we walked to town to celebrate Malaysia Day the Toastmasters way. A few of us spoke about the three different personalities of this place that made history. It is our differences that make us stronger, we stand as one for you Malaysia. Similarly, this anniversary magnified our resilience, our huge heart acceptance of all of us, diverse or different with the same hope for a good life for all Malaysians.