The International Steam Pages

Kinta Heritage Trail 2017 Part 5
Gopeng and Batu Gajah

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We had already 'done' Batu Gajah on our earlier visit so our visit there today was mainly for John Baker's benefit. After a visit to the Christian cemetery, we next went to the magnificent 1892 court house, a quite extraordinary edifice considering Perak was a very minor part of the British Empire when it was built and the Sultan lived many miles away in Kuala Kangsar on the other side of Ipoh. No doubt it terrified the local miscreants who had the misfortune to be hauled here. As it had rained the previous day, the light was stunning.

Nearby is the resident's house, if you think it looks like a film set, then that's exactly what it was being used for. We offered to act as extras... John then popped into Kellie's Castle which we had visited previously and had decided didn't merit paying a second time, especially as we would have paid a lot more than the locals.

Nearby Gopeng is the small town that time has forgotten, it was bypassed by the railway in favour of Batu Gajah and today even the north-south highway skirts it. Once, though it was at the core of the Kinta Valley tin mining industry. Now a small group of local Chinese, determined to maintain the memory of its past has set up a small museum with photographs and artifacts. We were greeted by the curator Phang See Kong and I took the opportunity to buy the book 'Tin Mining in Malaysia 1800 - 2000, The Osborne & Chappel Story' which has been on my hit list for a while. Yuehong bought too, Phang's 'A Meander down Memory Lane' which chronicles stories of the Chinese Pioneers in Gopeng (1850 - 2000), alas it's in Chinese.

Nearby, the group's treasurer Wong Chuan Cheong has bought one of the shop houses which he has restored as a 'Heritage House' and in it are many of the antiques he has collected over the years. It's one of a row of 13 such buildings some of which have been unoccupied for many years and are rather run down. I guess the people involved dream to have all the houses in secure ownership. It is really quite extraordinary what they have achieved with limited resources and not a cent of assistance from the public purse. To be honest, even Ipoh and Taiping with a much larger built heritage gets precious little in the way of tourist visitors and I hope this relatively modest scheme can survive and thrive.

Our last visit did not qualify as 'heritage' but is a natural phenomenon. This area has many limestone outcrops and Gua Tempurung is a huge cave. It contains the largest stalagmite I have ever seen and at weekends (this was a Sunday) it attracts many local tourists. There are 'wet' and 'dry' tours and we just took the simplest and cheapest dry option. Unfortunately, this is another attraction that operates dual pricing which would discourage many international visitors. Fortunately two of us qualified for a senior ticket which kept the overall cost sensible.

Having put the day together with the aid of Google and the web in general, I'm pleased to say that John and Yuehong were very satisfied.

Rob and Yuehong Dickinson