Monday, 28 March 2011

Shun Tak Association Taiping

The Shun Tak Association in Taiping is one of the many Chinese associations in town.  The more well-known ones are the Kwantung Association, Hokkien Association and Foo Chow Association.  These are large associations with large membership.  The Shun Tak Association is one of the smaller associations with a present membership of around 60 only.  This inevitably means that the association do not have much fund.  The association is an active one and has numerous activities throughout the year for its members but the main problem lies with the maintenance of its heritage building.  To renovate the building back into good condition needs more than a million ringgit.  That is an amount that the association do not have.  So, instead of leaving the building to rot, the association has let it out to a banner printing company to get some income to do repairs and maintenance.  It is a pity, because the beauty of the building is totally "lost" under the cover of banners and advertisements.  It must be mentioned that this is the only Shun Tak Association in the whole country with such a beautiful building. All the other Shun Tak Associations - in Ipoh, KL and even Penang -  are housed in modern shop lots. Because of its small membership, the heritage building is simply too big to handle, so at present, the Taiping association too has moved into another of its property in a modern shop house.

This is what the Shun Tak Association building in Taiping looked like a few decades ago.  It housed the association and its main income at that time was from rental of tables for mahjong players. 

 This is what it looks like today.   The sign board is still there but the mural above it has faded. 

Today, the entrance is no longer visible and it is being covered with the name of the advertising company that rents the place. 

Cracks start to appear all over its wall and a lot of money is needed, if a renovation program is to be undertaken.
In the meanwhile, with the heritage building being rented out, the association is now housed on the first floor of this shophouse building.

  The ground floor is rented out to a law firm and the top floor is also rented out to a resident.  It is hoped that the old heritage building will catch the attention of the authority or organisations which has interest in renovating it to its original glory and make it into a tourist attraction.  The Shun Tak Association Taiping committee is looking forward to lease it out to someone who has this in mind.  With proper planning and care, I am sure this is a good investment for anyone with the money to spare.  Examples of how heritage buildings are turned into successful tourist attractions can be found in Penang and Malacca.  So, why not in Taiping too?

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Balai Datuk Maharajalela

There is an interesting place - the Balai Datuk Maharajalela in Kamunting  - which. many people have forgotten about.  It is located within the compound of the infamous detention camp.  Once it was a thing of beauty where the garden was well kept and visitors came in dozens to see the place.  There used to be a restaurant operating at the place and the grand hall was a popular place for weddings and official events.  I could remember that there were events organized for the public, such as fishing competition and 'merbok' bird singing contests.  Below the 'balai' was a display room for the prisoners' handicraft.  It was so well set up but now it's abandoned!!  Why is this beautiful place left to rot? And, as you can see for yourself - it's rotting, literally.

This is the gate to the Balai Datuk Maharajalela. It is no longer open to the public and the place looks abandoned. 

The name of the place can still be seen by the side of the gate even though it has faded considerably. It's done by hand and certainly reflects the work of skillful artists.  And, on each side of the gate was a giant carving of  the image of Arjuna, a warrior from the Javanese wayang kulit stories.

This was what the entrance looked like in 1987 when the place was well-kept and was attracting tourists.
                                                  The pictures below were taken in 1984.

Inside the big hall, was a restaurant and the place was well decorated with traditional cravings and traditional musical instruments.  I don't know what happened to them.  No outsider could go near enough to get a peep into that place now.


This is the "Balai" or the big hall for public gatherings and functions.  Look at the grass, it tells us of the extent of neglect this place has gone through.  The large compound of this place is all covered with grass and weeds now.  

The Grand Hall or Balai was built according to traditional malay-style architecture with pointed roof and stands on stilts.  The concrete stairs leading up to the hall are like those commonly found in the kampung houses in the states of Malacca and Negeri Sembilan.

The road leading from the gates to the hall is also covered with grass and weed and has "disappeared". The only evidence of a road is the small roundabout at the centre where two giant krisses stabbed into the ground.  However, today, only one kris survives the test of time.  You can see it in the pictures above.  
This place has such great potential for tourism and could be used to educate people about local architecture as well as social history.  But why has it been left to rot?  I don't know what plans the people involved with this place has for its future.  Let's hope it's something good.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Tambun Prehistoric Wall Painting

     I still remember the time when I was a school boy and I used to move around the town on bicycles with my friends.  One place that we visited was the Tambun Prehistoric Wall Painting.  It was located along the road from Ipoh to Tanjung Rambutan.  We could see the painting from the road.   There used to be a narrow path for bicycles to go right to the foot of a huge limestone hill and there  it was, the prehistoric painting.  I remember that there were steps leading up the cliff and we could go really close to the painting.  We parked our bicycles at the foot of the hill and went up the steps and took a good look at the painting. It was awesome!  How could anyone, without the aid of modern technology paint something so big on so high a wall?  It boggled our minds as to how these paintings could have lasted so long despite the rain and shine.
     Last week, I went back to that place again because I told a colleague about it but she won't believe me.  She said that she has used that road so many times before but have never seen anything or any signboards. She said that if the painting were there surely the authorities would have put up some signboards.  Next, she also claimed that as an art teacher, and a very knowledgeable one at that, it would be impossible for painting to last more than a few decades in the open.  She believes that even if I did see anything in the past, it must have been a fake.
     I knew what I have seen was real because I read about it in the  newspapers.  I remember reading about a team from UNESCO coming there to trace the painting and to spray a layer of protective material over the painting, many years ago.  It cannot be my imagination.  So, I went back to search for the place.
     Now, I know why my colleague disbelieved me.  The access to the hill was blocked by houses, development, and there is even a fenced-up field for race horses at the foot of the hill where we used to park our bicycles.  The path is gone, the steps are gone too but fortunately the painting is still there!!  It looks like someone has gone up there to touch up the painting!! I hope that I am wrong!
     The problem is that there is no proper access road to the site.  I have to go into a housing estate, and go behind the last house and then I was a small sign board beside a small opening of a wall which fenced up the field for the horses - indicating that I must sneak through this narrow opening in the wall to get anywhere near the hill.  Look at the pictures to see what I mean.

This signboard is located under a tree at a wall behind rows and rows of houses. To get to the limestone hill, I have to climb down into the field and walk about another 50 meters to see the cliff with the paintings. 

Here's another view of the signboard - it's located at a very insignificant place where most people won't go or most people would not have noticed it if they were not looking out for it.

This is the view of the prehistoric painting on the wall of the limestone cliff.  This picture was taken from the field where race-horses train.  The black mark on the cliff is the painting.  They look like dolphins or some sea creatures.  It was believed much of this limestone area was once beneath sea level.  And perhaps this could explain why sea-creatures are portrayed here by the pre-historic man.       

This is a closer picture of the cliff, the dark area on the cliff is the drawing.  Awesome isn't it?  According to reports, this drawing was first discovered in 1959 by the British soldiers and they cleared the area to build steps leading to foot of the cliff.   According to the same source, it is said that this is the only prehistoric painting found in this country done with iron oxide - so that is why it could last for so long.  Maybe next week I will visit the place again and try to find if there is another access point but until then, let's hope that this creative work of our ancestors will be preserved for the future generations to appreciate. 

One week later, I visited this place again.  This time I managed to locate another small sign-board by the side of the main road.  As shown in this picture, the signboard is small and is located some distance away from the road, so you have to be very aware to be able to notice it.  It is just immediately the Caltex petrol station as you approach the Ipoh town from Tambun. You have to drive very slowly or you will surely miss it. 

The size of the notice board is about 2 feet by 2 feet and it has a faded picture of the pre-historic painting.

As, I follow the arrow shown in the signboard, I went down a road and reached this place (picture above) after about 200 meters.   The road ends with a gate which opens to the polo ground which I have mentioned earlier. There is a "private property" sign and when I asked the driver of the vehicle (in the picture) who was bringing food to the horses, if I could go in and have a closer look at the pre-historic painting, he said "no, this is a private property.".

I told him "look, here is another signboard just before the gate with the arrow showing the direction of the painting, so how can I get to see it?"  He replied in the negative, he has no idea who puts it up and cannot understand why anyone wants to see such things.  I hope he is wrong about the directions. Surely there must be another access to the place, otherwise, another piece of our heritage is going to be lost forever.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Another Clock Silenced

There is another clock tower in the Taiping Lake Gardens which was once the pride of the town because it was donated by the Japanese Electric Company - Sanyo, and was supposed to be one of the few clocks that ran on solar energy during its time.  Again, was it due to neglect, mismanagement or whatever reason?  The clock died after ten years or so.  It was very much alive during the 1980's up till the early 1990's.

 This was what the Sanyo solar clock looked like in 1990.  The face of the clock was still there and the surrounding was beautifully landscaped with flowers.

Located at the centre of the Lake Gardens, this clock used to chime too.  People who were at the garden will be able to know the time from the chime of this clock.  Today, it remains silent.

Actually, there is not much of a clock left, only the tower remains,  The place where the face of the clock used to be has been replaced by a sign-board - MPT or Majlis Perbandaran Taiping (The Taiping Municipal Council).  New and younger visitors to the Lake Gardens will think that this is a sign-board to tell the people that the garden is being managed by the MPT, which is true,  Unless, told by older residents of the town, they will never know about the solar clock that has disappeared from the face of our local history.   

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Time Stood Still in a Timeless Town

It is something quite commonly found in towns around the country - clock towers which are no longer performing their tasks of telling the time.  If we were to go around the country and be aware of the clock towers that were planted at the centre of each town - we would certainly feel so sad that most of them are no longer functioning.  The clock towers by themselves are usually quite beautiful and tell us of a time when the residents of the town could be told the time by this official time pieces but, due to wear and tear, time has taken its toll.  One such example of a public tower clock left to "die", is the one found in the middle of Taiping town, in front of the old market, at Jalan Taming Sari.

This used to be a "modern" clock tower built in front of the old market in town and it was deemed "modern" at that time because it has a digital clock.  I don't know when it was built, but I still remembered that it was working fine in the 1980's.  Then it died, and was left in this state until today.  I hope it could be repaired for otherwise what's good of having a clock tower when it can't tell the time.

    It certainly has a modern structure as compared to the other clock towers in other town, so, it is sad to know that such a relatively new time-piece should be allowed to stand still.  Perhaps the town authorities could get it repaired and put a board up to tell visitors more about this piece of 'heritage'.