Thursday, 1 September 2011

Cross Border to Perak CTRE Program for Tourist Guides -Aug.2011

                            Group picture taken by TG John Lim at the
                               Gopeng Heritage Museum of Tin Mining

The Ministry of Tourism (MOTOUR) of Malaysia has made it compulsory for tourist guides (TGs) to renew their license annually. In order to enhance their skills, to be aware of the latest trends of the tourist arrival patterns, to learn what’s new from the MOTOUR, and what are the new guidelines and advices from Malaysian Tourist Guides Council (MTGC), the TGs have to attend some refresher’s courses. Namely the Continued Tourism Related Education (CTRE). For renewal for a year, one needs to attend 3 CTRE sessions, and for 2 years’ (for confirmed TGs) renewal, it is 6 CTRE certificates to obtain before getting one’s license. In such way it is an auspicious opportunity for the TGs to update themselves as well as a chance to mingle with fellow guides for discussions and to share experience during the tours. For MTGC and MOTOUR, the governing bodies of the tourism industry, it is one of their unyielding efforts to instill professionalism among the TGs. 

The Gopeng Museum is housed at two separate shoplots, about 50m apart

                      The interior decor and displays
                       of the Gopeng Mining Museum

So when KLTGA (Kuala Lumpur Tour Guide Association) announced in its website that there would be a Cross Border Perak CTRE program for two days one night duration with 3 CTRE certificates at stake, I quickly enrolled. Came the big day i.e. August 21st Sunday 2011 twenty-three of us guides assembled at MATIC (Malaysian Tourism Information Centre) at Jalan Ampang at 7.30am. After a name check and registration we boarded the coach and off we began our fun and laughter-filled journey to Perak for the next 2 days. While the coach traveled steadily along the PLUS highway northwards, the facilitator of this excursion of CTRE programs Ms Diana Lee (She is the Hon. Treasurer of KLTGA) took the mic and spoke eloquently for 45 minutes non-stop. She was really worth her salt as a veteran tourist guide as she briefed us about what was in store in the near future with her numerous meetings with officials of MOTOUR, together with MTGC and KLTGA board members.

             RM5 hair cut by TG Palani. The chair could be 50 yrs old or older
TG Lawrence had good time relaxed at the barber's chair
           Mr Phang the Gopeng Museum curator guided us a detailed tour

One and a half hours later, the coach left the PLUS highway and steered into the small township of Gopeng. The first stop of our knowledge-seeking tour was the colorful and informative Gopeng Tin Mining Museum. Here we were greeted by board members of Perak Tourist Guide Association; they were Ms Ann, Mr. Rajasegaran, and Mr. Lee Ping Kong. An enthusiastic Mr. S.K. Phang as the museum curator guided us in detail about the founding of the ancestral building which housed the museum today. The heritage house was first built by the Eu Yan Sang family in 1879 for its money remittance service for hundreds of migrant workers from China, and eventually expanded to other economical activities like the Chinese traditional medical halls with branches in Gopeng town and other parts of Perak. Eu Yan Sang and his fore-fathers Eu Kong and Eu Tong Sang were all well-known tin miners then. Mr. Phang proceeded to highlight the importance of Gopeng as the first tin mining town of Perak, as it sat strategically in the middle of rich tin-ore producing  Kinta Valley. Its mining activities began in 1850s or even earlier. With the discovery of a royal mausoleum near Kota Bahru, Gopeng, it was confirmed that the township of Gopeng was established in 1851, much earlier than Ipoh and Kampar.

                            Group picture of dredge mining workers
                                  1940, taken just before WWII

                         The huge Tanjung Tualang 5 Dredge
                            looks like a mechanical dinosaur
The Museum Gopeng’s pictorials, maps, diagrams and artifacts etc. are housed in two shop lots of the heritage buildings with 50 meters apart from each other. The pictorials clearly displayed the ethnic group of pioneer residents, tin-mine workers and migrants, the royalty line-ups, the economical activities, (rubber plantations too) the presence of the British military forces and governance, and the subsequent occupation of the Japanese Imperial army etc. It also showcases and documents the heritage heirloom of the Eu Family, the buildings of Chinese schools and clan associations, the mining methods and paraphernalia, the communist threats to Malaya and eventually the road to independence.

                       Dredge TT5 seemed sunk and tilted at the swampy land
            Look what I've got! Diana got her hands full with Custard Apples
                                              The custard apple fruit

    Nature guide Lee Ping Kong gave some infos about the water birds

After a simple lunch on own expenses we proceeded to Batu Gajah-Tanjung Tualang area to visit a gigantic machine of yesteryears! A huge menacing looking machine: One now out of function tin dredge named TT5. (Tanjung Tualang 5). The historical dredge had seen its prime during the 1920s when it was brought into Malaya for the harvest of tin ore. The caretaker-cum-person in charge of bringing the dredger to its former glory, an energized Mr. Lee briefed us about the history of the dredge and mining work details with the help of a video documentary. Since there were some works going on onto the huge machine (I saw some workers doing welding job) we were not allowed to enter the dredge. We went looking at the Nona (apple custard) fruit plantation next to the dredge instead.


The wet land at Kinta Nature Park emits a serene and quiet ambience with breathtaking charm
                  Lotus and Hyacinth plants grow rapidly
                         in some of the smaller lakes

After leaving the TT5 dredge, a very experienced nature guide Mr. Lee Ping Kong of the Perak TGA passionately took us for a 2 hours tour of wetland-The wonderful world of Batu Gajah’s Kinta Nature Park. The coach rocked and swayed its way on sandy ground about 10kms into the wetland areas where we saw score of water birds, mainly the migratory flocks of egrets and the larger herons. They were flying, perching on tree tops on small isles, or feeding in shallow water. On a 5-storeyed high watch tower, built specially for bird-watchers, we saw some nature lovers took pictures of the water birds using DSLR cameras equipped with sophisticated L-lens. This wetland area of Batu Gajah region is filled with a labyrinth of former mining lakes. Many of them are now occupied with duck-rearing. We were told that about 10,000 eggs daily were collected from the duck farms and they were mostly exported to Singapore. The duck-rearing farms were mainly illegal because the rearing process would have polluted the clear water of the lakes.

                                    Ducks everywhere, duck eggs too
                          The Duckling princess 养鸭公主Winnie Chan

Once the rearing site was polluted the duck farm would shift to another location or another part of the lake and they would return when the lake rejuvenated and cleansed by natural process. Our German speaking guide Ms Loh bought some duck eggs from the duck farm; she was glad to have the eggs. We saw large quantity of hyacinth and lotus water plants in the various sized lakes. Though they are lakes, they may not be stagnant with the water flow, because there is underground water that oozed into the lake constantly. We saw to our saddened hearts that nature’s works were destroyed by callous falling of the trees into the water ways, and that damaged the breeding ground of the migratory birds. As a result the numbers of the birds were dwindling. Also there were some illegal activities of sand mining going on by unscrupulous people using large trucks.

         We posed for a shot at an Ipoh street before the Heritage trail began
                          TG Dennis ponders how to peddle all the
                      clay ovens in a single day, it costs RM15 each
The Majestic Ipoh Town Hall
                   The magnificient Neo-Classical designed Railway Station
Landmark of Ipoh-the Padang

The iconic St Michael's Institution in downtown Ipoh
                               JWW Birch Memorial

It was already in the evening hours when we checked into our 2-star rated lodging house, the old Lotte Hotel of downtown Ipoh. After consuming a plate of ubiquitous chicken rice and a bowl of ABC ice-kacang dessert half an hour later, with a slow stroll back to our hotel, I hit the bed for the dreamland before 11pm with a tired mind and body; the air-conditioning was running well, it sure did help.

                               The now deserted FMS Bar & Restaurant
              Mosaic design with peacock adorned the wall of one old building
                      This house at Concubine Lane was insured
                                             by Commercial Union
                                  The C.U. co logo can be seen clearly

The next morning Mr. Rajasegeran took over as our Ipoh Heritage Trail guide, after a sumptuous breakfast of course. We began the Ipoh Heritage walk from the Neo-classical styled railway station; built around 1914 and was completed in 1917. It was designed by A.B. Hubback the same British architect who designed the Kuala Lumpur railway station in 1910. There was a hive of activities at the Ipoh railway station since it was still operating as usual, just like the past 90 over years! The Station Hotel at the upper floor of the railway station remained a popular guest house for the weary travelers. We stopped at the War Memorial for some shots. We then walked into the Ipoh Town house which had a large dinner hall available for rental for weddings and other functions. We passed through the High court building, took some pictures at the padang (field for assembly) and St. Michael Institution from a distance, we too blitzed pass the Royal Ipoh Club. Mr. Raja diligently told us stories of some old buildings like the F.M.S. Bar and Restaurant, the HSBC Bank Building, the Chartered Bank Building, some old Chinese Clan Associations, The Birch Memorial, and finally the Concubine Lane a.k.a. Panglima Lane. Mr. Raja pointed to us an old multi-storey car park and claimed that it was the first one of its kind in the country. After a short visit to the local product shop of biscuits and candies, and lunch (most of us had Char Kueh Tiau at one local Kopitiam-Coffee Shop) we then boarded the coach and made a beeline for the journey home. Oh no, I forgot to mention we did stop at Tambun to buy some pomelos and other fruits.

                                Perak is famous for its yield of Pomelo fruits
             Let sleeping cat lie - I found this feline snoozing in a flower pot

Once again the moment we hit the PLUS Highway, the facilitator of
this trip to Perak Ms Diana Lee took over the mic for a lengthy 30 minute fusillade of high power speech that no one dared to close the sleepy eyes. She also sang her rendition of “Oh Malaysia” and
wanted us to follow. After that the topic of Rose Chan, a deceased dancer striptease artiste of our country was mentioned, and that awakened everyone, ladies included. Just about less than an hour before we reached KL, Diana asked for any TG’s words for sharing, could any TGs suggest any topic of CTRE? Some TGs came forward to hold the mic to introduce themselves. One TG asked if KLTGA could help to obtain permission for TGs to park their cars at MATIC. The answer was a flat ‘no’ as the anchor tenants needed the parking lots reserved for their customers.  Then the issue of disembarking tourists at Genting Highland’s First World Hotel cropped up. TGs Dennis, Josephine, Azahar, Ms Loh, Wong, and John Lim gave their predicament and experience when they brought tourists to GH for accommodation and visit. TG Rosa Ho mentioned that she had been supporting the KLTGA CTRE program for sometimes; she said this trip to Perak was a fruitful one. TG Winnie was at first reluctant to take part as she was originally from Perak itself; but after the tour she felt that it was an eye-opening experience. Nature TG Palani gave a long introduction speech about miracle ‘Gaharu’ plant for its medicinal and aromatic effect. Diana suggested that it would be great if a CTRE topic on Gaharu could be created. TG Alan told the floor that he once had an Indonesian stowaway passenger on board his tour bus filled with Indian tourists. A quiet TG Louise introduced himself last moment that he was from Malacca; he lamented that he should have participated more often in such CTRE program outings.  Someone cautioned us about personal safety when boarding the monorail in KL City. We reached MATIC amidst heavy off-duty hour traffic jam and that brought our Cross Border Perak CTRE trip to a satisfying end. Thanks a lot, KLTGA!

The 3 CTRE programs were:

  1. Gopeng Tin Mining Museum
  2. Batu Gajah Kinta Nature Park
  3. Ipoh Heritage Walk

Alan CY Kok


  1. PP Chew of JB wrote:

    Just read the Ipoh Heritage Trail on your Blog. Nice read with
    good infos and many pics to go along with the
    blog article. Good work done.

    PP Chew

  2. Like the piece on Adriana and Eliza.