Let us go paint the town red… err, yellow!

by Lau Sook Mei, with a little help from Hong; photos by Sook Mei

One sunny afternoon, Hong and I went ‘heritaging‘. Day-tripping, he said, taking off the title of a Beatles’ hit song, from his vintage years!

From Ipoh , I drove us 40km south-west. Excited by their rustic beauty, I stole long glances at the traditional Malay houses dotting the trail and had a tough time keeping my eyes on the road. Well, there was hardly any traffic to bother me. Our destination is the quaint little riverine town by the name of Parit, meaning ‘ditch’ or ‘canal’.

What’s the oral tradition on the town’s origin? Well, the most popular version is this: the town was founded at the start of the 17th century by Tok Parit, who hailed from Kampar, Sumatera. The area where he and his men settled was named after him. One interesting version recounts a moat (canal) around the fort which deterred the Achehnese’s attack. So where is the site of this fort?

Anyway, as we reached Parit town, we were taken aback; the town was swamped in lemon-yellow! In bright yellow, four blocks of 1920s and 1950s shophouses meet at the cross-road. Here is the only set of traffic lights in Parit. Here, too, is the town’s Clock Tower, erected to mark Merdeka in 1957. It has, mercifully, remained in cream. What’s the story?

Bright lemon-yellow shop-houses with wooden windows in 'Disney'-colours.

As usual, we headed to the kopitiam – the place for local gossips. At No.1 Jalan Besar, Yi Fatt is the age-old family-run kopitiam known for its ‘steak’ (no longer on the menu) and ‘chicken chop’, among other delectable dishes. It is halal. We got into a chatter with the locals and found out that Perak Menteri Besar Dato Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir came to town on 11 March, 2010 to officially open the Jambatan  Cempakasari. Is that why the local council painted the town bright yellow, for free? How frightfully interesting!

Yi Fatt the kopitiam.

The sturdy wooden staircase in Yi Fatt goes up to the living quarters.
Small town hygiene: your cutlery comes in a mug of hot water.

Ravenous by then, we ordered our lunch from the menus on the wall. Typically country, the servings were very generous. To burn off the calories from our lunch, we took a walk in the kampung on the other side of the river.  We crossed the majestic Sungai Perak on foot via the new bridge.  It connects the town to Kampung Belanja Kiri, a little Malay kampung that comprises a primary school, a surau and dozens of houses.

Jambatan Cempakasari as seen from a neglected jetty.

The bridge, 378m long and 3.4m wide, was completed on 18 Oct 2009 at a cost of RM5 million. Benefiting 3000 villagers from 10 villages in Mukim Belanja, it is the first concrete bridge in Perak built for only motorcycles and pedestrians.

The majestic river – Sungai Perak

But Parit has its own kind of rustic charm. It is a great place for tourists and casual visitors alike. Pulau Cempakasari, the little green island in the Sungai Perak, is a breezy picnic spot just a few steps down from the bridge. Regrettably, the serene beauty of Parit was marrred by the stench of garbage, made worse by the unusually hot weather. Would the local council do something about this? Because, until then, how can tourists come to enjoy this tranquil riverine country town?

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