Text and photography by Lau Sook Mei
Hundreds of steps ruled the day! That surely worked up an appetite for the Raya treat in Chemor.
Fourteen trail-blazers: five PHS members, new friends and a 3-month old baby took the trail on Saturday, 10 September. Hong was our guide.
Faces lit up with excitement when Gunung Panjang, Tambun, famed for its rock paintings was named as the first stop. It was PHS’ second visit for the year but for most getting so close to the paintings was an awesome experience. Cathy Yap’s million-dollar question of how the paintings were done at different heights remains unanswered to this day. Having sweated all the way up the 128 steps we made it worthwhile by taking time to soak in the surroundings before we moved on to another hillside destination. Eyes widened. What…more steps?
Looming ahead along Jalan Tambun-Tanjung Rambutan, the stairs going up Tung Wah Tong Temple resemble the body of a dragon on the limestone cliff.
We made our way up the 168 steps, pausing to catch our breath and to savour the picturesque view of layers of signature limestone hills of the Kinta Valley.
The cave chamber with the main altar is situated midway up the cliff. This is unique amongst the cave temples in the Kinta Valley. Philanthropists fund the maintenance of both the temple and the meditation centre further up, accessible from the chamber.
Temple volunteer, Mr Wong took us to the upper cave chamber with a simple meditation hut, kuti, and we could feel its cool tranquility, perfect for those seeking enlightenment.
The 1897 Tanjung Rambutan Railway Station, soon to be demolished. The new double-tracking project will by-pass the existing station and the train will not be stopping in Tanjong Rambutan anymore.
Ravenous after all the exertions, we looked forward to a traditional Mandailing lunch at Kak Nadimah’s in Kampong Mandailing, Chemor. For Chika, a Japanese expat, being in a traditional kampung house was a dream come true.
Mohamed Jamil Haji Mohamed Noor, Kak Nadimah’s father was born in this house in Kampung Mandailing, Chemor in 1898. He went to school in ACS Ipoh, was a good student and taught for a couple of years before he took over the running of the household at the death of his father. By the age of 30, he was already a ketua kampung.
Kak Nadimah, a descendant of Raja Bilah of Papan, is steeped in Mandailing customs. By coincidence, two babies turned up at the house: the Yap’s Alexis and Hanizah’s Asha Nor. As if on cue, Kak Nadimah brought out a plate of salt and sugar to bless the visiting babies – salt for all wishes to come true and sugar, to grow up ‘sweetly’. Of course, the babies were spared the tasting. It was merely symbolic, but for us all, this was a wonderful moment.
The menu: ulam with sambal, cucuk ubi tumbuk, rendang pedas ayam, daging masak kicap, toufu and tempe with vegetables. We could not ask for a better Raya lunch.
She also made a desert, pengat pisang, with bananas from her garden, and kuih makmur, Kak Nadimah’s specialty raya cookie.
After the satisfying meal, Kak Nadimah guided us to her collection of old tekat, a traditional embroidery, which she had meticulously displayed in the rooms. We admired her collection of family heirlooms.
Station Master, Encik Hassan Salleh greeted us on arrival at the Chemor Railway Station. Opened in 1896, this old station is also doomed. It is a part of our industrial heritage. Our plea for its preservation had fallen on deaf ears. What a shame. (Photo courtesy Foong Thim Leng)
Hospital Bahagia Ulu Kinta will celebrate its centennial in November. Huge transformation had taken place since my first visit in 1970s. The ‘prison cells’ were a thing of the past. We were impressed by the tranquility of the place, the open dormitory, the cleanliness of the wards and its surroundings. At the Garden Wards, patients were happy to chat with us and gave us souvenirs as we parted.
Mr James Anthony, the Supervisor of the hospital was our guide. He had organized a mini coach to take us around; the hospital covers 500 acres.
Here are the oldest buildings on the hospital grounds: the kitchen (left) and the Director’s residence, now a medical store.
Charming hornbills decorate the garden. It is a happy sight.
Two of the more interesting old buildings, circa 1950. Over time, the staff quarter is now a forensic ward (above) and the doctor’s house has become a staff quarter.