Friday, July 28, 2006

A Light Hearted Cameron Highlands Trip Account

I've just received an email from Idil, a regular Highlander Newsletter Reader, recounting his eventful trip to Cameron Highlands from Singapore to the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia, then from there travelled on to Cameron Highlands and finally returned to Singapore.

Phew! I don't know how he did it, but it sure looks really complicated to me. Anyway here is his story. Read and enjoy!



here is my "blog"...

15 Jun
- 0500 - Hired van and myself depart Singapore and proceed to North-South highway to Machap
- 0630 - Exit NS Highway at Tangkak heading to Segamat
- 0700 - Leave Segamat for Route 12 towards Gambang
- 0800 - JPJ road block...
i. Passenger Van got into trouble as no 3rd brake light... argued as the prior to entry permit approval, Puspakom have inspected and cleared the van.
ii. Van driver not having "Malaysian" bus driving lesen - Told them to call Johore Bahru JPJ as they are "not aware" of Singapore lesen is "different" from Malaysia.
After they called JB, they release the van with a warning to fix the 3rd brake light. Lost 1 hour at this road block.
-1200 - Reach Cherating and have lunch beside The Legend
-1300 - Proceed to Kuala Trengganu at 60kmh
-1700 - Arrive Batu Buruk Beach Resort, BBBR
-1730 - Quick visit to Pasar Payang as Friday most shops close
-2000 - Dinner at Restoran Nil just beside BBBR - Good food and air-con makan place
-2100 - Stroll along the beach front. Crowds ready for World Cup match
-2230 - Lights out

16 Jun
0900 - Depart to Tasek Kenyir - look see look see. Met the construction workers for the new highway from Kuala Berang to Gua Musang... Highway still under construction.
1030 - Depart to Sekayu Waterfall - piknik
1330 - Return to Kuala Trangganu Pasar Payang
1500 - Return to BBBR, R&R till dinner
1930 - Dinner at "Satay Pantai Timur" Restoran also beside BBBR. Food not as good as Nil's
2230 - BBBR and lights out

17 Jun
0930 - Depart to Cameron Highlands
1100 - Reached Macang, Kelantan and take Route 8 to Gua Musang
1400 - Reached Gua Musang and onwards to the highway to Kg Raja
1700 - 3 km before Kg Raja, road detour to use the old road as the highway was blocked. Presumably due to repairs or landslide??? No signboard to say why-lah
1800 - Reach Stesen Mardi, Tanah Rata and check in English Cottage 2 and 3 bedrooms. Kids run around the yard and surprised to have Astro... so World cup again lah. Cottage fully furnished with bedrooms at 2nd floor, cutleries, rice cooker, fridge,gas stove, tea sets etc.
Parent-In-Law very happy....
1900 - Tar pow dinner after a short walk to Tanah Rata

18 Jun
0730 - Breakfast at Mardi Cafeteria (Open 7am close at noon everyday. Closed on all Mondays)
0830 - Visit BOH at Habu
1000 - Visit Highland Apiary Farm on same road as BOH. This farm was being "built" in my last visit in December and now fully operational. The Towkay very friendly and the honey reasonably priced. A Tualang cost RM40 and if you buy two, he gives you a jam jar sized honey with propolis! Must check this place the next time you go CH.
1130 - Visited the Lakehouse
1230 - Reach Brinchang.... SHOPPING, lunch and tar pow for dinner
1500 - Reach back Stesen Mardi for a walk about the field
1700 - Dinner

19 Jun
0730 - R&R
1230 - Check out Stesen Mardi (On the way to Tapah, surprised to find the restoren at Lata Iskandar already demolished!")
1800 - Reach Guthrie Corridor - NKVE to Nilai Selatan - Purposely skirt around and avoid KL
2130 - Reach Gelang Patah
2230 - Singapore

There you are, my road trip... 1800km start to finish... now my friend aim for December trip, my in-law request a Penang trip.........!!! Not again.....siong lah....maybe I fly with Berjaya air Ex-Seletar airport (Sg) to Redang!

Idil bet! Road maps bought the latest and armed with at least 3 others such as the JKR road maps,tourist maps and other internet postings! A trip like this needs at least 3months of "research" as I have kids who will scream "toilet!!!!". Also I need to scan the routes with google earth and a few phone calls to friends in M'sia!

The roads in M'sia are indeed getting better and better than say 5yrs before..It was good before but the upgrading is ever ongoing example Kota Tinggi-Mersing are widened and "straightened". Majority of T'ganu bridges are being replaced! Lebuh Raya Pantai Timur with the beautiful mountain scenery....just drive at speed limit and be defensive...the trip is enjoyable this me...

The only "scary" highway I used before is the one from Kg Raja, Cameron Highlands to Simpang Pulai enroute to Penang....many of the turns are too tight coupled by the gradient and that road will catch you off guard as the speed increases! I passed by a wreckage of a CH 4X4 pickup that overturned after smashing head-on with a Perak registered car in Dec 05 trip... Hope no fatalities....



Thursday, July 27, 2006

17,000 Orang Asli Still Marginalised

17,000 Orang Asli Still Marginalised
Thursday July 27, 2006
By Simon Khoo

KUANTAN: About 17,000 orang asli in the state are still living in a “world of their own” in the fringe of the jungles.

State Orang Asli Affairs Department director Bakar Yunus said the figure constituted some 31% of the orang asli population.

He said there were about 55,000 orang asli living in 263 villages throughout the state.

“A total of 87 villages are in the outskirts without proper basic amenities such as water and electricity.

“The remaining villages are connected to towns and accessible by road,” he said in an interview.

Bakar said among the isolated villages were those in Cameron Highlands, Jerantut and Lipis.

“However, our records show that their numbers are relatively small and dwindling,” he said.

In line with the country’s rapid development, the number was expected to decline further.

“Besides, the pro-active action and measures adopted by the Government have improved their living conditions,” he said.

Bakar said the indigenous people depended on small-scale agriculture and plantation for a living.

“Back in those days, they hunted and collected grubs from the jungle.

“Some are venturing into oil palm and rubber plantation and enjoy a steady income,” he said.

He said the department would work closely with the authorities to ensure the orang asli stayed above the poverty line.

Bakar said the orang asli were now more receptive to changes and willing to come forward to experience new opportunities.

“On our part, we constantly remind orang asli parents on the importance of securing a good education for their children.

“So far this year, a total of 26 orang asli students have registered at local universities,” he said.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Indigenous Art on the Move

Indigenous Art on the Move
Saturday July 22, 2006

Like a gypsy wagon, an indigenous craft stall has been making the rounds in Kuala Lumpur. Leong Siok Hui not only
discovered some curios, but also got a glimpse into the lives of the

So you forked out RM9.50 for a rattan bangle. Big deal, you say. But consider this: the jong betek nahat (arm ornament in the Penan language) was handmade by Stanley Jalong, a 30-something Penan who gathered the rattan from the jungle. The bangle was then transported from Ulu Baram in the deep interior of Sarawak by boat, van and airplane to Kuala Lumpur where you bought it.

Now, we’re talking about the real value of this piece of handicraft.

 Bujam are small pouches crafted by the Mah Meri ladies which were traditionally used to store tobacco and sweets.
Bujam are small pouches crafted by the Mah Meri ladies which were traditionally used to store tobacco and sweets.
That’s what makes Gerai O. A. (Orang Asli/Asal) unique. Most crafts sold at Gerai come with individual tags naming the artisans, where he hails from and what the craft was traditionally used for. From Semelai weaved mats, Temiar blowpipes to Lun Bawang hand-painted clay beads and Rungus necklaces, Gerai’s products are a showcase of crafts from about 17 indigenous groups in Malaysia.

Run by a bunch of dedicated volunteers, this non-profit mobile stall shows up monthly at the Laman Seni Kuala Lumpur (an arts and crafts bazaar at the National Art Gallery) or a handicraft event in the city.

There’s no rent or utility bills to pay. Volunteers chip in to transport the crafts around, and Gerai’s coordinator Reita Faida Rahim’s apartment doubles as a storeroom. All of the proceeds from the sale of crafts go back to the artisans.

“Gerai was never planned, it just happened,” says one of its founders, craft researcher Reita, 33. With her graphic design background, Reita used to teach design theory and has researched traditional crafts. Two years ago, she was approached by a group of villagers from an indigenous community.

“They wanted help to sell their crafts as they were being exploited by middlemen,” says Reita who did her (diploma) dissertation on batik and later shifted her interest to textile, basketry and beads.

Together with a friend, Raman Bah Tuin, a bamboo flute artisan from the Semai community in Cameron Highlands, they set up an impromptu stall at a college event in Oct 2004.

“The Gerai just evolved from there. We started getting phone calls from buyers or people who wanted us to sell their crafts,” says Reita, whose volunteers include students, activists, craftspeople and even journalists.

Handpainted beads made by the Lun Bawang ladies of Long Tuma, Lawas, Sarawak.
Handpainted beads made by the Lun Bawang ladies of Long Tuma, Lawas, Sarawak.
“We focus on the minority groups, the Orang Asli communities, because they have fewer avenues for help,” adds Reita.

“It’s not realistic for the villagers themselves to come out and trade all the time. We are just giving them an alternative place to market their crafts.”

Middleman syndrome

For most indigenous craftspeople living in the remote interiors, they count on the middleman to sell their wares.

“But each time a middleman monopolises the market in one village, it creates an avenue for exploitation,” explains Reita.

Some middlemen buy the wares for a fraction of the price and sell them for a huge profit in the cities.

“There were also cases where they took the crafts without paying, then told the villagers they had lost the things and couldn’t pay.”

Reita hands out name cards of the craftsmen to interested buyers.

“You can contact these craftsmen directly, and bypass the middleperson,” says the genial lady. “Hopefully, it’s the first step to empowerment.”

Gerai doesn’t just sell crafts and help create awareness of our indigenous cultures, but it also provides technical help to the artisans. Last month, Reita travelled to Long Tuma, near Lawas, Sarawak to buy some clay beads from the Lun Bawang women.

“We advise them on what designs are saleable in the market,” says Reita. “I taught the (Long Tuma) women how to do earrings, necklaces and beaded bracelets that are cost-effective.’’

Chronicling tradition

A flute made by the Dusun indigenous group. - Pictures by Tan Lee Kuen & Apoi Ngimat
A flute made by the Dusun indigenous group. - Pictures by Tan Lee Kuen & Apoi Ngimat
In 2003, with the help of the Centre of Orang Asli Concerns (COAC), 13 Mah Meri weavers formed the Tompoq Topoh – Mah Meri Women’s “First Weave” Project. In Mah Meri language, tompoq means the “first weave”, or it can be interpreted as the start of a new beginning.

Grouped under the Senoi sub-ethnic group, the Mah Meri are coastal dwellers living on Carey Island and in Tanjung Sepat, Selangor. Traditionally, fishermen and padi farmers the Mah Meri today mainly work in the oil palm plantation or tap rubber.

In the past, Mah Meri crafts were mostly utilitarian like tikar (mats) for the floor or sentung (basket) to keep rice. Today, Mah Meri craftsmen are renowned for their high-quality woodcarvings while the women fashion pouches, mats and baskets out of pandanus plants.

“The Tompoq project is about weaving, documenting their heritage and earning extra income,” explains Reita. Gerai sells most of the craft made by the Tompoq group.

Projek ini bagus. Dulu lepak saja, tak buat apa-apa, cuma borak kosong (This is a good project. Before, we did nothing and just chatted when we were free),” says Maznah Anak Unyan, 38, the project leader.

When we dropped in on the ladies on a Saturday morning, they looked exhausted after staying up till 1am the night before to rush off an order of 150 pieces of sungu duri (weaved basket). The ladies get RM10 per basket and can weave up to three baskets a day.

“Most of the kampung women have only primary school education thus the job choices aren’t that great,” Maznah adds in Malay.

“Now, at least we earn an average of RM75 to RM200 a month, depending on the demand.”

Occasionally, the women also perform traditional dances in cultural shows and get about RM50-RM70 per person per show.

Other than Gerai, the ladies sell their crafts directly to visitors on the island or when they go to town.

The concept of Gerai

“Gerai is unique because it is run by dedicated people. And you cut out the middlemen,’’ says COAC coordinator Dr Colin Nicholas. There’s potential for it to be a commercially viable business.”

“And it certainly puts to shame all those people getting profit from the craftsmen,” adds Nicholas.

COAC also provides support for Orang Asli self-development.

“It would be good if Reita takes Gerai online and sets up a handicraft portal. It’s not just for people to buy but to create more awareness,” said Nicholas. W

  • Gerai O.A.’s next “appearance” will be at Craft Complex, Jalan Conlay, Kuala Lumpur from today to July 30, 9am-6pm, for the Forest Products Promotion. For enquiries, call Reita Faida Rahim at 019-751 8686.

    Source: The Star

  • Saturday, July 15, 2006

    Scottish Scouts Help Orang Asli

    Scottish Scouts Help Orang Asli
    By Azliana Aziz
    Saturday July 15, 2006

     Clad in their Scout uniforms, complete with the kilt, the Scottish scouts are looking confident about their tasks ahead.
    Clad in their Scout uniforms, complete with the kilt, the Scottish scouts are looking confident about their tasks ahead.
    THE South Morningside Explorer Scouts from Edinburgh Scotland which arrived recently, set off from the Equatorial Hotel to Cameron Highlands where they will be spending nine days there helping out the villagers in Kampung Pos Terisu 3.

    The team of 22 scouts aged from 14 to 18 years together with six scout leaders will be undertaking two projects in the village, where an adventure playground will be built, and the community reconstructed and renovated.

    The projects that are to be carried out by the scouts were initially discussed with the head of Kampung Pos Terisu 3 and it was decided that a playground for the children is the most useful.

    “The village has about 70 children and there are no facilities for them,” said expedition leader Neil Mackenzie,

    He also added that this project is a good opportunity for the scouts to learn from the orang asli, and vice-versa hence promoting cultural exchange.

    There the orang asli villagers will teach the scouts how to select and cut bamboos from the jungle and tie them up to make flooring as well as show them various plants and vegetation growing in the area that can be eaten or used for medicinal purposes.

    The scouts will also share with the villagers, details of their lifestyles, culture and tell them about their homeland.

    Once their work in Kampung Pos Terisu 3 is completed, the scouts will proceed with three, three-day trips to Terengganu, Cherating and Malacca.

    Source: The Star

    Saturday, July 08, 2006

    Mystic Mountains of Malaysia

    There are plenty of beautiful mountains around Malaysia where one can go for a nice hiking trip. Cameron Highlands is not the only place to go for this kind of activities. Here read about the other mountains available in Malaysia where you can go for an adventure trek!

    The Mystic Mountain
    Story And Pictures By Chan Ah Lak
    Saturday July 8, 2006

    THE phrase “pergi hutan benom” is the equivalent of our consigning a person to the nether regions,” wrote Sturgnell and Willbourn in An Ascent of Gunung Benom from Raub in the 1931 issue of the Royal Asiatic Journal Malayan Branch.

    A friend handed me this interesting story before our own climb up Gunung Benom recently. I wanted to find out how hellish this particular mountain was, and, well, the “nether regions” is an archaic term for “hell”. So, it was with a slight sense of apprehension that I joined a group of Malaysian Nature Society members for the expedition.

    Gunung Benom, the 10th highest mountain in Peninsular Malaysia, is on the wish list of mountaineers aspiring to join the G10 Club, that is, a group of those who have successfully scaled all the 10 highest mountains. Benom is on a massif in central Pahang.

    The climbers met at Sungai Klau, a one-street outpost, 23km from Raub. Sungai Klau is also the gateway to Lata Berumbum, a beautiful series of waterfalls that attract picnickers and campers. The villagers ferried us to the starting point of the climb, on modified four-wheel drives. The dirt track winds through oil palm, cocoa, durian and rubber estates before entering primary jungle.

    At the 10km mark is a perfectly built concrete bridge spanning Sg Chalit, but it was not serviceable that day. The water level was too high for us to ford the river, and we had to wait till next day. After that, came the remaining 1.5km track, which had several deep ruts that tested the driving skills of the drivers.

    The beautiful Lata Berumbum waterfalls.
    The beautiful Lata Berumbum waterfalls.

    The starting point for the climb is just before the Lata Berubum waterfalls. The guide for the trip was Chin, vice-president of the Association of Backpackers Malaysia. He is better known within the mountaineering fraternity as Botak Chin.

    He came later with more hikers from Kuala Lumpur and we could only start at 11.15am. After 10 minutes of walking on level ground we had to cross a fast-flowing stream with slippery moss-covered rocks jutting out here and there. Fortunately the stream was shallow and most of us elected to wade through rather than hop from one rock to the next.

    There followed a steep climb through an overgrown track before we came to a ridge, which ran in an easterly direction until the half-way camp. En route, we had to negotiate eight smaller peaks and valleys. A couple of huge rocks and several fallen trees forced us to make detours. Other than that, the hike was uneventful.

    Botak Chin and his vanguards did a good job of clearing the prickly rattan branches from the track. Several flowering jewel orchid plants on the ground kept the shutterbugs busy.

    We arrived at the half-way camp (1,761m above sea level) and found ourselves in the realm of the mossy forest.

     The group of Malaysian Nature Society Members took a breather<br />while on their way to the summit of Gunung Benom.</

    The group of Malaysian Nature Society Members took a breather
    while on their way to the summit of Gunung Benom.

    The camp site was located just beside the track and the undulating terrain with scattered trees provided some respite from the elements. A 30-minute round trip hike down a steep ravine led to a small stream – our only source of water. The younger hikers graciously volunteered to collect water for us oldies.

    A heavy thunderstorm broke out soon after dinner and caused flooding in some of the tents. As we huddled in our tents, I recalled Sturgnell and Willbourn’s 1931 account of the climb.

    “The word benom is used by the Malays in the sense of hutan benom, which may be translated as ‘a faraway, dark forest of tall trees where no one lives’ ... Gunung Benom has a bad reputation for evil spirits. Noises of people talking and of rocks falling are heard ? and there is a tale, terrifying to the credulous Malay peasant, of a large berok, or monkey, which inhabits the mountain, a fierce animal standing five feet high on all fours.”

    Noises of people talking, eh?

    Well, I could certainly hear my camping mates in the next tent! And the only primates resembling giant monkeys I saw were four campers who had stripped to the waist after labouring to put up their tents. Anyway, almost immediately after I crawled into my sleeping bag I dozed off, giant monkey forgotten.

    The 10 highest mountains (G10) in
    Peninsular Malaysia:

    1. Gunung Tahan (2,190m)
    2. Gunung Korbu (2,183m)
    3. Gunung Yong Belar (2,181m)
    4. Gunung Gayong (2,173m)
    5. Gunung Chamah (2,171m)
    6. Gunung Yong Yap (2,168m)
    7. Gunung Ulu Sepat (2,158m)
    8. Gunung Batu Putih (2,131m)
    9. Gunung Irau (2,110m)
    10. Gunung Benom (2,107m)

    The ascent to the summit commenced soon after breakfast. A few hikers packed up all their gear so that they could camp at the summit. The rest of us opted for a light daypack loaded with food and water just for the day’s hike.

    The track now ran in a northerly direction. We traversed eight peaks and valleys, while another eight awaited ahead.

    The mossy forest of Gunung Benom is very luxuriant with all the trees and their boughs sporting a thick layer of moss. These forests usually invoke a feeling of being in a mystic world. Once it begins to get dark, and if there is a mist wafting in, then it begins to feel surreal. So maybe it is quite understandable that a normal-sized monkey may appear to look like a large berok.

    We came come across several botanical beauties too. Numerous species of arboreal orchids fight for a niche to survive. A few had beautiful blooms; many hikers broke their stride to admire vegetation like the pitcher plan Nepenthes sanguinea. It is only on this mountain that the pitchers grow to a giant size. Thirty centimeter-long blood red pitchers are commonly seen here.

    The summit, we found, has a conical metal-roofed survey station (trig point) and next to it is a relatively flat ground for camping. Unfortunately many trees block the panoramic view from the summit. By 3pm, all of us had managed to reach the summit.

    After admiring the scenery and taking some photographs we began our descent. It was almost dark when we reached the half-way camp. For most mountaineers, this was just another mountain under their belt. But, for the select few, climbing the pristine Gunung Benom was a very satisfying and an enjoyable way of achieving their G10 target.

    The writer would like to thank Jeffrey Yue from the 4 X 4 Club of Raub for his kind assistance in the trip and providing the references.

    Source: The Star

    Friday, July 07, 2006

    Enviromental Issues Highlights 2

    Stop rape of Camerons
    Friday July 7, 2006

    IT IS very disheartening to note that despite recent landslide tragedies in the Klang Valley, hillslope cutting is still being carried out in the heart of Tanah Rata and Brinchang in the Cameron Highlands.

    To make matters worse, the earth from these sites is dumped into the Mentigi Forest Reserve, which consists of predominantly montane forest and which is a water catchment area in Tanah Rata.

    Just next to the wet market in Tanah Rata is a hillslope with a gradient of more than 35 degrees. Heavy machinery is being used to cut this slope for a commercial project, though there are houses on and near the slope.

    It is indeed a disaster waiting to happen and many of us locals are wondering how this project could have been approved.

    Under the guidelines from the Study on the Sustainable Development of Highlands of Peninsular Malaysia by the Government in 2002, no development may be carried out in areas 1,000m above sea level and with a slope of more than 35 degrees in gradient.

    Similarly, another development involving the cutting of steep hillslopes is taking place in the heart of Brinchang near a hotel, shops and the fire station.

    Was an environmental impact assessment carried out for the earth from these sites to be dumped into the Mentigi Forest Reserve?

    The Cameron Highlands cannot afford any more destruction of hillslopes and forests.

    We need cleaner water in sufficient quantities. We do not need more apartments and houses or shoplots. We hope the relevant authorities will take note of this and help us preserve our beautiful forests and hills.


    Cameron Highlands.

    Source: The Star

    Thursday, July 06, 2006

    Enviromental Issues Highlights 1

    No logging in parts of Bukit Kinta forest reserve
    Thursday July 6, 2006

    IPOH: Parts of the Bukit Kinta Forest Reserve where the Sungai Kinta dam and treatment plant are located will be gazetted as a no logging zone.

    Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Tajol Rosli Ghazali said more than 4,000ha of the forest reserve in the vicinity of the RM234mil dam and treatment plant would be gazetted as permanent forest reserve.

    “We will not allow logging around the area because we want to protect the water quality,” he said after chairing the weekly exco meeting yesterday.

    “I have asked the Forestry director (Datuk Razani Ujang) to come up with a layout plan of the whole area to protect our water quality.”

    The dam, located about 17.5km from the Pos Slim road leading to Kampung Raja in the Cameron Highlands, was expected to be ready by end of next year, he said.

    Tajol Rosli said previous experiences revealed that cleaning up the muddy waters in the Kinta River could be costly.

    “It cost us RM4.2mil to clean up the river after a landslip occurred in the vicinity,” he said.

    He added that the state government was also planning to turn the area into a recreational spot for the people.

    “We will be preserving some trees such as tualang, meranti and cengal so that parents can bring their children there to learn more about the different variety of trees,” he added.

    On complaints that family entertainment centres at housing estates in Teluk Intan, Manjung and Taiping have become gambling dens, Tajol Rosli said the police and district offices must work together to monitor such centres.

    If they were licensed, the district office must monitor them and if they were illegal, the police should come in, he said.

    Source: The Star