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All abuzz over Taiping’s future

TAIPING is 150 years old this year and the townsfolk are feeling proud and excited about the milestone.

They are anticipating a happening year as a host of activities has been planned to celebrate the anniversary.

Taiping Sri Guru Singh Sabha chairman Datuk Balraaj Singh Tarlachon Singh said, “People are hyped up. It’s going to be a busy year.

“The municipal council has already contacted all associations to organise events.

“Our gurdwara is planning a dinner in July where we hope those who have left the town will return to attend.”

Balraaj believes Taiping has changed and developed a lot over the years, even to the extent of being somewhat overdeveloped.

“Land is becoming more limited in Taiping and development has expanded to Kamunting and even Kerian.

“Even houses here are more expensive than those in Ipoh,” he said, adding that houses in most new residential areas would be snapped up as soon as they were available for sale.

“I just hope Bukit Larut will be maintained as it is and no development allowed near it,” he added, referring to the hill resort formerly known as Maxwell Hills located about 10km from the historical town.

He said Taiping’s tourism sector has boomed in the last few years.

“Hotels here are often full, especially during weekends,” he added.

Balraaj was happy to see many young people returning to the town.

“Taiping used to be known as a pensioners’ town as most young people would leave after finishing secondary school due to lack of opportunities back then.

“But now, we are seeing a lot of young people coming back, with some opening their own businesses while others are taking over their family business. This bodes well for the future of the town,” he said.

“The cost of living is still relatively low.

“For example, we can still get a plate of char kuey teow for about RM5,” he added.

Taiping, which means “everlasting peace” in Chinese, was established in 1874 following the end of the Larut War, to mark the peace between warring tin mining groups.

Built in 1881, the Clock Tower in Taiping

The iconic Taiping clock tower built since 1881 still clocking and ringing on each hour .(16th January 2024)–.RONNIE CHIN/The Star

Back then, Taiping was a tin mining town that attracted droves of Chinese settlers seeking to make their fortunes.

Formerly known as Klian Pauh, Taiping was also once the administrative capital of Perak.

It was also the capital of the Federated Malay States comprising Perak, Selangor, Negri Sembilan and Pahang before Kuala Lumpur.

After its supply of tin dwindled, the state administrative capital was moved to Ipoh in 1937.

Apart from being among the first tin mining towns in the country, Taiping had many other ‘‘firsts”.

These included having the first port, railway track, telegraph office and prison in the country.

Taiping also had a reputation for being the wettest town due to the frequent rain.

It was well known for its Lake Gardens, Taiping Zoo and Night Safari, and Bukit Larut.

Taiping Heritage Society president Yeap Thean Eng said they have planned a heritage treasure hunt to be held sometime in September, in conjunction with the International Day of Peace.

“It will be a two-days one-night event. We will invite everyone, including non-governmental organisations and families, to drive to Taiping to participate in the event,” he said.

Yeap hoped to see more sustainable development in Taiping in the future.

“I also wish to see more industries set up to provide job opportunities for the youths.

“What Taiping needs is proper planning so development won’t lead to chaos,” he said.

He expected more tourists to arrive once the West Coast Expressway, connecting Banting in Selangor to Changkat Jering near Taiping, is opened next year.

Yeap also wished to see more efforts to preserve the locations and buildings with heritage value, adding that he was happy with the ongoing restoration of the 140-year-old Taiping Market.

“I think the market should be ready in the second half of the year to coincide with the 150th anniversary celebrations.

“I also understand that a tender has been awarded to a private company to convert the Rest House, a 130-year-old heritage building in Jalan Stesen, into a boutique hotel,” he added.

Taiping Tourism Cooperatives chairman Khoo Chang Yau Seong was proud that the town was still peaceful , living up to its Chinese name.

“The town is developing and stable. However, more can still be done to elevate it.”

Khoo hoped Taiping could continue to draw visitors, especially those from China.

“Given that people from China can now come to Malaysia without applying for a visa, we hope to welcome more of them.”

Khoo also said that more could be done to promote Taiping’s attractions.

“Among them is the Matang Museum, popularly known as Kota Ngah Ibrahim. The fort has historical value as it is around 150 years old,” he said.

Taiping-born product development senior manager Rachel Tai, who worked in Kuala Lumpur, said her hometown had undergone significant transformation over the years.

“I’ve witnessed a growth in population and new development like housing, shopping malls and hotels,” said Tai who returned home every two months.

“Despite these changes, the iconic Lake Gardens at the core of Taiping, remains unchanged. It still serves as the heart of the town that has gained popularity among both local and international tourists.

“I appreciate Taiping just the way it is. I hope the local council will keep maintaining Lake Gardens and Bukit Larut.

“I also wish for Taiping to remain a peaceful town.”

According to the Taiping Municipal Council website, various programmes have been planned throughout the year.

These included photography competitions, Chinese New Year celebration, flora festival, endurance challenge, fun runs, hiking events, sporting competitions and a cultural carnival.

Taiping Municipal Council president Khairul Amir Mohamad Zubir is busy preparing for the launch of the 150th anniversary celebration that will be held tomorrow.

Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Saarani Mohamad is expected to officiate the event at the Taiping Heritage Square.

The launch will also feature a host of activities from 7am to 11.30pm.

These would include a 5km fun run, cultural performances, classical bicycle exhibition, motorcycle convoy, busker competition and performances by local artistes.

By IVAN LOH | 19 Jan 2024 The Star