Historic sites in Taiping that need to be Restored
Published: 29 September 2018
By Loghun Kumaran
The Taiping Central Market is the oldest market in Malaysia, and maintains much of the original architectural structure but is a far cry from being in pristine condition. — Pictures by Farhan Najib
TAIPING, Sept 29 ― Taiping is known as a heritage town with 33 firsts — 33 attractions that were the first of their kind in Malaysian history.
One of them, the Taiping clock tower, was recently given a new lease of life and chimed for the first time in over 10 years.
But while many of the 33 firsts have been maintained to this day, there are at least five run-down firsts that have either been abandoned, or left in a deplorable state.
Some of these historic firsts are located along the town’s heritage trail, crying out for something to be done.
Along with Taiping Heritage Society president Yeap Thean Eng, an expert on local history, the Malay Mail visited five of the Taiping firsts that are in sorry conditions.
Taiping Central Market
Taiping Central Market is made up of two buildings — the wet market built in 1884 and the dry market that came up a year later.
It is the oldest market in Malaysia, and maintains much of its original structure.
Both wooden buildings still function as markets, but are a far cry from being in pristine condition.
While taking Malay Mail on a visit, Yeap pointed to the rotting tinder and the dirty conditions of the marketplace.
“It’s very dirty. The floor is just cement instead of having tiles. Rats are also a big problem here, especially at night because the waste is not disposed of properly,” he said.
“How can we show off this iconic market when there are problems with cleanliness and pests?”
One of the market’s unique characteristics lies in its cool ventilation, thanks to the way it was built by the British.
“After studying the wind currents in Taiping, they built it so wind from the hills blows through the building. It is well ventilated.”
Yeap said the market needed to be the next place to be refurbished after the success of the clock tower.
“This must be the priority for refurbishment, because people still use it. It is also an important heritage building,” he said.
Taiping Heritage Society president Yeap Thean Eng says nothing had changed with the condition of the Perak Railways building despite the issue being highlighted in the Malay Mail last year.
Perak Railways Building
The Perak Railways Building was built in 1885, and served as a ticketing counter for the first railway station in Perak ― then under the purview of Perak Railways.
Besides being the country’s first railway building, it also housed the local Public Works Department office and the Sessions Court for about a year.
Located in Jalan Stesen and Jalan Lim Tee Hooi, the building is believed to have been abandoned for 30 years ago.
Today, the building is run down and covered in graffiti and vegetation. Vagrants and suspected drug addicts seek shelter in the building’s hallowed walls.
Only last year, the Malay Mail highlighted the dilapidated structure in a report on Taiping’s lost treasures.
However, there has been no visible change to the building.
“It hasn’t gotten any better,” said Yeap, who believes it should be gazetted as a heritage building.
Located just next to the Perak Railways building is the Town Resthouse, which is a first in the Malay states.
It was built in 1879 and was originally a single-storey timber building that housed the governor’s residence.
In 1894, it was upgraded to a double storey brick building.
Today, the building is boarded off from the public, despite there is a signboard proclaiming its status as one of the attractions on the heritage trail.
Its structure is falling apart and the building is a pale shadow of what it used to be.
“More than 10 years ago, there was an attempt to renovate and refurbish the building.
“But, this is how it looks now. It is sad to see two such buildings in this condition next to one another.”
Yeap said the Tekah airstrip could be a fun tourist attraction.
The Tekah Airstrip was built by the British in 1929 for non-military use, and is believed to be one of the first airstrips in the country, along with Kedah’s Alor Setar airport, which was built in the same year.
Legendary aviator Amelia Earhart landed at the airstrip in 1937 on a refuelling stop during her fatal flight around the world.
Today, the airstrip is abandoned, with remnants of the broken control tower, offices leaving memories of halcyon days gone by.
“It can be a fun attraction. The control tower can be open for people to go in. We can have information boards telling people about the history of this facility.
“It has a lot of potential, especially with the large plot of land around the airstrip.”
Yeap still feels that the former golf course can be reborn with a modern spin as a pitch and putt course.
Taiping Golf Course
Unlike the other attractions on this list, the nation’s first golf course is not in a derelict condition. Strictly speaking however, it does not exist anymore.
Created in 1886, it was once a nine-hole course winding around the town’s New Club, the Taiping Prison, and a school.
There is a statue of a giant golf ball, marking the history of the place.
Now the greens are populated with trees.
Yeap feels that the golf course can be used as a pitch and putt course instead.
“One of the problems with the old course was its proximity to the school. Long drives would land in the school compound and in some cases, broke a few windows. A pitch and putt course will be more suited.”
Yeap added this could be an attraction for tourists and golf enthusiasts alike.
“It can be fun, but at the same time many people will want the chance to play on the country’s first golf course.
“They can even be given certificates to mark their visit.”