2 March 2016
Management of Bukit Larut turned over to Taiping Municipal Council as part of new strategy to attract visitors
BY CHAN LI LEEN and IVAN LOH
IT’S the start of a new chapter for Bukit Larut or more popularly known as Maxwell Hill.
After 65 years, management of the country’s oldest hill resort, which has all these while been under the care of by the Larut, Matang and Selama District Office, has been handed over to the Taiping Municipal Council.
State Tourism Committee Chairman Datuk Nolee Ashilin Mohd Radzi said the Perak government decided to place Bukit Larut under the care of the municipal council as part of a new strategy to make it attractive again to holidaymakers.
“The state government thought long and hard about the need to turn Bukit Larut into a progressive tourism product alongside the Taiping Zoo and Taiping Lake Gardens.
“Since the zoo and lake gardens are under the purview of the council, we decided that the council should also manage Bukit Larut so that it will be able to promote all three attractions as a single, competitive tourism product,” she said after witnessing the handing-over ceremony recently.
Located 10km from Taiping town, Bukit Larut was founded in 1884 and is approximately 1,250m above sea level.
With its charming colonial bungalows and English gardens, the area is significantly less densely built up compared to Genting Highlands and Cameron Highlands and provides a serene and relaxing atmosphere for holidaymakers.
Nolee Ashilin, who described the event as historic, said the council had since Jan 1 been taking steps to fine-tune operations at Bukit Larut.
“At present, the council’s priority is to improve the existing facilities and logistics.
“The focus is on making the place attractive again instead of bringing about big changes,” she added.
Asked if the controversial cable car project at the hill resort is still going forward, Nolee Ashilin said it has not been scrapped although it is currently not progressing due to funding issues faced by the private company undertaking the project.
“I think a cable car service will help in terms of logistics but whether or not there will be such a service largely depends on the technology employed in its construction.
“No doubt, the state government has given its approval for the project but the final go ahead will depend on whether its construction will affect the ecology.
“We do not want the jungle to be destroyed,” said Nolee Ashilin.
Council president Datuk Abdul Rahim Md Ariff said a bio-diversity centre with jungle trekking amenities is being planned for Bukit Larut.
“Plans are being drawn up at the moment and it will be developed in a way that is low-impact and will not affect the natural beauty of the hill,” he said.
Abdul Rahim also said the council had yet to decide on whether to impose a fee on those wanting to jog or trek up the hill.
“We are aware that the issue of fees has gone viral on social media.
“I want to clarify that it has not been decided and it is still being discussed. We are still getting feedback on the matter,” he said, adding that it is part of the council’s development plan for Bukit Larut.
“I urge the people to remain calm and to continue supporting the council to make Bukit Larut a popular tourism destination,” he added.
On the refurbishment of current facilities and maintenance works at Bukit Larut, Abdul Rahim said the council is trying to use whatever resources it has to create a more comfortable environment for visitors.
“We now have two operational Land Rovers to ferry visitors up the hill.
“Three vehicles are still being repaired and we will have seven vehicles by the middle of the year,” he added.
He also said two bungalows on Bukit Larut will be opened for bookings in the middle of this month.
Abdul Rahim said the Angkasa Bungalow and Beringin Bungalow will be ready to accommodate visitors wishing to stay overnight.
“The Angkasa Bungalow can accommodate 15 people while 10 people can stay at the Beringin Bungalow.
“The fee for Angkasa is RM600 for a night and RM400 for Beringin,” he said.
“We have another bungalow, Tempinis, which is still being refurbished,” he added.
District officer Kamaruddin Awang said it was with a heavy heart that he handed over the running of Bukit Larut to the municipal council.
“The staff here and I feel very sentimental about this place.
“I think this is more so for those who spent decades working here,” he said.
Among them are Mohd Tarmizi Idris, 57, who spent 36 years working on Bukit Larut.
“I’ve worked here since my bachelor days.
“First as a gardener before being a bungalow caretaker and later, a guard until my transfer to the Public Works Department on Jan 1.
“It’s sad to leave this place but at the same time, I sincerely wish for more good things for Bukit Larut,” said Mohd Tarmizi tearing up.
Former clerk Mohamad Naser Mohd Abid, 59, also expressed sadness about leaving his workplace of 26 years.
“We were seriously shorthanded. Initially, there were 50 workers here but then it dwindled to 23 and we had to do everything from A to Z.
“Hopefully, Bukit Larut will become more popular after this,” he said.
– The Star