Thursday, July 10, 2008

...howwwzattt for a peace of mind...

In the mist of browsing the BERNAMA webpage, found this very interesting article about this secluded retreat. It was in 89 since the last time I went there, it'll always be dear to my heart.

Bukit Larut - Pristine and Tranquil Hill Paradise for Nature Lovers
Bukit Larut, previously called Maxwell Hill, is the oldest, smallest and least disturbed hill retreat in Peninsular Malaysia. It was founded in 1884 by William Edward Maxwell, the British Assistant Resident of Perak.

Perched at 1,250m above sea level, it is the wettest place in Malaysia, with an annual rainfall of over 500cm. Temperature here hovers around 15 degrees Celsius in the early morning and late afternoon, dipping to 10 degrees at night.

The Tea Garden House, situated mid-way up the hill, was once the office of a tea plantation. However, when their tea plants did not grow very well here, the British shifted their agricultural endeavour to the Cameron Highlands, where the Boh Tea Plantation is now. Nowadays, the dilapidated building serves as a mid-point stop up the hill. From here visitors will be able to see a panoramic view of the rolling surrounding countryside, a bird's eye-view of the rippling mirror-like lakes of the Taiping Lake Gardens down below, the green suburbs of Aulong and Simpang and the 19km ruler-straight road from Taiping to Kuala Sepetang.

On a clear day, one can view the peninsula coastline and the Straits of Malacca, sometimes stretching as far as Penang to the north and Pangkor Island to the south. The scenery is captivating during the day, magical and bewitching at night. However, the view is often obscured by cloud build-up in the afternoon, especially from September to December.

Bukit Larut is designated as an Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) Rank 1 and a Flora and Fauna Reserve by the Federal Government of Malaysia.The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has placed it under Category 1 ‘Strict Nature Reserve’, while the United Nations Environmental Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP–WCMC) has declared Bukit Larut an area of great ecological and botanical importance. The vegetation changes at an altitude of 600m from lowland rainforest to lower montane forest. Botanical studies have documented the existence of some 1,980 species of flowering plants from 123 families. All types of Malaysian flowers including the rare giant fishtail palm thrive here while tulips are grown on an experimental basis. The golden sunflowers grown here are the largest in the country. Some 250 species of birds, including migratory birds from Indochina and East Asia, have been seasonally sighted. A new species of lizard was discovered here in 2001.

The surrounding areas are among the last sanctuaries for large mammals like the Malayan sun bear, panther and the elusive clouded leopard. Monkeys, mousedeers, civets and porcupines that roam in the nearby forests serve as their food source.

At night, gardens transform into an exotic zoo, with Malaysian flying lemurs clinging to the trees, brush-tailed porcupines rummaging through leftovers left at the back door and enormous atlas moths dancing in the veranda.In colonial times, pony rides and sedan chairs were the only mode of transport up the hill. Later, in 1940, prisoners of wars were conscripted by the Japanese to build a 13km tarred road up the hill. The road; opened in 1948, three years after the Japanese surrender, is steep and winding, peppered with 72 sharp vertical bends, each inclining at a 45-degree angle.

In the interest of public safety, transport up and down the hill is confined to government-owned Land Rovers driven by seasoned drivers. Travelling at the rate of passing two ‘elbow’ bends a minute, each trip normally takes 30 minutes and make for a hair-raising, adrenalin pumping and eye-popping roller-coaster ride. The visitor is well advised not to do it on a full stomach.The hourly service, with alternate hours for going up and down, runs from 9am till 6pm daily. Visitors can book their rides and accommodation at the office near the entrance to the hill. You may also walk up the hill, but this option is best left to the physically fit.

GETTING THERE Driving: On the North-South Highway, take the Taiping exit. Follow the signs leading to Taiping after the toll and from Taiping town head towards the lake gardens. There are signs showing the way to Bukit Larut.By bus:The Trans-Nasional Coach Service at the Hentian Duta Bus Terminal in Kuala Lumpur operates daily trips to Taiping. Taxi service is available from Taiping to the foot of Bukit Larut.

ACCOMMODATION: Though not as developed as Frasier’s Hill or the Cameron Highlands, it retains it colonial ambience with quaint bungalows and English gardens. There are six bungalows and a rest house located at different elevations. Built about a century ago, they offer basic but comfortable accommodation. One should not be obsessed with creature comfort when in Bukit Larut. Expect instead, to be embraced by nature. -- BERNAMA

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