I have had a friend from overseas visiting KL for the past few days. He wanted to go to a typical small Malaysian town to soak up the atmosphere and perhaps have a quick Tiger in a kedai kopi.
We decided on Bentong as neither of us had been there before and with low expectations we set off. It’s only 80km from KL and it is a quick and scenic journey, mostly on the six lane Karak Highway which takes us over the Titiwangsa mountain range.
Although it has a small town feel, Bentong is actually the 2nd largest town in Pahang after Kuantan, the state capital. I would imagine its population, including the surrounding district, is in the region of 150,000.
The town centre is the usual few blocks of old shophouses, many of which have been modernised or replaced by newer concrete structures.
We managed to recognise the old Mercantile Bank branch which is now a mobile phone shop.
Bentong enjoyed rapid growth as a tin mining town in the early 20th century and also as a rubber growing area. Today it earns its living from agriculture and light industry.
We took a look at the Chinese temple which was filled with thick smoke from burning incense.
An old man in the temple tried to explain, in Chinese and Bahasa, the significance of the elaborate, smoke-blackened wooden carving in the photo below. We gathered it is very old and came from China but unfortunately could not understand anything else.
Feeling peckish we popped into a busy restaurant. Oddly they had no chicken, no seafood and no vegetables! Whether this was due to the public holiday the day before or we had arrived too late I don’t know but I ended up eating just tofu and rice and my friend had pork and rice. And despite the antique Guinness advert on the wall they had no beer either – hence the iced coffee. Still, everything tasted better than it looked.
One thing that foodies rave about in Bentong is the local ice cream. Unfortunately the recommended ice cream shop, Kow Po, was closed but we found an alternative where I enjoyed a very pleasant coconut flavour single scoop for just 80 sen, a mere fraction of the Baskin Robbins’ price.
If the truth be told I am not sure that Bentong warrants a special trip by itself but we extended our journey to the nearby Chamang Waterfall (see next post) which together with Bentong made the journey worthwhile.