Back Roads of Kedah & Perak

I have been exploring some of the more unspoilt corners of Kedah and Perak this week.

‘Jamaican Sunset’ (allamanda cathartica) blooming nicely outside St. Patrick’s High School.

I started out in Kulim, which was a small Kedah town until the 1950’s but has since mushroomed into a city of a quarter of a million people, thanks partly to the establishment of an industrial estate called Kulim Hi-Tech Park.

Low lying clouds lingering in this sleepy kampung.
Low lying clouds lingering in this sleepy kampung.

Heading east towards the Gunung Inas Forest Reserve, the road passed rural scenery and sleepy villages.

Raging cascade at Sungai Sedim.
Raging cascade at Sungai Sedim.

It had been raining heavily overnight and the rivers were in full flow.

Tree Top Walk Sungai Sedim
The 950m long Tree Top Walk is said to be the longest canopy walk in the world.

The Tree Top Walk at the Sedim River Recreational Park is one of Kedah’s top attractions.  Although it is of robust construction the elevated walkway has a disconcerting wobble as you walk on it 25 metres above the forest floor.

Pristine Rainforest At Sungai Sedim
The Tree Top Walk provides a great view of life in the rainforest canopy.

There are some challenging hiking trails that begin here. I’ll leave those for another time perhaps.

View From Tree Top Walk
White Water Rafting is another activity available at Sungai Sedim.

Leaving Sungai Sedim I headed south towards Mahang.

OilPalmPlantation Near Mahang Kedah
The sun trying to break through the clouds near Mahang.

The oil palm industry comes in for a lot of criticism from environmentalist types (due to destruction of rainforest wildlife habitat and so on) but these palm plantations can look quite attractive.

Tebing Tinggi Falls Perak
Waterfall in spate after heavy rain.

Near Selama, the highway passes the impressive Tebing Tinggi Falls.

Unspoilt Selama District Perak
Illegal logging is a problem in parts of Malaysia but thankfully not here.

The view from here is a reminder that Malaysia is a big country with still plenty of lush forest areas. Let’s hope they stay that way.

Gua Gunung Runtuh
Near Lenggong in Perak are a number of caves under the control of the Department of National Heritage.

This hill contains a cave in which a 10,000 year old skeleton was discovered which has been dubbed ‘Perak Man’. I struggled to find the cave due to lack of signage but somehow managed to locate it after a half hour hike and much scrambling over wet rocks.

Cave Entrance Gua Gunung Runtuh
The entrance to Gua Gunung Runtuh was hard to find and locked.

It is not surprising that the skeleton was not discovered until 1991. Since the cave was locked I had to content myself with peering through the railings.

A short drive away are a number of other archaeologically significant caves but they too were padlocked which is a bit disappointing for an area which touts itself as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Skeleton Of Perak Man
The original skeleton of the Perak Man can be viewed at the Lenggong Archaeological Museum, Kota Tampan.

The Lenggong Archaeological Museum displays the original skeleton of the Perak Man when it is not being loaned out to other museums.

Perak Cave Men
Artist’s impression of life 10,000 years ago in a cave in Perak.

As for Lenggong town itself, it seems a quaint place with some old wooden shophouses and a colonial era post office.

Lenggong Main Street Perak
Lenggong Main Street Perak
Lenggong Post Office
Lenggong Post Office

Last stop on my tour of the back roads of Kedah and Perak was at the tranquil Chenderoh Lake, popular with anglers seeking catches such as Peacock Bass and Toman (giant snakehead).

Chenderoh Lake Perak
This lake was created in the 1920s by building a dam across the mighty Perak River, Malaysia’s first hydro-electric dam and power station.

Garmin Travel Itinerary

Garmin, the leading satellite navigation products company, has requested Malaysia Traveller (my Malaysian travel website) to collaborate with them in creating travel itineraries for Malaysia for use on Garmin portable street navigation devices.

Our first joint effort, Chronicles of Historical Kedah, has recently been released by Garmin.

Click on the image below for details.

Garmin Malaysia Traveller Itinerary

More unpaid work for the Malaysian tourism industry!

Kedah – Land of Elephants (mostly white)

Kedah is the state of the grand project.

On my travels I came across a number of ambitious developments in Kedah, some more successful than others.

First of all, in the state capital, Alor Setar, there is the Menara Alor Setar (Alor Setar Tower) run by the same company which manages the KL Tower.

Alor Setar Tower

It functions as a telecommunications tower but is also a tourist attraction with a revolving restaurant and observation deck. It is not nearly as tall as the KL version (the observation deck is 88 meters above the ground versus KL’s 276 meters) but not as expensive either at just RM6 for Malaysian ID card holders. I do not know if this has been a financially successful project but it was not exactly overrun with tourists when I went (I was the only foreign visitor and there was one local family). There were nice views over the city including this one of the impressive looking new Albukhary Complex.

Kompleks Albukhary, Alor Setar

Next there is the Paddy Museum (Muzium Padi) just 8km outside the city centre.

Padi Museum, Kedah

This spacious museum is dedicated to rice and covers 12,000 square meters on 3 levels. Its centrepiece is a 360 degree painted diorama which you can view from a comfortable armchair on a slowly revolving platform.

Diorama viewing deck at the Padi Museum.

It’s very nicely painted but I imagine most people prefer to walk round the 360 degrees rather than sit and wait for the turntable to complete a full rotation.

Rice is the world’s most important crop but there is a limit to how much you can say about it and there are quite a lot of empty spaces in the museum. Again I was the only visitor.

At the small port of Kuala Kedah there is a marina building which was completed in 2003 but has yet to open or welcome any yachts.

Kuala Kedah Marina

From a distance it used to look like Windsor Castle until they added the metal roof. There is no news on what is planned for this building.

I wanted to show you a picture of the Pulau Bunting Bridge, a 2.3km long bridge to an uninhabited island off the Kedah coast, but due to problems with my tyres I did not want to risk the gravel approach road. Apparently there was a proposal to build a port on the island but this has been scrapped so now it is a bridge to nowhere. You can see pictures of the bridge on this guy’s blog if you like:

So why does Kedah seem to have more than its fair share of these grand projects? It is a scenic state but somewhat lacking in tourist attractions (except for the jewel of Langkawi). These projects were an effort to bring in the visitors but were not always successful.

Sungai Petani – Kedah

GRAND TOUR – Continued

Sungai Petani was the first town in Kedah state that I reached on my Grand Tour.

Guide books do not devote much space to Sungai Petani since there are no tourist attractions of note in the town.

I wanted to see HSBC’s local branch as I had read that it is probably the most distinctive building of the bank’s Malaysian branches and one of the few that has escaped exterior remodelling or demolition.

HSBC Sungai Petani Branch

It was built in 1929 in Mogul style similar to Kuala Lumpur’s old railway station with a cupola surmounting a turret over the main entrance.

The upper floor used to contain two flats, one for the manager and one for the assistant. When the branch was built there was no air-conditioning. There was an external staircase from the upstairs bathroom leading to the back garden where the gardener used to empty the night-soil bucket in the days before proper plumbing was installed.

Close to the bank is a clock tower built in 1936 as a gift from a Chinese businessman to mark the silver jubilee of King George V.

Sungai Petani clock tower.

The SP Golf Club building dating from 1922 is also supposed to be worth seeing but unfortunately I missed it.

Sungai Petani Bank Street