BENTONG: The town that is slightly more than an hour’s drive away from Kuala Lumpur charmed guests from Taiwan recently.
From the famous Bentong ginger to the much-coveted Musang King, they were treated to more than just the gastronomic delights that Bentong, the preferred “backyard of Greater Kuala Lumpur”, is well-known for.
The delegation from Taiwan New Southbound Policy Countries Parliamentary Amity Association began their day with a breakfast of soup noodles and coffee at a local Chinese kopitiam in Bukit Tinggi while enjoying the fresh morning air.
From there, their tour bus took a winding scenic trunk road to the hot spring in Bentong, where locals and tourists were having a splashing fun time at a resort.
With their jackets removed and sleeves rolled up as the scorching sun was unforgiving, the officials also visited the Chamang Waterfall not far from Bentong town.
Crystal clear waters gushing out from the mountains above offered a welcoming respite to the tropical heat, which according to the Taiwanese, was similar to their summer weather back home.
Next, the guests piled into pickup trucks and ventured deep into a durian orchard, where D24 and Musang King durians were served.
With a view of rolling hills and a calm river, the guests licked the durian seeds clean, comparing notes on the difference between the two variants.
One of them was so intrigued by the King of Fruits and even contemplated bringing a thorny husk back!
With a recent surge in eco-tourism products, Bentong could learn a thing or two from Taiwan, which has long built its reputation as the destination for leisure farms.
As their visit coincided with Chinese New Year, the association’s chief executive officer and deputy director-general Chung Chia-Pin said their short trip to Bentong reminded them of the unpolished traditions and culture.
“People here might be envious of how Taiwan packages its culture with creativity, giving birth to a new industry that boosts the economy and becomes a unique selling point for Taiwan.
“But today we are mesmerised by the traditions and celebration that have not been commercialised,” he said.
Chung, a member of parliament, added that their four-day visit to Malaysia was also to strengthen cooperation between Taiwan and Malaysia, particularly in the fields of vocational training, agriculture and medical education.
At night, Bentong came alive with a temple fair and a parade of floats.
Joining the festivities was the Techno San Tai Zi, a popular Taiwanese folk culture group featuring vibrantly dressed and masked performers as the “Third Prince” deity.
Accompanied by loud, fast-beat music blasting from the stereos, the six goofy performers danced and distributed sweets to the onlookers who had gathered at both sides of the streets along the parade route.
The San Tai Zi was clearly a crowd favourite, judging by the amused expression on spectators faces.
Inside the Bentong Chinese Assembly Hall, Taiwanese folk artists Wu Ping Shun and Jhong Li-Ying wowed the fair-goers with their intricate sugar painting and miniature figurines.
Despite requests, their artworks were not for sale.
Chung said the Chinese New Year mood in Bentong was comparable to that of Taiwan.
“The San Tai Zi troupe is a creative twist to a traditional culture. We brought them to Bentong to be part of the merriment here,” he said.