IT was a landmark in the village during the colonial days and continues to be one till today.
Like many colonial-era planter’s houses, the old bungalow was built on high concrete pillars and is perched on a hilly part of Kampung Baru Sri Telemong in Karak, Pahang.
Surrounded by rubber estates and oil palm plantations, access is through a narrow and winding road.
Yap Yit Chong, 81, is the sole occupant of the property which belongs to an estate owner.
Yap said he had been living alone since his wife died several months ago.
The place certainly holds fond memories for this former estate supervisor, who has called the village home since 1961.
The well-kept surroundings speak volumes of his love and pride for the place.
On a tour of the compound, Yap pointed out a concrete structure with a chimney which, he explained, was a boiler that supplied hot water for the entire house all day long in the old days.
Although it has outlived its usefulness, the boiler’s pipes are still intact and well preserved.
“This is a very interesting place,” said village chief Wong Wah Toong of the bungalow that once housed the rich and famous in the area.
Wong said the former estate owner was British and later sold it to a Malaysian.
Fast foward to the present, Wong said he and the villagers felt it was not safe for Yap to stay there alone.
The area, he added, was very dark and deserted at night.
“He (Yap) is here in the daytime only. He sleeps at his friend’s house nearby nowadays,” said Wong.
According to him, Yap’s children have asked him to live with them in Kuala Lumpur but Yap prefers to stay put in the village.
Yap confessed that he feels rather lonely these days.
“But the village and the city are two different worlds.
“I visit my children sometimes,” he said.
Yap still has a sharp mind and points out the importance of keeping in touch with happenings in the world by reading the newspapers daily.
“I have been subscribing to and reading Sin Chew daily for several decades,” he said.
He frequently visits Karak town and occasionally Bentong town about 30km away, and will drive himself to those places to catch up with friends.
“Living here in Kampung Baru Sri Telemong is very convenient,” said Yap, who usually has his meals at the village coffeeshop or in Karak town.
He describes his village as an ageing one, demographically.
Its population used to be 700 to 800 at its peak before many young people moved elsewhere starting from the 1980s to earn a living.
Many estate workers these days are foreigners, Yap said.
The village appeared deserted on a recent Friday afternoon.
Wong said there were about 100 households with some 200 villagers.
The 47-year-old village chief, who is in the tractor repairing business, said many of the villagers – including his parents – were smallholders.
He said two of his siblings were in Johor and another in Kuala Lumpur.
Wong said only he and his sister continued to live in the village with their parents and 104-year-old grandmother, Lee Ying.
His mother Chan Ah Moi, 72, still taps rubber while his 76-year-old father Wong Ho helps to look after his grandchildren.
Wong said the village had not changed much over time and he enjoyed the carefree rustic life.
“We (villagers) can go out and have a drink anytime. It is peaceful here,” he said.
Having worked for 12 years outside the village, Wong is certainly in a position to draw a comparison between rural and urban lifestyles.
Looking back, he said he had worked in many different places in the country as well as Singapore.
“I left home at 18, after completing Form Five. Twelve years later I returned to get married and settle down.”
While the village had hardly changed during his 12-year absence, Wong said changes might come in the near future.
He observed that agro-tourism and eco-tourism activities that have become popular in nearby areas in recent years, would have some impact on his village.
“There are now a lot of people in Sri Telemong during weekends and school holidays,” he noted.
He hopes the younger generation in the village will have a chance to tap into the tourism sector.
Kampung Baru Sri Telemong, the village does stand out in its own way.
Besides the colonial-style bungalow, there are properties in the village such as the former rubber production factory, smokehouse and workers’ quarters that perhaps can be restored and turned into tourist attractions.