THE villagers had sleepless nights when their livestock started going missing. A tiger was said to be in their midst of their otherwise peaceful village.
Fear enveloped Kampung Baru Bukit Tinggi – a hilly settlement in Bentong. The villagers prayed for divine help and built a temple at the village entrance.
That was in 1965.
Peace returned to the village, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Fast-forward to the present, the temple named Mun Moo Seng Tee continues to have a special place in the lives of the villagers.
Temple committee chairman Law Guo Quan, 32, said all the committee members are villagers.
“The villagers take care of the temple just like their own home,” said Law, visibly proud of the temple’s recently completed landscaped garden.
“All the things in the garden were donated and put up by the villagers. They also carry out the maintenance work,” he added.
The temple is seeing more tourists nowadays. Most of all, Law said the temple kept the villagers of all ages together. He said everyone took on the responsibility of ensuring the temple remained the pulse of the village.
Most of the houses in the village were built very close to each other.
“In the old days, we felt safer to be near one another so that we could look out for each other,” said 68-year-old village chief Low Ah Hun.
The ginger farmer who switched to planting vegetables, said the predominantly agricultural village shot to fame in recent years because it produced the famous Bentong ginger.
He is upbeat about the fact that tourism – an income spinner – could help to rejuvenate the aging village.
Low believes the young will not move to the cities in droves like in the past three decades, when there are job and business opportunities available in or near the village.
He said there were young people who had returned to settle down in the village.
One of those who returned is Law, who was a teacher for five years before coming back to his birthplace.
He is now a supervisor at an eco-retreat in the village.
Located off Karak Highway about 35km from the Gombak toll plaza, Kampung Baru Bukit Tinggi is a good stopover for tourists.
Wong Chee Hiang, 26, said the one-day tour to Bentong and Raub was very popular and his village was the favourite stop for visitors looking to have a meal and buy vegetables and fruits.
His family operates the 126 Restaurant located at the entrance to the village.
He said his father Wong Ken Ten, mother Law Ah Thye, elder brother Keng Yuan and him were all involved in running the restaurant which also sold local products, fruits and vegetables.
He said Keng Yuan first started the business as a stall in the village about 15 years ago.
They shifted into a rented premises in the village later.
Today, the Wong family is the proud owner of the current premises.
“Our restaurant’s name sounds similar to ‘wan toh sek’ in Cantonese, which roughly translates into ‘can earn a living’,” explained Chee Hiang.
Thanks to the tourism boom in Bentong, there are now over 20 restaurants in and around the village.
Low said tourists found easy access to most of the restaurants as they are located at the entrance of the village and just off the Karak Highway.
But, he said tourists might find it difficult to navigate the narrow lanes in the village.
“Many tourists like to explore the village to take a closer look at our way of life,” he noted.