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Saturday August 29, 2009

Weekend journey takes bloggers through Perak’s history

Papan-Gopeng, Past & Present Part 1
Papan-Gopeng, Past & Present Part 2

WHILE most people were still finding their way into a new weekend, bloggers from the All Malaysian Bloggers Project (AMBP) were geared up for a journey to Perak to explore the hidden treasures of Kinta Valley.

The ride to Papan was scenic with huge shady trees along the winding stream, mining ponds, a hill slope dotted with Chinese graves, a Kuan Yin temple, and, almost in the middle of nowhere, a brick and mortar streetscape of a ghost town – the remains of a nineteenth century mining town.

Today, Papan is a one-road small town with two seemingly desolate rows of shop houses, some barely standing, along the street aptly called Main Road.

Perak Heritage Society president Law Siak Hong took the bloggers around Papan to soak up the historical memories of the quaint town. One that was particularly fascinating was the story of Sybil Karthigasu.

During World War II, the then Malaya was occupied by the Japanese and Sybil Karthigasu, a mid-wife based in Ipoh, together with her husband, Dr A.C. Karthigasu, set up a clinic in a shop house in Papan. There, Sybil risked her life by secretly helping the anti-Japanese guerillas. She gave them medical treatment and intelligence.

Insightful: Low giving a briefing to the visitors on the history of Papan and the role of Sybil Kathigesu during the World War II.

Despite being iterrogated and tortured by the Japanese military police, Sybil persisted in her efforts and was thrown in Batu Gajah jail. She survived the war and received the George Medal for Gallantry several months before her death in June, 1948.

Today, the shop house at 74, Main Road, Papan, serves as a memorial to Sybil and her efforts.

The bloggers were also taken to look at the house of Raja Bilah. The remarkable career of Raja Bilah as a miner-trader-adventurer gained the Sumatran nobleman respect as the leader of the Mandailings and headman of Papan.

The magnificent house on the edge of Papan is set in a mysterious environment shrouded by forested hills and has been used as a set for various films. It was used by Oscar-winning production designer Luciana Arrighi for the movie Anna and the King (1999).

Freelance photojournalist Joyce Tedoen, who blogs at http://joyce-tedoen.com and participated in the trip, said he loved snapping pictures of historical sites and sharing his memories with others. In fact, his blog posts are often accompanied by mesmerising photographs of the places that he visits.

The bloggers also went to the Gopeng Museum, which is a shop house that has been transformed into a thematic museum depicting the history of the small town. Gopeng was once home to the largest tin mining industry in the world until the collapse of the tin empire in the 1980s.

Today, the museum is home to many artefacts that have been rescued and retrieved from the people of the town. There are over 2,000 old photographs that show how Gopeng used to be a busy town during its glory days as part of the tin mining industry in Perak. Machines used to process rubber are also displayed at the museum together with tin mining materials.

“The purpose of this museum is to revive the heritage value of Gopeng,” Gopeng Museum Management Society ad hoc committee secretary Phang See Kong said.

“The artefacts of the museum serve their purpose of telling the visitors the history of Gopeng.”

The shop house itself has its own interesting story. It once belonged to Eu Kong, the founder of Eu Yan Sang, a renowned chain of herbal stores. In fact, the shop house was the very first Eu Yan Sang store.

During their travels, the bloggers also visited Raja Bilah’s house.

Music student Joanna Marie Gough, who was on the trip, said it was her first time in Papan and Gopeng despite the fact that she was from Ipoh. An avid blogger at http://thegentle-snail.blogspot.com, Gough is also a big fan of history as she believes that different people have different perceptions of what they see and feel.

Fellow blogger Nigel Tee added that the experience in Perak had been educational as he had learnt a lot. Being a photography enthusiast, he documents all his adventures at http://blog.flymenigel.com.

“This journey has actually shown me that there are still many places with rich historical memories in Malaysia just waiting to be discovered,” he said.

The project was organised by Travel Tales (http://www.traveltales.biz/), a local travel agency for travellers seeking meaningful experiences in Asia, in collaboration with AMBP by The Star Online and AllMalaysia.info, a programme that aims to bring the blogging community together by organising various projects both online and in the real world.

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