You can visit this leaning tower in Teluk Intan

The Menara Condong Teluk Intan is 25m tall. — Photos: Dr OH SEONG POR

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In May, I signed up for a one-day bus tour to Teluk Intan in Perak together with my family. The town was previously known as Teluk Anson during the British rule.

Located at the bank of the Perak River, Teluk Intan is a historically significant town with lots of interesting places to visit. We were intrigued by the Menara Condong Teluk Intan or “leaning tower”, and we were glad it was one of the stops in the tour.

The bus stopped nearby and we were asked to get down and walk to the tower. There was a food court located next to the tower, with some hawkers selling food, drinks and even toys and souvenirs. All these made the area quite lively and busy; no wonder it was off limits to motorised vehicles.

My son and I bought tickets to enter the tower while my wife, daughter and friend stayed outside, busy taking photos. There were information boards inside the tower, displaying some historical facts.

The tower was built by a Chinese architect named Leong Choon Chong who started the construction in 1885 and completed it in 1886. The design was influenced by the Chinese pagoda architectural style. The internal part of the 25m-high tower is divided into three levels but externally, it appears as if the tower has eight storeys.

The upper level is fitted with a large steel tank, measuring 5m. Initially, water was stored in the tank for the community to use during a drought, or in case of a fire.

The Menara Condong Teluk Intan is 25m tall.The Menara Condong Teluk Intan is 25m tall.

Later, some local residents donated money to the council to turn the structure into a clock tower. They bought a clock designed by James Wilson Benson and fitted it to the tower.

Due to its height and strategic location, the tower also functioned as a beacon to guide boats entering the old Teluk Intan Port. And during the Japanese Occupation in 1941, it became a watch tower for security reasons.

Way before that, though, in 1896, the place was hit by massive flood which softened the foundation. Compounded with the heavy tank filled with water, the tower started to tilt to one side.

Today, you can find many old photos and artefacts on display in the tower. To get up to each level, you can take the wooden spiral staircase. Remember to keep looking down while climbing the steps, as the view is quite interesting. I was only able to climb up to the second level though because the staircase leading to third was barricaded. However, just from this level, I was already able to get a 360° view of Teluk Intan.

As I walked around on the two levels, it did not feel like I was stepping on a slanted floor. Although the “lean” is very obvious from the outside, you won’t actually realise that it’s tilted when you are inside.

It is amazing that the tower is still standing as it defies the logic of engineering and has survived the onslaught of extreme weather over the years. It is commendable that Menara Condong Teluk Intan has been preserved all these years.

Our next destination was the Pulau Bangau bird sanctuary, and to get there we had to take a boat from the Perak River Jetty. Again, the bus could not drop us off directly in front of the place so we had to walk to the jetty, which was fine because it was only about 300m away. We boarded an 8m-long boat that was waiting for us.

The boat operator, who called himself Ah Loon, regaled us with tales of the river and the bird sanctuary. He explained the commercial activities that took place along the river such as boat building, fish farming and sand mining. As the boat went further downstream, I spotted two sand dredgers. According to Ah Loon, Perak River had large depositions of sand which was then mined and used mainly for road construction.

The writer (centre) and his family on the boat ride to Pulau Bangau.The writer (centre) and his family on the boat ride to Pulau Bangau.

Our boat turned around the sand dredgers and headed upstream where the Pulau Bangau bird sanctuary was located.

The island was formed from the sediment of sand over a long period of time, which then gave life to a mangrove forest. Eventually the forest turned into a living habitat for migratory birds.

From far, the trees on the island looked like they were covered with white fruits or leaves. However, as the boat moved nearer, we saw that the “fruits” were actually white storks standing on tree branches. The storks had long beaks and legs with white feathers covering the bodies and black spotted wings. Although considered large birds, they could balance themselves skilfully on these tree branches.

Storks resting on tree branches at Pulau Bangau.Storks resting on tree branches at Pulau Bangau.

There were other bird species around such as eagles, egrets and herons.

Ah Loon stopped the boat engine in the middle of the river and advised passengers to look out for incoming birds. Soon, I saw birds flying high in an orderly V-formation heading towards Pulau Bangau. There were also birds flying really low, just above the water, in fact.

Soon, even more birds flew in.

It was a fascinating experience seeing waves of birds flying in and converging at Pulau Bangau. They resembled fighter planes diving and flying low to launch their attack. Ah Loon revealed that every morning, the adult birds would fly to the nearby farming lands to search for food. By evening, the birds would return to their nests at Pulau Bangau.

Ah Loon then restarted the engine and steered the boat closer to the island for passengers to enjoy a closer look at the birds. The birds appeared calm and continued to either rest or man their nests, ignoring our boat.

Eventually, the sun began to set, giving the sky a beautiful orange-and-purple hue. It was so satisfying to witness this while sitting in a boat, floating on the Perak River.

When it got dark, we returned to the jetty. On our way there, I could see a few floating restaurants brightly lit and decorated, indicating another lively activity taking place by the river. Indeed, Perak River was a round-the-clock happening place that’s worth checking out.

The views expressed are entirely the reader’s own.

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