HOLIDAYS are around the corner and local and foreign tourists will be visiting Kota Melawati (Melawati Fort) and Altingsburg Lighthouse built on a rocky hillock in Kuala Selangor, a coastal district in Selangor.
But tourists will be in for a major disappointment as the double-storey Kuala Selangor Rest House on the hill overlooking the town is in shambles, the coffee house famous for its chicken chop, steaks and black butter coffee is no more.
Even basic amenities such as the toilet next to the amphitheatre reeks of urine smell, and gazebos along the hill route have been vandalised with its clay roof tiles smashed and littered around it.
Ironically, Selangor had declared 2015 as Visit Selangor Year where RM6.7mil had been allocated (compared to RM5.2mil in 2014) but funds have not been sanctioned for Kota Melawati, a well-liked heritage spot.
For 2015, Selangor had targeted seven million domestic and foreign tourists with a focus on eco sports, tourism and heritage. Among all the 13 states in Malaysia, Selangor is the third highest tourism earner after Perak and Johor.
Russian tourists Alex Avdonin and Jane Golubeva, both 27, had heard a lot about Kota Melawati fort, the lighthouse, silver leaf monkeys, from fellow Russians living in Kuala Lumpur and decided to trek up the hill.
“Kota Melawati is a beautiful eco-heritage site with its lighthouse and historical link to the Dutch.
“We were overwhelmed seeing the Straits of Malacca from the hill next to the watch tower.
“But we are sad that the rest house is shut down as we would have liked to spend a night or two on the hill and venture out from here to see the famous fireflies at Kampung Kuantan.
“I think the tourism department must revive the lodge, cafe and make sure the toilets are clean,” said Avdonin.
Kampung Kuantan is about 10km from Kota Melawati.
Golubeva said there was a need to have volunteer tourist guides for visitors.
Avid cyclist Azmi Zainal Abidin, 45, who cycles from Klang to Kota Melawati once a week, said the state government must rebuild the ramshackle rest house and several other abandoned colonial government bungalows along the hill route as tourist lodges to encourage people to stay longer.
“Almost all the metal and aluminium have been stripped from the rest house and abandoned bungalows.
“The Kuala Selangor District Council (MDKS) and the state government must step in to prevent further deterioration of the hill facilities,” he said.
He added that Kota Melawati was a heritage tourism asset that must be conserved and promoted as tourism could bring economic and social benefits to the locals.
Retired telecommunications officer M. Thiru, 63, said the facilities around Kota Melawati were in deplorable condition and needed immediate attention.
“As we come up the hill, there is an amphitheatre that used to showcase traditional dances but now the site has been damaged.
“The office, toilets and windows of the rooms for performers have been broken.
“In the afternoons and evenings, the amphitheatre becomes a place for anti-social elements,” he said.
Darshan Singh, 57, who frequents the tourist spot, said visitors to Kota Melawati had dwindled as facilities were not up the mark.
“Other than seeing the lighthouse, monkeys and remnants of the fort, there is nothing that makes us want to spend more time on the hill.
“People want the rest house, a cafe where they can lunch or enjoy afternoon tea.
“We do not see souvenir stalls or local crafts being sold. The maintenance of facilities is dismal and I can see the crowd of tourists getting smaller and smaller,” he added.
Darshan said the traditional games museum, located halfway up to the hill just before the amphitheatre, had also been closed.
“Workers at the museum keep saying that the place will open sometime next year,” he said.
Klang Consumer Association president Devadass Anjan said Kota Melawati was a historical site as it was the first capital of the Selangor sultanate that dated back to Raja Lumu, the son of a Bugis chief, who was proclaimed Sultan in 1766.
“Knowing the link to the Selangor sultanate, the graves of past Sultans at the Royal Mausoleum on the hill and the historical presence of the Dutch, there is a dire need to preserve this place and provide better facilities.
“Kota Melawati has been poorly maintained for close to five years. The state government has done little to improve this tourist spot,” he said.
He pointed out that the Moon Viewing Pavilion, a double-storey building constructed at the top of the hill for the purpose of sighting the new moon to determine the start of the fasting month of Ramadan and beginning of Syawal, has become a place to store vendors’ push carts.
Carpenter and part-time tourist guide Dasuki Karison said the state’s indifference towards Kota Melawati was affecting tourist numbers in Kuala Selangor.
“I have been told the district council does not have the budget to rebuild the rest house or even hold cultural dances at the amphitheatre that is falling apart.
“Now, tourist numbers have fallen as it is turning into a mere stopover,” he said.
State Tourism, Consumer Affairs and Environment Committee chairman Elizabeth Wong said MDKS should focus on upgrading and maintaining current facilities to acceptable standards and not build or rebuild something which they could not maintain in the past.
“If MDKS wants to rebuild the rest house or restore the abandoned colonial government bungalows, the council will have to give good reasons on the need for it.
“As far as the state is concerned, we want the council to be financially self-sustaining,” she said.
Rest house is land office’s responsibility, says council