Vibrant Ayer Hitam Visitors head to the town for its artificial flowers which are sold at bargain prices

(From left) Ling Tian Soon with Iman and Farhana at their stall in Ayer Hitam.

AYER HITAM: Visitors here would not fail to notice that Ayer Hitam is a sea of colours, thanks to the artificial blooms it is famous for.

The colourful hues contribute to the town;s festive and carnival-like atmosphere.

A flower stall operator who only wanted to be known as Madam Leo, 60, said there are three types of buyers for the flowers.

“Some buy them to decorate their homes or workplace.

“There are also many, including florists, who buy for their retail business.

“The wide range of flowers of all sizes and colours are also ideal for decorations in Malay weddings, especially for the pelamin (dais) and bunga telur (wedding gift),” said Leo who has been selling artificial flowers here for the last three decades.

Leo serving a customer at her stall in Ayer Hitam.
Leo serving a customer at her stall in Ayer Hitam.

She said the fake flowers and floral arrangements are very competitively priced here compared to other parts of the country.

Leo said the floral arrangements can be bought for a cheaper price because the pots and vases are sourced from the many ceramic factories which Ayer Hitam is famous for.

Leo said the high demand coupled with stiff competition among sellers is good news for customers.

“This keeps them coming back for more bargains,” said Leo who has two assistants.

Another gift and flower shop proprietor - husband and wife team CT Song and VL Sim - said they are glad that the area continues to be commercially viable despite the construction of the North-South Expressway.

They had operated a coffeeshop for almost three decades in the same location previously.

“Ayer Hitam used to be a popular stop on the trunk road and many travellers used to patronise the eating shops here,” said Sim, in recalling the good old days.

The many stalls selling colourful artificial flowers lend a festive mood to the town all year round.
The many stalls selling colourful artificial flowers lend a festive mood to the town all year round.

But their business dropped drastically after the highway opened and they and other eateries were forced to find alternative sources of income.

Song said their shop is open for business daily from 9am to 8pm.

“We will also operate beyond these hours when there are customers,” she said.

On people’s purchasing power in the wake of the challenging economy, Song said their business has been affected as well.

“People are more cautious in their spending with the rising cost of goods and services these days,” she said.

Spotted at a stall selling a wide range of food, especially tidbits and snacks was Iman Arsat, 14, who said business would usually start to pick up from noon.

Iman said many of their customers are tourists, including from nearby Singapore.

Popular...Ayer Hitam is also famous for softtoys...pix by Foong Pek Yee.
Adorable soft toys are also aplenty in Ayer Hitam.

Farhana Sharmine Baharin, 17, who was working alongside Iman at the stall, said they open daily from 8am to about 9pm.

The enterprising spirit and resilience of the proprietors in this part of Ayer Hitam town is praiseworthy.

The highway may have led to many travellers bypassing the town but traders have adapted well to the changing circumstances.

Now instead of hosting travellers temporarily for a quick bite, the town is attracting tourists who come here for its many attractions.

This is a testament to the traders’ enterprising spirit.

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