LOCATED some 60km away from Kuala Lumpur, Bentong is the perfect escape for tourists looking to spend time away from the concrete jungle.
Its proximity to the capital city is its biggest attraction as tourists do not have to travel far to enjoy fresh air and a change in scenery that this pastoral town offers.
Chinese national Li Lixin, 50, got to experience just how close Bentong is from Kuala Lumpur – an hour’s bus ride away – on his first visit last week.
Having toured Malaysia on three previous occasions, his first remark about Bentong was about its unpolluted state.
“It was a refreshing experience after visiting cities for the past few days before this.
“What is most memorable here is the environment. The air is so clean,” he said, noting that his hometown in Beijing city was covered in perpetual haze.
Lixin, a salesman, also expressed amazement at the warmth showed by the locals in Bentong. .
“I guess you can only feel this in small towns. The genuine warmth people show cannot be found elsewhere,” he said.
Lixin was among 60 tourists from China, who were part of a tour group that spent two days in Bentong.
The tour is the first of its kind, as inbound tours usually make Bentong an afternoon pit stop before heading off to other cities.
Having spent the first four days touring Malacca and Kuala Lumpur, the tourists later took in the sights and sounds of the country’s east coast, before flying home.
The group’s Wednesday morning started with a visit to the iconic Batu Caves, followed by a tour of the Aerofoam mattress factory in Gombak.
En route to Bentong, the group stopped in Genting Highlands before continuing their journey.
Their afternoon in the town started with a visit to Bentong’s Valley Agro Park, one of the many eco-tourism sites there.
The tourists got to see how honey is cultivated from sting-less bees known as lebah kelutut – a native species in Malaysia – before enjoying an organic meal of vegetables, chicken and fish reared at the park.
Their night ended with a sojourn at Suria Hot Spring resort, where they got to enjoy a dip in Bentong’s famous hot spring.
The tourists were whisked off to Bentong’s morning market at 7.30am the next day.
There, they were given the chance to buy local products made from the famous Bentong ginger, as well as sample the town’s equally famous yong taufu and taufu fah.
Their visit ended with a trip to a durian orchard, located 5km from Bentong town.
The durian orchard was the highlight of the visit as many among the group had never seen a durian tree although they have tasted the fruit.
“I did not expect durian trees to be so stout. I always imagined them to be very tall with a spiky exterior similar to the fruit,” said Li Yuqing, 28, an art teacher from Beijing.
Yuqing, who is a self-proclaimed durian lover, buys the fruit at least four times a year although it costs about 130 yuan (RM83) per serving back in Beijing.
“I’ve been yearning for durian since I set foot in Malaysia five days ago. My wish came true on my final day here!” she exclaimed.
What Yuqing and the rest of the tour group savoured was, in fact, Bentong’s very own Musang King durian.
“The texture is soft and the flavour not as thick as other Musang King variants that I have tried.
“The taste is simply unforgettable.
“My time here in Bentong is simply amazing. I will definitely get my friends to visit some day!” she said.
The tour to Bentong had also impressed several tour operators from China who were part of the group.
They enjoyed the trip so much that they plan to include Bentong as a destination in their outbound routes to Malaysia.
Although it was her first trip to Malaysia, Ye Jing, who is chief executive officer of a travel agency specialising in tours to Hong Kong and China, is positive that Bentong can grow to become a favourite tourist spot.
“The back-to-nature feeling of Bentong is very comfortable. The people here are friendly, too. I must bring my fellow countrymen to visit.
“The network I have built on this trip will be invaluable in bringing tourists from China to Bentong,” said Ye, a native of Shenzhen.
Meanwhile, Jiang Qiang, a tour operator from Guangdong, felt that Bentong completes the “Malaysian experience” for tourists.
“Malacca is rich in history and Kuala Lumpur showcases the country’s rapid development. Bentong, on the other hand, serves as a place of leisure and for tourists to relax.
“It completes the whole package,” he said.