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March 17, 2012

Visitors take a discovery tour of Pre-war Buildings in Teritage Trail

Story and photos by FONG KEE SOON
keesoon@thestar.com.my

Larut Matang District Office Building
Magnificent : A stop at the Victorian-styled Larut Matang District Office building in Jalan Kota during the heritage trail.

A GROUP of heritage lovers travelled back in time as they explored old buildings in Taiping on foot.

The heritage trail was a guided tour organised by the Taiping Heritage Society and Shun Tak Association to promote the rich and diverse heritage of the once thriving mining town.

Conservationist Teoh Chee Keong led the group as they savoured the sights of Taiping’s pre-war buildings, including the iconic Taiping Market, the Victorian-styled Larut Matang District Office building on Kota Road and the Anglo Indian-styled First Galleria private gallery on Station Road.

Teoh, a lecturer on architecture, explained the history of each building and how they had come to their present condition.

He also touched on the design of the buildings, some of which were built to allow maximum natural lighting and ventilation.

Teoh said it was encouraging to see locals joining the day tour, which first started in 2007.

“Local residents tend to ignore historical buildings especially the dilapidated ones which are an eyesore.

“Their involvement is important because local residents are a significant part of culture and heritage,” said Teoh.

He said their contribution included taking up residence in otherwise empty old buildings.

The group visited the home of an 80-year-old local woman who did just that.

Wishing to remain anonymous, the woman told The Star she had bought the century-old building on Jalan Barrack in 1998 and spent a small fortune renovating it.

The restoration had been carried out so well that the Taiping Municipal Council recommends the public and tourists to see it.

For Tan Khai Wei, 20, the tour had helped him discover the heritage side of his hometown, which he never knew about.

“Although I grew up in Taiping, I never realised there were so many pre-war buildings as well as the stories behind them.

Taiping Heritage Cross-street
Crossing: Participants of the trail walking about Taiping as they visited various heritage buildings.

“Now I can better promote my hometown to friends, in addition to the good food and scenic Lake Gardens,” said the architectural student.


Looking insid e: The interior of an old pre-war shophouse in Jalan Barrack which had been restored.
Local fruit farmer Lee Tin Choy felt that the heritage trail was a good way to further promote Taiping as a tourist destination.

“The locals especially should make use of the existence of the heritage buildings, which are irreplaceable and represent a vital legacy of our culture,” said Lee, 47.

Keatpie Cheong, a wantan mee seller from Kuala Lumpur, also enjoyed the walkabout.

“In future, I’ll be able to take my family on a tour and show them the town’s living heritage,” said the father of four.

The group also stopped by at the Taiping Shun Tak Association where they were briefed on its restoration works.

Taiping Heritage Pre-war Shophouses
Elegant facad e: A few old restored pre-war shophouses in Jalan Barrack which now serve as residential homes.

The association building was built by artisans from Shun Tak, a small district in south China’s Guangdong province, in 1896.

“The building, possibly the oldest Shun Tak Cantonese architecture in South East Asia, is in a state of disrepair. We hope to raise some RM500,000 to restore it,” said Tung Lay Chun, chairperson of the building’s restoration committee.

The association recently received a RM50,000 allocation from the Prime Minister’s Department with the help of Deputy Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Tan Lian Hoe.

Pokok Assam Barisan Nasional coordinator Datuk Ho Cheng Wang also chipped in RM5,000 from his constituency allocation.