By Paul Chong A Chinese by Descent . . . An Australian by Consent
Tuesday, 20 January 2015
In the words of George L. Peet ( in his A Journal in the Federal Capital), when he visited Taiping in 1933: “I know of no more lovely sight in this country than the Taiping gardens when the rays of the early morning sun are shining obliquely through their clumps of bamboo, palms and isolated trees scattered on islands among the expanse of water. One receives in that glorious half hour an experience of light in foliage that is quite unobtainable in England”.
The truth lies in the eyes of the beholder & the beauty is manifested in so many aspects beyond words of description. Below picture: Flamington Hotel
It’s even grander & more spectacular with the century year-old rain trees lining the roads with their branches & foliages sweeping or more appropriately “raining” down over the roads onto the shimmering surface of the lake. Here’s a paradise for both amateur or professional photographers.
I guess those rain trees will forever endure & keep on attracting both local & foreign visitors. Other attractions include the Zoo, Monkey Forest, swimming & picnic spots where our carefree young days were spent, not to mention abundant fresh air sunshine. There was even a golf course in the days gone by.
Tin was first discovered & mined largely by the Chinese in the Matang & Larut District (where Taiping is sited) and when tin was depleted, the abandoned tin mine ground was donated by Chung Thye Phin as a recreation park for public use. In 1884 the gardens were planted with grasses, flowers and trees; a part of the gardens was fenced, to keep bulls out.
“The 64 hectares (160 acres) site was the first public garden (1880) in Malaya, and was cherished for its beauty; it has been well-maintained since its opening. There are ten scenic lakes and ponds, which highlight the gardens. Along Residency Road, near the gardens, were golden rain trees (Malay: angsana) (pterocarpus indicus) planted along the pathway.” – Wikipedia.
Taiping Lake Gardens was conceived as the brainchild of Colonel Robert Sandilands Frowd Walke r, developed by Charles Compton Reade (1880–1933), who was also responsible for planning the Kuala Lumpur garden town, together with Lady Swettenham.
Fortunately indeed, I still find the manicured green beneath my feet when I revisited there in late December 2014. Those days lawns were maintained by Indian labour using the scythe not the luxury of present day lawn mowers or tractor mowers or brush cutters. The fragrant smell of newly-cut lawns still taunt my age-old nostrils & after the abundant rainfall of Taiping (for which it’s famous), the scent filled the air even more.
Lots of improvement have come about in the Lake Gardens, visitors can now stay in 4.5 star Flamington Hotel (1 Jalan Samanea Saman, Taiping, Malaysia 34000) with 116 rooms. Lake View Hotel in the vicinity used to be grand in the days I got married. It’s now incomparable.
If you are an early riser, you can join the throngs of health conscious people having their morning jog or practising their “Taiji”. Others are out to catch the flight of morning birds & the glorious glow of morning sun rise over Maxwell’s Hills – a spectacular sight often missed & forgotten, as we tend to watch sunsets more than we ever get the chance to watch the rising sun.
As usual, after expending their energy, breakfast is most welcoming. The former durian ground has been converted to a food galore centre. Everybody’s favourite is the “chi-cheong-fun” & it’s not surprising for tourists to eat there & bundle home for their loved ones as well.
Something Old . . . My wife & I were married in Lake View Hotel in 1965. It appeared to be so run down from its glorious days. The oldest landmark is undoubtedly “The New Club” located on top of Residential Hill with vista view to the majestic Lake Gardens. It’s an heritage from the old colonial days . . . A “Members Only” club for indoor recreation, swimming pool and restaurant. One of the popular venue for local events and gatherings . . . A club that has great and a variety of facilities including a gym, swimming pool, bar, squash, snooker, tennis court, places to stay, Karaoke room and also a dart area. Picture Below
Taiping is no longer a “sleeping hollow”, even though it’s off the route of the North-South Highway link. Parking is a premium fight for space & traffic jam is something unheard of. With new roads & flyovers, new railway station, new shopping malls, hotels & multi-storey buildings, Taiping is well keeping in its growth & progress. True to its name, it has remained peaceful till the present day.