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Friday, November 27, 2009

E-tour: Bukit Larut (Maxwell Hill), Taiping


Where do we experience the natural beauty of forests in Peninsular Malaysia? Is it Genting Highlands? Is it Cameron Highlands? These are famous hillstations in Malaysia; however, commercialization and developments on these hilltops have severely "contaminated" the natural beauty of Malaysian forests found there. Casinos, theme parks, hotels, tea gardens, too predominant in the former two hill stations, have robbed both Genting Highlands and Cameron Highlands of their most valuable asset, originality and naturalness, which were replaced by an entirely new identity. Though considered successful nowadays in Malaysia, one can really argue that they cannot compare at all with the alluring Maxwell Hill in Taiping, Perak.

Maxwell Hill is located in Taiping, Perak. The place itself had great lengths of history, comparable to the likes of the settlements in Jamestown. Taiping was the first key of British's interest in Malaya. The abundance of tin, much more than any place in the world at the time attracted British conquest of the territory. Being the first region where tin was discovered in Malaya, Taiping was the centerpoint of development. Like all other milestones of development in Taiping, the Maxwell Hill Station was the first in Malaya.

The British built bungalows on top of the hill to serve as a sanctuary to escape the blistering heat of the equatorial regions of Malaya, and thus, soon it became a popular holiday spot for the British officials. After Malaya gained independence, Maxwell Hill was not put in the blueprint of development due to several reasons. The first reason is that the roads to the hilltop were hard and impractical to built due to the terrain. Secondly, the emergence of other hill stations had shunned Maxwell Hill to the verge of isolation as well.

Perhaps this is a blessing a disguise, as this move preserved the natural beauty on top of the hill. Bungalows were preserved as they are during the British colonial era. The roads to the hilltop have not changed much since the colonial era. Even the transportation method to the hilltop has not changed either. Everything is just as it is in the past. One can relive history when you walk past the forests found on both sides of the road.

While not having casinos, theme parks and hotels to attract tourists, what does Maxwell Hill possess that gives itself the authentic identity? The answer lies in the preserved flora and fauna found along the trail to the hill top and to the hilltop itself. As the primary transportation is only by jeep, there is very few pollution done to the natural environment here. Also, there are less tourists compared to other hill stations, therefore the scars left by humans are almost nowhere to be seen.

Recent attractions also include the successful cultivation of tulips on the hilltop. Due to the unpolluted environment of Maxwell Hill, botanists have successfully cultivated tulips there.

Nevertheless, Maxwell Hill is also one of the victims of global warming. The temperature on top the hill is reported to be increasing year by year. This may severely disrupt the ecology on top the hill. Despite the fact, Maxwell Hill is a must-visit place. It may not receive publicity like the Grand Canyon, nor like the Amazon forests, but it is certainly on par with these powerhouses in terms of natural beauty.

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