Unsightly historical buildings turning off history buffs to wonders of Taiping Heritage Trail

Heritage lovers are calling on the authorities in Taiping to quickly restore historical structures along its heritage trail.

As visitors continue to flow into the historical Perak town following the relaxation of Malaysia’s borders on April 1, Taiping Heritage Society president Yeap Thean Eng said the current state of the old buildings along the main roads leaves a lot to be desired.

“We have a heritage trail and it passes through several historical buildings, including the Taiping Rest House, which is the nation’s first rest house, built in 1894. But it’s in a dilapidated condition and the area has been cordoned off. So too, are several other historical buildings,” said Yeap.

The facade of an old shophouse along Jalan Stesen. Image by Twentytwo13

“There is a need to re-route the trail until the authorities fix, or restore these buildings. They are an eyesore and visitors will wonder if this is how we treat our historical buildings.”

The Taiping Heritage Trail passes through 40 historical sites, namely the Raintree Walk at the Taiping Lake Gardens, Peace Hotel, Peking Hotel, Perak Museum, The New Club, Taiping post office, and the railway station – with most of them being the nation’s first.

Several buildings along this route, some belonging to the government, while others are privately owned, have been overrun by trees, plants, vegetation, and foliage. Even structures that belong to the Prisons Department, including the old Sports Club, located opposite the Taiping Prison, are in a sorry state.

The sorry sight of the Taiping Prisons Department Sports Club. Image by Twentytwo13

Yeap highlighted that funding could be an issue, and there were talks of a legal tussle between the local authorities and those who were supposed to breathe new life into the place, but had failed to do so.

“We were told of plans to lease the old buildings out to a third party who would restore, and later commercialise them. But we don’t know where this stands at the moment. The fact remains, the abandoned buildings will turn off visitors who want to know more about the history of the buildings and their architecture.”

Yeap also said that the 4×4 services ferrying visitors to the rest house on Maxwell Hill, have also stopped.

“People can only walk up now. It’s about a three-hour walk to the rest house area, and it’s not for everyone.

“In fact, prior to the 4×4 services being stopped, ticket sales were done manually, instead of online. It should be digitalised to allow people to plan their itinerary ahead and for payment to be made in advance.”

Yeap stressed that his society works closely with the Taiping Municipal Council and state Tourism Department, among others, to help preserve and promote Taiping’s heritage.

“We’ve enjoyed a cordial relationship with them, and we’ve seen pockets of successes like getting the Taiping Heritage Trail going, and the (on-going) restoration (works) of the nation’s first market building (built in 1884). But I admit, more should be done.

“We plan to initiate a food-cum-heritage trail. There are many foodies these days and we have plenty of dishes that are exclusive to Taiping, as in the way they are made, like the popiah and fried kuey teow with fish balls.

“Even the seafood porridge that originated from Port Weld (Kuala Sepetang) is another dish exclusive to those who visit us here. We will find ways to incorporate eating while exploring Taiping,” he added.