In early July, my party of four friends made a long awaited trip up Larut Hills in Taiping. Larut Hills was formerly known as Maxwell Hills. It is not as well known in Malaysia as Cameron Highlands or even Fraser’s Hill.
Taiping is a choice destination for retirees in Malaysia who prefer its ideal, laid back location.
It was developed during the time of British colonial rule as a cool retreat for British civil servants. Taiping is the second biggest town in the state of Perak in Malaysia and it also has the distinction of being the wettest town because it receives the most rainfall in a year.
Taiping is a choice destination for retirees in Malaysia who prefer its ideal, laid back location. It is less than an hour’s drive from Ipoh, the capital of the state. It has a peaceful and tranquil atmosphere and the town is lovingly embraced by the graceful Larut Hills. Taiping also has the most beautiful Lake Gardens in all of Malaysia.
Second Attempt To Ascend
On an earlier trip to Taiping, I had made an effort to go up this lesser known hill but without any success. Although my wife and I went to the government office at the foot of the hill to purchase tickets for the ride up the hill in a Land Rover early that morning, we were informed that all tickets for that day were sold out.
The department in charge of offering the rides only has a few Land Rovers, some capable of sitting four passengers and others capable of sitting six passengers. Each trip up the hill takes about thirty minutes and after about an hour and a half, the return journey is made. The return journey takes about the same time.
Luck Smiles On Us
On this attempt in July, luck was on our side. We managed to get tickets up the hill on the very first ride up at about 9.00 am. The tickets were priced at RM 3.00 one way and this meant that for the return journey we only had to fork out RM 6.00 per person. This is an unusually low fare for what it actually entails. If this service is being offered by a private operator, I am sure that the fare will be much higher.
We set out for the journey with an experienced, friendly and talkative driver who incidentally makes about five trips a day during the peak season. On slow days, he makes about three trips. According to him this is an interesting job without any stress and moreover he gets to meet and interact with both local and foreign tourists.
Drive On The Wild Side
The drive up the very narrow and steep road to the hill was an unforgettable and enjoyable experience. Do remember that this narrow trail… not really a road was first constructed more than one hundred and fifty years ago!
The brochure advertising the drive up the hill stated that there are 78 curves to navigate and that 72 of these were sharp curves!
It remains basically the same and looks very rugged and challenging to navigate. Only government Land Rovers and four wheel drive vehicles are permitted up the hill. No one can simply drive up the hill. He has to take a drive up on a Land Rover operated by that government department.
72 Sharp Curves To Negotiate
The Land Rover we had was an old but powerful one which was able to meet the challenge of going up the steep gradient with relative ease. The drive, however, was a different story because we could feel all the bumps and jolts. The brochure advertising the drive up the hill stated that there are 78 curves to navigate and that 72 of these were sharp curves!
Along the way, we often came perilously close, sometime just inches, to rock outcrops as the Land Rover made its way up the muddy trail. If one cared to look out, he could easily see that there are occasionally also steep ravines to one side. It all made for one heck of a pulsating adventure, drive wise. I could see that my knuckles were turning white from the effort to hold on to the side of the door while the vehicle made its way up.
The Summit and its Surrounds
Just as it had been advertised, we arrived at the summit in about 30 minutes. There are about five bungalows on the hill, all of which I was told could be rented. We were also shown a big bungalow that was used by royals when they went up the hill in the past.
We also noticed a small café at the summit but discovered that it had ceased operations some time ago. This would have been a nice place to relax, take in the sights and have tea and scones or even a light meal.
The view of Taiping way down below was simply breathtaking. It was also much cooler and simply lovely to walk about in such a climate and lucky for us, it did not rain on that morning. We had also brought along some mineral water and biscuits but it would have been nice to have had a place to go for drinks and some bites.
There are also toilet facilities at the summit for both men and women. These were relatively clean. In the women’s toilet, however, I was informed that the lights were not working and the place was dark.
Some Suggestions For Improvement
- Safety Of Passengers: I would like to suggest that it be a mandatory requirement for all passengers in the Land Rover to use seat belts, including the driver. I cannot remember if the Land Rover was fitted with seat belts. I found it strange that the driver said there was no need for seat belts. Passenger safety, especially for such ‘ extreme drives ‘ must be given paramount consideration.
- Toilets Need To Be Regularly Maintained: The public toilets need to be cleaned and maintained at regular intervals. If there is a need to impose a small fee, by all means do so.
- Overhead Safety Straps: There is also a need for the Land Rover to be equipped with overhead safety straps, especially for those in the back of the vehicle. It will be very helpful for passengers to hold on to these for support during the rough drive. Otherwise, there is a real possibility of being thrown out during one of the sharp turns!
- A Café Is Needed: A café or two is needed on the summit. Passengers need to get a warm drink and maybe a bite or two. There should also be provision for light lunch. And maybe provision also for Afternoon English Tea.
- Bring a Picnic Basket: As there is no café or restaurant on the hill at present, it will be a good idea to bring along a picnic basket. Pack some delicious sandwiches, hot dogs, curry puffs, nonya cakes and maybe some packets of nasi lemak. Alternatively, you can also bring along some hot chicken curry and string hoppers or fried noodles. Do remember to bring along some hot and cold drinks too. There are some park benches around … not many though.
These are just some suggestions so that all Malaysians and tourists who make the trip up Larut Hills get to fully enjoy the hill, the fabulous view and the facilities.
Larut Hills has a lot of potential and it is hoped that in the not too distant future, it can be further developed and made more attractive.