This municipality is an underappreciated gem of a place for healthy living
One of the largest states in Peninsula Malaysia is Pahang. Kuantan is its capital city and Pekan is its royal town. However, the municipality of Bentong, in Western Pahang is well worth a visit. This town has a population of around 114,500 residents ( 2010 ) and is only a mere 80 kilometres or so from Petaling Jaya. It takes just an hour and half to drive to Bentong from Petaling Jaya in a very leisurely manner and on a Saturday morning.
Why Bother to Visit Bentong?
There are many reasons to visit Bentong.
- Some Malaysians claim that Bentong grows the finest ( and most potent ) ginger in Malaysia. I believe this claim is correct. You can buy ginger from other places in and out of Malaysia but none can match that of Bentong’s. It is also more costly because it much sought after.
- Jimmy’s Durian Orchard is the most famous durian place in all of Bentong. It is well worth a visit for Musang King durian lovers.
- Bentong is close to the Main Range of mountains in Malaysia … nearby is the famous Berjaya Hills and its resorts for the well heeled as well as the world famous Genting Highlands. The GH and its many resorts / hotels and casinos do cater for different categories of customers. Also relatively nearby is Fraser’s Hill.
Fresh Air Lung Washing Destination
A few years ago, Bentong became the first Fresh Air Lung Washing destination in the country. This is purely because of its excellent location and its proximity to the mountains. This confluence results in some of the freshest air in the country compared to heavily polluted cities like Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya, George Town and Johor Baru in the country.
As you leave the superhighway and enter Bentong, now a municipality, you notice almost immediately a huge, elegant and well designed signage against a refreshing green background across the river proclaiming for all to see in clear white the words BENTONG.
This is a good introduction to the municipality. It is also relatively easy to drive around and finding a parking space is a breeze. There is absolutely no inconsiderate double parking in Bentong which is a deadly and inconvenient curse in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya.
Spectacular Chamang Waterfall
We took a chance to visit yet another waterfall or so we thought. But we were most pleasantly surprised to find this gem of a waterfall hidden away amongst the beautiful, rustic countryside outside of Bentong.
It was only about a half hour’s drive from Bentong with clear signs pointing the way, all the way. Congrats to the municipal authorities for this clear direction to the site.
Our drive to the place passed very rural settings with pristine jungles on both sides of the well maintained federal roads. We also passed signs indicating Orang Asli settlements along the way.
We soon came to a fork on the road leading to a guard post manned by two young men. We had to pay a small entrance fee plus a parking fee ( there are two designated parking lots at the waterfall ) amounting to a grand total of RM9.00.
The Awe Inspiring Spectacle of a Waterfall
After we had parked our car, we were greeted by the splendid and awe inspiring sight of Chamang Waterfall. And what an imposing and spectacular sight it is.
At the very top of the waterfall, we could see a huge amount of water being pushed forward by nature with an accompanying roar to the rocks way below. From the rocks below, the water cascades gently down to the stream at the bottom.
Here we noticed small children with their parents in tow playing around in the water. There were also individuals, young and old alike who walked down the steps to the stream below. But I should add that this presents some risks and there are signs around warning that there could be sudden gushes of water etc. I also noticed at least one crude BBQ stand and I am assuming that there are others too in the vicinity.
A Few Facilities at the Site
At the entrance where the second car park is located, we noticed a few recently built buildings. One is proudly stated to be a Public Relations building. But it was closed on probably the busiest day of the week – Saturday. Go figure the wisdom of that decision. Next to it are cubicles for showers and close by are toilets for both men and women. Both the shower cubicles and the toilets could do with better management and upkeep.
A Café Will Be a Good Idea
My wife and I stayed around for about 45 minutes before we decided to move on. Had there been a small café selling hot and cold drinks and snacks at the site, we might have stayed for a longer visit to better enjoy the spectacle of a wonderful waterfall.
We remember visiting an almost similar site once in a place not far from picturesque Dubronik, in Croatia. There a small but fast flowing river with icy waters from a nearby mountain ran beside a lovely café where we had stopped for a while to gaze at this natural wonder. As we sat in this café, we were served glasses of red or white wine and also tiny Croatian ham sandwiches. That allowed us to enjoy the moment to its maximum.
It may be a good idea also to build a small motel / hotel in the vicinity to attract more visitors.
Nothing to Shout About at Bentong Walk
This Bentong Walk only materialises every Saturday from 5.00 to 10 pm. It is an initiative by the local business people to attract visitors from the surrounding areas to this BW right in the centre of the town.
While the initiative is laudable, it lacked the energy, variety and oomph to make it a real attraction. We went to the BW at about 6.00 pm and spent more than an hour walking about the place and trying to find some unusual stalls. No such luck.
The BW is more like a Pasar Malam ( Night Market ). Two whole streets were closed to vehicular traffic. There are numerous stalls manned by men and women and their families. Items on sale at BW included footwear, children’s clothes, jeans, shorts and curio items.
There are also a number of stalls selling soft drinks and local dishes. We had a young coconut water drink which was delicious for that humid evening and then we also tried some local carrot cake. Although the carrot cake was wok fried by a Bangladeshi under the supervision of his Chinese employer, it lacked salt and that truly authentic taste.
However, I must commend the local people for coming up with this weekly happening. I am sure that over time, it will get to be better and more interesting.
Outdoor Activities for the Young, the Bold & the Brave
For those who are into rugged and thrilling outdoor activities, there are certainly enough of these in and around Bentong.
- Sailing down the river in a rubber tyre / tube is an activity that is organised for visitors;
- For those who are into archery, this too can be experienced at Bilut Extreme Park;
- For the ultimate thrill seekers, the Bilut Extreme Park has a large area to enjoy a fun and unique ride in an ATV ( all terrain vehicle ). In doing so, one can also appreciate the natural wonderland of untamed rain forest in Pahang. We had expressed some interest in this activity but were advised against it ( because of our age !) by the operators of the park.
Kechara Forest Retreat
While on our drive to Chamang Waterfall and as we passed the rural settings, we came around a bend in the road and by chance happened to see a modern gate post and chapel right smack in the countryside. We were intrigued.
So on our return journey past that place, we decided to investigate further. We stopped by the guard post and spoke to the Nepali guard on duty. He told us that this is a Buddhist place for meditation and retreats. We asked him if we could take a look at the place. He telephoned the management of the centre and they readily obliged us.
Courtesy and Kindness in Action
We drove in and soon met the man who was going to show us around. How very gracious of these people because we had made no appointment to see the place. They nevertheless were willing to give us a 30 minute tour and explanation of the place.
According to Pastor Lim, who will soon be ordained a Buddhist monk, the whole place for meditation and retreat was established about five years ago ( 2014 ) and covers over thirty five acres. It was built with the funds provided by generous donors, many of whom feel a deep love for the noble cause.
Peace and Serenity at the Retreat
As drove up the hilly gradient to meet the pastor, we were amazed by the well kept, skilfully landscaped and beautiful gardens. The whole place with the lush greenery exuded a sense of peace and serenity.
Pastor Lim explained to us that there are a number of branches in Buddhism and then gave us a quick explanation of the Meditation Hall – a truly impressive and conducive place for deep meditation.
Nearby, is a small building meant to serve as accommodation for about twenty attendees. The Resident Abbot / Monk at this peaceful oasis, Kechara Forest Retreat is His Eminence the 25th Tsem Rinpoche.
The leaders of Kechara have found and secured, with divine guidance I am guessing, an ideal and conducive place for a retreat and meditation centre. The fact that it is nicely tucked away in a lush forest area somehow exudes an air of peace, quiet and tranquillity.
In an often busy and chaotic world with so many demands on our time, it is refreshing to go to a place like this, once in a while, to renew oneself and get re-charged for life’s continuing challenges.
This was yet another satisfying road trip to discover, marvel and enjoy more of peninsula Malaysia and what the country has to offer.