Ever wondered what it is like to go on an adventure in the stillness of the predawn hours? Some 35km from Ipoh lies a hidden gem of unparalleled beauty, a place rich in biodiversity – the rustic town of Malim Nawar, a township once famed for tin mining and premium thermal power.
Shrouded in a blanket of darkness, my friends and I drove into the undulating ex-tin mining area of Kampong Terbing Tinggi. A delicate sliver of moonlight helped us navigate in the darkness.
Following a sandy path which forks into many meandering directions, a resident of Malim Nawar led us into this vast place (never go in without a guide). Bumping along in my “bone-shaker” and with unaccustomed nocturnal vision, I had a hard time evading the many pot holes which riddled the path.
The territorial hooting of owls was heard high above the canopy of trees. On close observation, these birds with eerie glowing round eyes were seen in the hollow of a tree trunk. Rather spooky!
We soon arrived at our destination and it was like entering a whole new world. A pond which mirrored the image of the sky filled with twinkling stars; sand dunes that looked like a desert; and a silhouette of undulating mountains.
Making our way through a maze of sand dunes and craters (caused by excessive sand mining), we managed to find a spot away from the glare of city lights to observe the splendid phenomenon that is the Milky Way.
At the crack of dawn, a familiar sporadic call of the nightjar birds broke the silence. The soft amber glow of the morning light was dancing in the eastern skies and stunning sights kept unfolding before our eyes.
Native birds like the sandpiper, kingfisher, egret and heron as well as a mixed flock of migratory birds were seen. A bird watcher’s paradise; it is known that each year, hundreds of migratory birds make their winter stay here. Do look out for bright yellow weaver birds with their elaborately woven nests.
On scouting around, we came across flat, barren areas with scrubby vegetation. The territorial calls of ground nesting birds were heard and the nestlings of the Savanna nightjar were spotted under some low scrubs. Bearing in mind that fiddling around the breeding habitat is a big no-no, we left our avian friends in the care of Mother Nature.
Bamboo blossoms were also seen on the way out. Huge ponds filled with invasive but resplendent lavender water hyacinth peppered the wetlands too.
With the morning sun scorching down on us and our bellies rumbling, we decided to head for the town centre of Malim Nawar. This rustic and rather peaceful town was once a thriving place when the Malim Nawar Power Station (better known as Perak Hydro) was in full swing during the tin mining era.
The majority of the residents are of Hopo Hakka descent and more than 50 per cent of them go by the surname Chai.
Most of the young have left this town seeking greener pasture elsewhere, so the elderly spend their time either looking after their grandchildren or getting involved in agricultural activities. Come festive occasions, this little town brightens up and is jam-packed with cars.
Fancy eating some gooey green stuff which happens to be a culinary delight of most Hakkas? It’s lui char or “thunder tea rice”. You’ll either love or hate it – and I absolutely enjoyed every morsel of the vegetarian dish. Head to Restaurant Mee Sing (opposite the police station) and tickle your taste buds with this authentic Hakka delicacy.
A Japanese Carbide factory once operated deep in Kampung Tanjung Bangkung (KTB). Armaments for the Japanese were manufactured during WWII, to supply the invading army. All that remains of this factory are two rundown chimneys and the foundation of its administrative building.
Huge blocks of carbide lie at the base of the chimney as a reminder of the past. One of the chimneys still stands tall at an estimated height of 18m while the other has the base to show. This artefact with thick brick walls whispers many untold stories.
Do not leave Malim Nawar empty-handed! On the way out of KTB, one has to pass by a Chinese sundry shop, Chong Trading, in Kampung Baru. Scrumptious traditional home-made Chinese rice crispies, which come in different varieties, are manufactured and sold here.
Made from a concoction of puff rice, salt, nuts, seeds and maltose, just one bite and this tantalising rice crispy can uplift the jaded soul of tired travellers.