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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

TANAH RATA OF 1930, 1960

William Cameron and his team which included one Kulop Riau set from the foothills of the Main Range near Ipoh in1885 to survey and map the highlands. From their camp at summit of Gunung Chabang they could see loftier mountain peaks to the east and for some months they bushwhacked. Cameron reported on locating a plateaux.

He was in feverish state when he came down from the expedition and was sent to Singapore to recuperate in the hospital. He did not recover and died there.

In 1925, after a lapse of 40 years the colonials sent another team headed by  George Maxwell to retrace the plateaux (tanah rata) and open up the area as a hill resort and hence the birth of Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands.

In 1927 tea cuttings and plants were imported from Assam and Darjeeling and first planted at the Department of Agriculture Experiment Station (now MARDI station), Tanah Rata.

View of Tanah Rata town, 1930. Those importations were the origin of plantings at BOH, Bharat, Shum Yip Leong and other tea holdings.

As to the 20 or so original tea types at MARDI, the Head, a man of extreme self-interest mismanaged the station and the tea plots became neglected as to which is which in the 90s. He claimed to have PhD but found not so. No action was taken against him but was let to retire in good stead. The then DG put large tracts of the station into privatized nursery leaving little area for research. He wanted it to be a place for tourist attraction deviating from the main aim for research. He was also a man of maligned self-interest. It is a very sad state that there is nothing much of  research going on up there now.

Tanah Rata, 1960.

Tanah Rata, Merdeka celebration 1957. The Shuparshad stores and tea plantations are thriving, one of the many landmarks in the highlands.

Tanah Rata, 1960s. The BMH (British Military Hospital) now Convent School at top left corner.

The Hotel Eastern (now Century Pines Resort), 1960. This landmark was built during pre-War days by a tin mining magnate from Ipoh. His grandson, a famous chest physician in Ipoh told me. Occasionally I learn to play billiard from Abang Din, a Majlis Daerah driver and part-time driving school instructor in its lobby in 1973.

Tanah Rata was heaven, cool,  exotic and misty then. Five of us were young diploma holders and would walk and laze in town during morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, (and dinner) to the chagrin of Pak Darus, the Farm Manager of MARDI Station.

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