Here’s a little nostalgia from IpohBornKid, about a trip to the famous Kledang Hills. Happy reading 🙂
A Nostalgic Climb up The Kledang Hill circa 1950s.
Dear Ipoh and Menglembu Old Timers
Everyone has heard of Cameron Highlands (off Tapah), Frazer Hill (Off Taiping) and later on Genting Highlands but not many have heard of the humble Kledang Hill. Menglembu (Chinese name is Man Li Mong) meaning thousand li view, is a quiet little town surrounding by tin mines and its locality is at the foot of Kledang Hill. Although it is mainly limestone hills in the Kinta Valley, Menglembu seems to have some hills full of granite which was frequently quarried. Surrounding Menglembu town were 4 residential areas called “North, South, East and West Regrouping Areas. Their geographical arrangements seem to following the emergency procedures.
Jalan Kledang, previously known as Pike Street, runs into the hillside, first passing through the old cemetery, the Sikh Diary Farmers (the man with the Bullock Cart – there is another story here) and into the mining pools.
The road to the top of one of the peaks (probably 1,000 ft) existed but was later sealed when a radio transmitter was erected on top of the hill. The communication centre was guarded by soldiers and probably had a strategic military use. If I remember correctly it would take a couple of hours to hike up to the top of the transmitter station.
In the beginning only land rovers (or other 4 wheel drive vehicles) are allowed up the hill and most of them were PWD, Police or Military vehicles. Beginning at the bottom, the road cuts into the hillside in a zigzag manner. Sharp and steep corners were common as you drove up the hill. At a third of the way up, you would have reached the “First Waterfall” (left of the main hill). Another third up the road, you would have reached the second waterfall. As you climb further you would reach the peak where the radio transmitter was located. The area is normally fenced in and guarded.
There were two ways to ascend to the main hill. One was by road and the other, a steep climb directly on the main hill. There were man made steps on the face of the hill which indicated that the first team of workers to ascend the hill made those cuttings. They have to get the electricity up the hill. I have personally climbed this part of the hill and it is a bit dangerous.
Early in the 1950s, people in Menglembu began to trek up the hill when the road was sealed. At one time, it became very popular and picnics were organized by local residents (mostly school kids). I remembered clearly that we ascended to the top of the hill was not permitted to enter the transmitter buildings. Through the intercession of a well know Menglembu politician (Sailing Boat Party, probably MCA) Mr Yap Yin Fah, we were allow to use the premises. The roof top was tarred and most of us had learned how to dance, cha cha and the works; so we went up the roof and started dancing. We would descend at about 3.00pm and reached town by 5:00 pm. As an outing, it was fun and cheap. One photographed showed us walking on the tar sealed road, another with the Menglembu beauties (langloi) and a group p picture at the base of the transmitting antenna tower,
When the fad died down, many started to drive up to Kledang Hill in their own cars. My uncle was an enthusiast and he drove his Austin Mini up the hill and back. Going up is no problem but coming down is hard on the brakes. It is not unusual to stop the vehicle and let the brake pads cool otherwise the brakes would overhead and you lose your brakes. The only thing left to do was to crash on the hill face and not the off side which send you down hundred of feet to your demise. Also, never pour water into the brake assemble or you might crack the brake drum. Anyway, after a few trips you need to change your brake pads and have the drum sheared. Before I forget, if you have a lousy radiator that leaks, you will be asking for trouble as the engine will start boiling. Fortunately there was always ample supply of cool water. We had the same experience when we pushed our bicycles up the hill and free wheel downhill. What a stupid thrill!
Another interest event that took place was racing car up to the first waterfall. In the old days, some bright spark started the sport of racing cars to the first waterfall and it became popular for a while. For safety reasons, each car accelerates toward its destination and was timed. The shortest time won the race.
There is another route up to the first waterfall. To get there, you have to follow the stream to its source. After reaching the foot of the hill, there is a precipice, a drop about 10-15 feet. After you have ascended this rock face, you move up the slippery rock surface. If you had slipped and fell, you would have severely injured yourself or worst, got killed. I had an experience on my descent on those rocks. I slipped and slid down the rock surface. I was very lucky that my friend Chow Kai Sek (an ACS old salt) was on guard near the drop. He lodged himself with a tree branch hanging across the rock surface and grapped me. If he had missed me, I would not be writing this story.
You can say that there were a lot of fun loving days that could get one killed. I also remembered about my trip to the foot of Kledang Hill with 2 other ACS boys. Two were my senior and we all rode in one Honda Cup. Coming downhill on the flat, we swerved off the road and continued along the grass patch. We did not manage to cross the stream running across us. The motorbike went up and we went down. We all fell in the water. Of course, one was Kai Sak and the other was the son of a saw mill owner near Falim.
We also used to play Russian roulette. On top of the Bukit Merah entrance, we would signal the bike rider up the top that the main road is clear of traffic. On a given signal, the rider took off from the top, down the steep slope and cross the main road. Lucky for us there were no speeding car on the road…
Why go to Kinta Swimming pools when you have mining pools all over Menglembu. I used to swim a lot in mining pools. Adults often told us horror stories about drowning accidents in mining pools. How many managed to dive into rocks and swam under a submerged rock hole and ended up drowned. Those stories did not deter us one bit… I guess we were lucky to be alive after all the dangerous activities we did without our parents’ knowledge. I used to get caned if there were tell tales signs of having swum in a mining pool. If they scratch your skin and a white powdery line comes up, it was a sign that you were in the water for some time. Always take a bath at home immediately after swimming in a mining pool.
The only horror I have encounter in mining pool was to see a black snake competing with me to get on the edge of the pool. Whew, that was close. My second encounter with the black snake was riding my bicycle from the foot hills to town. Traveling quite fast, my front wheel was about to run across the snake crossing the road. Luckily, I was skilled in jumping off the bicycle (hours of training for this event). Before my bicycle hit the snake, I jumped off the saddle and the bicycled collided with the snake. After 10 minutes I recovered my breadth and started to retrieve my bicycle. The snake was killed when it lodge is body in the spikes of the bicycle. I used a long stick to remove the snake and when I went home, I was still shaking from fright
Later on in the 1970s, I heard that not many people want to walk up the hill. People would only walk up to the foothill as a form of exercise only.
When you live in Ipoh town, you do not have open space to play with. But in Menglembu, the play ground is open space full of mining pools, snakes, and good fishing spots.
As an aside, I fondly remember the Sikh family living near the cemetery. They were diary farmers and they sell fresh milk. Ever try to jump up to a bullock cart and get a free ride without the driver swearing at you in Punjabi. Most of the family members speak Cantonese and one of their famous sons was an ASP in Singapore.
I write this story before people forget that Kledang Hill was once a great playground for its residents.