This picture was taken as we were walking to the cave where the skeleton of Perak Man was found. It is a short walk from the Lenggong museum, but very “Kampong” and definitely at peace with nature.
The Kapok tree is very special and in the Maya culture, of the pre-Columbian America (2000BC) it was considered to be a sacred symbol. Closer to home, I grew up sleeping on Kapok stuffed pillows and mattresses and had a Kapok stuffed teddy bear. And that was a long time ago and so to me at least seeing the tree provided happy memories and clearly defined the tree as heritage to me.
As I have just returned from a bone-dry part of Africa which is suffering a serious drought, with grazing animals dying from ingesting dust and nothing but dry brown stalks to eat, I thought it would be nice to remember how nice Perak’s countryside was – and despite the damage caused by mining and development – still is.
This tinted photograph dates from around 1900 and shows the Perak River with our limestone hills in the background. An idyllic scene! Now of course, the river no longer reflects the blue sky and some of the hills have been damaged beyond nature’s capacity to repair. But nonetheless we still have one of the most beautiful states in our country and long may that continue. And that it can if you, the man in the street, wants it to. All you have to do is care about our envirinment (our natural heritage) and encourage others to do the same.
You know it makes sense so as Nike says “Just do it”.
While many will argue that this is not heritage that depends a lot on one’s point of view. Here we have the logo brightening up a really dull steel shutter in a heritage building and demonstrating a family’s pride in what they do (books for education), their family name and the country to which they belong. Perhaps we could do with more of such pride in our community, but looking around at the city, pride in our home town and its surrounds is obviously in very short supply.
On the heritage front, this logo represents the family’s heritage – a business built up by hard work over the years, to make a future for themselves, their children and those who follow them. What will you leave behind for those that follow you? Will it be more than your forefathers left you or less?
Well of course it may be more in terms of financial wealth, property ownership and other material things we all crave for, but what about that other heritage – clean rivers, thriving wildlife, untouched hills, pollution-free air to breathe and more? There is no doubt about the answer to that question is there?
But it is not too late because if each one of you got back that pride and did your bit for the community, much (but not all) could be salvaged for future generations. Soon it will be altogether too late!
Think about it!
Mangrove forests are one of the Earth’s most rapidly disappearing ecosystems. These coastal forests, with trees adapted to growing in salty soil and water, protect coastlines from erosion and are a natural barrier to strong coastal storms and tsunamis. The tangled root systems are a nursery for shrimp and many species of fish that go on to live their adult lives in the open ocean, while also acting as a home for many types of birds and often a resting place for migratory flocks.
Close to Kuala Sepetang (formerly known as Port Weld, site of Malaya’s first railway) is the Matang Mangrove Forest, the largest example in West Malaysia, covering some 40,000 hectares. Divided by seven major estuaries and with five small fishing villages inside it, it was designated as a Permanent Forest Reserve in 1906. Intensively managed by the Forestry Department with a 30-year rotation cycle it produces trees for charcoal and construction poles without reducing its effectiveness as a home for wildlife and a natural barrier for the coast, while providing a variety of employment for local people.
One such employment opportunity is a family run charcoal factory located right in the heart of the mangrove forest. This enterprise is run by Mr. Chuah Chow Aun and his younger brother, the second generation of the family which has owned the business since the 1930’s. He has around 80 workers and 100 kilns. Charcoal production here continues in much the same way as it has for almost 80 years with no modern machinery, almost everything being done manually.
The process of producing charcoal has several stages: first the trees are harvested taking only those which are 30 years old or more where they will be replaced with new young trees. Then at high tide they are loaded into small boats and shipped to the factory where they are stripped of their bark by hand. Next they are carried to the kilns, shaped like igloos, which have been prepared for them by the kiln builder who simply uses his experience rather than drawings to complete his task.
Stood on end in the kiln with almost no space between them, the logs are heated by a roaring fire which brings up the inside of the kiln to about 220°C, at which temperature water starts to vaporise from the logs. This stage takes 8 to 10 days, the condition of the logs being judged by the feel of the smoke that comes out of the kiln. When judged the right moment, the kiln is completely shut off and the baking process continues for another 12 to 14 days at a temperature of around 83°C. Then, with the fire no longer burning, the 8 day cooling process is started.
Once the kiln is opened, all the water should be vaporised out of the wood and the charcoal should look shiny black. The still-warm charcoal is carried out of the hot kiln and sorted, bagged by hand or delivered as whole logs. Most of the charcoal from Mr. Chuah’s factory is exported to Japan. The pieces that are not suitable for export are sold locally where it is believed to have healing properties and keep away mosquitoes.
This is a place well worth a visit for one never knows how long these old trades will continue, particularly when, like the charcoal factory, there is no mechanisation, everything being done the hard way, by hand!
A final thought, charcoal was once used instead of toothpaste! Ugh!