Anyway Taiping as a whole is one town trapped in the past, like many of her former inhabitants. For some reasons, this is one town that time had forgotten. It used to be said of Malacca; but that is no longer true.
In some ways I feel sad for Taiping; in many ways I am elated. I can go back to my home town and I can really go back in time when I was in primary school. Nothing has changed, albeit the traffic being a bit more heavier than what it used to be.
There is one particular icon of Taiping that had not changed at all since the 70s. And it is captured in this pictorial blog in tribute for the first ever railway station in Malaysia.
Welcome to Taiping - this is what would greet weary travellers when the train reached Taiping station. Being the oldest station in Malaysia, one would thought that the building is a bit more of an architectural wonder like its counterpart in Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh. However the building is a bit nondscript and dilapidated and nothing has changed since I was kid in the early 70s.
This is the station we embarked at when MRSM KB decided to transport her students using the train (instead of the bus) at one time. This is the station we would embark everytime we head to KL for our school hols. The beauty was that if one were to embark at Taiping enroute South, one would pass a couple of tunnels at Bukit Berapit, and no one would not want to miss the unlighted tunnel experience.
The tunnels were built by the Brit in 1893 and completed in 1905 [Wikipedia].
All of the sudden, the day would become a very dark night, with the coach lighted up by dim and yellowish lampu mentol. One would not be able to the the sunlight at the other end of the tunnel at all. It was fun for us kid, when those were the only tunnels in the country then. No Genting Sempah tunnels, no Menora tunnel, no Smart Tunnel - then in existence in Malaysia were the Bukit Berapit tunnels and they are as Taiping as the Maxwell Hill.
I guess Taiping station is a workhorse station for the British and Malayan economy, hence the bare station architecture. Eventhough the Taiping-POrt Weld route was completed in 1885, this station definitely was not built in 1885, as the original site was said to be where my primary school King Edward VII-1 is now located.
This magazine and bookshop has been around since time immemorial, if I may exaggerate a bit. It has the best collection of comics anywhere in Taiping for sure - not even bookstores like Perak Bookstore at the Main Road can beat the collection here. We would come here for our doses of Beano and Dandy for sure. Do you all still remember those comics?
The pic of the right is the station master's office. No change here either.
Aaah, if someone told me that these pics were taken in 1975, I would believe them. But these were taken in 2007. This is the view of the station with the station master posing for the pic; we are facing North and the Banjaran Bintang on the left. In the background, one could see a flyover which will take you to the two notable suburbs of Taiping - Aulong and Assam Kumbang, and of course to the infamous Kamunting (where many ISA detainees are being held).
Prior to having this flyover, the traffic was notorious as Taiping was divided into two by the line. Flyover was promised even when I was in primary school in the early 70s. Even shunting trains (which would happened a few times a day) would cause massive traffic jams; with Lim Kheng Yek many times promising to solve it with a flyover. But I guess with Taiping being a sleepy hollow, that promise was broken many times over, over many elections. In the end, it was completed - but I forgot which year (sometimes in the 80s).
The pic on the right is another view of the railway yard, this time facing south on the right - including towards Port Weld.
I used to cycle back to Aulong riding along the Taiping-Port Weld (now Kuala Sepetang) line. It was a shortcut for us kids then; and it was pretty safe. I don't believe the line is still existence; I am sure it was dismantled for its scrap metals.
The same old mechanical shunter at Taiping Railway Station
For more pics on Taiping Railway station, please go here. Honestly I feel many of Malaysian train stations are trapped in time. To many while some of them are architectural wonder (KL station, Ipoh, KTM HQ etc), many are in dilapidated states, and it is a shame. The KL station and the KTM HQ, to me, are what made Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur (along with Sultan Abdul Samad building).
Taiping Station - A response to the response
You have opened up a can of worm, Aya. No, make it the Pandorra box.
You see, a friend of mine commented on my story on Taiping station. Actually it was not much of a story, since my memory is fast fading. It is more of a pictorial blog than anything else. You know - take some pics, write some comments, and paste it in here. Easy daisy. No thinking required.
But she gave me the real reasons why Taiping station is an icon to Taipingites, despite the fact that the nondescript building has been in dilapidated condition since time immemorial.
It was the social and economic reasons that make it so important.
Yes, the mee rebus there was great. For the uninitiated, Taiping is the place for mee rebus - you know the noodles with the sweet potato gravy. Taiping station, Assam Kumbang and of course Cashier Market were the place to get this special noodles. You would need to queue then to get your quota, especially at the first two places.
Years ago, a couple of months after my arrival in Kerteh, after being back in Taiping (and working there) for two years, I was craving for mee rebus. So during one weekend, we head to Cukai Kemaman, and at a restaurant (it still exists), I saw a menu that says just that - Mee rebus. Great, I thought. Hope this is a good as Taiping's. But I was given a watery nooodle - it was basically mee sop. Don't they know the difference?
(Ni nak kena komplen kat Shema!)
No chance for the sweet potato gravy in the land of keropok leko.
You know Aya, the Taiping-Port Weld railway track was our playing ground too and just like you, we had our fun on the railway track. I didn't know your grandma's house was nearby. I am sure we would have cycled passed by it as the track was our favourite and fastest way to get to town. This track would pass by Aulong; and our house, and that of our maternal grandparents while not fronting this track, unlike your grandma's, were within walking distance to this historic track.
I am not sure if there was ever any train plying this route during the 70s. May be there was. I do remember doing what you did with the caps and even coins. Of course they were all flatten by the sheer weight of the train, and we kids would 'wow' at the flatten caps and very thin coins. I am sure Twiggy would have been proud!
And we didn't go any further than that of course - we were good kids then!
I also think you have been reading too much of the Famous Five (Enid Blyton) to be listening for oncoming train on the track itself. Hahaha and I must have been reading the The Three Investigators (Alfred Hitchcock) too much too, for I had done what you did on the track; pretending I was Jupiter Jones investigating a runaway train case. Don't you think it would be much easier to be calling the train master for a schedule?
From the description of your activities then, you must be George (and not Anne), right?
Yeah, to us I guess, the Taiping-Port Weld railway track is not merely pieces of metal long gone in the history of Malaya and Malaysia, that is not worth more than just a passing remark in history books. It is part of my childhood, and it will remain a part of me.
I am sure it is for you too, Aya.
For the record, I would paste Aya's comment here for ease of referencing. Thanks for being my loyal reader and commentator since day 1.
"Loved ur taiping stn write up. Tak sempat nak comment before. The tpg-port weld line used to run right in front of my grandparents' hse in kg boyan (till early 70s). My earliest memories were of the old railway track. Used to put my ears on it to listen for oncoming trains & leave bottle caps & pebbles on it to see what happens to them after the trains pass over them.And may i add the food stalls across fm the stn.. u can't get mee rebus mamak like that around here!:) "
See Aya, you are a better story teller than me and you should be putting this and more in your blog!
Everybody has a story to tell.