Dec 30, 2007

Gua Musang - a vibrant border town

Vibrant border town
Sunday December 30, 2007

The old town of Gua Musang seems like most other small towns in Malaysia, but there is more to it than meets the eye. This little town is full of history and stories, and locals were more than happy to share them with us.

It stands on the border between Pahang and Kelantan, and was once one of the most remote towns in the country.

According to Abdul Wahab Matdiah who grew up Gua Musang, the British was first attracted to the area because of the gold deposits in Pulai. They started mining the gold, and constructed the railway lines that connected Gua Musang to other parts of the country. The railway station later became the heart of town.
Discovering the town ... The BRATs speaking to a shopkeeper at the Gua Musang market.

Discovering the town ... The BRATs speaking to a shopkeeper at the Gua Musang market.

The 62-year-old veteran soldier joined the army because he was inspired by the bravery of the locals who fought against the Japanese during the second World War.

“I was only a teenager then, but I still remember how the locals fought against oppression during the Japanese occupation.

Many locals who died defending their own land were buried under two trees located in the old town area,” recounts Abdul Wahab.

Gua Musang’s Chinese Business Association president Lee Rong Xin also has bitter memories of the Japanese occupation.

“The Japanese set fire on the shoplots to retaliate against the locals who were against them. The shopkeepers were the main supplier of food in this area, and the Japanese wanted to disrupt the food supply.

Some of the participants braving the rain to get their assignments.
Some of the participants braving the rain to get their assignments.

We all fled to Kampung Tiung, which is across the river behind the shoplots,” recalls Lee at his shop on the town’s main road.

Lee says that the Chinese were first brought in by the British in the 19th |century as labourers to develop the area.

The introduction of the Felda scheme in the 1970s brought an influx of settlers from different parts of the country.

Before independence, the only transportation link to the town was by train. It was then one of the most inaccessible towns in Malaysia.

However, the town’s people pooled together their resources to develop the area. Now the town is a busting centre of activities.

As the population grew, the roads were paved to make the town more accessible.

Cars, motorcycles and lorries drive through the town to the nearby areas.

There are two parts of the town. The old town, with its two rows of shophouses on the main road, remains the commercial hub where people come to do their shopping and banking.

There are many shops selling provisions, farm equipment, and junk food in bulk.

There are coffee shops where locals congregate to exchange gossips and news, and a popular Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet. At the end of the main road is the railway station, with limestone hills looming majestically behind it.

Gua Musang has expanded beyond the old town. There are many rows of new shoplots and sprawling government buildings on both sides of the road leading to the old town.

There is a new market in Gua Musang, where there are many stalls selling Kelantanese food such as laksam, nasi berlauk and akok.

These days, there is a good network of roads and highways that link Gua Musang to Koto Bharu, Cameron Highlands and other parts of the country.

Residents like Abdul Wahab are happy to live in Gua Musang.

“The community is very close-knit and peaceful,” says Abdul Wahab.

Although he is glad there has been development in Gua Musang, the retiree is also concerned about some of the side effects such as noise and pollution.

“A lot of the children are getting ill more often,” says Abdul Wahab who does not want to see his beloved hometown become as busy as the urban jungle. -- The Star Lifestyle


This is one place where I would love to conduct my honeymoon vacation. Though am yet to ask my wife whether she would prefer this as one of the ideal destinations but for me these are very nostalgic places. Whatever may the other people suggest my heart would always want to be here.

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