Monday, November 4, 2013

Kuala Kubu Baru: The fort that attracts nature lovers

The clock tower built by the British in Kuala Kubu Baru to commemorate King George VI’s inauguration.
TRANQUIL: Laid-back Kuala Kubu Baru saw action in its heyday, when it was a tin mining town. The sleepy town, which sits at the foothills of the popular resort of Fraser's Hill, is now making a name for itself in the region and throughout the world for its nature-based activities, writes Shanti Gunaratnam

KUALA Kubu Baru,  some 70km from Kuala Lumpur, is a small town that gained notoriety  when British High Commissioner Sir Henry Gurney was assassinated there  by  communists in 1951.

His Rolls-Royce was attacked by Malayan Communist Party guerillas during an ambush as his convoy was travelling to Fraser's Hill for a meeting. The other members of his convoy, including his wife, Lady Isabel, were spared.

"The communists shot Sir Henry Gurney when he stepped out of the car after they had ambushed him," said retired soldier Mohd Shukor Kamis, 75.

"We were children when the assassination happened and used to hear our parents, friends and relatives talk about it.

"Even after I joined the army, my senior officers talked about the incident."

Shukor said although he was born in Kuala Kubu Baru, he had travelled the entire length and breadth of the country serving as a soldier and, upon retirement, decided to come back to the small town of cobbled stones and colonial buildings because it "is where home is".

All of his seven children have also decided to work and live in Kuala Kubu Baru.

"They like it here and it is a good place to stay because of the cool weather, affordable living and low crime rate."

Shukor said when he first moved to Kuala Kubu Baru, the town had only one or two housing estates. Today, it has 18. The whole town was surrounded by jungle and greenery. There was not much activity at night, with many parts of the town left deserted after 6pm or 7pm.

"Even now, the town is quiet after about 9pm. During the festive seasons or school holidays, we see more traffic in Kuala Kubu Baru because people make their way up to Fraser's Hill."

Another long-time resident, Raja Abdul Karim Raja Abdul Aziz, 73, who came to the town as a teacher, said it never made its name for anything else other than its tin mines and the Selangor civil war.

"In those days, people lived by the river and all tin mining activities were along the rivers. Tin ore was also transported by river on bamboo rafts.

"Once the ore and bamboo were sold in Kuala Selangor, the sellers would walk back to Kuala Kubu Baru. Some of the rivers no longer exist because the town experienced two major floods: one in 1883 and the other in 1926. Actually, the old town of Kuala Kubu Baru was buried in the 1883 flood and the new town was built on top of that by the British."

In the 1883 flood, which occurred when a downpour caused the Kuala Kubu dam to burst, 33 people were killed, along with the then district officer Sir Cecil Ranking.

Raja Abdul Karim said in the 1980s, a big bridge over one of the rivers that was buried during the 1883 flood was dug up during mining activities. However, the contractor working on the project had to quickly bury the bridge again because the ground beneath started to give way.

Kuala Kubu Baru and other nearby areas, including Rasah and Kelumpang, are still flood-prone areas.

"Kuala Kubu Baru got its name from the Selangor civil war between Raja Mahadi and Tengku Kudin. At that time, the town was turned into a fort. 'Kubu' means fort in English. One quarter of Fraser's Hill also belongs to Kuala Kubu Baru, while the rest belongs to the Pahang state government. Besides tin ore, Kuala Kubu Baru also had some gold in the Pertak and Raub rivers."

Majlis Daerah Hulu Selangor president Tukiman Mail said Kuala Kubu Baru was probably the only town in Malaysia still surrounded by 62 per cent of virgin forest, making it a nature lover's haven.

The town has now made a name for itself among nature enthusiasts because of its many rivers, waterfalls and hot springs, as well as the opportunities it offers for jungle trekking and bird-watching.

"Kuala Kubu Baru has about 10 major waterfalls and between 20 and 30 smaller ones. We also have about 10 hot springs."

Since the town is flanked by hills and mountains, it also sees some 200 species of migratory birds stopping there annually.

"Bird-watchers from all over the world come to Kuala Kubu Baru to see some of the rare and exotic species of birds that stop here on their way to the Southern Hemisphere or Northern Hemisphere. We have a lot of packages for tourists because Kuala Kubu Baru has a lot to offer in terms of nature."

*Taken from NST Online

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