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Update on The Gap.. 2012, Unfortunately a tender given out to the local government project to upgrade and restore The Gap resthouse has stalled and work has not resumed. The resthouse is now in a state of disrepair and much of its fine fittings have been removed. We hope the government will look into repairing the building soon.
At the foot of Fraser's Hill is the Gap - a colonial resthouse and one of the remaining few in Malaysia. A short rest at the Gap Resthouse is a welcomed relief..for those who suffer greatly from motion sickness.. A chance to stretch your legs, take big gulps of fresh air and smaller gulps of coffee at the restaurant does wonders. One of the last remaining Resthouses built during the heydays of good old fashioned, unhurried travelling, the Resthouse is a well preserved relic of colonial architecture.
The reputation of this resthouse in the early years surpassed itself. Henri Fauconnier, a reknown novelist even mentioned the Gap resthouse in his 1930's prize winning novel, 'The Soul of Malaya'. The novel describes its characters as arriving at the Gap one evening for dinner to a display of splendour."A resplendent table had been prepared; all the government crockery and silver with the bull's head crest, the whole stock of bottles arrayed like skittles on the sideboard...cocks, ducks, a suckling pig were laid before us." The extensive menu has sadly now reduced to a limited menu of orders of fried noodles, fried rice and eggs.
on the way to the gap, this almost insignificant plaque indicates the spot where Sir Henry Gurney was gunned down by local communists during his tour of duty.
Bird watchers prefer to walk up the hill in their own time. However, one has to be really careful walking along the road especially round hairpin bends as there are no pedestrian tracks.
One of the main attractions at Fraser's Hill is bird watching. There are a great variety of birds residing in the area and because Fraser's has been gazetted a protected area for a while now, the birds have become more approachable. Quite often birds like the silver-eared mesia would go about happily foraging in a shrub just a few feet from humans. The long-tailed sibia too are extremely common and tend to move in groups of 6 or more, they are often seen hopping across from branch to branch rather than flying. They're curious birds and may come down to investigate the scene. The fire-tufted barbet can be seen picking on the fruits of the palm tree just by the corner of the children's skating rink. This is the place of many memories for many. The childhood memories of 30years ago, whirling round and round what seemed to be an enormous rink then, only returning to the cottage for tea and scones with delicious homemade strawberry jam and rich clotted cream, feeding the ponies and trekking through old jungle trails. On returning, the nostalgia overwhelmed. The place has lost none of its charms. The paddock with ponies for hire are still around, although these ponies don't seem as happy as the ones then. There are public tennis courts now, a bit of paddling is possible on Allan's water- a pond at the edge of the hill, and an archery field is set up to entertain the public. Another private golf course sits some distance away from the village (approx.9km from town) close to the Jeriau Waterfall. A new road has just been completed, cutting through parts of the forest, causing minor landslides in isolated areas. Realising that developing areas along slopes has been the cause of many unfortunate disasters, the government has imposed a moratorium on such developments.
Once a year, visitors from around the world descend upon the village for the Annual International Bird Race. No, it's not a pigeon race, nothing of that sort! It's a race to spot as many bird species as possible within the hill top area in a given time. Sometimes, watching these participating individuals can be rather entertaining and comical. Ever seen birdwatchers hanging out of car windows, trying to spot birds, moving at speeds of 50km/hr? (Speed of 40km/hr is an accepted standard at Fraser's).
At last count, 254 bird species were found on these hills, either having taken up residence or passing through. Although we happened to have arrived, by chance at Fraser's during the Bird race weekend, we were happy just to amble and not get flustered with the idea of a 'race'. Even without participating in the race, we managed to spot numerous varieties seldom seen in the lowlands.
Every road we took, we saw birds. Two streathed spiderhunters were found hovering on a flowering tree opposite the entrance to Ye Olde Smokehouse. A Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush was perched at the entrance to Bishop's trail, one of the many nature trails snaking into and around the residential areas. A white-throated fantail hopped about the bushes close to the Temerloh chalets where we stayed on my first trip back to Fraser's (as we affectionately call this hill station) after a 10year absence. The hexagonal shaped chalets were built as extensions to the existing Temerloh bungalow, originally known as Wray Bungalow. They sit on a slope facing a vast open valley and offer a glorious view.
FHNEC (Fraser's Hill Nature Education Centre) and Nature Trails
The Cottage lies just behind the Surau or Mosque and a small foodcourt
Since the light was fast fading and evening setting in, we were advised to take the Henmant trail, just to the back of the cottage.
Along this short trail lies the remains of a tiny communications centre built by the Japanese Army during the Second World War. The high hills were a strategic location to set up a communications centre . This gave them wide radio coverage of the lowlands below. Under the dense canopy of the forest, it was difficult for the Allies to detect them. About 8m from the little cubby-hole where the centre was, is a small vault where the Japanese soldiers stored important documents, sensitive materials and artillery. At the end of the trail, we reached the 9-hole golf course situated in the middle of the town. Few people actually realise this but the golf course used to be the site of Fraser's old tin mine. This is exactly where the miners bored, shifted, loaded and washed tonnes of sand for tin ore! Just over a hundred years ago. The trail took us some 30minutes to complete. With some energy left to, we signed up for a night trek on the Abu Suradi Trail. A fee of RM5 each for the guided trek seemed reasonable. Little did we know that we were to join some 40 teenagers on a school excursion for the trek. Despite the endless chatter of the school party we did get to hear the Scops Owl calling in the distance. A Japanese couple we met on the same excursion had been in Fraser's for 2 weeks. Having fallen in love with the place on their first visit the previous year,they had come this time for 3 weeks to indulge themselves in bird watching, trekking and just soaking in the atmosphere. FHNEC had been taking good care of them and taking them on trails, identifying weird and wonderful fauna and flora. Take a look at the list of birds found at Fraser's, below.
FHNEC is a good place to start for anyone interested in nature. It is a joint project between the Fraser's Hill Development Corporation and WWF Malaysia (World Wildlife Fund), the office is managed by young and enthusiastic staff members of the WWF education division. They are extremely helpful and can arrange treks for you. Carell, the education officer stationed at the centre can give you a good run down of the place. She can also give you a preview of the education centre at Cameron Highlands. The centre has leaflets to take away with you as guides to the various nature trails around. For more information on the trails especially the much-needed directions to the trails, you can also visit WWF Malaysia at www.wwfmalaysia.org/ There are lots of leeches along the trails so bring a can of 'baygon' to spray your shoes with but if you feel that this is not environmentally friendly then you could always opt for the leech socks which are available at the centre.
PLEASE note that the centre has moved to the golf course building.
Tours for short treks are only conducted for groups of minimum 6 - 10 persons and arrangements must be made with FHNEC in advance.
Opening times for FHNEC is
9.30am - 5.30pm (Wednesday - Sunday )
Closed on Monday, Tuesday and Public Holidays
Tel: +6 09 - 362 2517 for nature walk itinerary and bookings. fax: +6 09 - 362 2716 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more on the birdlist and FHNEC; click to the FHNEC website
crested honey buzzard, black eagle
little cuckoo-dove, imperial pigeon
red-billed malkoha, nightjar
fork tailed swift, little swift
red-headed trogon, great hornbill
fire-tufted barbet, speckled piculet, greater yellow nape
long tailed broadbill, white throated fantail
lesser racket tailed drongo
green magpie, oriental magpie-robin, white tailed robin, black & crimson oriole
large cuckoo-shrike, brown shrike
Malayan whistling thrush, grey-chinned minivet
Little pied flycatcher, rufous-brown flycatcher, grey-headed canary-flycatcher
Barn swallow, pacific swallow, striated (red-rumped) swallow - Yellow-vented bulbul, black & white bulbul, mountain bulbul, ochraceous bulbul
Arctic warbler, chestnut-crowned warbler, eastern-crowned warbler
Chestnut capped laughing thrush, chestnut crowned laughing thrush
pygmy wren babbler, golden babbler, grey-throated babbler
silver eared mesia, white-eared shrike-babbler, black-eared shrike-babbler
blue winged minla, mountain fulvetta, long-tailed sibia
mountain fulvetta, orange-bellied leafbird
sultan tit, tree sparrow
blue-throated sunbird, streaked spiderhunter
click on image below for a larger version of the map
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