Saturday, July 17, 2010

Gua Musang(話望生), Kelantan

Map of Gua Musang

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Gua Musang(話望生) is a town in Kelantan state. It is a timber town, with timber loging and sawn milling as their main activities. Other than timber related business, agriculture is also dominant there, now eco-tourism seems to start there. I have been to Gua Musang a few times, at that time Fully Inn has not yet constructed. The land at Gua Musang new town has already having some occupation, but still not completely occupied. There was some housing development outside the town. It must be in late 90s. The Simpang Pulai - Cameron Highland -Gua Musang road is not yet constructed. The only way to Gua Musang is from Kota Bharu- Kuala Krai way. From Kuala Lipis train is the popular transport. Kuala Lipis - Padang Tunku-Gua Musang road is long and winding, normally travel by timber lorries. I have traveled from both ways, Kuala Lipis and Kota Bahru, even try train from Kuala Lipis to Gua Musang, and Gua Musang to Pasir Mas. I love the train, they called it Jungle Train now.

Gua Musang is not only the name of the town, it is also the largest district in Kelantan. Gua Musang is administered by the Gua Musang District Council. Gua Musang district is bordered by the state of Pahang to the south, Terengganu to the east, Perak to the west and the Kelantanese districts of Kuala Krai and Jeli to the north. It is a small railway town about 160 kilometers south of Kuala Krai. The town lies on the railway line from Gemas to Kota Bharu. Some called it Ulu Kelantan.

Nenggiri Ulu, which is part of Ulu Kelantan, now called Gua Musang, has a cave system where evidence of neolithic life has been found and the present orang asli community are said to be their descendents.research done has unveiled strong suspicions that there was a a pre-Islamic Malay Kingdom in Ulu Kelantan from where the legendary Princess Ruler of Kelantan - "Puteri Saadon" - originated from.

In the old days, Gua Musang is famous for gold mining, the gold mine was at Kampong Pulai, a Chinese village town near to Gua Musang, where gold mining by Chinese have been 600 years of history, and it provides evidence that Chinese may have been to Kelantan long before the Admiral Cheng Ho to Malacca. Most of early Chinese were from Pattani area(Note: In the old days Kelantan was once ruled by Siam, Pattani, Sri Vijaya... need to open the history book again).

Historically, Gua Musang is also the only town declared by CPM(Communist Party of Malaya) as liberated area; but after 5 days of occupation it was recaptured by the British, then the colonist of Malaya. It is considered as Black area by the administration, frequent curfew, military action taken place in the district during the late 40s to 70s.

The name of Gua Musang

Gua Musang literally means "Cave of the civet cat". Gua is Malay word for cave, and Musang is the term for civet cat. On the eastern side of this town stands Bukit Gua Musang, a barren hill of rocks and deceptive stone-steps running 105 meters high. It stands in a commanding position, with a huge cave running into its interior and is about meters away from the other green tree-covered hills. From a distance, this hill looks like a stone pillar with a big crack which nearly splits it vertically into two equal halves. Between the hill and the town, there runs a railway track.

It was believed that long ago this town was inhabited by some superstitious hunters who made offerings of animals in front of the cave of Bukit Gua Musang. One afternoon a raging storm broke out and the huts of the hunters were destroyed. At the height of the storm a bolt of lightning struck the summit of the hill and nearly split it in two. The hunters, believing that the God of the Cave was angry with them, knelt down and began to pray. As they were praying they saw a huge pack of civet cats (or musang in Malay) running into the cave. At once, they seized their bows and arrows and lay in wait for the foxes. They waited the whole evening but the foxes did not emerge, not even when the storm had stopped. From then on, the inhabitants called the cave Gua Musang.

A month after this strange event, seven young hunters climbed the hill but only one came back alive. He told the villagers that when he and his six companions were halfway up the hill, a length of stone staircase appeared before them. They climbed the staircase and upon reaching the summit they found a tree, under which, stood a bowl of pure water. The young men, with the exception of one, drank the water in the bowl to quench their thirst. Before the others could persuade him to drink, the bowl vanished. They grew afraid and quickly began to descend. Suddenly a blood-chilling cry was heard. The hunter turned quickly but it was too late! His six friends had disappeared from sight. He rushed down the slope but there was no sign of any dead bodies at the bottom of the hill.

He concluded that the "God of the Cave" had taken his friends and had spared him because he had not drunk the water in the bowl. Most of the villagers did not believe the young man's story. They were sure that the other six must have slipped and fallen, but the bodies of the missing hunters were never found.

The name of the town is from the name of the cave, Gua Musang. But the Chinese named it as Hua-wang-sheng(話望生), literally means "words hoping for life" or is it translate from Malay word Gua Musang. The Chinese there are mostly Hakka Chinese, especially the gold miners in Pulai. Why call it Hua-wang-sheng(話望生)?is it because the place is end of the road for gold miners, and it need to go for a new life outside?...Noted in the old days, there was no road to Gua Musang, you need to travel by boat, not even railway.


By car
1. From Kota Bahru

2. From Kuala Lipis, Pahang

3. From Simpang Pulai, Perak(near Ipoh)
Second East-West Highway, Federal Route (Malay: Lebuhraya Timur-Barat Kedua) is a highway in Peninsular Malaysia which connects Simpang Pulai in Perak to Gua Musang in Kelantan. The highway is expected to be extended further east to Kuala Terengganu in the future. This highway features a four-lane carriageway from Simpang Pulai to Cameron Highlands and a two-lane carriageway from Cameron Highlands to Gua Musang. It is notorious for its many sharp corners which increase the risk of road accidents.

By Bus

KL - Gua Musang
Kuala Lipis - Gua Musang
Kota Bahru- Gua Musang

By Train
1. KL- Gemas - Gua Musang
2. Singapore- Gemas -Gua Musang
3. Tumpat - Gua Musang

Tourist attractions

Gua Musang is the northern gateway to Taman Negara (National Park), which is situated in the southeastern part of Gua Musang district. The untouched tropical rainforest in Taman Negara is among the oldest in the world. It is well known for its biodiversity and is home to many endangered species of animals and plants.

1. Bukit Gua Musang
Gua Musang is surrounded by limestone hills and caves, which have become popular with cavers and rock climbers. The cave of Gua Musang is located immediately behind the town’s railway station and is reached by a steep scramble up the hillside

2. Rock Climbing & tracking
The small village of Merapoh in Pahang which is just south of Gua Musang serves as a popular starting point for those who want to scale Gunung Tahan.

3. Taman Ethnobotani
Taman Ethnobotani, where there are rooms and chalets for rent. The park was set up in 1997 for the collection and propagation of medicinal herbs. This recreational and nature park is administered by the Kelantan Selatan Development Authority (Kesedar).

Some 3km from Gua Musang, the park covers 38ha of lush greenery and limestone outcrops. One small hill is located right at the entrance of Taman Ethnobotani, and here we got to watch climbers practise their moves.

The park holds many climbing routes. Apart from climbing, there are other outdoor activities like rope and wooden obstacle courses, and flying fox and abseiling. Visitors can also learn to make traps and pick up jungle survival skills. Nature lovers will enjoy visiting the deer and ostrich farms and the medicinal herb garden.

4. Nenggiri River: River Rafting
Nenggiri River is a favourite among those who enjoy river rafting. There is also a rafting race, called Nenggiri Challenge. Archaeological sites can be found in caves, such as Gua Cha, Chawan and Jaya, which are situated along the river.

5. Railway station

The railway station is one of the heritage railway station around

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6. Jungle Train
The Jungle Railway is the railway line serving the East Coast states of Kelantan and Pahang in Malaysia. Officially the East Coast Railway line, it branches of the West Coast Trunk line at Gemas on the border of Johor and Negeri Sembilan and goes through the forested heart (hence the nickname "Jungle Railway") of Peninsular Malaysia to Tumpat, a small town on the East Coast near Kota Bharu, Kelantan. The first stretch of the East Coast Line between Gemas and Bahau is opened in 1910. It was however destroyed in 1941 during Japanese occupation. The railway service only resumed in 1953. In 1953, Golden Blowpipe Express drawn by the locomotive Coronation, carrying the High Commissioner Sir Gerald Templer from Kuala Lipis in Pahang to Kota Bharu [i.e. Baharu] in Kelantan on the first journey on the line since 1941, when the track was destroyed. A photo was taken on July 13 1953 at Gua Musang(

Pulai Gold Mine Town

Another interesting place to visit in Gua Musang is a Chinese temple Shui Yue Gong(水月宮)in Kampung Pulai(布賴), which is purportedly 400 years old. Kampong Pulai is 14 km from Gua Musang, an isolated place, as only in 1988, a 7 km road connected to Gua Musang. It was reported that the Hakka Chinese came to Gua Musang 600 years ago, long before Admiral Cheng Ho arrival in Malacca. Pulai was founded in 1425 by two brothers, Lim Pak Yen and Lim Ghee Yee, who fled China. They come via Sungai Galas. The brothers came here in search of gold. Once word got out, there was a gold rush and a small settlement was created. As the gold supply slowly diminished, people started planting padi to survive(ref:

Pulai has a temple reputed to be 400-500 years old, reportedly the second oldest temple in the country after the Cheng Hoon Teng temple (1646) in Malacca. However some said it may be even older than Cheng Hoon Teng....

The Pulai Swee Nyet Keung Buddhist temple and its surrounding village was burnt down by the Japanese in 1941. The temple was rebuilt in 1970 and is quite small, but it has an interesting collection of ancient cannon parts.

Across the river from the temple is a limestone hill with a new temple. Bukit Tok Cu is also known as Princess Mountain and a temple is being constructed on top of it. The workers told us that a man had a vision of steps being built up the hill in 1984, but work on the temple only started in 1997. However, a shrine was already in existence in the upper cave when an archaeological team dug there in 1991

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History of Pulai
1425 - Pulai was founded in 1425 by two brothers, Lim Pak Yen and Lim Ghee Yee
1782 - A record by a sailor from China who visited Kelantan, during Qing Dynasty reported that there are Chinese living in Kelantan, and some Hakka Chinese are gold mining in Pulai. Historical record reported earlier arrival. Initially the gold miners depended on the supplies of rice and other provision from Kota Bahru and other areas through the river transportation. There were social contact with the Malay and Cina Bandar from Kota Bahru.
1825-1886 - Dsipute with Temenggong over the supply and trading of rice. Thousands of villagers was killed (全村幾千人被當地王族所殺). This incident may have start the subsistence farming of Pulai gold miners, and the village began the social isolation from outside world. Unlike the Cina Bandar(Town Chinese) and Cina Kampong(Village Chinese), who assimilated into the Malay culture and speak local Malay dialet, the Pulai Hakka Chinese even inter marriage with the orang asli(native) and Siamese, retain their distinctive Hakka culture. This is mainly due to the social isolation, and physical remote of the Pulai village, there are few Malay lived near the Pulai village. There were no road, no railway to the village.
1930s - The construction of East Coast Railway open Ulu Kelantan(now Gua Musang) to the outside world, but Pulai village remained isolated.
1933 - S.M.Middlebrook in 1933 when he visited the village, the village had existed more than 200 years ago.
1942 - Japanese plane bombed the place and destroyed the village. Pulai people further moved into jungle and become self sufficient. But they are no more socially isolated from the outside world, the communist or MPAJA in the jungle become quasi protector of the villagers in the jungle.
1945- When the world ended, MPAJA become a legal political party MCP(Malayan Communist Party), Pulai villagers caught between the political cold war of the superpower, communist and capitalist colonist(British)
1947 - The colonist seeing the long term position will be threaten by the MCP, begin to arrest the MCP members and unionists. British also declared MCP illegal, MCP returned to jungle and started arm struggle in the jungle. Pulai and Gua Musang was view as Black Area by the British colonist government.
1948 - Formation of the Federation. The British relocated the villagers to new village or xincun(新村)at Kuala Trengganu(10 miles from Kuala Trengganu), Kuala Lipis(Pahang), Kota Tinggi- Kulai(Johore) under the strategic Briggs Plan by the British colonist to avoid locals supporting the communists, the period was historically called Malayan Emergency(1948-1960) (被英國人集體疏散到登嘉樓20哩外、彭亨瓜拉立卑及柔佛州古來). Today, UNHCR will call it IDP(Internally Displaced Person), a violation of human right.
1949 - Formation of MCA(Malaysian Chinese Association). About 30% of the villagers were forced to move to new village near Kota Tinggi, Johor. Another 30% to the new village at Gua Musang town.
1952 - The other 30% resettled in Pulai Baru, 10 miles from Kuala Trengganu, the capital of Trengannu state. Pulai villagers faced communication problem due to long term social isolation. Their inability to speak Malay, English, and other more popular Chinese dialects, restrict their employment prospect, they mainly worked as odd job workers.
1957 - Independence of Malaya from British
1960 - Malayan Emengency ended, the villagers returned from the new villages to rebuilt Pulai village(緊急狀態結束後,布賴人又帶著當初抱走的神像,回來重建家園和水月宮,再次把荒蕪的土地變成家園。) Many Pulai villagers from Johor and Trengganu saved sufficient money for them to return to their ancestral land. However some young people, who have learn new skills, decide to remain and work outside Pulai. The villagers revert back to cash economy by planting rubbers and paddy. They become socially isolated and politically sensitive, reluctant to disclose their political inclination.
1978 - PAS(Islamic Party of Malaysia) lost the state. PAS have been control the state of Kelantan since 1959, and lasted 18 years (1959–1978); PAS was under the coalition Barisan Nasional from 1974-78. Barisan National was formed in 1972.
1984 - Kelantan state government approved gold mining by the private companies in the area round Pulai. (苦難重重的布賴在80年代再次面臨巨變。這次也是因為金礦。吉蘭丹州政府於1984年批准私人公司在布賴和附近一帶採金). The Pulai fluviatile gold placer deposit stretches along 17 km of the upper reaches of S. Galas. Malaysia Mining Corporation had proved-up sizeable reserves following drilling and bulk testing during 1979–1983.

1987 - The authority started to acquire the land, regardless that the residents have been living there for generations, may be since 600 years ago, without compensation. Total 146 acres of land was acquired. According to the report by S.M.Middlebrook in 1933 when he visited the village, the village had existed more than 200 years ago. The report was in 1933. It was reported there were 700-800 residents there planting paddy, and the skin are dark due to mixed marriage with the native or Siamese(並於1987年開始強行征用 146英畝土地,共63名地主受影響,再次面對失去家園的慘痛,而且毫無賠償。經過多年的爭取,布賴村民雖然改善了原來毫無賠償與沒有安頓的惡劣條件,卻再也保不住他們世外桃源一般的田園生活,被迫搬到簡陋的“新村”聚居,而且連葬在家園的祖先墳地也要遷移,以免被挖金活動破壞。) Later after some appeals, the state government granted leasehold land of 30 to 60 years tenure to the villagers for the new village(經過三四年的爭取之後,受影響的村民獲得政府發給新村地契,但也只有30年到60年的期限). Normally under restrictive Kelantan land law, leasehold 30-60 years are for non-Kelantanese, a leasehold land of 99 years or freehold land is the norm for local Kelantanese. But the Pulai villagers like the Cina Kampong or Siamese in Tumpat, Wakaf Bahru area have been living in Kelantan for more than 3 generations, reported 600 years ago, they should be treated as local Kelantanese, a 99 years leasehold is expected by the villagers. A disappointment for villagers.

1988 - a 7 km road connected to Gua Musang was completed; not for the villagers but for the incoming commercial gold mining activities.

1990- Change of government, PAS(Islamic Party of Malaysia)took over the state from UMNO of Barisan National. Nik Abdul Aziz bin Nik Mat become the Mentri Besar(equivalent to Chief Minister of the state). Since 1990, with re-elections in 1995, 1999 and 2004, PAS had ruled the state.

1998 - MOU was signed between Mentri Besar of Kelantan Dato’ Haji Nik Abdul Aziz bin Nik Mat and NSW State Treasurer, Minister for Energy, and Minister for State Development Mr Michael Egan on 16th Feb 1998 in the signing ceremony at Macquarie Tower, Sydney, NSW. YAB Tuan Guru Dato’ Menteri Besar also gave the letter of appointment to Peter Anderson, appointing him as advisor of Kelantan state government in the commence and investment in NSW, Australia. Kelstone Sdn. Bhd, a company under state corporation, PKINK(PERBADANAN KEMAJUAN IKTISAD NEGERI KELANTAN)had discussion with Austral Malaysian Mining Ltd. on the gold mining at Pulai, Gua Musang.(source: Mr Anderson is also Chair of Austral Malaysian Mining Ltd, Pulai Mining Sdn Berhad(Source: CHW 2002 annual Report, Pulai Mining Sdn Bhd is Malaysian mining arm of Austral Malaysian Mining Ltd, a NSW company.

Will the Pulai villagers benefit from the development?....

Map of Kampong Pulai Baru, Kuala Trengganu

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“以前布賴一片青翠,都是田園,遠遠一戶人家,可能相隔半公里,屋子周圍都是牛羊雞鴨,山水直接引到家裡。現在住在新村裡……”他覺得,現在的生活越來越與“外面”沒有甚麼兩樣。 田地被政府徵用過後,失去田園的布賴人只好再次出發,開芭砍草,尋找新的謀生方式。 “90%人到山坡上種植橡膠,也有人種可可和榴槤等果樹。”經過三四年的爭取之後,受影響的村民獲得政府發給新村地契,但也只有30年到60年的期限。布賴人對這片土地的眷戀再次受到扭曲和壓制。






(extract from 小村大歷史布賴600年山中傳奇, 亞洲眼/第16期•文:賴碧清•2007.07.30)


(extract from 清代馬來西亞客家人的觀音信仰,

Related articles on Pulai



3.Sepintas lalu mengenai sejarah Kampung Pulai(Penyunting: Kenny Chee Sien Chen)

4.Image of community in a Chinese Malaysian Settlement(Sharon A.Carstens,PH.D. Cornell University, 1980)
5. S.M.Middlebrook, M.C.S, Pulai: An Early Chinese settlement in Kelantan, Journal of the Malaysia Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society Vo1.11 (2). pp152.


There are a few accommodation options in Gua Musang

1. A1 Tourism's Hotel & Guest House
2. Kesedar Inn
18300 Gua, Musang can be contacted by phone +609 901229 or fax +609 902131
Budget hotel, no star
3. Hotel Gua Musang
Lot 1985-1986, Bandar Baru, Gua Musang
Tel: 609-9122929
4. Evergreen Hotel
Jalan Besar, Gua Musang
Budget hotel, no star
Tel: 609-9122273
5. Hotel Merling
No. 10, Jalan Besar, Gua Musang
Budget hotel, no star
Tel: 609-9121813
6. Fully Inn
75, Jalan Pekan Lama Gua Musang 18300 Kelantan
Tel: 609-9123311

Durian Kunyit King(貓山王)

THE Musang King durian from Malaysia is so delicious that Stanley Ho, Macau’s Gambling King had to send his personal jet to Singapore to purchase these “Musang King Durian” also known as “durian kunyit” or “Mao San Wong” (in cantonese). Source reported that Ho’s worker wanted to buy 98 durians but only managed to get 88 as supply was low due to adverse weather. China Press reported that Ho spent about RM4,800 worth (S$2,071) of the durian from the 818 Durian Stall in the island republic. In Singapore, the Musang King durian costs about RM38 (S$16.40) per kilo. Ho also shared the king of fruits with his friend Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing by giving him 10 durians(source: The Star,2010). For those who do not know the thorny fruit, Durian, it is a tropical fruit, considered king of the fruits. The taste and aroma is strong, you either love it or hate it, it taste like heaven or hell...

(note for more info on durian fruit refer

Durian Kunyit is originate from Gua Musang. It is originally called Durian Kunyit by Malay. Kunyit is the Malay word for turmeric. The durian is called Durian Kunyit is because of the flesh is yellow in color, resembles kunyit, which was also used for nasi kunyit. The durian is rebranded "Musang King" or “Mao San Wong”(貓山王) in cantonese. It has small seeds, and it’s texture is sweet, tender and with a powerful aroma”.. This Musang King durian can reach as high as 3kg of weight for each durian. The pricing is by weight ,1kg of these durian can peak as high as RM28 to Rm30 per kilogram. So a 3 kg durian will cost RM90 or US$30 per durian fruit. What Ho bought may be more expensive because he bought it in Singapore or with heavier weight.

But it seems the best is Raja Kunyit, better than Kunyit; don't believe then read the article "Chung has a nose for business"(2007), The Star dated July 9, 2007; Unless Chung or the reporter make a mistake that Raja Kunyit is Musang King, Chung said Raja Kunyit is the best durian, and Ang Heh (Red Prawn)is the 2nd, and the third is the humble but pungent jungle durians. D24 is not in his list.....Is Raja Kunyit similar to Musang King?.....

Outside Gua Musang
Fort Brooke
A lonely police and military post near Cameron Highland were visited. It was built by 22nd SAS to controlled the east area of Cameron Highland where communist activities from Gua Musang to Cameron Highland can be stopped.

Built near orang asli village, it was commanded by military or police and it was famously published by Roy Follows who commanded the fort on his book "Jungle Beat".

Fort Brooke was built with 3 machineguns emplacement protected by sandbags and later concrete to protected the fort from ambushes. The fort also had its helicopter landing pad and constantly re-supplied with airdrops from Dakotas and Valettas. The fort also were barbed wires and everyone inside the perimeter were 24 hours alerted. Patrols also were sent out to patrolled nearby area.

Later it was commanded by Royal Malaysian Police until late 80s when it was demolished and abandoned. Today, the new name Post Brooke were moved slightly south of the original location and connected by new highway routes from Cameron Highland to Gua Musang. The old fort were overgrown and forgotten.

Gunong Stong & Gua Ikan
Go up north to Kelantan and spend a weekend at the ever-popular Stong Waterfalls; make a trip to the Gua Ikan caves and visit the Krai town. Sweat it out hiking (2hrs) from Stong Resort, crossing the waterfall route (with safety chain links) to Jelawang camp (1000ft) where campers camp out in the wild. You could visit the upper waterfalls to dip your toes in the cool waters and have a well-deserved swim, or you could just laze around and enjoy the natural "Jacuzzi" effect of the falls

Motorbiking to Cameron Highland

95km route from Kg Raja to Gua Musang

Kuala Lipis

Kuala Koh

"Kuala Koh is the new entry point to Taman Negara. This is still a lightly visited area with superb wilderness and pristine rivers flowing down from the mountains of Tahan, Perlis, Penumpu and Gagau."

Kuala Koh is the new entry point to Taman Negara on its northern border. This is still a lightly visited area of superb wilderness and pristine rivers flowing down from the mountains of Tahan, Perlis, Penumpu and Gagau. These rivers are lined with giant trees like the tualang and the neram, the fruit of the latter providing food for the kelah, Malaysia's premier river sportfish.

Kuala Koh houses the headquarters of this part of Taman Negara. Chalets and dormitories are available and a small cafe serves local fare upon request. Fishing waters are found as close as 10 minutes boat ride from Kuala Koh. For the more adventurous, camping-cum-fishing packages are available where tent accommodation, meals and fishing guides are provided. This, however, must be arranged well in advance.

Kuala Koh boasts pleasant natural settings and lush rainforest greenery. At the same time, it is equipped with facilties that will make your visit here a comfortable one. It is ideal for nature activities such as jungle-trekking, bird watching, river rafting, fishing and mountain climbing.

Accommodation - Kuala Koh
There are 6 chalets and a 74-bed hostel. Each chalet costs RM50 per night while the hostel costs RM12 per person per night. Campers are charged RM2 each. Each visitor must obtain an entrance permit at RM1 per person. Fishing licence costs RM10 each while camera licence is RM5 per camera.

For more information on Kuala Koh, please contact the Wildlife Department office in Gua Musang at 609-9122940 or Kuala Koh Country Village (Kelantan National Park) at 609-7431 603.

Reference/related articles:

1.清代馬來西亞客家人的觀音信仰, by 王琛發,
2. 小村大歷史布賴600年山中傳奇, 亞洲眼/第16期•文:賴碧清•2007.07.30)
5. Facebook:
5. Surprises aplenty caving(2006), by Liz Price,The Star;
6. Histories, cultures, identities: studies in Malaysian Chinese worlds(2005), by Sharon A. Carstens, Singapore University Press, Singapore. Pg 57 to Pg 81
7. The New Villages in Malaysia - the Journey Ahead(2005), by Lim Hin Fui & Fong Tian Yong, INSAP(Institute of Strategic Analysis and Policy Research), MCA ( article on new village)

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