Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Letter to the Editor: Fraser's Hill has lost its charm and identity.


I read with interest your report, “Only nature lovers visit Fraser’s, says Maznah” (Wednesday, 15th April). I beg to differ from Datuk Maznah’s assertion that the downturn in tourist numbers is not attributable to the fact that Fraser’s Hill is losing its charm.

As a nature-lover who used to enjoy birding in the trails of Fraser’s Hill, I can attest to the hill station’s decline from a tourist attraction with a ‘Little England’ identity to a dilapidated hill resort that has seen better days.

Fraser’s Hill used to appeal not only to nature lovers, but also to tourists seeking cool respite from the tropical heat, families and other groups who are attracted to the ersatz ‘English countryside’ feel of the hill station.

Unfortunately, Fraser’s Hill is sorely deficient when it comes to cleanliness and the maintenance of its hotels and lodging houses. When I visited Fraser’s Hill in 2002, the hotel we stayed in was filthy and the bathroom was so covered in mildew that taking a shower became a health hazard. Complaints to the hotel staff brought forth a typically Malaysian response; “Tak tahu” and “We are out of rooms”.

The subsequent year, when I visited Fraser’s again, despite having made room reservations early with a particular hotel, having taken into consideration the rise in tourist arrivals during the weekend of the International Bird Race, my friends and I were informed that our rooms had been given to members of the media and that they had no other rooms to offer us.

More regrettable still is the closure of the Gap Rest House, which used to serve a decent English tea to visitors waiting for ‘odd hours’ to go up the hill. With the closure of this colonial inn came the gradual demise of Fraser’s Hill’s old world feel.

The Tavern in the Town Square, to my recollection, no longer seems to serve the English-style meals that it was once so famed for. On my last two visits, most of the food listed on the menu was unavailable and we had to settle for instant noodles and carbonated drinks at what was once a quaint colonial restaurant and pub.

The more accessible trails in Fraser’s Hill are often full of litter, while the more challenging trails are often poorly maintained and lacking in safety features. For this reason, I applaud Fraser’s Hill Development Corporation and the Raub District Council in their efforts to restore the hill station.

For Fraser’s Hill to be a proper ecotourism destination, regard must be had to the impact that any development project may have on the environment and indigenous wildlife. There must be efforts to educate visitors and the local community to reduce the incidence of littering and collection of native flora and fauna, among others.

The facelift of Fraser’s Hill should also take into consideration ways to promote waste separation and recycling, energy efficiency, water conservation and alternatives to private vehicle use.

Blaming the recent decline in tourist arrivals on the one-way system to go up or down Fraser’s Hill is illogical, given that the system has been in place for decades. There is little point in creating an alternative system up the Hill. The ‘New Road’ up the Hill was a colossal waste of money and should be a cautionary tale against the construction of more access roads into environmentally sensitive and structurally unsound areas. Fraser’s Hill does not need cable cars, new roads, tacky souvenir shops or ornamental street lighting, but a development authority that is committed to preserving its rustic allure and environmental integrity.



hobbit1964 said...

Murder dressed as sacrifice.

That's what this is.


They must always fix what isn't broken for as long as it isn't as broken as themselves.

Ellen Whyte said...

I haven't been there - too put off by the stories of friends who went - and returned instantly after seeing what a mess the place is. So sad.

Starmandala said...

What a superb letter to the editor - hope it saw the light of day!

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Re Major: Anything that serves beer and is neat and tidy and beautiful is broken to them. Improvement in their eyes comes in the form of ketupat string lights, loud blaring pop music and tacky Made-In-China souvenirs.

Re Ellen: We should go sometime, for the birdwatching if not for anything else! Pack our own food, tent, camp beds etc.

Re Ant: Thanks, mate! It was published about a week after I sent it in to The Star. Received a lot of ribbing from friends after its publication, telling me that Frasers Hill Development Corp should engage me as their part-time consultant.