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“Yanie, mural tu jauh tak dari sini weyh? [Yanie, are the murals far from here?]” I asked Yanie, the bride who hails from this small town on the northern part of Malaysia. “Tak lah weyh. Kau keluar je, ko masuk jalan besar pastu nanti lepas simpang kat pekan dia, kau straight je sampai roundabout. Dekat-dekat situ je, kan bang? [No, it is not. Just drive on the main road, then enter the junction towards the roundabout. The murals are there, right hubby?]”, she asked for confirmation from her newly wed husband and told me and my friends the whereabouts of the murals. We were attending her wedding reception and one of the unmissable attractions in her hometown is the murals.
If you think that I am talking about Georgetown, the capital of Penang, you are wrong. This is another smaller town which has a lot of murals exhibiting the history and culture of the place. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the town of Gopeng!
Gopeng was a booming tin mining town during its earlier days until the 1980s. However, the collapse of the tin mining industry had turned this once happening town into a sleepy hollow with nothing more than pre-war shophouses and heritage buildings, waiting to be forgotten.
“Oh ya ke? Ok terima kasih. Kitorang ingat nak pegi sana lepas ni. [Oh, really? Thanks Yanie. We are heading there after this]”, I told her and after the compulsory photography session with the bride and the groom, off we went to Gopeng town.
She was right. Gopeng town is a stone’s throw away from her house, which means it is even closer after one exits the Gopeng toll plaza. After we found the town centre (it was easy to recognise the town centre – old town centres usually consist of rows of old shophouses), we turned right and looked for the murals.
It was not long before we found the first mural depicting the
dragon lion dance. Painted on a weather-beaten, aging wall, it was clearly visible as we entered the town centre. What we did next was what everyone else would do if they are curious after finding the first of the several murals – to walk hunt! We parked our car near the first mural and walked across the town centre, looking for other murals.
If you go mural hunting in Penang, you would discover that they are scattered everywhere across the world heritage site area and as such, walking might be a hassle as Georgetown is a such a large city.
On the other hand, Gopeng is a very small town and the murals are not far from each other. It was a leisurely walk under the hot sun and before we even knew it, we had found more than 5 murals in less than an hour!
The murals in Gopeng are painted by the locals. It is a commendable effort as the murals give the locals a sense of pride for having their own heritage painted on the forgotten walls of the town. One need not have to read a history book to appreciate the culture and history of this town.
Murals depicting tin mining activity, old lady selling food using a bicycle and an old kampong house, among others, do a good job in highlighting the town’s rich heritage.
Although many may think that the existence of such murals is not unique anymore as they are mushrooming at several areas in the country, I beg to differ. It encourages the growth of arts in Malaysia and instead of leaving the old walls falling victim to grime and moss and start deteriorating, why not we put some ‘make up’ and beautify them to draw visitors to appreciate the handiwork of local artists?
What about your town? Any art-based attractions like these murals?
To get to Gopeng town centre to view the murals, take the North-South Expressway and exit at Gopeng. After the Gopeng toll plaza, turn right and drive straight ahead for about 10 to 15 minutes. Turn right at the junction of Gopeng town.
By public transport, get a bus to Ipoh from Kuala Lumpur. Upon reaching Ipoh, take a taxi to Gopeng, which is about a 30-minute drive from Ipoh.