More in metro

Metro

Saturday, 12 August 2017 | MYT 12:00 AM

Breath of fresh air in Bentong

BENTONG in Pahang is set to become one of the top destinations for city dwellers to take their mind off their hectic schedule, as it will soon serve as a satellite town to Kuala Lumpur.

The lush greenery, in the strategically located Bentong, is one of the key reasons tourists find it a great place for a short retreat.

While it is undoubtedly an upcoming destination town, Bentong can still learn a thing or two from Taiwan to push the envelope of its tourism sector further.

Azhar (left), dressed in an aboriginal chieftain attire, trying out a game of catching rattan balls with long bamboo sticks at the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village in Taiwan.

Azhar (left), dressed in an aboriginal chieftain attire, trying out a game of catching rattan balls with long bamboo sticks at the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village in Taiwan.

Taiwan is a country with very limited resources and forest areas but it is deemed quite successful in maximising its agricultural and agro-industries.

Bentong, will be able to tap into its rich natural resources for ecotourism.

Its district officer Datuk Azhar Arshad said the planning and methods adopted in Taiwan could be applied here to maximise the returns from ecotourism.

“Among the proposals that we are looking into are to improve the Bentong ginger cultivation area and our organic estates so that it can be Bentong’s tourism products.

“We also have our very own unique multicultural practices and the livelihood or activities by our orang asli which can be of interest to tourists,” he said, adding that one of the most vital factors was the professionalism and positivity in handling tourists, be it from foreign countries or other Malaysian states.

The Liouhe night market in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan, features a long line of street food and is popular among locals and tourists alike.

The Liouhe night market in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan, features a long line of street food and is popular among locals and tourists alike.

Azhar recently led a delegation from Bentong to Taiwan for a knowledge-sharing trip with their Taiwanese counterparts and other officials to boost the tourism sector in Bentong.

Among the delegates were Pahang Tourism and Culture Ministry director Datuk Idros Yahya and Bentong Municipal Council president Datuk Mohd Shahid Ismail.

In terms of ecotourism, Idros said Pahang’s target was “lung-washing” tourism as Bentong’s fresh air could be used to draw tourists.

“What we have noticed in quite a number of countries is the lack of clean air for tourists to relax and unwind. Bentong has got the best that nature has to offer.

Visitors flocking to the Chamang Waterfall in Bentong to get a closer view.

Visitors flocking to the Chamang Waterfall in Bentong to get a closer view.

“Location-wise, Bentong is very strategic as it is quite near to Kuala Lumpur. As such, it has a better pull factor,” he said, adding that discussions with industry players were also underway to promote the lung-washing concept.

In addition, Bentong could also take a cue from the creativity the delegates saw in Taiwan.

Who would have thought that an abandoned sugar mill could be converted into a cultural hub featuring drums from various parts of the world?

Without renovating or modifying the structure of the factory, the tenant of the premises fitted in performance theatres, a drum museum, classes and many other facilities.

Located in the Rende District of the Tainan City in Southern Taiwan, that place is known as the Ten Drum Cultural Village.

Bentong is famous for its ginger which can be developed and used in health products. — Filepic

Bentong is famous for its ginger which can be developed and used in health products. — Filepic

The Ten Drum percussion group took over the place as a rehearsal centre before it expanded and became a tourist magnet.

Azhar said abandoned factories and tin mines in Bentong could be reused and turned into tourism attractions such as cultural hubs, depending on the feasibility of the ideas and transformations.

At a discussion and sharing session during the trip, Taiwan Tourism Bureau’s international affairs division deputy director Cheng Ying-Huei said creativity was invaluable and it was very much encouraged by the Taiwan government.

The working trip to Taiwan was an invitation by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau, following the success of the national level Chinese New Year open house held in Dataran Bentong earlier this year.

Among the other places that the delegation visited were the Sun Moon Lake, Tai-Yi Ecological Leisure Farm, National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium, Hom Chi Organic Leisure Farm, Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village and the Kenting National Park.

A Taiwanese delegation visiting a Bentong hot spring, a popular tourist attraction. — Filepic

A Taiwanese delegation visiting a Bentong hot spring, a popular tourist attraction. — Filepic

During a visit to the Li Kang Biomedical factory in Tainan, its chairman Cheng Yu Hsiu said he hoped to arrange a visit to Bentong and find out more about the market and future development of ginger, which Bentong was famous for.

The company, which has more than 30 years experience in the pharmaceutical industry and herbal products, said ginger could be developed and used in health products such as supplements or even cosmetics.

A night market hawker and her assistant preparing steaming hot plates of fried noodles and rice vermicelli in Puli, Taiwan.

A night market hawker and her assistant preparing steaming hot plates of fried noodles and rice vermicelli in Puli, Taiwan.

Like Malaysia, Taiwan is famed for its night markets which sell a wide array of items, from street food to consumer goods and souvenirs. One could not help but notice that many hawkers and petty traders were youngsters in their 20s, some selling their own products and others with their own concept of street food.

Bentong’s answer to that would be its weekly Bentong Walk on Jalan Chui Yin, which has attracted many visitors since its inception in late 2015.