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Perak - Malaysia

Perak is a state that is defined by the course of its namesake river. Perak's population is about two million. Until the nineteenth century, Perak's people were concentrated along the Perak River, and the chief city was riverside Kuala Kangsar. However, the discovery of wondrously rich tin deposits in surrounding valleys lead to the establishment of and transfer of the capital to Taiping and, later, Ipoh. The tin mines around Ipoh are reputedly the richest in the world, and it is no surprise that the city has expanded steadily from the time the mines were discovered in the nineteenth century. Today, Ipoh is one of Malaysia's larger cities, with a population of about half a million people.


Perak covers an area of 21,000 square kilometers, making it the second largest state in Peninsular Malaysia (Pahang is larger). The state is situated along Malaysia's western coast at the northern approach to the Strait of Malacca. It extends deep into the peninsula, with its eastern border marked by mountains of the Main Range.


There are several versions as to the origin of Perak. Some say that the name "PERAK" came from Bendahara Tun Perak of Malacca while some say that it came from the "glimmer of fish in the water" that sparkled like silver, or Perak as it is known in Malay. Therefore, the mere mention of the state's name will reflect the treasures hidden in its earth.

The Perak State, in actual fact, has been in existence since the prehistoric age. Kota Tampan in Lenggong is the one and only proof that the Palaeolithic Age existed in Malaya. The Perak State went through numerous evolutions between 400 000 BC and 8000 BC.

The state had experienced the Hoabinhian Era and the Neolithic Age as well as the Metal Age, which was proven with the findings of relevant ancient artifacts.

Then came the Hindu/Buddha era. It was thought to have occured simultaneously with the rest of Malaya.

After this period, the history of the state advanced a step further with the formation of minor territories such as Manjung in the Dinding District and Beruas which came into existence after Manjung ceased to exist. This also apply to a few other territories in the Perak Tengah and Hulu Perak. It was also then that Islam began to plant its roots firmly in the state. This phase of Malaysian history came to a close in 1511 with the capture of Malacca by the Portuguese. The leaders of the Malaccan empire retreated south to Johor, where they re-established their power.

The next phase of Perak's history began with the installation of Sultan Muzaffar Shah 1, who was a descendent of Sultan Mahmud Shah of Malacca, in the year 1528. Although the Perak Sultanate had formed the territorial powers were still in effect. The administrative method was an extension of the democratic feudal system of Malacca. Today, only Perak among the Malaysian states possesses a royal house descended directly from the rulers of legendary Malacca.

Despite the continuity of its royal house, Perak has one of the most troubled histories of any Malaysian state. Perak became more prominent with the discovery of tin in Larut, Taiping in 1848 by Long Jaafar. With this discovery, Perak's economy boomed and more mining areas were brought into existence. In addition to tin ore, natural rubber also played an important role and is still being planted after the reign of 33 or 34 consecutive Sultans. With this rapid prosperity came considerable political turmoil. With this significant change of economic development a multiracial society was born especially with the introduction of the Chinese into the mining area.

The British who had long been interested Perak, intervened through the Pangkor Treaty in 1874 after a riot in Larut. As a result of this intervention, the Residential system was introduced with James W.W Birch as its first Resident.

Initially, the Residential system was supposed to yield positive results. However, because it deviated from its original cause, compled with the natives' refused to be colonized led to an uprising against the Resident under the leadership of Datuk Maharaja Lela. As a result J.W.W Birch was assassinated in 1875. By the end of the nineteenth century, however, Perak's situation had stabilised and its enormous natural resources began to pay dividends.

The Residential system continued until the arrival of the Japanese to Malaya in 1941. The Perak State also suffered, as did others, during the Japanese occupation of Malaya until the year 1945.

Even after the Japanese surrendered, the British still colonised Malaya until the year 1948. Violence was rampant then in Perak, due to Communist terrorism.

After the Japanese occupation in Malaya, the Malay States were not stable. The British did their utmost best to maintain their position by introducing new administration systems such as the Malayan Union in 1946, despite the people's nasionalistic spirit to seek independence.

The people of Malaya combined their efforts with all state dignitaries to fully rebel against all British systems. They continuesly oppressed until the British granted Malaya independence in 1957.

The independence of Malaya meant the freedom for all its Federated States, which Perak was a part of. Rapid development in all fields continued until today, after the reign of 34 consecutive Sultans.



The State Flag is divided into three equal horizontal stripes. The three colours represent the three branches of the royal family whereby the throne is shared in rotation. The white stripe symbolises the Sultan while the yellow stripe is that of the Raja Muda. The black stripe represents the Raja DiHilir.

The crest on the Sultan's head-cloth is the symbol of his sovereignty, the crescent moon is the symbol of Islam and the rice flower denotes paddy planting, the people's main occupation.


Town/City Breakdown


Population in 1991 (Census)

Ipoh (state capital)




Teluk Intan


Sg. Siput(U)


Kuala Kangsar






Batu Gajah






Tanjung Malim



Ipoh is eighty kilometres north of Tapah in the Kinta Valley, the state capital of Perak and third biggest city in Malaysia. It grew rich on the tin trade, which transformed it within forty years from a tiny kampung in a landscape dominated by dramatic limestone outcrops to a sprawling boomtown. Now a city of over half a million people, Ipoh - whose name comes from the upas tree which thrived in the area and whose sap was used by the Orang Asli for arrow-head poison - is a far cry from the original village on this site. Perak had been renowned for its rich tin deposits since the sixteenth century, which made it vulnerable to attempts from rival chiefs to seize the throne and thus gain control of the lucrative tin trade. However, it was not until the discovery of a major field in 1880 that Ipoh's fortunes turned; before long it became a prime destination for pioneers, merchants and fortune-seekers from all over the world, and a cosmopolitan city, something reflected in the broad mix of cultures today. To accommodate the rapidly increasing population, the city expanded across Sungei Kinta between 1905 and 1914 into a "new town" area, its economic good fortune reflected in a multitude of colonial buildings and Chinese mansions. Despite the later decline in demand for tin, when Malaysia turned to oil to resurrect its hopes of prosperity, the export of tin is the fifth largest earner of foreign currency in the country, and Ipoh is still a major player in Malaysia's meteoric rise to the top of the Southeast Asian economic league table.

The City

The layout of central Ipoh is reasonably straightforward since the roads form, more or less, a grid system. There is some confusion because some of the old colonial street names have been changed in favour of Islamic names, in some cases the street signs have not always caught up with the changes; hence, Jalan C.M. Yusuf instead of Jalan Chamberlain, Jalan Mustapha Al-Bakri for Jalan Clare and Jalan BandarTimar for Jalan Leech, although in practice, people will know either name. The muddy and lethargic Sungei Kinta cuts the centre of Ipoh neatly in two; most of the hotels are situated east of the river, whilst the old town is on the opposite side between the two major thoroughfares, Jalan Sultan ldris Shah and Jalan Sultan Iskander.

Many of Ipoh's attractions are located on its outskirts but there are a few within the centre. The most prominent reminder of lpoh's economic heyday, the train station was built in 1917 at the height of the tin boom, an example of the British conception of "East meets West", with Moorish turrets and domes and a verandah that runs the entire two-hundred-metre length of the building. Like other colonial train stations, in KL and Hong Kong, it sported a plush hotel in which the planters, traders and administrators sank cocktails.

The modernist Masjid Negeri on Jalan Sultan Iskandar is one of the more conspicuous landmarks in the centre of town with a minaret that rises over 40m above its mosaic-tiled domes - evidence that despite the maelstrom of immigrants to the city, Ipoh has retained a buoyant Islamic population. Directly opposite the mosque, on the parallel Jalan Dato' Sagor, stands the Birch Memorial Clocktower, a square white tower incorporating a portrait bust of J.WW. Birch, the first British Resident of Perak, who was murdered in 1874. When Birch was installed as Resident, his abrupt manner and lack of understanding of Malay customs quickly offended Sultan Ahdullah, who resented Birch's attempts to control rather than advise - a crucial distinction laid out in the Pangkor Treaty earlier that year, Birch's manner proved to be an insult to the sensibilities of the Perak royalty for which he paid with his life - on November 2nd he was shot while bathing in the river at Kuala Kangsar, on a trip to post notices of his own reforms.

The streets to the north of the clocktower contain many buildings that show the influence of colonial and Straits Chinese architecture. The most impressive of these is the white stucco Hong Kong Bank on Jalan Dato' Maharaja Lela, with its Corinthian columns and unusual pillared tower. Turning right from the bank into Jalan Sultan Yusuf can be found the outskirts of Chinatown, of equal architectural note, with many pastel-coloured nineteenth-century shop-houses along the streets to the east.

The Perak Museum is housed in an elegant, former tin miner's mansion and is only a short walk north from the station. Covering two floors, the museum has evocative photos of lpoh's glory days during the tin boom.

Ipoh's Geological on Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah on the far eastern outskirts of the city depicts the history of tin showing what made the city rich. It is comprehensive with over six hundred samples of minerals and an array of fossils and precious stones on display.


Taiping succeeded Kuala Kangsar as the capital of Perak in the late nineteenth century. Taiping was during that time the thriving center of the tin industry in the surrounding valley. In the 1890s, disused mining pools at the edge of town were cleverly landscaped to form the beautiful Lake Gardens. The Gardens are still tranquil and restorative, though this once bustling town has become equally quiet. The country's oldest State Museum is within the vicinity, containing artifacts such as ancient weapons, handicrafts and aboriginal implements.

Bukit Larut (formerly Maxwell Hill)

Bukit Larut, located just 10 km from Taiping, is Malaysia's oldest hill station. Bukit Larut is not nearly as developed as the more celebrated Cameron and Genting Highlands. However, it preserves much more of the atmosphere of a colonial hill station, with modest, welcoming bungalows, carefully cultivated gardens, and a pervasive atmosphere of cool quietude. The hill is accessible by four-wheel drive only. A land rover is available at the foot of the hill.

Batu Gajah

Court House at Batu Gajah

Batu Gajah, a former colonial administration center, is 20km (12.4 mile) from Ipoh. The main street is typical of Perak's tin-mining towns and rows of old Chinese shophouse. The town has slipped into obscurity and is now a sleepy little backwater although at the height of the tin boom it was more important than Ipoh, serving the British as their administrative headquarters in Perak. Supposedly, stone (batu) elephants (gajah) were once found here; hence the town's name. Apart from being the birthplace of the current Sultan, Batu Gajah's main claim to modern fame is Taman Tasek S.M Nor, a zoo featuring snakes and crocodiles, located about half a mile out of town near Kellie's Castle.

Prison at Batu Gajah

Kellie's Castle is a mysterious, unfinished building of William Kelhime Smith. The English were renowned for building on the highest ground and on the road to Batu Gajah road, at the top of a nearby hill, can be seen the past old colonial bungalows and century-old tropical trees that lead to the regal District Courthouse, built in 1892 during the reign of Sultan Idris. Batu Gajah was also the place of the infamous interrogation centre used by the Japanese in Wordl War 2, now the local prison.

Kuala Kangsar

Kuala Kangsar, located 48km north of Ipoh on the Perak River, is the royal town of Perak. It is dominated by three beautiful buildings: Istana Iskandariah, Istana Kenangan and the Ubudiah mosque. The Istana Iskandariah, situated on a hill overlooking the river, is the palace of the Sultan of Perak. Although an imposing structure, it is of less interest architecturally than the smaller and more beautiful Istana Kenangan, which was built as a temporary residence during the Iskandariah's construction. The Ubudiah mosque, begun in the late nineteenth century though not completed until after the First World War, is a magnificently picturesque structure topped with a constellation of bright golden domes.

Kuala Kangsar is also the home of the Malaysian rubber industry. It was here, in 1877, that nine rubber trees were planted by the British resident Hugh Low, marking the arrival of an industry would within decades vie with tin as the country's most important export.


85 km southwest of Ipoh is the naval base town of Lumut. Of interest here is the Naval Museum which houses a collection of ancient weapons and historical artifacts. Lumut is also the departure point for Perak's internationally-known islands, Pulau Pangkor and Pulau Pangkor Laut.

Pankor Island

Pangkor Island is a historic island situated off the coast of Perak, the beaches here welcomes visitors with its serene, golden beaches, crystal blue waters and cool refreshing breeze. The beach lies sheltered from the onslaught monsoon, thus is an ideal seaside resort any time of the year.

Located 90km south-west of Ipoh, the beaches here are largely inhabited by fish folk, with scattered fishing settlements along the coast especially on the eastern side, facing the town of Lumut and Teluk Batik, and their catch comprises mainly of dried-fish and anchovies. Today, Pangkor Island is a thriving tourist destination, easily accessible by a ferry ride, which takes about 40 minutes from Lumut, to Pangkor Island.


Pasir Salak Historical Complex

Situated 70 kilometres from Ipoh city, the Pasir Salak Historical Complex is exactly what its name implies, a memorial to the remarkable history of Pasir Salak and the people of Perak. Pasir Salak is of special importance in the historical development of Malaysia as an independent and sovereign nation in that it was here that the original flames of Malay nationalism can be said to have begun. The assassination of the then British Resident of Perak, J.W.W. Birch, sparked off a war between the British colonial administration and the Malays. Although the better-equipped British army prevailed, there was no stopping of the sentiment of freedom and sovereignty that had been aroused among the Malays, leading eventually to the declaration of independence, from colonial rule.

The Historical Complex pays tribute to warriors such as Datuk Sagor and Datuk Maharajalela, with special memorials erected in their honour, in the shape of a sundang, a replica of the type of knife used in the killing of the British Resident.

Other interesting sights at the complex include Mr. Birch's grave, the burial site of Sipuntum, the man who actually carried out the said assassinations, the sight of Datuk Maharajalela's fortress, the lela rentaka cannons used against the British colonialist army, 2 beautiful examples of traditional Malay Rumah Kutai of the olden days, an interesting souvenir shop as well as an information counter.

The Pasir Salak Historical Complex is actually located by the banks of the Perak River, and is often a venue for river-related activities, apart from being noted for its historical displays.

Cave Temples

Kek Lok Tong Cave

Sam Poh Tong Cave

The countryside around Ipoh is studded with dramatic limestone outcroppings, many of which are dotted with cave temples. While many of the temples are of recent origin, cave paintings dating back two millenia have been located at one site. The most famous of the temples are Perak Tong and Sam Poh Tong, both built by Chinese monks who arrived in Perak with the wave of Chinese immigrants around the turn of the century. Perak Tong is clustered with over forty Buddha statues, the most impressive of which is almost 13 meters high. Sam Poh Tong, which continues to be inhabited by a community of Buddhist monks and nuns, houses various statues of Buddha among the cavern's natural stalactites and stalagmites. Perak Tong lies 6 km north of Ipoh, and Sam Poh Tong is 5 km to the south. Both shrines make pleasant stopover visits, and at Sam Poh Tong one can enjoy lunch afterward at the tasty vegetarian restaurant on the temple grounds.

Kellie's Castle

Kellie's Castle is located south of Ipoh, towards Batu Gajah. The rubber industry grew with extreme rapidity in Malaysia at the beginning of the century, and as one would expect it attracted all sorts of fortune-seekers. One of the most successful of these was William Kellie Smith, a wealthy Scot who decided modestly to mark his success by constructing a magnificent castle on the land he woned. Construction of the castle began in 1915. As is so often and so romantically the case with such grand gestures, Kellie died before the castle was completed. Equally to be expected is the fact that this mysterious ruin of a half-built castle is even more lovely for being unfinished. The mystery surrounding the place is fuelled by rumours that it has secret rooms and underground passages. This has added to its attraction. The castle stands enigmatically among Kellie's old lands and is visible across the river a few miles along the road from Ipoh to Batu Gajah.

Royal Museum, Kuala Kangsar

Perak Royal Museum was once known as Istana Kenangan and, before that, Istana Tepas Lembah. Its traditional design is unique and the entire structure was erected without the use of nails. On display are the regalia of the Perak royal family, photographs, documents and artifacts dating back to the early rulers of the state.

Ubudiah Mosque, Kuala Kangsar

Ubudiah mosque is situated on Bukit Chandan in Kuala Kangsar. One of the most beautiful mosques in Malaysia, it was built during the rule of Sultan Idris Murshidul Adzam Shah 1, the 28th Sultan of Perak. Sultan Jalil Karamatullah Shah inaugurated the mosque in 1917. The unique features of the mosque are its golden dome and minaret.

Lata Iskandar Waterfall

Lata Iskandar is situated between the town of Tapah and Cameron Highlands. The large waterfall located by the roadside is an ideal place for a picnic and a dip. Visitors can explore the nearby forest and enjoy the beauty of the flora and fauna in the surrounding area. There are foodstalls and a bazaar selling local handicraft, especially Orang Asli craft here.

Teluk Batik

Teluk Batik beach is located 6.5 km from Lumut town. The clean, white sandy beach is a popular recreational spot for activities such as camping and picnics. The Pesta Laut (Beach Festival) organised by the Perak State is held here annually in August.

Perak Museum, Taiping

Perak Museum is located in Taiping town. The colonial-style building was erected in 1883. The museum houses an interesting collection of ancient weapons, tools and artifacts used by early cave dwellers and cultural artifacts that boasts of the local heritage and traditions.

Teluk Intan Leaning Tower

The leaning tower is located in the Teluk Intan town centre. Residents have affectionately compared it to the Tower of Pisa in Italy, as this structure also tilts to the left. Viewed from the exterior, the 25.5 m high tower looks like it is divided into 8 levels but has actually only three storeys. Leong Choon Chong constructed the Teluk Intan Tower in 1885. The design resembles a Chinese pagoda.




21,005 (Malaysia: 329,758

State Capital
Administrative Divisions

Namely: - Batang Padang, Manjung, Hilir Perak,
Kerian, Kinta, Kuala Kangsar, Larut and Matang,
Perak Tengah, Hulu Perak



2.16 million (Malaysia: 21.17 million)
2,030,382 (2000)

Population Growth Rate (1980 - 1991)



Population Growth Rate (1991 - 2020)



Breakdown of Races (1994)
Other Bumiputeras
962, 200

Land Usage - 2000

Farming & Plantation



(631,552 hectares)




(985,833 hectares)




(84,020 hectares)

Town & Industrial Land



(21,005 hectares)




(378,090 hectares)




21,005 sq. km.



2.03 million

Population Growth Rate-(1980 - 1991)


0.69 %

Population Growth Rate-(1991 - 2000)


0.9 %

Population by Age Group - 2000

0 - 14 years


36.9 %

15 - 64 years


58.1 %

64 and over


5.0 %

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