Translated by WINNIE CHOOI
Sin Chew Daily
LAHAT, Perak -- The earlier Lahat used to be a fortune port due to its rich tin resources in the Kinta River. The thriving and bustling town was bruised when the tin mining industry began to decline later.
Stepping into the main street of Lahat, one could see the one and only tea house catering to the local residents. Since Lahat is not a tourist destination, not many visitors would drop by for food or leisure.
In the vicinity of Lahat, Menglembu and Pusing are known for various local snacks as well as the footwear industry in Pengkalan. On the contrary, apart from the large disused mining lake outside Lahat, commercial and residential developments begin to spring up.
Footprints of Dr Sun Yat-sen
Menglembu, Lahat, Papan, Pusing and Siputeh, all within Kinta Valley's tin mining zone, were bustling towns a century ago. At a time when Dr Sun Yat-sen promoted his revolutionary movement, he came to several tin-rich towns in Malaya to deliver his speeches, including Lahat.
During the 1970s, Lahat had several mining sites and a large performance stage was set up in the main street to allow opera performances. Miners would buy entrance tickets every night to watch the shows.
Many wealthy families lived in Lahat while businesses like herbal shops, grocery stores, silk shops and restaurants were operating in the main street.
The street became more vibrant especially during morning hours when housewives thronged to the market for their daily grocery shopping.
The existence of restaurants in Lahat reflected the newly acquired wealth of local residents. Miners would celebrate in restaurants when they raked in profits from their operations.
The decline of tin mining industry
The collapse of international tin market in 1985 dealt a severe blow to the state of Perak and the bustling mining towns.
Shops were either closed or relocated to other towns and the stage was dismantled.
During the olden days, Lahat's main street could go all the way to Papan until road construction later to divide the town into two halves. On one side was the main street and the resettlement zone on the other. With tin mining sites now closed, many of the town's residents have moved elsewhere to make a living.
Later, industrial and residential areas have been developed over the years. Nevertheless, the population in Lahat continued to decline over time.
The quiet town still retains many old architectural styles that has attracted a number of film-makers to converge here for location shooting.
Lahat itself has several temples such as Leik Sheng Temple which draws big crowds during the annual celebration of the Deity's birthday.
Absence of public buses
There have been neither public buses nor school buses in Lahat since last time. As a result, parents would normally register their children at nearby schools such as SRJK Menglembu or SRJK Ipoh.
The outflow of population has reduced Lahat from a bustling town into a quiet village. SRJK Lahat, which used to house more than 500 students during its heyday, was left with only about 50. In order to keep the school afloat, the school board ferry students from their houses to the school in a van, and this has managed to bring the school enrolment to about a hundred in recent years.
Accounts to Lahat
SRJK Lahat treasurer Zhuang Chi Ping told Sin Chew Daily most Lahat residents studied at this primary school and were resolved to keep the school going.
Perak Chuk Kai Association's Chairman Huang Jin Kun related his unforgettable childhood memories in Lahat.
"During World War II, local residents were rushed to the market by the Japanese in order to single out the traitors. I was very young back then and had escaped the tragic moments about six times," said Huang.
83-year-old villager Wen Qing has remained loyal to the town of Lahat even though his children have all moved out from here.
"The stage in the main street was a hive of activity every evening and I used to go there when I was eight years old. Many residents later moved to Menglembu or Ipoh to make a living and the whole has since become hushed," said Wen.