Wednesday, October 18, 2017

PART 2 - CLOSE ENCOUNTER AT BUKIT LARUT (MAXWELL HILL)

The story below is Part 2, which is a continuation of the earlier post under "Filming in Perak - Part 1". (All pictures featured below are actual snapshots from the film on Perak that we produced).

Bukit Larut 
We proceeded to Bukit Larut which is a short distant from Taiping. This is the oldest resort in Malaysia, founded in 1884, and named after William George Maxwell, a British Assistant Resident in Perak. This hill is about 1,250 meters above sea level, and located in the wettest part of Malaysia.

Private vehicles were not allowed, so we parked our vehicles at the foot of the hill. We then traveled a 30-minute ride by government owned 4-wheel drives. The uphill access road to Bukit Larut is narrow, steep and winding, and is around 13 kilometers long. I am writing in the present tense as I've not returned to this place to know if changes have been made.

This is a protected area. There are many jungle trails accessible for people who wish to view and explore the National forests with its flora and fauna, numerous species of birds and wildlife. As we approached the hilltop, I observed that the place had retained much of its colonial charm. However, most of the wooden-structured buildings were not maintained, and some were badly neglected.


Here, we stayed at the government-owned Rest House for a couple of days. The weather up here was cool, breezy and the air was fresh, much cooler during the nights. The clouds passed by continuously right before us, and occasionally entered our veranda.

Unusual changes
When we arrived, I noticed a slight change in the behaviour of one of the girls. We assumed that she was home-sick, or upset with someone. When comforted, she confided that she could not understand why she felt depressed. We adjourned for an early night. The following morning, some complained of restless sleep, unusual dreams and nightmares. I did not have a good sleep either because I often take time to settle-in, especially in new places.

Most memorable 
This was unanimous. The hot spicy chicken curry, mutton curry, vegetables, and fried fish, etc. prepared by the Rest House caretakers were the most delicious meals that we had tasted throughout the duration of our filming. Perhaps it was the environment, or the cold weather that made us exceptionally hungry, that everything we consumed here was truly the "best".

Special props
Many props were created for filming purposes, and one in particular was a campfire scene in the compound, where the girls enjoyed a barbecue, and another lazing by the fireside.

Close Encounter
Filming continued throughout the duration. Then came the final day. I wanted to enjoy my last evening here walking in the mist, and breathe-in the cool air rather than be cooped up indoors.

Dusk was approaching and no one wanted to follow me, not even my husband, or daughter. They wanted to play some indoor games before dinner was served. I was reassured that it was perfectly safe to be on my own.

I joyously ventured into the woods, and I could feel the cool mists brushing my skin. While walking,  I felt extreme serenity surrounding me. I walked further and further, with no concern for time or where my foot would lead me to. I then noticed from afar, an empty bench overlooking the jungle. I sat down relishing the beauty of nature around me. My eyes were content just soaking in the greenery around me, as I watched the sky slowly changing colours, far across the horizon. The feeling of being surrounded by nature with the mists occasionally clouding my vision was an experience that I had never known before in my life.

Suddenly, I was overtaken by a sudden depression. All kinds of depressive thoughts raced through my mind - of death, and misery, and I began to cry.

Then, behind me from afar, I could hear footsteps of someone shuffling and dragging the feet over dry leaves that dropped on the ground. The footsteps were heading towards my direction. I did not turn around because I assumed that it was my husband's footsteps. I felt silly, and quickly wiped away my tears, as I did not want him to see me crying, for no known reason.

I then realized that the shuffling footsteps sounded more like the footsteps of an old, or sick person, and had just stopped right behind me. I felt a sudden gush of cold wind brushing down the back of my neck and arms. I immediately turned around, and to my utter horror I could see no one. My feet were frozen. I sat rigid, and my mind was blank. It took 5 seconds for me to realize that the situation I was in was REAL -  that something invisible was actually standing right behind me. I jumped out of the bench and ran as fast as I could, occasionally turning my head to see if I was being followed.

I ventured further than I imagined, and had difficulty finding my way back to the Rest House. I also did not realize that I had been away for awhile and my husband was worried and had gone to search for me. When he found me, I was in a dumbfounded state. I rushed straight into the Rest House, where all eyes were on me. Everyone looked anxious, as the hot food on the table was beginning to get cold. The following day, the girl confided that her depression was similar to what I felt when I was sitting on the bench.

Would I visit Bukit Larut and walk the same path again - alone? Needless to say, it would be a surprise if I do venture alone again. However honestly, the experience really did me no harm. The reason that I may not visit the place again is that, I now prefer to avoid uphill rides, and winding roads to begin a stress-free holiday, and not for any other reason.

Epilogue
Mysteries of Nature do exist, even though in many instances cannot be proven scientifically. Believe or not to believe, matters of the supernatural  continue to intrigue the inquisitive minds. (I've written my views on these topics).

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