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October 2, 2010

Gopeng to have its own Great Wall

Photos by LEW YONG KAN

GOPENG in Perak is fast becoming a major tourist destination with resorts and homestay programmes sprouting up in the past few years.

The jungles and rivers near the town offer several attractions, including visits to rafflesia sites, orang asli settlements and durian farms, and white water rafting.

 An 8km-long fortress is taking shape in a gaharu plantation which is set to become a new tourist attraction in Perak. 

The latest attraction is a 120ha gaharu (a type of heartwood) plantation which will be surrounded by an 8km-long wall that should remind visitors of the Great Wall of China.

Already the plantation is included as one of the 20 scenic tourist destinations for participants of the Gopeng MCA division photography contest that will close on Feb 28, 2011.

The 3m-high wall is being built by Gaharu Technologies Sdn Bhd to protect its gaharu plants from intruders, both man and animal. Some 1,5km had already been built with the remaining portion to be completed within two years.

Its managing director David Ho Kwan Meng said he would allow visitors to his plantation in Kampung Sungai Itek, about 2km from Gopeng town, to assist the state government in promoting tourism.

“In the near future, the Gopeng Wall will be the icon of the town,” he said, adding that the entrance to the plantation would have the image of a fortress.

Ho said the company was founded in October 2008 to undertake intensive cultivation of gaharu-producing Aquilaria plants on a commercial scale.

Gaharu, agarwood, eaglewood, aloeswood are a few of the names for the resinous, fragrant and highly valuable heartwood produced by the Aquilaria spp.

It has been reported that high quality gaharu resin could cost RM100,000 per kg and about RM10,000 in its unprocessed form.

Gaharu or Black Gold has long played a significant role in Arab culture and religion. It is the most expensive wood,” Ho said.

He added that the Chinese had century-old writings mentioning gaharu, also known as Wood of Gods, in herbal medicine remedy.

Suppliers claim that extracts from gaharu contain anti-carcinogen, anti-oxidant, anti-aging, and anti-diabetic agents. It is also said to be a cure for erectile dysfunction.

The use of gaharu dates back to as early as 600 AD in various kingdoms of the world.

“It was used by emperors, royal families, noblemen and the rich for medicinal, fragrant and spiritual purposes,” Ho said.

He said that due to its rarity and high price, the gaharu producing species, Aquilaria, had been compulsively harvested in nature reserves, causing the species to be enlisted in the Endangered Species list in CITES.

“We have planted about 200,000 trees in our plantation with a greenhouse and nursery set-up,” he said.

 Showing some love: A worker hugging the trunk of a gaharu tree, an act which visitors from Middle East countries believe to be auspicious.

Ho said he was surprised when visitors from Middle East countries wanted to hug the thick trunk of his gaharu trees.

“I have a visitor who hugged the trunk of a tree for 30 minutes and yet was reluctant to let go, claiming that it is auspicious to do so,” he said.

Ho said that apart from being a health drink, gaharu tea could also be used as an ingredient for cooking and preparing the essence of chicken soup.

Products from the company, including gaharu chips, tea leaves, and oil are for export to Middle East countries, China, India and Japan.

Source: The Star



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