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Here’s something you don’t see every day! The 80+ year old Kuala Sepetang charcoal factory! It’s a famous Kuala Sepetang Attraction.

Have you ever been to a charcoal factory before? And a sustainable one, at that!

The next time you are in Perak, come see this unusual place while it is still around!

Navigate around this post:

Some Background On Charcoal Factories In Malaysia

Actually:

A quick search on Google will turn up around 20 or so charcoal factories in Malaysia. The traditional charcoal factory in Kuala Sepetang is one of the largest!

3 generations of the same family have been running the place! And without any machinery!

What Is Charcoal Used For?

But what is all the charcoal (a.k.a. black gold) for?

In Malaysia, charcoal is used for baking traditional food (biscuits or dumplings) or even to boil soup over! But that’s the older Chinese generation. Apparently, it’s tastier.

Activated charcoal (charcoal with added oxygen) is commonly used as air purifiers, teeth whiteners, remedies for an upset stomach. As well as for barbecues and steamboats.

And there’s a pretty big demand for charcoal overseas too. In fact, 60% of the charcoal produced at the Kuala Sepetang charcoal factory is exported to Japan.

The Kuala Sepetang charcoal factory

You wouldn’t think so but:

It’s quite beautiful at this charcoal factory.

The river is used for transporting chopped mangrove wood to the charcoal factory in Kuala Sepetang
The river is used for transporting chopped mangrove wood to the charcoal factory in Kuala Sepetang.

With all those textures and its close proximity to nature, it is a photographer’s playground!

Close-up shot of the mangrove wood at Kuala Sepetang Charcoal Factory
Close-up shot of the mangrove wood, all cut up and ready to be burned into charcoal.
Monitor lizard spotted at the river near the charcoal factory in Kuala Sepetang
Monitor lizard spotted at the river near the charcoal factory in Kuala Sepetang.

Besides this, you can see how charcoal is mass-produced:

Tours for Kuala Sepetang charcoal factory

The owner, Mr Chuah offers guided tours (less than an hour for RM5 per person) where you can learn about the whole traditional charcoal-making process.

He speaks several languages too – English, Mandarin, Malay, Cantonese, Hokkien, etc.

You can contact him on Facebook here. Or call 012-573 9563. You need to make a booking in advance.

Or you can skip the tour (like us) – free admission, and just explore on your own.

stacked bundles of chopped mangrove wood at kuala sepetang charcoal factory
Tourists entering the charcoal factory in Kuala Sepetang. Along the main walkway are stacked bundles of chopped mangrove wood, prior to burning.

Here are some shots of the inside of the factory. Or at least one of the sheds.

It was quite small (and hot!) here so you’ll probably be done sooner than you think.

Large kilns inside kuala sepetang charcoal factory
Large kilns inside the charcoal factory – these are used to burn the mangrove wood

The factory had two kilns running on the day that we went.

No workers in sight which is not surprising since the wood is left to burn for up to a month. They have a schedule on the wall to mark and monitor the progress.

Read also: Orangutan Island: A Hidden Orangutan Sanctuary In West Malaysia

Recommended duration to visit the charcoal factory in Kuala Sepetang

Allocate around 1 hour to explore the factory.

Especially if photography is your thing. Stay longer if you can stand the heat!

Souvenirs/ Things To Buy At The Kuala Sepetang Charcoal Factory

There are charcoal products for sale right outside the factory:

  • charcoal vinegar spray (insect repellent)
  • charcoal shampoo or soap
  • activated charcoal

Other places to see that are close to the charcoal factory:

Kuala Sepetang Attractions

1. Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve

Visit the mangroves (Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve). This is a great opportunity to see some swamp wildlife and birds.

The entrance to the grove is further down the same road that you enter the charcoal factory from.

Boardwalk through the mangroves
Boardwalk through the mangroves – photo credits to ladyzura (Instagram)

Entrance fee is RM15 and it’ll be another RM2 to park your car. Bathroom facilities are very basic.

There’s a 1.2 km boardwalk to view the mangrove swamp from, although not in the best condition.

Please bring along insect repellent and sunscreen. You are in a tropical country, after all.

Caution: The water comes up quite high on the road during rainy season.

2. Firefly Tour by Kuala Sepetang Eco Tourism

Go for a firefly tour via a sunset boat cruise! Malaysia is known for a particularly large species of firefly. And their survival is currently being threatened by development.

Firefly Tour by Kuala Sepetang Eco Tourism
Photo credits to kualasepetang.com

You can plan to see these amazing insects together with a visit to the mangrove forest. The available packages are here.

Foreigners pay significantly more than Malaysians do.

3. Mak Jah Shrimp Noodle Restaurant

Try the Mee Udang (Prawn Noodles) with freshwater prawns here for less than USD3.

Go early to avoid the crowds and get the bigger prawns.

The restaurant opens at 12pm. But there’s usually already a queue by 12.15pm especially on public holidays/long weekends.

Address: Kampung MenteriTaiping 34650, Malaysia

4. Kota Ngah Ibrahim (Ngah Ibrahim’s Fort)

This one is on the way to the charcoal factory. The building itself features colonial architecture. And there is free entry.

Kota Ngah Ibrahim (Ngah Ibrahim's Fort)
Photo credits to nabielaabdaziz

The “fort” is actually now a museum with information on the origin of Taiping (i.e. tin mining history). Covering incidents and battles that happened during the 1800’s. Including the Japanese occupation and the British colonial era.

Open hours: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM.

Address: Kampung Hujung MatangTaiping 34750, Malaysia. The museum’s collection is surprisingly pretty good.

5. Boat ride at Kuala Sepetang

Take a boat ride to watch for river dolphins (purely depends on your luck if you get to see any)! You can watch as the boat crew feed sea eagles.

Again, book this together with the firefly and mangrove visit. See second item in this list.

River Dolphins at Kuala Sepetang
Photo credits to kualasepetang.com

6. Kuala Sangga fishing village

Stop at the Kuala Sangga fishing village to get a different perspective on rural life.

Again, you could arrange this together with the other items on this list.

A 30-minute boat ride is necessary to visit this tiny fishing village. By tiny, we mean that you can walk from one end of the village to the other in less than half an hour!

Kuala Sangga Fishing Village
Photo credits to kualasepetang.com

That’s pretty small! In fact, there are only around 50 people who make their home here. Away from urban comforts.

Read also: Taiping Lake Gardens & Other Must-see Taiping Attractions

Convinced that you should visit the charcoal factory in Kuala Sepetang? Then you’ll need to know this:

How to get to the  Kuala Sepetang charcoal factory

The charcoal factory is about 30 minutes’ drive from Taiping town.

And an hour’s drive from Ipoh. Quite a scenic drive too.

You can drive down from Penang too (~2 hours’ drive):

Or, you can take the public bus from Taiping which is considerably slower.

What about a taxi?

A taxi from Taiping to the factory will cost around RM30.

The road into the Kuala Sepetang charcoal factory passes along mangrove groves.

Caution: The water comes up quite high during rainy season.

Road Trips
En route to charcoal factory (flooded road).

Make this a day trip from Ipoh to Taiping

Here is our suggested itinerary for a one day visit to the Kuala Sepetang charcoal factory:

Ipoh ⇒ Kuala Sepetang Charcoal Factory  ⇒ Taiping for the Taiping Lake Gardens and maybe the zoo.

For places to stay in Ipoh, check out Ipoh hotel list here.

Or stay longer:

Where to stay in Kuala Sepetang

十八丁乐悠悠民宿 Kuala Sepetang Love You You Homestay

  • Address: 64 Kampung Baru Kuala Sepetang, Kuala Sepetang, 34650 Kuala Sepetang, Negeri Perak
  • Phone:  012-429 3786
  • Price: RM 588 a night (up to 6 guests)
  • Remark: Free WiFi, Clean, modern & new homestay right in the fishing village, good location.

Kuala Sepetang CK homestay

  • Address: Kuala sepetang CK homestay Perak, Kuala Sepetang, Kampung baruC7 邮政编码: 34650
  • Phone: 011-2955 8118
  • Price: Rm 118 per night
  • Remark: Building is new. Facilities are in very good condition and room is cozy. Location is very near to food outlets. The host can arrange boat tours if required. They have motorcycles and bicycles you can use. They have single beds and double beds – please specify.

Website is here.

Accommodation in Taiping

Raintown Inn

Booking.com
  • Address: 199, Jalan Simpang, Kampung Bengali, 34000 Taiping, Negeri Perak
  • Phone: 016-520 1042
  • Price: RM 78 for a double room with a private bathroom.
  • Remark: Quite inconvenient if you don’t have a car as it is not in Taiping town area. Spacious and clean rooms with comfortable beds. Good for a family. Some noise from the main road. Flexible management.

Louis Hotel

Booking.com
  • Address: 129-131, Jalan Pasar, 34000 Taiping, Negeri Perak
  • Phone: 05-808 2333
  • Price: Standard room is ~RM100 a night
  • Remark: Close to Restoran Kakak, Lake Gardens and Perak Museum. I believe Wifi is free but don’t quote me on that ;). Great for value and location. Unfortunately, the smell of the neighboring wet market can seep in through the windows. We noticed it in the early morning but it’s more of a hint and not overpowering. Do consider another place if you have a sensitive nose or an aversion to wet markets. Rooms are clean and spacious enough though.

Sojourn Beds & Cafe

Booking.com
  • Address: 54, Jalan Kota, 34000 Taiping, Negeri Perak
  • Phone: 05-805 4048
  • Price: Around RM 100 for a double room
  • Remark: Kind and helpful staff. Simple breakfast is provided. Central location. Many nearby eateries. Clean and comfortable rooms. Free WiFi.

Novotel Taiping

Booking.com
  • Address: No 1, Jalan Tupai, 34000 Taiping, Negeri Perak
  • Phone: 05-820 8288
  • Price: Double rooms cost about RM 170 per night
  • Remark: Free parking, breakfast (good too) and Wifi. This hotel has a pool and gym and overlooks the Lake Gardens. Can be very crowded during long weekends. Hotel is attached to Taiping mall (which is not that exciting but there is a food court). Comfortable rooms. Walking distance to the Lake Gardens.

Sentosa Villa

Booking.com
  • Address: Jalan 8, Taman Sentosa, 34000 Taiping, Negeri Perak
  • Phone: 05-805 1000
  • Price: RM 170-180 for a double room per night
  • Remark: Surrounded by nature. Peaceful. Cleanliness can be improved. Beautiful chalets. Close to Taiping Zoo. For rooms on the upper floors, access is not convenient for senior citizens (no lift).

Hermitage Boutique House

Booking.com
  • Address: 30, Jalan Lim Sam Kip, Taman Tupai Mas, 34000 Taiping, Negeri Perak
  • Phone: 011-5109 9550
  • Price: Can be more than RM180 for a double room per night
  • Remark: Delicious breakfast. The suite is modern, clean and spacious. This one is also close to the Lake Gardens. Rooms are in modern apartments overlooking the pool.

Zen Retreat Taiping

Booking.com
  • Address: 12A, Jalan Taman Suria, Damai, 34000 Taiping, Negeri Perak
  • Phone: 012-392 7220
  • Price: RM 430 per night (up to 8 guests)
  • Remark: You can see their photos here. Absolutely gorgeous place to stay if you crave some affordable luxury (they’ve even got Netflix and hot tubs). Beautiful, spacious and modern home fringed by a forest. DO NOT follow the route provided by Google Maps. You will just end up nowhere. Go in via Taman Suria.

Lastly,

Conclusion

Visit the Kuala Sepetang charocal factory as soon as you can to appreciate the work that goes into making a very useful but unassuming product. Traditional charcoal making is a dying art/process.

There’s plenty to see in this area of Perak too. Best if you have your own car though. And mind the weather. The road can get flooded after a heavy rain.

Are you interested in seeing the largest traditional charcoal-making factory in Malaysia? Leave a comment below.

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