For something that most tourists don’t have on their bucket list, try Papan Village in Pusing, Perak. This small but quaint village is over 100 years old.
About 200 residents remain in Papan. And the Papan Heritage Conservation Group are making good efforts to draw more visitors.
So, if you want to have Papan Village to yourself, you might want to make a trip here before it gets famous (and crowded)!
Table Of Contents:
Brief History Of Papan Village
It’s hard to picture that Papan Village as the bustling place that it once was. On a weekday, it does look like a ghost town.
Before it turned to tin mining, the main industry at Papan Village was timber – particularly for chengal wood. Papan refers to a wooden board in Malay.
At one point, Papan was more developed than Taiping. Such that it was known as “Big Perak” while Taiping was known as “small Perak”.
But Papan Village fell victim to a devastating fire in 1911. After which, it never fully recovered.
In fact, the Papan Village has had a very unlucky past. This includes radiation contamination from the disposal site of a rare earth mining operation back in the early 1980s.
Papan Village Today
Today, the present community in Papan Village consist mainly of Chinese folk. Other ethnicities moved to nearby Pusing, Tronoh, and Batu Gajah.
Head of the Papan Heritage Conservation Group have put up signs for visitors to navigate the village easily.
The village is officially open to visitors from 11am to 7:30pm on most days. On Saturday, it opens at 8:30am and closes at 8pm.
Note: There is no physical barrier or gate stopping you from entering the village outside this timeframe.
There are beautiful street paintings, and 2 galleries to explore. Some of the items in the galleries were donated by residents.
Entrance Fees For Papan Village
There are no entrance fees for Papan Village. Although there are donation boxes in the galleries.
What To Do At Papan Village
1. Admire The Old Buildings
The rundown and overgrown state of many shop lot buildings in Papan Village give off a strong post-apocalyptic feel.
One of these alleys (Papan Middle Alley) is dotted with upcycled decorations and mini gardens. If the owner is around, you might get a chance to enter his secret garden too.
There’s a local story going round about one of the murals being stolen. You can see a mural of rats surrounding an empty patch in the wall. Apparently, a cat mural is missing from there.
2. Walk Beside Koi & Goldfish
On one side of the road along thePapan Middle Alley are beautiful paintings of koi and goldfish among lily pads.
We will add that the drains beside them have clear water and little fish swimming in them too.
PS: There is a red gate with rabbits on it in Papan Middle Alley. If the owner is around, you might be able to see their rabbits.
3. Get A Cool Drink
For now, it’s wishful thinking to hope for an air-conditioned café or visitor center at Papan Village.
But the local coffee shops here do have a cold soda for cheap. And this is very welcome on a hot day after exploring Papan Village.
4. Try Traditional Char Siew Pau
You can get char siew pau almost anywhere in Perak. But what sets these apart from the rest is the way they are made.
They are steamed over a charcoal fire. And this traditional way of preparing steamed buns lends them an interesting flavor.
One of the two coffee shops in Papan Village sells these in the morning. Take note that they might be sold out in the afternoon.
5. See An Old Mansion
With its size, the Istana Raja Billah may not be a palace as its name suggests. But to locals at the time, it was grand enough to have that title.
The wonderful carvings on the roof, windows, and doors are enough to suggest the grandeur of the mansion.
Visitors are not allowed to enter the building. Some say it is haunted too.
6. Explore The Galleries
Papan Heritage Gallery
Only open at 11am (or 8:30am on Saturday):
The galleries showcase what life was like in Papan Village before there was any electricity or plastic. There is even an old well and many vintage furniture here.
There are photographs and information on Sybil Kathigasu on the walls at the entrance of one of the galleries in Papan Village.
For those that are Chinese-educated, you can spend some time reading about Sybil Kathigasu:
She was a Malayan Eurasian nurse that set up a clinic for the Chinese resistance against the Japanese during the Japanese occupation of Malaya.
In doing so, the Japanese arrested and tortured her. This included watching her own family members be tortured in front of her.
It would have been a life sentence in the Batu Gajah jail if not for Malaya’s liberation from the Japanese in 1945.
She passed away in Britain (due to one a fatal infection from one of her injuries) months later. But not before receiving the George Medal for bravery.
7. Feel Like A Tomb Raider At The Banyan Root House
For us, this was an unexpected highlight of our visit to Papan Village. You have to enter the building to fully appreciate the root system of the old trees here. And see the remains of an old stove.
It is like the roots of the banyan trees are the only things holding the decrepit building up.
If you dare to go all the way into the building, there is a glass-stained window at the back that is roughly 100 years old.
Note: It is at your own risk to enter as these buildings are very old
8. Spot Some Wild Buffalo
Maybe you’ll just see their poop in the middle of the road. But if you’re lucky, the buffalo may be grazing under the shade of trees by the road.
9. Chat With The Locals
You can start with the owners of the small coffee shops (there are just 2). They are happy to share something about their childhood growing up in Papan.
As long as you can speak Cantonese, that is.
Getting To Papan Village
Don’t have your own car? It takes 30 minutes to reach Papan Village from Ipoh.
RayTheTour can get you there, together with a local to show you around too!
- Transport and related fees
- Comfortable vehicle
- Knowledgeable local guide (who acts as the driver too)
- Pick up from anywhere in Ipoh
- Drop off anywhere in Ipoh
- Itinerary is flexible (you can combine Papan Village as a day trip together with a visit to Kellie’s Castle).
Book a day tour with RayTheTour on their WhatsApp.
If you like photography and history, you won’t find Papan Village boring. In fact, the calm atmosphere here is very pleasant.
We recommend coming to Papan Village in the morning. Perhaps at 9:30am earliest, so that you can wander around the middle alley and old mansion when it’s still cool. It is worth waiting until the galleries open at 11am.