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Kampung Baru Palawan’s charm lies in its close-knit community

The Star Online logo The Star Online 5/10/2017 FOONG PEK YEE
The park in Kampung Baru Palawan includes a 400m jogging track that is very popular among the villagers and residents in the vicinity. © Provided by The Star Online The park in Kampung Baru Palawan includes a 400m jogging track that is very popular among the villagers and residents in the vicinity.

Kampung Baru Palawan’s jogging track in a garden complete with garden benches and a mini playground is a hive of activity for villagers there.

The 400m track and surroundings are a conducive place for exercise, relaxation and mingling with rural folk.

Village chief Kelvin Cheong Wan Hong is proud of the landmark located at the entrance to the village.

He said the track was only 200m before it was extended to double its length in 2010 following requests from villagers.

“People from Langkap, about 5km away, also come here to jog,” he told StarMetro during a visit to the village in Hilir Perak.

Cheong said the village has about 120 houses, but only 99 were occupied with about 400 villagers in total.

“The population would balloon to about 600 during major festive seasons such as Chinese New Year when the younger generation returns to celebrate with their elders,” he said.

Kampung Baru Palawan was set up in 1952 at the height of the Emergency (1948-1960).

Fast track to the present, the predominantly agricultural village comprises smallholders planting oil palm and vegetable and fruit farmers.

The majority of villagers are Hakkas.

The last 30 years have seen many of the village’s youths moving to other areas and big cities for job and business opportunities.

Cheong, 55, is the only one among his five siblings who returned to settle down in the village.

He now operates a factory producing carton boxes.

He graduated with a business administration and economics degree from Canada in 1984, and worked in Kuala Lumpur and Taiping before returning to his village for good in 1992 with his wife and their three children.

They live with Cheong’s parents.

His father, Cheong Keat Wah, who was the former village chief passed away in 2009.

Cheong, who has been the village chief since 2008, understands why his late father gave priority to basic infrastructure development in the village.

“We may be in a rural area where development is relatively slow compared to urban areas.

“But basic infrastructure and amenities are very important for us,” Cheong said, recalling the days before 1980 when the village only had 12 hours of electricity supply daily – between 6.30pm and 6.30am.

Cheong said education and a healthy lifestyle for the villagers were also important.

Besides the jogging track, the village has a basketball and badminton court.

The village’s primary school, SJKC Pelawan, has upgraded to a new building. The school’s old premises, which has been left intact beside the new building, is a sign of changing times.

The village’s old community hall which is also a reminder of the good old days is now used as a kindergarten.

There is only one sundry shop and one coffeeshop in the village.

The village was quiet when StarMetro visited the area at noon.

The afternoon heat might be the reason for many to stay indoors.

Cheong said the village remained a close-knit community and residents often meet one another at the village coffeeshop, temple and during community activities.

“The tai chi class has been put on hold for the time being after the trainer passed away,” he said.

The village may be small but Cheong is upbeat that it can evolve and progress with times.

He is equally confident that tourism, especially cultural and food tourism can attract visitors to the village.

Although children these days are literally glued to the computer and electronic gadgets, Cheong, who grew up playing traditional games such as hide and seek and police and thieves, said traditional games might be able to make a return.

Well, anything traditional, be it food or games, can be packaged into an interesting tourism product, and new villages such as Kampung Baru Palawan certainly has the potential to be discovered.

Just like the jogging track, it has a steady stream of visitors daily because it offers them what they want.

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