Thursday, June 17, 2010

An untold secret, Kellie's Castle

Perak, the Land of Grace is famed for its beautiful limestone mountains and caves and of course, for its food. Many would opt for a trip to Ipoh for its well known chicken rice and Mee Rebus Ramli. Many, however, would often bypass the rustic small town of Gopeng, when in fact Gopeng is Perak’s best kept secret.

Gopeng, today is well known for its heritage and eco-tourism where river bugs will have a thrill experiencing the adrenaline rush when rafting down the Kampar river. However, situated a few kilometers away from Gopeng, near Batu Gajah, stands a pre independent castle which holds untold secrets of William Kellie Smith.

History buffs will fall in love with the magic and mysteries that surrounds Kellie’s Castle. Easily visible from the Batu Gajah-Jalan Gopeng road, Kellie’s castle sits on a little knoll just by the bend of the Kinta River, commanding a clear, unobstructed view of the Kinta Valley. Its first stone foundation was laid in 1915 as a symbol of love for Kellie towards his wife and son.

Kellie Smith, a Scottish planter came to then Malaya in search of tin and rubber. As Kellie Smith prospered, he built his first mansion and named it Kella’s house. The castle which he built and is believed to be gift for his wife and son was never completed. In 1926, Kellie Smith travelled to Portugal and died on his journey from pneumonia. After his death, his heartbroken wife decided to pack up and sell the estate to a company, returning to Scotland. The house and its ruins can still be seen today next to the castle. The mansion was then bombed during the Japanese occupation and what stands today is only the structure.

The castle adjacent to his mansion was intended to be the centre of social life for the wealthy colonial planters and administrators living in the area back in the days.
I was mesmerized by the remaining ruins of what was the first mansion built by Kellie Smith. If the castle were to have been completed, it would have boasted of a ballroom, a courtyard, a library and a wine cellar.

A trip to Kellie’s castle wouldn’t be complete without hearing the stories from Mr. Tajuddin, the castle’s guide. He will take you to every corner of the castle and recount tales and histories past at the same time tickle your funny bones with his witty commentaries and jokes. What makes the tour around the castle much more interesting is simply because of the fact that Mr. Tajuddin is passionate about the castle.

As you follow in the wake of Mr. Tajuddin’s heals, you will begin to imagine what life would have been like back that. You visualize rich European tapestries that could have probably graced the walls of the mansion. You imagine elegant chandeliers hanging from the ceiling above and dark, wood carved furniture in every room.

I loved going round the castle, reading the descriptions on the wall and listening to the stories. According to Mr. Tajuddin, Kellie's castle is also believed, should it had been completed, would house Malaya's first elevator. The castle's elevator goes straight to the rooftop terrace which provides a beatiful view of the surrounding area and the long unwinding river across the castle.

One of the castle’s many dark secrets is believed to be located in a tunnel under the castle. A secret in the form of a black car. Nobody seems to know why the car is that and how it got there. Nobody is allowed to go down and until enough resources and funds can be pooled, the mystery of the tunnel and the black car shall remain.

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