Fraiser’s Hill, Penang Provence, Malaysia
There were very few blogs, articles, or tourist information about Fraiser’s Hill. What we did know from our homework is “It is a quiet relaxing place to take a break.”
After the busy urban experience of Kuala Lumpur, I was very happy to move upslope toward a slower, greener, more natural part of Malaysia. Fraiser’s Hill is one of Malaysia’s few pristine forest areas. It is mostly visited on weekends by Kuala Lumpur residents who want to get out of the heat.
There was no one else on the commuter train.
When we get out, we are standing alone on the platform and my phone is showing “Grab is not available in your location.” Fraiser’s Hill is remote, 64 miles from Kuala Lumpur with no public transport except by taxi and there are no taxis to be found.
In my head, I am speaking loudly and firmly to myself, “This is the time to keep cool, be flexible, and be creative. Go with it.” I then see a human behind glass just around the corner from my initial view.
“Yes, Taxi. I will let you know,” and I am so thankful that many people in Asia know English as a second language. We were still one hour away from our Airbnb reservation location.
Not long after that, a black compact car, of a make I do not recognize, pulls up and someone is getting out.
“You need a taxi?” Yes, we do! My perceived problem was solved with only a little patience.
Our taxi driver speaks English and chats us up; where were we from, where were we going, how many children do we have, how old are we, do we like Malaysia?
Our new friend, Jamil is Muslim, 72 years old with two adult boys, one girl, and eight grandchildren who he likes to spoil. He works because he doesn’t like to sit still. For one-hour we rode up the winding road, through the jungle and up, up, up.
When we reached our destination, the Silverpark Hill Resort’s security gate, it was unusually quiet. We didn’t see any people. We didn’t see any signs of travelers, tourists, or guests. No cars in the parking lot. No lights in the windows. We had the place all to ourselves.
The whole mountain seemed empty, just us and the jungle.
The Tudor style buildings were part of the early colonial development of the area. We estimated that there were rooms for over 350 families, and we were in one of several building complexes.
During our visit, we walked the roads without incident, free to look for birds and enjoy the nearby jungle vegetation. In the distant jungle, we could watch great hornbills dart in and out of the tree canopy.
There was evidence on the horizon that change was coming. The land was being cleared for more palm oil plantations.
We ate one of our dinners at The Smokehouse, a historic preservation of the old colonial house. Only two other couples in the dining room. “Where is everyone?” we ask our hostess. “They come up on weekends. During the week we get ready for their arrival.” This place must be something when everyone shows up at the same time.
I enjoyed an old British colonial tradition, high tea, all alone overlooking the manicured gardens and the jungle beyond.
But at night, things changed.
That is when the ghosts spoke to us.
The mist drifted up the canyons and the clouds settled onto Fraiser’s Hill. The wind blew and from the doors and windows there came a moaning.
oooOOOooooo. Whoooo… Ohhhhhhhhh
It could have been the ghosts of lost souls exploited by the area’s namesake, Louis James Fraser. He found rich tin deposits in the area and recruited Chinese labor to open a mine. Fraser also operated a gambling and opium den at his workers' camp, for a second time he sucked out the life and the wages paid to his employees. That must have created a few lost souls.
Or, maybe it was the ghost of Fraser who mysteriously disappeared.
Or, maybe it was the ghosts of Malaysian tigers, and other animals that were poached for profit.
But, I think it was the residual sighs of all the travelers who came up on the weekend to get away from the sweltering heat in Kuala Lumpur. The spirits of those who wanted to escape the heat. “We’re too hot!” they would moan. “We love the cool air” they would chant. “We are tired of sweating and smelling” they would cry. “This air feels so good!” “We like it here!” they would declare.
oooOOOooooo. Whoooo… Ohhhhhhhhh
Their bodies returned to the heat, but their spirits remained.
Not your traditional ghosts, but ghosts of goodness. Happy spirits breathing cool clean air, and splashing in clean water. Specters swimming in the clouds with joy.
I was able to fall sleep thinking the howling ghosts are happy and friendly.
It may have been just the wind blowing through the sliding doors and windows. But I think it was a cover for the real spirits, loving the cool clean mountains of a sweltering country, souls just wanting to chill.
When we left Fraiser’s Hill, we left behind the ghosts of weekend travelers. We took a wild taxi ride down the hill with Jamil, then two train rides, a bus ride, a second ferry ride, and a taxi ride to our next adventure on the beaches of Pangkor Island, Malaysia.