Footsteps - Jotaro's Travels
AGARWOOD - GAHARU TEA VALLEY
Gopeng, Perak, Malaysia - July 2014
|"Great Wall of China" style entrance arch to the Gaharu Tea Valley.|
The road to the valley is through Kampung Sungai Itek, just at the entrance is an arch announcing the start of the valley. On one side is the name "Hoga", this is the brand name of the products made by the company running this place.
The Gaharu Tea Valley is located about four kilometres from Gopeng Town. A commercial endeavour, it is a plantation of three hundred acres at the foot hills of the Main Range of the Malay Peninsular.
The Gaharu Tree is most renown for it's product, Agarwood. Agarwood is also known as Aloeswood, Jinko (in Japanese), as chénxiāng (沉香) in Chinese. It's an precious product as it is harvested from the heartwood of the tree that forms when the tree is "hurt" by insect infections, lightning strikes, or artificial human drilling. Besides this there are many other uses for the Gaharu Tree, but we will come to that later, let's visit the Valley first.
THE TOUR OF THE VALLEY
Just pass the entrance is a very large compound with several buildings. The two larger buildings at the sides are a warehouse and a processing centre where Gaharu leaves are processed into tea, and resin is made into aromatic oil, etc. The smaller tiled roof building at the centre is the showroom. It is from here that one can purchase tickets for the half-hour tour up and around the valley.
The tour cost RM10-00 and RM5-00 per pax for adults and children respectively. A minimum of two person is required for each tour. Included in the tour package is a sample pack of Gaharu Tea, a piece of Gaharu wood (to ward off evil and give good aura) and an informational/promotion DvD.
The tour is by these vans. My tour driver, Thomas was very knowledgeable about this place and enlightened me as we meandered along the bending and sometimes steep roads.
As we drove off, I noticed that the trees at the lower slopes were rather young giving me the impression that this plantation must be a new one. Thomas however informed me that the plantation is more than twenty two years old.
Gaharu Valley is the brainchild of Mr. David Ho, who was given two hundred saplings by a Japanese in 1992 for planting. It was a patient endeavour as it takes the tree fifteen years to mature. Fifteen years later in 2007, only seventy of the trees have survived. It is from these that there are now 200,000 trees growing in this plantation in Gopeng.
Branches and leaves from the younger trees are harvested earlier, after the trees have reached two years old. From these leaves, Gaharu Tea is made.
As we went up higher the road became steeper, the weather slightly cooler.
It's here up in the higher slopes and...
... and cooler valleys that the more matured trees are. These are the older trees from which agar wood is harvested.
The Gaharu Tree is reputed to emanate negative ions that soothes the sense and encourage creativity. Walking around the trees up here, I did feel calm and refreshed. Was it from just being around a cool natural forest or did the negative ions work?
But before the trees are can be harvested for agarwood, they have to be "treated".
Holes are drilled in the trees to inoculate them and to "encourage" rotting. It is from the dry rotted trees that agarwood is obtained. In the natural process, insects such as weevils are the ones that drill holes into the trees. The resin leaking out from these wounds are used for the manufacturing of essential aromatic oils and perfumes.
To make the tour more interesting, there are a couple of parks; like this one called the Hugging Hill. Here colourful animals are painted to look like they are hugging the trees.
Stepping into this made me fill like I was Peter Pan in one of those Disney movies.
A tiger, this one looks quite tame almost like a pettable pussy cat.
An orangutan - this fella is so lovable one can't help but hug it.
A raccoon - how did this forest creature end up in the tropical forest of Malaysia?
A grizzly bear - he must have been the one that chased the poor raccoon over!
This rabbit looking a bit surprised to be in these woods, must be a bit dazed having stepped out from Alice's Wonderland through a looking glass.
A pussy-cat eveready for the tropical rain with a fern leaf umbrella.
This iguana lizard seems most at home among these trees.
There were colourful butterflies...
... and Rhinoceros Beetles too.
Up at the top of one of the higher hills is an old big Gaharu tree. Many come to hug that tree as it is believed that the positive emanations from that tree can grant a person's wish.
THE VIEWING PLATFORM
On a strategic hill overlooking the plantation is a viewing platform. From the carpark entrance it looked like a three storey building.
Viewing from the side, one then notice that it is a four level building. It is under construction and when completed will probably house a coffee-house.
From here one can take a photo of a great panoramic view of the plantation.
|(Click on photo to watch YouTube video of the plantation)|
THE LOVERS' TREE
At another hill, steps lead down from a platform down to the Lover's Tree.
Down below are two Gaharu trees, caught in an embrace and entwined by vines just like two lovers bonded forever.
The tree is situated in a valley where good chi has settled and accumulated to create that romantic atmosphere.
Here too is a billboard where couples can stick their heads through holes for a souvenir photo of themselves.
Just outside the showroom is the Hoga Deli, here one can sample some of the Gaharu products that are sold in the showroom like the eggs, cakes, ice-cream, etc.
Just inside the showroom are large pieces of Gaharu Wood that one can buy an put into one's room, to bring the positive ionic gaharu forest auru into your home, so to put:
A striated dark brown heart wood.
There's even one that look like an elephant blowing it's trumpet.
All this wood "sculptures" are naturally formed. They look like driftwood; but instead of being formed by erosion of the sea, they are formed by the rotting of the outer trunk.
Shelf size Gaharu Wood "sculptures".
Some of the products that are sold in the showroom:
Gaharu Tea Instant Noodles, coming in natural flavour or chicken flavour they are sold in individual packs or package of five.
Of course, there is the Gaharu Tea. Each container contains 200 sachets. Each sachets can be used several times. This tea is reputed to reduce the effect of gout, control diabetes and help in insomnia.
Agarwood perfurme and aromatic essential oils coming in fine looking bottles.
Agarwood is a precious commodity costing up to RM12,000 per kilogram. So how does the plantation protect its trees from poachers? Under construction is a wall three metre high that looks like the Great Wall of China, when completed it will ring the property. Soon there will be a Great Wall of Gopeng!
THE GAHARU TEA VALLEY
Lot 9840, Mukim Teja, Kg. Pintu Padang, 31600 Gopeng, Perak, Malaysia.
Tel.: 605-357 5999/888 Fax: 605-357 5666
Website / Online Shop: www.gaharu.com.my
Visiting Hours: 9:00 am to 6:00pm
View Gaharu Tea Valley, Gopeng, Perak in a larger map
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