How well do you know your own country and its hidden gems?
At times I feel like I’ve already seen it all. But then I stumble across places that make me question that belief – like the Gaharu Tea Valley Agarwood plantation. I never knew this place existed, and the funny thing is, it was the supposedly less tech-savvy people (ie parents) who suggested the trip after Googling it.
Well done, mom and dad. xD
Tucked within the sleepy town of Gopeng in Perak, the Gaharu Tea Valley was started in 1992 – which means that the place has been around for more than 24 years! One wonders why they aren’t more popular as a tourist attraction among the public (they probably need more marketing!), but the place has had many celebrity guest visits, including from HK stars and local ministers/politicians. Spread across 300 acres, the plantation has over 200,000 agarwood (Gaharu) trees, which are prized for their medicinal and aesthetic properties.
Since the plantation is huge, vans will shuttle visitors back and forth from various checkpoints. While waiting for our ride, we stopped by at the ‘base’ where they have a shop selling all sorts of Gaharu products, most notably tea. The brand is called HOGA, which is short for Holistic, Original, Genuine, Authentic tea.
Unlike conventional tea leaves, gaharu tea is made from different parts of the tree, which gives it a woody,fruity taste with herbal overtones. It’s meant to be drunk in the form it is served, without added sugar. The cold samples they provided were very refreshing and cooling on the throat – perfect for a hot summer’s day.
The tea is said to have various health benefits, such as detoxification, strengthening the kidney and liver, reducing insomnia and stabilising blood pressure. It can be pricey though (upwards of RM200+ for a medium-sized box). They also have other products like flavoured ramen and recipe sachets (bak kut teh, herbal soup).
Our comfy air conditioned van arrived and took us up to the first checkpoint – a small building/gazebo perched on top of a hill. The vantage point offered us a beautiful view of the valley below, covered in gaharu trees for miles as far as the eye can see, with deep rolling green hills beyond the horizon.
Interesting fact about gaharu trees: in its natural state, it’s just a random light and pale-coloured tree – but once it gets infected by a type of mould, it turns into a very dense, dark and resin-embedded heartwood with a distinct fragrance often used for incense and perfumes. At the plantation, according to the guides, they have to go about ‘injuring’ the trees so they can be exposed to the mould.
Moving on to the next checkpoint, we came to a small garden lined with gaharu trees, painted over with animal murals. Good for selfie enthusiasts out there. There was also a murky pond with stingrays (but we couldn’t see anything coz it was too dirty), an enclosure with a few tortoises, and a flower patch.
Statues of the 12 Chinese animal zodiac.
And a huge old tree in the middle of the courtyard.
Gaharu Tea Valley is a great place to visit if you’re doing a tour of Gopeng/Ipoh and its vicinity. The tour shouldn’t take more than 1h30m, since there isn’t much to do other than take pictures, look at the scenery and learn a little about the gaharu plant. Entry is free, but the guided van tour is RM10 for adults and RM5 per child, which is reasonable + you get to see a side of Perak beyond the usual touristy spots. However, bear in mind that it isn’t very Westerner-friendly since the guides speak mostly Chinese/Malay and there aren’t many English signs.
GAHARU TEA VALLEYMukim Teja, Kampung Sungai Itek 9840 Jalan Gopeng, 31600 Gopeng, Malaysia