Hands That Raised Maxwell Hill

Farahin Fadzlishah

As an outsider seeking for the spirit of a place, I am tracing the social fabric of Maxwell Hill through the hands that have been raising her. Much like the archival images of miners panning the alluvial tin with their bare hands, I am exploring the hands-to-hill or hill-to-hands relationship that still exists today. In either literal or figurative sense, I would like to highlight these hands in telling the tales of how they had given life to Maxwell Hill and how Maxwell Hill had, in turn, formed their lives.

There is this notion amongst the general public that the hill is managed by a single entity. At times, this imposes unwarranted misunderstandings of its operations and especially during times of crises. This has led me to further explore the narrative through stories shared and roles played by the individuals or agencies interviewed.

Told in three parts, the images and stories unveil aspects of Maxwell Hill that portray her to be more than what meets the eye.

Part One, “Berulas tangan dan lidah” speaks of the efforts contributed through action and counsel. It explores this relationship through the hands of a hill manager, telecommunications officer and member of the Perak State Assembly.

In Part Two, “Menjangkau sehabis tangan” draws on the toil of providing the best care by the two groups of hands that are instrumental in the upkeep of the hill from the bungalows to the culverts.

In Part Three, “Pengayuh sama di tangan, perahu sama di air” looks into the hands who cherish the hills with their various abilities towards a common goal. Here, we see how the hill holds a vibrant cultural expression of the past, present, and future, in all three hands who advocate for natural and cultural heritage of Maxwell Hill.

In brief, this project engages with the multilayered stories of the numerous hands that have collectively cared for the hill and at times, serendipitously come together to sustain her long-term well-being.


Between the actions and counsel of Musnarizal bin Abdul Manap, Hazrul Afendy Bin Abdul Kadir, and YB Ong Seng Guan, Maxwell Hill gets a multilevel attention on her geographical and jurisdictional importance.

The hands that be — Appointed as the Hill Manager in the third quarter of 2020, his previous role as an Enforcement Officer of the Taiping City Council (MPT) has fully instilled a strict leadership skillset in Musnarizal bin Abdul Manap.

Although Maxwell Hill has not fully re-opened since the major landslides of 2019, Mus continues in the management role on the hill. Whether daily hikers, the telecommunications or municipal staff on the hills or visits by the police or armed forces, he would be the first point of reference for access and safety. He also supports hill events such as the Malaysian Mountain Trail Festival (MMTF) which is held yearly.

From Caulfield Hill — Hazrul Afendy Bin Abdul Kadir has been with Telekom Malaysia (TM) for a little over a decade. Initially stationed at Bangunan TM along Jalan Berek, he seized the opportunity to relocate to Maxwell Hill where he and his team are instrumental in keeping the transmitters in working condition. Their services are critical in maintaining radio transmissions for surrounding areas such as Selama, Parit Buntar, and Kuala Kurau for the likes of Astro and MYTV to name a few.

Besides working in the control room with daily online and manual record-keeping and device-tracking, Afendy is also responsible for scaling the telecommunications tower for routine checks. For this task, he has to acquire a special training license which needs regular renewals for safety purposes.

The hill, the lake and the town — 2018 marked a turning point for Taiping-born YB Ong Seng Guan. He began fostering his interest in pursuing the Pokok Assam ADUN (State Assembly) seat to serve his beloved hometown which he secured in the 2022 General Elections.

His main task consists of tabling matters arising in his constituency especially for issues in areas such as Maxwell Hill and Taiping Lake Gardens during the State Assembly sittings. Taking deep pride in Taiping being placed third in the Sustainable Top 100 Destination Awards by the International Tourismus-Börse (ITB), YB Ong wants to push for strategic sustainable management as a top priority here.

He hopes to collaborate with experts to steer the collective stewardship of the hill, the lake, and the town to ensure that Taiping is sustainably managed for future generations.


With their best efforts, two groups of hands that tend and mend the hill, ensuring safe passage for all.

Of Defenders and guardians — Abinash a/l Jayethilegan or Abi, has been serving Maxwell Hill since the management transition between the District and Land Office and the Taiping City Council (MPT). Abi and 15 others were actively involved in the 3-month long rejuvenation works of the hill.

Today, Abi and the council staff team continue to be responsible for ferrying visitors of the hill in the ubiquitous Land Rovers, maintaining the grounds, and tending to the bungalows, to name but a few of the areas for which MPT is responsible. Highly skilled in manoeuvring the bends of the hill, Abi and his colleagues also diligently record the mileage and fuel consumption of the Land Rovers in the logbooks besides ensuring each of the units undergo essential routine maintenance.

Mat Keni Enterprise — The Team: Syaidatul Roraniza binti Abdul Aziz a.k.a. Kak Eida, Mohamaad Zaini bin Taharim a.k.a Cik Mat, Mohd Saipol bin Abdullah, Abu Hassan bin Musa a.k.a. Tok Wan, Amir Hamzah bin Bahamian

A subcontractor of Belati Wangsa, Syaidatul Roraniza binti Abdul Aziz or Kak Eida and her team ascend once a month for maintenance works where they would tend to the roads and all 38 culverts from “Sector 7 to Sector 10”.

Besides gearing up with shovels and a leaf blower, a main part of their preparation includes visual logging. Detailed codes, place, and time would be filled in on a laminated form and they are required to photograph before, during, and after their allocated tasks. This simple system ensures their payment claims goes smoothly.

The main mission to clear the debris from the roads and culverts is vital to prevent formation of ponding water. This is crucial to reduce the risk of the soil structure softening during heavy rains that could potentially lead to landslides.


With their distinctive vigour in raising Maxwell Hill, they each carry laudable accomplishments unique to the conservation of this misty hill.

The Nest — Upon her return to Taiping, Maxwell Hill welcomed Liew Suet Fun with open doors when she acquired the lease for The Nest. Together with her husband Peter, Suet Fun recalls one of the most vivid memory of hosting her guests – who range from the scientific community to young families seeking intimate connection with nature- was around the dining table where conversations and reflections were exchanged.

As a writer, Suet Fun has etched her impressions and lived experiences in almost-biographic books on the hill. Through these pages, her love for Larut Hills will be kept alive for generations to come.

In leaps and bounds — Taiping-born Ewegene Tan has been raising the profile of Maxwell Hill through the Malaysian Mountain Trail Fest (MMTF) since its inception in 2015. With portions of its trail running through the Virgin Jungle Reserves (VJR), MMTF has achieved notable recognition within the international trail running community. After its successful inaugural race in 2018, MMTF was awarded rights to host the first North Face 100 race in Malaysia.

Amongst its numerous breakthroughs, MMTF has been a qualifying race for
Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc(UTMB) since 2018, anchoring their commitment to revive Maxwell Hill and highlighting Taiping as a trail running and hiking destination. Another major milestone saw MMTF securing an agreement with the Perak State Forestry Department to gazette the trails into the state map and the rights to maintain the Maxwell Basecamp site from where they would be operating.

The walking encyclopedia — Born and raised on this hill station, Guna’s ancestors were among the many South Indian migrants who have collectively kept the hill thriving for generations. Continuing their legacy, Thoraraisa Thoraipandy, his given name at birth, has served as the Chairman of the Sri Kaliamman Temple and a caretaker of the Speedy’s Resthouse, to name a few.

Whilst offering invaluable local narratives from his lived experience and ancestral oral history, Guna is also a prolific nature guide of his beloved birthplace. His close encounters with nature lovers in his formative years paired with their generosity in sharing their discoveries had nurtured Guna’s lifelong fascination with the bountiful wonders on the hills.

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