A Malaysian quagmire

A Travelfish long read by Travelfish
First published on 1st November, 2020 |1,189 reads.

Lenggong in Perak State, Malaysia was gazetted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012. Created by a meteorite, the valley’s archaeological discoveries span close to two million years and it is the location of one of the oldest human settlements outside of Africa. Almost a decade later, Covid19 is the icing on a cake of neglect which some locals are refusing to swallow.

Standing above his 11,000 year old bones, I gaze at the crevices rippling his skull and imagine Perak Man as a prehistoric shaman. The oldest, most complete skeleton unearthed in Southeast Asia, the remains of this disabled witch doctor helped earn Lenggong its UNESCO World Heritage listing—Malaysia’s fourth.

“Foreigners were surprised to see that a World Heritage Site could be so underdeveloped,” says Lenggong native Ng Hock Seng. Photo: Travelfish.
“Foreigners were surprised to see that a World Heritage Site could be so underdeveloped,” says Lenggong native Ng Hock Seng. Photo: Travelfish

Today, Perak Man has aged better than the signboards rotting off their poles. A stench rises from the piles of garbage which greet visitors to the sites. Almost US$5 million in funding has vanished with little to show. A bounty dating back two millennium languishes while environmentalists are evicted, native forests logged, and habitats destroyed. Nearby, the abandoned wreckage of an aircraft, crashed during the Malayan Emergency, points to a greater emergency—could Lenggong be the first UNESCO heritage listing Malaysia loses?

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