In order to widen the knowledge of the students in this school, we had organised an educational trip on 25 April 2009 to Matang Mangrove Swamp Forest Reserve, the largest and most well-kept forest of this kind in the world.Apart from that, we also visited the charcoal factory and the fishing village of Port weld. The students also had an apportunity to explore the Kota Ngah Ibrahim Museum.
The trip comprised of 76 students and 6 teachers including our headmaster Mr. Teh who was our “tour guide” throughout the entire journey. Students had indeed learned much about the mangrove forest and the various stages of how charcoal was produced. Moreover, they were exposed to the lives of fishermen in the fishing village and acquired valuable knowledge about the history of Larut and Matang District in the museum.
It was truly an unforgetable and enjoyable outing.
Matang Mangrove Forest
Matang covers over 40,000 hectares as the single largest mangrove forest in Peninsular Malaysia.
- Roots That Anchor — To keep strong against water currents, cable-like roots buried in the mud grow deep to hold the trees steady.
- Roots That Breathe — With trees submerged in water, hundreds of pencil-thick roots grow upwards to take in oxygen and avoid water.
Used for firewood in the past, a charcoal industry began in the 1930s and continues today to supply Japan and local markets. When mangrove trees reach the age of 15, some are cut for poles as thinning-out thick forests allows better growth.
The charcoal factory in Matang (Kuala Sepetang) is located right in the middle of a spectacular mangrove forest. Kuala Sepetang is located in north Malaysia, near the old town of Taiping.
Charcoal production process
It all start with harvesting the mangrove trees. The trees need a certain size which is reached after 30 years. When an area is harvested, new trees are planted and that area is not touched then for 30 years.
The trees are transported with the high tide into the factory. Trees can not be processed with the bark so workers clean the trees. Then the trees are transported to igloo like cones were the baking process starts.
These cones are all handmade without any architecture drawing design. The master building simply builds them still “out of memory and experience”.
A cone is used for around 15 years. Once the cone is finished, the logs are brought inside and heated. The process is in fact very simple and complicated at the same time.
It’s all about the right temperature, so the process have to be monitored 24 hours a day.
The logs are standing up inside the cone on stone. Then the cone is almost closed apart of a small hole where a fire is burning. This fire heats up the cone and water will start to vaporize from the logs. Inside the cone there is now a temperature of 220°C.
The first stage of this process takes around 8 to 10 days. The log condition inside the cone is determined by the feel of the smoke that comes out of the holes of the cone.
After 10 days the cone is completely shut off and the baking process continues on a temperature of around 83°C. This takes another 12 to 14 days. Then the cooling process starts, this takes another 8 days before the hole in the cone is opened.
All the water is now vaporized out of the wood and the charcoal should look shiny black. The workers now get the charcoal out of the still hot cone and it is sorted, put in bags or transported in a whole log. Most of the charcoal is exported to Japan. A minor part is used in Malaysia.
Producing charcoal is a time consuming process. Most of the process is manually done. People in Kuala Sepetang, Matang and other small villages in the area have a living from the mangrove charcoal factory. Some of those people pack the charcoal in packs of 5 kg. Every little piece is manually packed and then transported.
Port Weld Fishing Village
Kuala Sepetang is a coastal town located in Perak, Malaysia. The town was formerly known as Port Weld after a former Governor, Frederick Weld. It is a thriving fishing village, and the main jumping-off point to the river mouth community of Kuala Sanggar, which is a Chinese fishing community at the river mouth which specializes in fish breeding in cages.
Kuala Sepetang has excellent seafood and it has a famous restaurant situated on the upper floor of a shop lot overlooking the river.
Kota Ngah Ibrahim
A bit of history about this museum. Kota Ngah Ibrahim is a Malay fortress belonging to Ngah Ibrahim, the Mantri of Larut, and son of Long Jaafar, the person who founded tin in Bukit Gantang in Klian Pauh which led to the establishment of the town of Taiping. Originally, Kota Ngah Ibrahim was simply a residence. However, Ngah Ibrahim had to build a fortress around it after violent gang warfare between the Hai San and the Ghee Hin secret societies over mining lands.
Ngah Ibrahim was one of the Malay chieftains found guilty for the murder of the first British Resident of Perak, James Wheeler Woodford Birch. This house was where the 1877 trial of the main perpetrator, Dato’ Maharajalela and his follower Si Puntum, was conducted, and they were sentenced to death. Ngah Ibrahim himself was sent into exile in Seychelles. He was never to return to Perak, dying in Singapore in 1887.
Kota Ngah Ibrahim once served as the country’s first teachers’ training college, called Matang College, before the premises moved to Tanjung Malim and became known as the Sultan Idris Training College. During the Japanese Occupation, it was used as the headquarters of the Japanese army. Today it serves as the Matang Historical Complex.