Home TA Online History shaped Rawang’s importance, progress nudges it forward

History shaped Rawang’s importance, progress nudges it forward

Welman Road in Rawang today is bustling with activity - BENEDICT LOPEZ

Follow us on our Malay and English WhatsApp, Telegram, Instagram, Tiktok and Youtube channels.

Benedict Lopez drove up to Rawang to catch up on what’s been happening in the town where he once served.

In its heyday, Rawang was one of the heartlands of the now defunct tin mining industry in Malaysia.

Rubber and oil palm plantations also featured prominently in the landscape around this satellite town, not too far from Kuala Lumpur.

In 1894, Malaya’s first electric generator was installed in Rawang, mainly to serve the needs of British tin mining companies. It was also the first town in Malaya to have street lights and a railway station (now demolished) with lamps and fans.

The first house to have electricity in Malaysia was in Rawang – Photo: Jimmy Sidhu

The town is home to the first cement factory in Malaya, Rawang Works, launched by the then Associated Pan Malayan Cement company in 1953. The plant was built on some land vacated by the tin mining industry, which had moved westwards to Batang Berjuntai. Many Indian Malaysians of Malayalee descent worked at this cement plant. The Malayalee community was so deeply rooted in this company that even the cement brand was nicknamed “Malayalee Cement”. But the Malayalees rendered assistance to people of all races and religions.

Rawang is one of the few towns in Malaysia with a Gurkha settlement. A Gurkha village is located on the outskirts of Rawang, its inhabitants mostly descendants of Gurkha military personnel whom the British brought in.

For those who once served in Rawang, nostalgia still overflows each time they visit this little town. When I was transferred from Teluk Intan to Rawang in September 1986, it was still a sleepy hollow with only two main streets – Jalan Welman and Jalan Maxwell. Back then, the town had only one bank, and a few merchandising outlets and a trickle of Chinese and Indian restaurants dotted the streets.

READ MORE:  Can Malaysia aspire to a shared history?

The office where I worked, the Labour Department, and the adjacent courthouse, perched on a hill, are no longer a part of the town’s landscape. Missing too are the nearby playing field and library.

I left Rawang in March 1991. Fast forward more than 29 years later, and this hassle-free little township is today a hive of activity that is beyond recognition. Even crossing the road along Jalan Welman nowadays can often be challenging – a far cry from the 1980s when it was a breeze.

Even the route to the well-known St Jude’s Catholic church, built in 1955, is now different. The architecture of the church may be the same, but the road to this church is no longer the one adjacent to the old police station. Now it passes near shophouses in the new mini-township.

A few industrial estates have sprouted in the area. Companies have moved their operations here because of Rawang’s pull factors: cost-competitiveness and the amenities required for their businesses. Landed property is relatively inexpensive, but prices are rising with people from Kuala Lumpur buying property here.

New housing estates have been developed on former rubber and oil palm plantation land. With all this built development, the place bears little resemblance to the famed Rawang of old.

But some positive attributes have withstood the test of time: a friendly town still relatively inexpensive for personal and household items and eating out. Check out the prices for household items, foodstuffs, tailoring, spectacles and picture frames, and you will notice the vast difference compared to KL prices.

READ MORE:  Can Malaysia aspire to a shared history?

I now get my spectacles done and shirts and pants tailored in Rawang for less than half the price in Bangsar. Tailors in Rawang do a good job, and they are more reasonably priced than in Bangsar.

The Indian mini-markets here sell a variety of Indian foodstuffs at much lower prices than in KL. My favourite bottled pickles cost a ringgit cheaper than similar retail outlets in Brickfields.

My friend and I make it a point to make the most out of every visit to Rawang, doing as much shopping for our needs as we can.

Our visit is not complete without a sumptuous lunch at a restaurant which is etched in Rawang’s history. The third-generation owner still sustains the culinary traditions of his father and grandfather before him.

Nowadays, I only drive to Rawang using the old road through Templar’s Park. Even the countryside here has been transformed. In contrast to the 1980s, concrete development has taken its toll on the environment with the construction of residential property and highways, resulting in much less greenery – an ominous price to pay for this new milieu.

Upon reaching the fringes of the town, I see new buildings and business enterprises, including a supermarket, flank both sides of the road, offering customers a variety of products and services. About half a kilometre after the junction at Jalan Welman lies the new mini-township, home to a range of retail establishments serving the local community and nearby hamlets like Serendah, Bukit Beruntong and Batu Arang.

From a town which was once eclipsed by KL, Rawang has carved a niche for itself with its own identity. It has awakened from its slumber and is no longer bypassed or used as a mere stopover for people travelling up north.

READ MORE:  Can Malaysia aspire to a shared history?

Today, it is a town humming with activity, with extensive urban space catering to the needs of its dwellers and residents from the outskirts.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
Support our work by making a donation. Tap to download the QR code below and scan this QR code from Gallery by using TnG e-wallet or most banking apps:
Avatar photo
Benedict Lopez was director of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority in Stockholm and economics counsellor at the Malaysian embassy there in 2010-2014. He covered all five Nordic countries in the course of his work. A pragmatic optimist and now an Aliran member, he believes Malaysia can provide its people with the same benefits found in the Nordic countries - not a far-fetched dream but one he hopes will be realised in his lifetime
Notify of
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
17 Jul 2023 1.07pm

Thx Benefict for reminding us about the Rawang town and surroundings

Peter Perreau
Peter Perreau
12 Nov 2020 1.00pm

I enjoyed this article from Benedict Lopez. I don’t remember much of Rawang even though I have passed through many times on my way up north. I knew it had some importance and Benedict’s interesting article of Rawang confirms and brings delight in reading. Well done Benedict.

Parmindar Singg
Parmindar Singg
25 Aug 2020 1.19pm

It’s actually Sikh’s people not Gurkha people.

Parmindar Singh
Parmindar Singh
28 Aug 2020 6.40am
Reply to  Benedict Lopez

Got so many Sikh’s people at Rawang not a few people.

17 Jul 2023 1.06pm

No. Actually there was settlement called Kampung Ghurka. There was one.

25 Aug 2020 5.48am

I was living and working in Rawang in the 70s. It was indeed a very livable town, with complete amenities. Food was freely available, suiting every community. People were friendly, the strrets were not busy and KL was nearby. People make KL their weekend must visit place. For me now, I make Rawang a stop.over on my trip north. Still there are plenty of attractions for a visit, especially for the food.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x