Yong Peng


Yong Peng

Yong Peng (永平) is a town in Malaysia located in the southern state of Johor. It has an area of 1911.6 hectares with an estimated population of 29,046 * [http://www.johordt.gov.my/mdyp/content/view/18/34/] . Yong Peng has two main interchanges on North-South Expressway including north to Kuala Lumpur and south to Johor Bahru.

Slightly more than half of the local residents are of Chinese origin; whose forefathers migrated from southern China in the 1880s. The rest are Malay and Indian who mainly reside in the surrounding Yong Peng area. Other than Malay, the other main language used is Mandarin with an accent strongly influence by the Malay language and the HockChew and Hokkien Dialect.

Due to perceive lack of economy opportunity, most of the younger generation choose to leave Yong Peng after completing secondary education and migrate to the big city (e.g. Johor Bahru, Kuala Lumpur, Klang etc). Some even travel further and settle in foreign countries such as Singapore, Australia, Canada or USA for work. Those who remain mostly work in the plantation area (especially rubber, palm oil and cocoa), light industry (especially garments) or the supporting services (banking, retails etc).

History

During the reign of Sultan Abu Bakar of Johor and under the influence of the British rule in the 1870s, a policy was initiated so as to modernize Johor and increase tax revenue by opening up more of the forest area for plantation purposes (initially for spices such as pepper and gambir; then follow by rubber). But to do so, they need massive amount of workers. Coincidentally the political and social chaos in Southern China during that period (ref: History of China) made the Chinese migrants an obvious choice. Most of these immigrants are poor, so to pay for the fees, most have to sell themselves as indented slave. Some of this early Chinese pioneer travels from the river mouth starting from Batu Pahat and along the Sungai Bekok and settle upon a fertile land not far from where Sungai Bekok and Sungai Sedi meets. To express their strong desire for peace, this early settler named this piece of land Yong Peng (Literally means ~ "Forever Peace" in Chinese).

Alas, peace does not last long. About 50 plus years after its founding, Yong Peng was invaded by the Japanese in the World War II (ref: [Pacific War] ). Due to family ties, a lot of the early Chinese in Yong Peng donated heavily to the fight against Japanese occupation of China in the 1930's. As a result, the Japanese treated the migrant Chinese badly and would killed on the slightest of excuse. To fight back, many of them join the underground guerrilla that continually harass and sabotage the Japanese military installation; hence creating an even deeper cycle of bad blood and mistrust. Most of this guerilla troop is led by either the Communist Party of Malaya or by remnants of the British force that remains hidden in the deep peninsular jungle. The weapons and medical supplies are mostly provided by the remaining British Commonwealth force from Australia or the US led forces from Burma. To encourage more resistance against the Japanese, the British was known to make various promises for independence of Malaya.

After World War II, the British came back to power. Initially, the British does not seem to be willing to keep their promise for giving independence back to Malaya. In fact, they started demanding the returns of weapons from the guerrilla fighter and all the remaining Sultans in the Peninsular were forced to give up their sovereign power. Seizing on this air of discontent, the Communist Party of Malaya strikes back. The Gorkha soldiers hired by the British killed many innocent Chinese who were suspected to have supplied food and logistics to the Communist.

Yong Peng, along with many other urban areas within the peninsular, suffer a heavy setback due to the resulting chaos. In fact, Yong Peng was among the last designated “Black Area” in the south peninsular due to the chaos. To effectively control and terminate all communication lines, all Chinese living near the edge of the jungle or away from urban area are forced to move to specially created concentration camps called "New Villages". These camps are surrounded by barb wires and guarded day and night. Other than night curfews, residents of the camp were also strictly prohibited from carrying additional food or tools in or out of the camp. These treatment only ended after Malaya independence in 1957.

Yong Peng was also disturbed by the racial riot (mostly took place in Kuala Lumpur) during the 13th of May event in 1969. Luckily, the Chinese Penghulu (Head Villager) from Yong Peng and the Malay Penghulus from the surrounding Kampung have a relatively good relationship; and working together they cobbled several arrangement that help prevented the severe bloodshed seen in other urban areas.

Today most of these Chinese around are now in the fourth generation and has been thoroughly integrated as part of the Malaysian society.

Administration

It is administered by the Yong Peng District Council ("Majlis Daerah Yong Peng" (MDYP)) "(formerly known as East Batu Pahat District Council ("Majlis Daerah Batu Pahat Timur" (MDBPT)) )". The district council was established on 1 September 1979.

Schools

Schools in Malaysia is based on the British Education standards (Ref: Education in Malaysia). Calendar wise, school year start in Jan and ends in OctNov time frame. Kindergardens are optional (mostly private). Mandatory education starts from the Primary School at the edge of seven year old (aka Standard One) and ends at twelve (aka Standard Six). After the primary education is completed, the students would proceed to secondary school which starts at thirteen years old. Secondary school students will either starts from "Remove" (mostly reserved for non National school students for strengtening their skills in Malay and English) or "Form One" and ends five years later in "Form Five". Yong Peng currently does not provide anymore formal education beyond Form Five. After the Secondary Five education (aka SPM), most of the Chinese and Indian students proceed to study "Form Six" for two years in Batu Pahat so as to get their STPM certification; some is also known to move to bigger city such as Kuala Lumpur to prepare them for privately paid higher education or proffesional certification. A large majority of the Malay student will either proceed to Mara or attend the pre-Uni class.

Primary School - Yong Peng has One Chinese and two Government run National School (schools where Malay is the primary medium) - Sekolah Kebangsaan Seri Bertam and Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan Yong Peng (SRKYP). SRKYP was the smallest of the three primary school. It was originally part of the missionary school (Anglican Church) with an emphasis on the use of English as a teaching medium. As a result, the students and teachers there have been known to be relatively more well verse in the use of English. Not long after independence, it was converted to a National School where the National language is used as the primary medium instead.

Secondary School - Yong Peng has one Chinese Independent school (Yong Peng High School); and two government run National schools - Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Yong Peng (SMYP) & SMK Dato' Seth. SMYP was the biggest of the three. It has students from all the three primary schools in Yong Peng and also from the surrounding areas such as Ramli, Kangar Baru, Parit Yanni and even as far as Sri Medan.

Food

Yong Peng could be consider as a food lover heaven. You could find restaurants (mainly for lunch & dinner) and food stalls (mainly for breakfast) almost everywhere you go. Like most of Malaysia, it has many mouth watering Chinese, Indian and Malay cuisines pass down from generations to generations. The cross fertilization among these these culture and the use of indigenous spices and sauces also lead to creation of fusion of cuisines that're unique to this region.

-> Photo of HockChew Round Bread with Sesame Seed (aka Plain)

-> Photo of HockChew Square Bread

The most unique of cuisine in Yong Peng would be the HockChew/Fuzhou food. No suprise considering the background of the Chinese migrants. This would include HockChew Chow Mien (handmade noodles that are first boiled, then stir fried), HockChew Egg Soup, HockChew FishBall (one of the most bounciest fishball; with fish on the outside; and pork on the inside) Fermented Red Rice Wine Chicken, Fermented Red Rice Wine Noodle, HockChew Square Bread (typically pork fat or meat is added as filling), HockChew plain bread (Round shaped yeast bread that is available as plain with sesame seed, sweet or salted; no fillings within)are all classically unique food only available in Yong Peng. Other than the Fermented Red Rice Wine dish; the equivalent, suprisingly, could not be found in other HockChew town such as Sibu (Sarawak state) or Sitiawan (Perak State) .

Of course there are other nice adapted Chinese food too. The "Duck Noodle" near Tian Hou Gong temple, Laksa (Serve Thai style where you could choose to add your own curry & chile powder) near the old cinema, Lu Mien (Dark noodle cooked with black vinegar) near the Eastern Garden, Fish Ball & Fish Cakes from Yuen Yuen restaurant are some of my old favorites. Even some of the stalls in Jalan Meng Seng, near the Pasar served pretty good food too.

There is plenty of local Malay and indian food stalls (warung). One famous place is near the wet market, where people usually go for breakfast. It is famous for its nasi lemak, lontong and mee goreng (fried noodle, Malay stype). The Rendang, Kari Ekor and a few of the Roti Canai are all wonderful addition to the local cuisines.

Local Attractions

Yong Peng is not really famous as a tourist town. Passer-by(especially tour buses) from Singapore or Kuala Lumpur mostly stop for food (arguably, it's the biggest attraction). Locals don't really have much of a "urban type" entertainment. The one local cinema had long closed and none of the bars could survived long. For this type of entertainment, one would have to go to either Batu Pahat or Kluang.

There’s a “Pasar Malam” (literally means Night Market) on every Tuesday night where hawkers from near and far will gather to sell their goods. Almost all the locals will be out in full force. Food is of course the main attraction, but spices, meat (lamb, poultry, eggs, fish etc), household items (from garments to pots & pans), entertainment media (CD, DVD etc) and various curiosities (traditional medicines, fortune tellers etc) are available. As a boy, my favorites are the local seasonal fruit items such as Durian (King of fruit), Mangosteen (Queen of the fruits; best to eat together with Durian for health reasons), Rambutan, Nangka (aka jack fruit), Cempedak, Ciku (aka Sapodilla, Duku (aka Lansium domesticum), duku-langsat (a cross between duku and langsat) etc.

For outdoor lovers, there're still several things to try. For fishing, hiking and bird watching, try the two nearby damps (AKA "Empangan" in Malay) - "Empangan Bekok" (6 KM from Yong Peng) and "Empangan" Sembrong (less than 20KM). The damps are primarily use as water catchment area; and also for flood prevention. Kayaking or Canoeing from the Sungai Bekok river will be an interesting adventure. Trace the historical trip made by the natives and the early Chinese migrants, starting from Sungai Bekok through Sungai Simpang Kanan and then to Sungai Batu Pahat. Until the early 1940's; this is considered as the primary mode of transportation for many. Through this route, one could reach the Batu Pahat and arrived at the Strait of Malacca. Along the way, you would see a lot of interesting wild life (I personally saw snakes and lizards; some said crocodile could still be seen). Trip only recommended for the pro only, water current, muddy river banks, tropical sun, water pollution and wave from passing boats are serious hazards.

For agricultural interest, visit the many rubber, cocoa and palm oil plantation around Yong Peng. Cash crops such as chili, limau (a variety of orange), water melons, sweet potatoes (white variety) and various vegetables could also be found.

As a kid, I used to love to collect the rubber seeds and used them as marbles; and squeeze the oil out of the palm oil seed for BBQ. The streams along those estates also have lots of little beautiful tropical fish and prawns that provide interesting collection for the aquariums. Trappingcatching the grass hoppers, insects (bees, beetles & spiders), cat-fishs, frogs, tadpoles, birds, squirrels, lizards, turtles, and the occasional monkeys also provide us with the endless fun as kids. Stag beetles and bright green spiders are arguably the most popular pastime. I remember spending many hours hunting, nurturing and training it up as a fighter. Cat fish and bee are capture more for the challenge they provide; the sting from both is almost consider as a rite of passage for kids my time. Among the two, I would say the sting from the catfish dorsal spin (aka Whisker) is one I would rather avoid. When caught, many inexperience kids will attempt to step on them so as to prevent them from jumping. Only to realize too late that some of the meaner one has spin that could pierce through one inch shoe and come all the way through the foot palm. Some species has venom, though not lethal but if not treated immediately, could cause quite severe pain and overnight fevers.

External links

* http://www.johordt.gov.my/mdyp/content/view/18/34/


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