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In Ipoh, former secondary school teacher leads heritage walks to remain active after retirement

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

IPOH, March 16 — Freelance heritage guide S. Sundralingam need not travel far to 'see' the world.

This is because the 67-year-old retired teacher gets tourists of all nationalities in the course of his work.

Sundralingam said he started doing heritage walks in 2010 when he was the secretary of the Perak Heritage Society.

“At that time I was still a secondary school teacher with a few years to spare before retirement. I decided to be a heritage guide as a means to keep active after retirement,” said the former English and History teacher, who was last posted to SMK Ahmad Said in Manjoi prior to his retirement in 2017.

The walks were engineered by the father of one daughter with ideas from friends at the Perak Heritage Society.

“I also do my research and read up on archives,” said the self-confessed history buff, adding that he has vast collections of heritage and history books, oral histories, photographs and newspaper articles in his library.

Sundralingam does his research by reading up on archives. He also has vast collections of heritage and history books in his library, oral histories, photographs and newspaper articles.— Picture by Farhan Najib
Sundralingam does his research by reading up on archives. He also has vast collections of heritage and history books in his library, oral histories, photographs and newspaper articles.— Picture by Farhan Najib

Sundralingam does his research by reading up on archives. He also has vast collections of heritage and history books in his library, oral histories, photographs and newspaper articles.— Picture by Farhan Najib

When he first started, Sundralingam offered his services for free as he just wanted to share the authentic history which he claimed had been distorted over the years.

“Then some tour guides approached me and complained that I was spoiling the market by offering free services. After considering what they said, I decided to charge a nominal fee of RM50 for two hours of walk,” he said, adding that the amount had since been increased to RM100.

Sundralingam's heritage walk is a leisurely stroll. Besides visiting historical buildings or places of interest, it includes interacting with locals in the community.

“My heritage walks make tourists aware of the importance of cultural and historical environment and help them to develop a harmonious relationship with it.”

During the walk, Sundralingam would pepper it with annotations of unknown histories and interesting stories.

“My walks are essentially built around experiential learning. Moreover, there is a wide scope for discovering new things in every part of my walk.”

“The gain is after my heritage walk, these walkers who followed my trail would see these places with new eyes. It's my personal experience, when my tourists told me after the walks,” he said, adding that his clients come from all walks of life.

Asked on his pet peeve as a heritage tour guide, Sundralingam said he is against walkers who turn up late.

“Not only my time is wasted but also the others in the group who had to wait for the late walker,” he said, adding that he normally gives the late walker 30 minutes to be at the appointed place, failing which he would start the walk.

Sundralingam need not travel far to 'see' the world as he gets tourists of all nationalities in the course of his work. — Picture courtesy of S. Sundralingam
Sundralingam need not travel far to 'see' the world as he gets tourists of all nationalities in the course of his work. — Picture courtesy of S. Sundralingam

Sundralingam need not travel far to 'see' the world as he gets tourists of all nationalities in the course of his work. — Picture courtesy of S. Sundralingam

On his unforgettable experience, Sundralingam said it was during a walk where he guided a member of the Perak royalty and his Australian friends around Ipoh.

“After the walk, the royalty asked me to recommend a nice place to have a meal. After suggesting the place, he insisted that I join in although it is my principle not to sit down for meals with my clients.”

Walks are available for Ipoh, Batu Gajah, Kuala Kangsar, Papan, Gua Tempurung and Tanjung Tualang. Sundralingam can take up to two groups daily.

Those interested can contact him via Facebook.