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Unveiling Bentong: Malaysia’s Hidden Gem

A traveller's guide off the beaten path

“There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart.” – Jane Austen

Bentong is a small town located in West Malaysia, part of the Pahang state that’s known for its mountains, rainforests and beaches. Sitting about an hour’s drive from the capital city of Kuala Lumpur (KL), Bentong is often visited on a day trip or easily overlooked by travellers heading for the nearby Genting Highlands (a favourite destination for holidaymakers). 

Mention the name ‘Bentong’, and most homemakers would exclaim “Wen Dong Ginger” [文冬姜]. For the uninitiated, it is a highly sought-after top quality ginger and believed to be the best in S.E.Asia. That’s not the only thing that Bentong has to offer though. 

Surrounded by fertile land, there are plenty of vegetables farms and fruit orchards in Bentong. If you visit at the right season, you can probably get the best quality durians (amongst other delicious fruits) at affordable prices. They are also famous for soy products. 🙂 And no, we didn’t go there for the sole purpose of bingeing, even though we are foodies at heart.

Bentong: Charmed at first sight

At first sight of Bentong, I was thoroughly charmed. The town centre presents old shophouses that were well-maintained and revitalised with art (which I found out later was by the same artist – a recluse old man who comes and goes as he pleases). Think open air gallery at back alleys, and meandering paths that lead to kampungs (a local term for ‘villages’ in Malay language), just a stone’s throw from the town centre. 

This tranquil town centre has just three streets, which my travel companions and I took delight in exploring over a period of 3 days, and still find time to be too short. Being foreign visitors, we stood out right from the start but were embraced quickly by the friendly locals who waved at us each time we passed by after our first day of arrival.  💚

There’s so much to love about Bentong, and it is in fact a hidden gem in Malaysia that I will revisit. Meanwhile, here’s sharing some interesting features of Bentong and things to do if you plan to visit.

Bentong where? What’s there to do?

Google Screenshot

When I was planning our trip to Malaysia, the main purpose was actually to visit our friend who stays in KL. Nonetheless, she had to work during the weekdays so we decided to take a short trip around the region to immerse in a more laid back setting rather than staying in the bustling capital city. 

Bentong struck me as a potential destination as it is surrounded by highlands (i.e. Bukit Tinggi), which means a cooler and more comfortable climate. There are opportunities to visit French villages and farms. The best part? We don’t have to travel too far for a change of scenery (just an hour+ drive from KL). In case you were wondering, we took a Grab car. 😊 

I really didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into, since there was limited content about Bentong online and most people we talked to seemed to imply that there’s nothing much in the tranquil town. Well, that sounded very appealing to me since I plan to enjoy slow travel.  

But we soon realised that there’s plenty to do in Bentong. 🙈

Things to do in Bentong, Malaysia

Explore Bentong street art

After checking into our beautiful airbnb home, which was located right in the town centre, above a comic bookstore, we set out to explore the area on foot. The first ‘attraction’ that we came across was street art. There were many outdoor murals that give one an inkling of the attractions (i.e. Chamang Waterfall) and stories within Bentong. And no, it is not the same as in Penang as the style of artworks here is pretty distinct, since it is mostly done by the same artist. There were plenty of word puns too, some of which were really funny.

Needless to say, Bentong’s vibrant street art presents plenty of photo opportunities. While we exclaimed over the beautiful murals, a passerby took delight in our excitement and we ended up having a chat like old friends.

Visit Chamang Waterfall

This must be one of the top highlights of Bentong, since all the locals that we met asked if we visited or planned to visit the waterfall. Reputed to be stunning, Chamang Waterfall is nestled in greenery and mountains – within the rainforest region of Bukit Tinggi to be exact. It is easily accessible by drive (~15 to 20 minutes) from the town centre, followed by a short trek through the rainforest.

We were told that it is a very good place for swimming and picnicking. Nonetheless, we had lazy slow travel in mind, and decided to skip the attraction, opting to make up for the regret by taking a picture in front of the mural that features the waterfall in the town centre. 🙃 (next time, I’ll be there!)

Go on a food binge exploration

At the risk of stating the obvious or sparking the age-old debate of “Malaysian food is better than Singapore’s”, the local cuisine at Bentong is really, really good. Those looking for old-school or nostalgic [古早味] flavours would love the food in Bentong. 

Frankly speaking, all the food that we tried was great and if you don’t know what to eat, just ask anyone on the street and you would get enthusiastic recommendations. The only bad thing about this is you would have a tough time choosing, since everything is so good.

Here’s a few must-try food to consider: fresh beancurd dessert (tau fu fa), hokkien noodles (it combines hor fun with very thin fried vermicelli), yong tau foo, peanut ice cream, etc.  

Visit a farm or go fruit picking

There are plenty of vegetable farms and fruit orchards in Bentong. For the city bumpkins, this means a good chance to go fruit picking or be up close and personal with adorable farm animals. My friends and I visited The Bentong Farm (not to be confused with Bentong Happy Farm) where there is a huge Ginger sculpture. 

This ticketed farm is actually quite near to the Chamang Waterfall, so you may want to plan your itinerary to visit both attractions on the same day. The Bentong Farm is pretty huge with its fields of local fruit trees, vegetable patches and animals such as the palm sized Marmosets, alpacas, and other exotic creatures.

We realised that they also provide glamping options, which could be a fun option especially for families with children. 

Don’t miss the Bentong Gallery

If you are a curious person who likes to be in the know (of things in Bentong), don’t miss Bentong Gallery. Besides showcasing the rich cultural heritage and customs of the town, this charming space is like the unofficial local tourism centre where you can get almost any information that you need to know about Bentong and its people. 

Besides being like a museum of sorts, they sell local souvenirs and have a cafe with very nice beverages. Coffee was decent 😊.  The key highlight of Bentong Gallery is the people manning the place. If you’re lucky, you may just meet the “owner’s sister” who has a wealth of knowledge and charm that makes you want to stay much longer than you intend to. Look for Amy 姐.

Shop at the Bentong Night Market

… or sing your heart out at the local KTV bar. There are a couple of them in the town centre. 😊

The night market is at Bentong Walk, which is reputedly good for shopping, with a wide variety of goods, including handicrafts, souvenirs, and local food. Unfortunately, we visited during weekdays, hence the town quietened pretty early during our visit. 

We actually did more of our shopping during the morning market (it was vibrant!) but if you are looking for more things to do at night, visit during the weekend or consider the KTV or chilling indoors at one of the cafes. Our airbnb home was very cosy and well-stocked with entertainment options, so we were happy to stay in on one of the nights.

Go hiking at dawn

We were told by a local tourist guide (she happened to be our Grab driver) that there are plenty of hiking opportunities around Bentong. In fact, if one is an early riser, you can hike Bukit Tinggi and be rewarded with breathtaking views of the surrounding valleys and a sea of clouds.

The hiking trip could take a couple of hours, or a few days (which includes camping). 🙂 I’d probably plan for this on my next visit to Bentong. 

Visit a temple and learn local customs 

For cultural explorers, there are a few temples in Bentong with impressive architecture and art. Check out Bentong Chinese Temple, which is the oldest and largest Chinese temple in Bentong, built in the early 20th century. It is dedicated to various Chinese deities, including Guan Yin and the Monkey God. We also visited the new God of Wealth temple [彭亨文冬旧玻璃口财神庙], which interestingly houses Taoist and Hindu deities.  

More hidden gems of Bentong to be experienced

It’s been almost 6 months since I visited Bentong (last September), and though I am keen to share about this hidden gem of Malaysia, there’s just that tiny selfish bit of me that wishes it remains under radar.  

While writing this article, I also realised there are more hidden gems of Bentong that’s waiting for me to discover and experience. On the top of my list is Bentong Hot Spring, believed to have healing properties due to its high mineral content, with water temperature ranging from 45 to 50 degrees Celsius. (Thought to self: Next time!)

How about you? Have you visited Bentong or are you planning to visit? Feel free to share more about this tranquil town or let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below. I would love to hear from you.  😀 

– End –

The above information is based on personal experiences and should only be used as a reference. For more information on the destination, do check out Tourism Malaysia

2 comments on “Unveiling Bentong: Malaysia’s Hidden Gem

  1. He There!
    This is a great article that highlights the hidden gem that Bentong is. From its charming town centre and vibrant street art to its lush greenery and delicious local cuisine, there is something for everyone. The writer’s personal experiences make the article all the more engaging and relatable.
    Thanks again I appreciate the post,

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