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Forgotten and Abandoned: 10 Neglected Sites in Malaysia That You May Remember 

As a country, Malaysia prides itself in its cultural and historical heritage, with its fair share of charming heritage buildings, meticulously preserved for future generations. Many of these old buildings have even been given new life as cafes and hotels.

But not every building has been given the same love. Some were unfortunately left to rot, empty shells of their former splendour. According to the Local Government Development Ministry, a total of 24,525 housing units involving 115 projects were abandoned in Peninsular Malaysia as of Jan 31st, with Deputy Minister Akmal Nasrullah Mohd Nasir (PH-Johor Bahru) saying that it also affected a total of 14,206 buyers[1]. The Local Housing and Development (KPKT) Ministry’s special task force dealing on abandoned or “sick” housing projects in the country had further identified 141 delayed property projects, 481 sick projects, and 112 abandoned projects as of April 30th[2].

And heritage sites are sadly not exempt from being abandoned.

Here are just 10 of the buildings and heritage sites in Malaysia to have met an unfortunate fate.

#1: Casuarina Inn, Perak: Taiping’s own Stonehenge

Many abandoned sites in Malaysia have a reputation of being haunted. One of the most notorious is Casuarina Inn Taiping, Perak. Located near Taiping Lake Gardens, this former residence-turned-resort comprises a rest house and 34 pillars that still stand though the structure they once supported has fallen to ruin — widely believed to be due to fire or pesky termites[3].

These pillars were once used to support the former house of Captain Tristram Speedy, the then assistant resident of Larut in the late 19th century.

The pillars look majestic and are a landmark in Taiping. It is a place of many good memories for the older generation there.

Some folks even nicknamed them the Taiping Stonehenge. – Yeap Thean Eng, Taiping Heritage Society president[4]

The original house was demolished in the 1960s to make way for the construction of a state rest house behind it, leaving the pillars untouched.

The house was one of the many firsts in Taiping, built for a governing British resident in the country.

The large and spacious house, which was mainly wooden, was built on these pillars but it was demolished when termites and the elements made it difficult to restore. – Yeap Thean Eng, Taiping Heritage Society president[4]

After Malaya declared its independence, the buildings were acquired by the Perak state government in 1972 and converted into a resort called the Casuarina Inn. During its operational days, the inn was a budget-friendly hotel with 26 rooms. It closed down in 2010, however, and has been abandoned since. There were plans to restore the heritage site as a historical attraction in 2020, but nothing has developed from the initial discussions[3].

The Taiping Heritage Society, together with the Taiping Municipal Council, 9th Regiment Royal Rangers, non-governmental organisations, students and the local community, held a “gotong-royong” at the site back in 2020.

The place was filled with undergrowth and shrubs. It is a waste to leave it as it is, so about 110 people joined in to clean up the area. The place should be preserved and beautified so visitors can learn about its rich history and heritage.

We should safeguard all heritage sites in Taiping. – Yeap Thean Eng, Taiping Heritage Society president[4]

Furthermore, due to its decrepit, unkempt appearance, the abandoned hotel has become known as a paranormal hotspot. Hotel guests who checked in at Casuarina Inn before it closed also have their share of stories involving strange apparitions and disembodied noises during their stay[3].

#2: Papan, Perak: A Street Of Abandoned Heritage Buildings

Imagine discovering not just an abandoned heritage building but an entire town of them! That is what Twitter user @nizam_saroni uncovered on Google Maps when he decided to lepak and entertain himself by dropping Google’s “yellow man” on a random street in Malaysia. His discovery: A row of abandoned heritage buildings, in a town called Papan in Perak so tiny that it only had a single street[5].

The town, just 30 minutes south of Ipoh, is a true time capsule containing buildings from various points in Malaysia’s history. Jacky Chew Seng Leong, head of the Papan Heritage Conservation Group who’d previously worked at the Kinta Tin Mining Museum in Kampar, discovered that Papan was one of the earliest tin frontiers in the Kinta Valley, attracting many migrants and establishing itself as one of Perak’s primary commercial centres.

Papan had its own factories, police station, market, stable, magistrate office, Chinese opera theatre, dispensary, post offices, schools, temples, and even a prison as early as 1887.

It was definitely a very complete township, ahead of many other tin towns in the region. – Jacky Chew Seng Leong, head of the Papan Heritage Conservation Group[6]

Sadly, the very thing the town was founded on proved to be its end as the demand for tin dwindled in the 1900s, causing a sharp decline in population and commercial activity as more and more people moved to Ipoh[6].

Although currently abandoned, there is much historical heritage in this small town. One of its most notable landmarks is a shophouse on No. 74, Main Street that once belonged to Sybil Kathigasu, a war hero and the only Malayan woman ever awarded the George Medal for bravery. Sybil and her physician husband provided medical aid to resistance fighters during the Japanese Occupation, saving many lives before the Japanese arrested and tortured them[6].

Another, more ominous, landmark is Istana Raja Billah, a mansion built in 1896 by Mandailing nobleman, Raja Billah, who was from Sumatra, Indonesia. Having been left untouched for years, the mansion had garnered a reputation for being haunted. Just a minute’s walk from the mansion is Masjid Lama Papan – an old wooden mosque built on stilts that many believe to have also been built by Raja Bilah in 1888, making it one of the oldest mosques in Perak that’s been left untouched[5].

#3: Atlantis – The Lost Kingdom, Johor Bahru: An Abandoned And Unfinished Resort

Source: Kaiba Matsu

Many buildings were abandoned before they could even be finished. Such was the case for a resort in Tanjung Balau, Desaru called Atlantis: The Lost Kingdom.

Originally intended to be a one-of-a-kind luxury resort destination, the unfinished complex has been left to be reclaimed by nature. Rumour has it that construction on Atlantis was halted in 1997 during the Asian Financial Crisis – about halfway through its construction, so it never got to welcome any guests.

Malaysian YouTubers and curious-minded individuals who have visited this resort after it was left abandoned claim that the building looks incredibly spooky even during the day. And unsurprisingly, the unfinished resort gained a reputation for being haunted due to the numerous drowning tragedies at Tanjung Balau[7].

#4: Mimaland, Ulu Gombak: Malaysia’s Abandoned First Theme Park

Source: facebook

Before Genting Highlands or Sunway Lagoon, there was Mimaland. Opened in 1971, Mimaland (short for ‘Malaysia in Miniature Land’) became famous in the country for its dinosaur park with life-sized models of prehistoric life, a huge lake for fishing and boating, a giant maze and a humongous slide[8].

Unfortunately, tragedy struck when in January 1993, a 27-year-old Singaporean visitor was killed while on the giant slide at the Mimaland pool. The park closed for a while to ensure that the slide was safe and they reopened for some time only for a landslide caused by nearby developments to damage the walls of the Mimaland pool in May 1994, resulting in the park closing down for good[9].

What remains of the park has been overtaken by the jungle, with many of the crumbling ruins vandalised with graffiti. Today, thrillseekers have come to the derelict theme park in search of the famous dinosaur models that still stand or to see if the rumours of it being haunted are true.

#5: Safari Lagoon, Klang Valley: Malaysia’s First Rooftop Water Park

Source: youtube

We don’t just have one abandoned famous theme park but two! Hailed as the third largest theme park in Southeast Asia when it opened in 1988, Safari Lagoon was hugely popular due to its unusual rooftop location. People easily recognised the park when they saw the giraffe statue that stuck out on the rooftop of the Pandan Safari Parade mall in Pandan Perdana[8].

Even today, it’s still hard to miss, especially if you’re a frequent user of the Kuala Lumpur Middle Ring Road 2 (MRR2).

Despite its popularity, the water park closed down in 2007 following a tragic accident where a park employee was killed after being trapped inside a high-pressure water pump compartment. An investigation would later reveal that the park had been operating without a licence for close to 8 years and that it was ordered to close in 2005[10].

The ‘Anjung Kayangan Steamboat & Seafood Restaurant‘ occupied part of the rooftop space following the closure of the theme park but it too met the same fate. Eventually, in 2015, the entire mall closed down and the whole building now lies dilapidated, its only visitors being thrill seekers and urban explorers.

#6: SG House, Selangor: An Infamous Haunted Bungalow

Those who live in Petaling Jaya may have heard, or at least spotted, of an infamous white bungalow near Jalan Bukit Gasing before. Dubbed the SG House because of the initials emblazoned on its front gate, the house has garnered a sinister reputation over the years with many stories on how it got abandoned in the first place.

One of the infamous stories claimed that the house was once owned by a wealthy businessman by the name of Sanjay Gill who lived there with his wife. The man had a mistress, and when his wife found out, she flew into a murderous rage and decapitated the mistress before hanging the severed head on the front door. Upon witnessing the gruesome sight, Mr Gill died from a heart attack and the wife subsequently hung herself. Another rumour opined that the house was used for dark magic rituals[11].

Despite this gruesome story, someone must’ve wanted the old house, according to the Selangor Auction Property Facebook page, the house was put up for auction, valued at RM4.4 million[12].

#7: 99-Door Mansion: Penang’s Haunted Mansion

Penang may be famous for its heritage buildings, but not every heritage building on the island has a warm reputation. Such is the case for the infamous 99-Door Mansion (also known as the Caledonia House). Located on the Byram Estate in Nibong Tebal and surrounded by an oil palm plantation, this 158-year-old house is known for its odd arrangement of five to six doors fitted into each room, along with many more at its balcony, dance hall, and other parts of the house.

The mansion (believed to have originally been an administrative centre) was once owned by one of the richest families in the United Kingdom – the Ramsdens – and was built by British settlers in the 1840s. Following the mysterious murder of John St Maur Ramsden, who served as the managing director of the Penang Rubber Estates Group, in 1948, the mansion was left abandoned with rumours of it being haunted or used as a site for black magic rituals springing up in later years[13].

Despite its sinister reputation, there have been sincere attempts to preserve the 99-Door Mansion as a heritage site. Although the mansion and the 54-acre land it is located in has been bought by a businessman in Perak, the present remains uncontactable.

We have listed the building as a heritage building but since it is on private land, the owner has to agree to it. Once the owner agrees to it, the state will need to consider buying over the land where the mansion is situated as well as the land adjoining it and the main road. – Mohd Ridzal Abdul, Seberang Prai Municipal Council (MPSP) Heritage and Tourism unit head[14]

#8: Crag Hotel, Penang: An Abandoned Hotel With A Colonial Past

Source: @tik_tok

Penang has another abandoned heritage building with a storied past. Perched on top of Penang Hill are the crumbling remains of the Crag Hotel. It was originally built as a bungalow by Captain John W Kerr, a Scotsman and an employee of the East India Company, in the mid-1880s. After being bought by a pair of Armenian businessmen who went by as the Sarkies Brothers, the bungalow was converted into a hotel that opened to guests in 1894 and operated for some time until the Japanese army took over the building during World War II.

Afterwards, the former hotel was converted into the International School of Penang, formerly known as Uplands School, in 1955. In its heyday, the school functioned as a safe isolated space for parents to send their kids to during the Malayan Emergency, and was even visited by Queen Elizabeth in 1972. When the Uplands School moved to a new location in 1977, however, the former hotel site was never used again.

Like many other dilapidated buildings, the Crag Hotel gained a reputation for being haunted. Rumour has it that a schoolgirl had tragically ended her life in the building, with students claiming to have seen her ghost lingering around. Some curious adventure-seekers here insisted to have experienced supernatural incidences upon venturing the site too – though none of these tales have substantial evidence to suggest that they were true.

There were plans to renovate the hotel and return it to its former glory, but its location on a hilltop and complex paperwork have proven to be difficult obstacles to overcome. As it stands, this once regal place continues to rot away in seclusion and obscurity[15].

#9: Snake Sanctuary, Langkawi: Tourist Attraction Left To Rot

Source: Kamal Ibrahim

Langkawi has no shortage of tourist spots for visiting vacationers. One of these was the Snake Sanctuary.

This tourist spot once hosted a collection of both venomous and non-venomous snakes. Here, visitors could see exotic serpents from behind the safety of glass, learning more about the legless reptiles, their species, behaviour, and characteristics.

Unfortunately, a lack of funding and visitors led to the sanctuary closing down and its once vibrant buildings are now being reclaimed by nature. Rumour has it that many of the snakes in its collection were released into the wild, where they reproduced. If true, then it could be that the sanctuary has more snakes now than when it was operating[3].

#10: Sacred Heart Chapel, Melaka: A Century-Old Chapel In Desperate Need Of Repair

Source: 魏翰俍

Melaka is well-known for its well-preserved heritage buildings, one of these being the famous Christ Church with its distinctive red architecture. But not every church has had such good fortunes, and the Sacred Heart Chapel is one of these forgotten heritage sites.

This quaint Roman Catholic chapel on Jalan Tengkera that was believed to have been built in 1875.  Often dubbed ‘Tranquerah Chapel’ by locals, the church was once regularly visited by the Roman Catholic community in the Tranquerah district. However, it eventually fell into disuse as its congregation gradually grew smaller and the land lease expired in the 1970s.

What’s left of this century-old church today are bare concrete walls with casement windows and stained-glass panels. Many of the church’s interior structural walls still stand, along with the sanctuary altar. But nature has reclaimed most of the floors and pavements[3].

The building was sold a few years ago and the current owners had plans to restore it to its former glory. As of 2018, although new timbers are installed, there is still not enough work done for the old chapel[16].

Abandoned sites like the ones listed above certainly have a haunting allure (and that’s not even taking into account the rumours of supernatural activities supposedly taking place at such places) but in many cases, they are unfortunately considered eyesores and a waste of valuable space. Ghosts and witch doctors are likely going to be the least of your worries, as such abandoned sites are a beacon for wild animals, criminals and drug addicts.

All of these problems combined have a cascade effect on surrounding lots or neighbourhoods, lowering their value and making them more unsafe.

In the end, while some abandoned buildings can be saved as part of our heritage, others are just plain unusable and need to be put out of their misery.

Explore our sources:

  1. J. Ibrahim, M. Carvalho & T. Tan. (2023). Over 24,500 houses abandoned in peninsula as of Jan 31, says ministry. The Star. Link.
  2. S. Kaur. (2023). Will Malaysia see more abandoned, sick, or delayed housing projects?. New Straits Times. Link.
  3. Janet. (2022). 10 Abandoned Heritage Sites In M’sia You Might Not Know Existed. The Smart Local. Link.
  4. I. Loh. (2020). Plea to restore colonial structure in Taiping. The Star. Link.
  5. Janet. (2020). M’sian Finds Mysterious Abandoned Town In Perak On Google Maps, Netizens Help Sort Out Its History. The Smart Local. Link.
  6. T. Ragu. (2023). Papan: Perak’s near-forgotten town. FMT. Link.
  7. S. Selan. (2022). 7 Abandoned Places In Malaysia & The Histories Behind Them That’ll Leave You Spooked. The Smart Local. Link.
  8. C. Neo. (2020). 8 Abandoned places in and around Kuala Lumpur with the spookiest stories for horror lovers. TripCanvas. Link.
  9. P. Fun. (2018). 6 Old Theme Parks in Malaysia That We Used to Visit Before They Shut Down. World of Buzz. Link.
  10. T. Ruxyn. (n.d.). What Happened To Safari Lagoon, The First Ever Rooftop Water Theme Park In Klang Valley. Says. Link.
  11. A. Haziq. (2020). The Story Behind The Supposedly Haunted ‘SG House’ At Bukit Gasing. Juice. Link.
  12. L. Kramer. (2022). The Disreputable ‘Haunted’ SG House Will Be Auctioned For RM4,400,000 Next Month. Juice. Link.
  13. T. Jayne. (n.d.). Unsolved Murder & A Mysterious Fire: The Dark Story Behind An Abandoned Mansion In Penang. Says. Link.
  14. ‘99-door mansion’ conservation efforts. (2018). The Edge. Link.
  15. Jia-Ju. (2022). Crag Hotel: An Abandoned Building On Penang Hill With A Colonial Past. The Smart Local. Link.
  16. Malaysia Traveller. Link.

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