After three years studying in the United States and having traveled from one end of the country to the other, I felt a sense of unfinished business when I got back to Malaysia: I haven’t even stepped foot on all 13 states more so been to all the small towns that mushroomed during the colonial era but are now forgotten by time. One of those charming towns is Raub, nestled between the Titiwangsa and Benom Mountain Ranges on the western side of the state of Pahang.

It was a booming gold mining town in the early 19th century and still churns out this precious mineral up to today. When gold was first commercially explored, it had to be transported by cart across the mountain range, passing by Fraser’s Hill. Raub still exerts a colonial charm seen through remnants of British buildings and shophouses along the main stretch. It also has a fair share of local food institutions and acts as a gateway to many off-road adventures. Here are four things not to be missed when you’re at Raub.

SOAK IN THE OLD TOWN CHARM

Raub may not be as steep in history as compared to other rustic towns in Malaysia but it’s worth appreciating the fact that gold transformed this sleepy hollow into a boom town in such short amount of time. You can traverse the whole place by foot within two hours, enjoying the laid-back atmosphere but if you want some action, there’s the weekly farmer’s market every Sunday morning. The pre-War shophouses are nicely arranged in a grid where the main street loops around them while the art-deco Raub District Council building and white-washed Rest House grandly overlook a field. Less than a kilometer north of town lies the beautifully crafted lake gardens, which is all too familiar of a colonial British-designed town.

Meander around Raub's town centre (clockwise from left): pre-war shophouses; art-deco Raub District Council Building; century-old police station; quaint lake gardens.
Meander around Raub’s town centre (clockwise from left): pre-war shophouses; Raub District Council Building; century-old police station; quaint lake gardens.

SAVOR THE FAMOUS FISH HEAD CURRY

After all that walking, it’s time to recharge your batteries and what better way to do it than by taking on Raub’s famous fish head curry at Ratha’s Restaurant. This red-colored restaurant is clearly visible once you enter the town if you’re coming from Kuala Lumpur. Personally, I’ve only tasted a number of good ones in the Klang Valley but this is a different kind of beast. Going against the grain of a typical fiery curry, Ratha’s version balances sweet and spicy to perfection – the sweet juiciness is derived from the the fresh red snapper used in this concoction while the addition of cauliflower, okra, eggplant, cabbage and chili helps enhance the overall flavor. It’s no surprise that some customers would finish the whole pot to the last drop of curry.

There's something in the water - the famous Raub Fish Head Curry.
There’s something in the water – the famous Raub fish head curry at Ratha’s
Restoran Ratha Raub
82, Jalan Tun Razak, Raub, Pahang
Monday – Sunday, 7:00 am – 11:30 pm
Tel: +6093561651

TAKE A DIP AT LATA JARUM WATERFALL

As a town sandwiched between two giant mountain ranges, Raub is blessed with a lot of waterfalls and rapids around it. One of the nice ones to take a dip in is Lata Jarum Waterfall at Ulu Dong, about 30 km northeast of town. The recreational forest has decent facilities but it is popular with the locals especially on weekends. The hike to the waterfall takes about five minutes from the park entrance and it is permissible for visitors to swim near the bottom of the falls. The waterfall also connects downstream to Pulau Chekas, a small pristine island in the middle of the river which is a lovely picnic spot as you can enjoy the soothing sound of the stream while munching on some pisang goreng (fried bananas).

Take a dip in the cool mountain waters at Lata Jarum Waterfall.

CRUNCH ON SUN-ROASTED GROUNDNUTS

On the way back from the falls, make a pit stop Sea Loy‘s Groundnut Factory where they sun-roast groundnuts harvested at the nearby Kampung Sempalit. The factory is located on the trunk road about less than one kilometer from the town center; a convenient landmark would be the giant replica groundnuts by the roadside. You can see the groundnuts sunbathing within the compounds of the factory before being processed and packaged. The shop in front of the factory sells different variations of groundnuts branded into quirky animal names: the “twin bear” nuts are salted while the “tiger” nuts have stripes and a harder shell. Its nice to stumble upon home-grown produce that can only be found at its birthplace and nowhere else – sometimes it’s so good that you wouldn’t mind coming back again.

Goofing around with giant peanuts at Sempalit.
Goofing around with giant groundnuts at Kebun Sea Loy Kacang Sempalit.
Kebun Sea Loy Kacang Goreng Sempalit
Lot 184, Batu 3 1/2, Jalan Lipis, Raub, Pahang
Tel: +6093553184 / +60192436368

When one industry is at its twilight, another new industry will take its place – the dwindling amount of gold has not led to the demise of this scenic town but the resurgence of Raub is now more synonymous with tourism. With no plans of development in sight along the central trunk road from Pahang to Kelantan, expect this former mining town to be “preserved” and if you have a weekend to spare, Raub is the perfect place for you to get lost in time.


Travel Tips:

  • Good accommodation is pretty scarce in Raub but the best bet in town would be the Raub Rest House (Jalan Dato’ Abdullah,Tel: +6093559899). Unlike the other British rest houses in Malaysia, this one is reportedly not haunted.
  • The road to Raub has some interesting pit stops: the sister town of Bentong has an interesting street food scene and famous for its ginger while FELDA Lurah Bilut is the first government-planned estate town in Malaysia.
  • If you have another day to spare, make your way up to Fraser’s Hill which is about an hours drive away from the foothills of the mountain. Malaysia’s “Little Britain” is a nice little hill station complete with mock Tudor buildings and nice hiking trails.
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