Thinking of visiting a place that not only produces tea, but is filled with attractions that leave one with fond memories of a good weekend?
Head down to Gaharu Tea Valley Gopeng, which has over 120ha of land planted with 200,000 gaharu, or agarwood, trees on terraced slopes.
Gaharu wood has played a significant role in Arab and Chinese cultures.
It is considered by some to be nature’s most valuable wood, not only for its essential oil, but also because of its health benefits. So high is it regarded that this forest treasure is known as the “wood of the Gods”.
The gaharu trees in the plantation are in the process of being listed in the Malaysia Book of Records as the first organic mono crop gaharu plantation. The trees are also listed as an endangered species by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
Initially, the plantation only focused on producing scented gaharu wood — which is sought after for its medicinal value and from which the resinous heartwood is often used to make incense and perfume — before the owners turned the plantation into a tourist attraction.
Gaharu Tea Valley Gopeng founder and chairman David Ho was inspired by a story he heard during his school days on how Chinese emperors sent people around Asia to search for gaharu to boost health, strength and longevity, but the people never returned.
In 1992, Ho met a Japanese traditional medicine practitioner who gave him 200 gaharu seeds, which he cultivated in the plantation.
The trees took 15 years to mature and produce enough high quality seedlings for the sustainable cultivation of gaharu to manufacture health products.
Ho said gaharu trees could produce a good yield of essential oil as well as tea leaves. The trees can also be made into beads, incense, wood chips or used for woodcarving.
“Due to its uniqueness, this species of gaharu is named ‘hoga’, short for holistic gaharu. It is holistic as benefits can be extracted from every part of the tree.
“Products made from gaharu by Gaharu Technologies Sdn Bhd include cookies, nougat, ice cream, instant noodles, chicken soup mix, tea and Chi Kut Teh soup mix.
“It is believed that extracts from gaharu contain anticarcinogen, antioxidant, anti-ageing and anti-diabetic agents.”
He said apart from promoting the use of gaharu products, the company wanted to spread awareness of the importance of preserving and cultivating gaharu trees in a sustainable way.
This is why, Ho said, entry to Gaharu Tea Valley Gopeng is free.
“Tourists need only pay a fee for an optional guided tour in a van around the plantation.”
The tour includes stops at three stations, named Hugging Park, Lover’s Park and Valentine’s Love Lock Park.
To begin the journey, tourists stop at a viewing stage to take pictures at the 3D photo gallery. Here, one will get a good view of the tea valley and in the evening, a beautiful sunset.
The next stop is Hugging Park, where visitors can enjoy the fresh air filled with negative ions released by the plants.
Negative ions are said to reduce fatigue, stimulate the nervous system and stabilise emotions.
It is believed that hugging a gaharu tree is auspicious and has been practised in Middle Eastern cultures since 600 AD.
At Lover’s Park, visitors will see a pair of trees that resemble a pair of embracing lovers.
As the branches of the trees are intertwined, locals named it Lover’s Tree. They believe that couples who pledge their love for each other beneath the tree will be blessed with everlasting romance and will never part.
No visit to the plantation is complete without a photo session against a fortress-like wall built around the plantation. It is dubbed the “Great Wall of Gopeng” as it reminds one of the Great Wall of China.
The plantation has attracted eight local and foreign film production companies to shoot movie scenes or advertisements at the location. The films include Hong Kong-produced Hello Babies (2014) and locally-produced Super Ninja (2015).