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PHT Site Visit 2018: Cherok To’ Kun and Beyond – Gems of Bukit Mertajam from Ancient to Colonial Times

About the tour

Not many people know that the charming 130-year-old church of St Anne, some 2km from Bukit Mertajam town, carries a forgotten legacy of French missionaries who were active in this part of the world in the 19th century. Fewer still are aware that on the very same grounds lies a huge rock with a mysterious inscription in an ancient Indian language that has endured till today for an incredible 1,500 years. Most outsiders do not even know that in the nearby forest of Bukit To’ Kun is an entire abandoned dam built by the British colonialists for the rising local population way back in 1939. Deeper still in the wild jungle is yet another dam, built by the Federated Malay States Railways 337 metres above sea level in 1926. And hardly anyone from other parts of Malaysia has visited the remains of an extraordinary church built in 1882 in nearby Pagar Teras by French priests and Hakka villagers – with features of the famous Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. All these intriguing historic sites and more are in and around Cherok To’ Kun, an enchanting pastoral enclave with some of the oldest Malay villages and verdant rainforests of Penang. The area is replete with the indelible marks of Bukit Mertajam’s rich heritage that is now simply waiting to share its long-held secrets.

About the tour coordinator

Himanshu Bhatt is a journalist based in Penang. He is researching for Think City’s Butterworth Guide website ( which features articles, as well as photographs by his colleague Adrian Cheah, on the heritage and sites of interest of Seberang Perai. Himanshu is a PHT council member.

Tentative programme

9.00 am: Depart from PHT office, 26 Church Street (Lebuh Gereja), George Town

9.30am: Pick up Butterworth participants at Think City office, The Lodge Hotel, Lorong Bagan Luar 1, Butterworth

10.00 am: Arrive at St Anne’s Church, Bukit Mertajam. Visit Batu Bersurat Cherok To’ Kun (rock inscription dated circa 5th century CE) on the grounds

11.40am: Depart from St Anne’s Church

11.50 am: Arrive at Taman Rimba Bukit Mertajam (BM Recreational Forest). Visit Cherok To’ Kun Dam (1939)*

1.00 pm: Depart for lunch (venue to be announced)

1.15 pm: Arrive at lunch venue

2.15 pm: Depart from lunch venue

2.30 pm: Arrive at Church of Sacred Heart of Jesus (1882), Pagar Teras.

3.30 pm: Depart from Church of Sacred Heart of Jesus

4.00 pm: Stop at Think City office, The Lodge Hotel to offload Butterworth participants

4.30 pm: Arrive at PHT office, George Town

The day-long activity involves light walking at each site. Participants are advised to be dressed comfortably for the outdoors, with sunglasses, caps and umbrellas. Drinking water and lunch will be provided.

* Should the Cherok To’Kun Dam is closed by PBA for its maintenance reasons, we will redirect the tour to the Bukit Mertajam Hock Teik Cheng Sin Temple, the oldest Chinese temple in Bukit Mertajam

For more information and RSVP, please contact PHT at or call 04- 264 2631