KUALA LUMPUR: Long before the blockbuster movie Jurassic Park thrilled millions of filmgoers back in 1993, a theme park just 20km outside Kuala Lumpur was already thrilling thousands of visitors with its prehistoric animal replicas in a dazzling rainforest setting.
Malaysia In Miniature Land, popularly known as Mimaland, was arguably Malaysia’s first theme park – and drew an endless stream of visitors every year.
Located near Kampung Batu 12 in Ulu Gombak, the park opened its doors in 1975 and drew huge crowds to attractions that ranged from realistic dinosaur figures to fun water slides.
But a series of technical and safety issues brought the fun to a stop in the early 1990s, and in 1994, the iconic theme park closed its doors.
In its heyday, Mimaland was THE place to be. Numerous TV shows and films were filmed at the park’s many attractions, including its restaurant-fronting lake, most notably Othman Hafsham’s Mekanik (1983) and Suara Kekasih (1986).
Today, Mimaland lies abandoned, but it continues to attract a smaller number of visitors of a different kind – those seeking adventure in a “Lost World”.
A visit by the New Straits Times to the park recently revealed dilapidated, forgotten grounds more fitting for thrill-seekers than picnickers. After closing its doors overt 20 years ago, it is now barely recognisable.
There is a security guard post at the park’s rundown main white gate (the land is privately-owned). The security guard, Hamkah Kokoh, 33, revealed that many thrill-seekers visit the ghostly park on a regular basis.
“People still come for hiking, trail running, hunting and fishing,” said Hamkah, who has overseen the property for about five years.
Originally from Tawau, Sabah, Hamkah lives in a hut next to the main gate. He said the Orang Asli from nearby settlements also come at night to hunt for foxes and squirrels using blowpipes, occasionally catching wild boar and barking deer as well.
Most of the original structures in Mimaland are long gone, with the exception of a few collapsing halls and villas, which could be eerie or exciting to visit, depending on your individual point of view.
As for Mimaland’s dinosaurs, such as the Tyrannosaurus rex, they’re still there – but surrounded and overgrown with vines, trees and other vegetation, lending a sense of eerie surrealism to the place.
Hamkah said there are also those who venture to Mimaland because they see it as a potential portal to the paranormal world.
“I have heard that a lot of paranormal activities take place here. Maybe because of tragedies that had happened here in the past,” he said.
“There have also been numerous spine-chilling tales of hauntings. In one particular incident when the park was still a popular destination, a young man is believed to have been rowing a boat in the lake in Mimaland when strong waves knocked his boat, causing it to capsize.
“The man managed to swim to the shore, but he was spooked. He went home in haste,” said Hamkah, adding that the victim fell ill afterwards and died a few days later.
He was quick to point out that such stories were never verified.
“Many people believe that the land actually sits on a mystical area inhabited by ‘orang bunian’ (supernatural beings in Malay folklore). There were reports that people had seen a woman walking alone in the area. Some claim that they had been watched while venturing in the abandoned park.
But all these stories have not deterred people from coming here, especially at night, sometimes armed with parangs, he said.
In one particular incident, Hamkah said a group of adults arrived at the park’s gate at 2am. With them were hundreds of students and RELA personnel.
“They identified themselves as schoolteachers and claimed that they were taking the students for a night walk in Mimaland. However, I denied them entry, as they came without prior approval from the landowner. So they eventually left.
“I was mortified that these irresponsible adults would come to such a place during an ungodly hour with students,” said Hamkah, who takes turns with his younger brother and co-worker to keep a constant watch on the park.
They also keep several dogs to ensure that outsiders and wild animals keep away.
However, he said that the out-of-the-way location of Mimaland – on a hilltop, surrounded by forest – makes it difficult to stop people from trespassing.
For their own safety, the brothers keep a makeshift spear in the guardhouse.
“There may be wild animals here, and it can be dangerous. We don’t understand why anybody would want to put themselves in danger.
“What do they really hope to find here -- ghosts?” he said.
It is learnt that several individuals have been organising unsanctioned guided visits to the off-limits park.
One of them, a Facebook user by the name of Itik Kejam, charges visitors RM10 each for an organised visit to Mimaland.
When met at the park, Itik, who declined to give his real name, said he is not trying to encourage or condone trespassing.
“Walking through a park ‘trapped in time’ is very surreal, just like watching a dream come to life. You get a feeling of being transported into a beguiling fantasy world.
“At the same time, seeing how Mother Nature had reclaimed what was originally hers, it is quite beautiful,” he said.
Itik said visitors are required to first and foremost respect the “forces that are unknown to them.”
“Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, and break nothing but the silence,” he said, adding that he only wants to share his passion for abandoned places with the visitors.