Malaysian Ghost Towns Series - Mimaland; Bentong's Jurassic Park
Accompanying music: John Williams ~ Jurassic Park Theme
Deep in the jungles of Gombak, a lonely theme park nests on the edges of the Titiwangsa mountain range, abandoned and forgotten for decades. The first of its kind in Malaysia, Mimaland was once a shining center of attraction in the Klang Valley, pulling over countless visitors from all over the country to the quiet village of Kampung Batu 12 in Ulu Gombak, Selangor. The park's fall from glory trailed from an unfortunate series of events in the early 90's, leading to its untimely closure. More than 40 years after its construction, the park is now fully engulfed in a lush forest, leaving behind crumbling buildings, decaying facilities and huge moss-covered statues. The stuff of legends.
A walk into the past.
Reaching the site from Kuala Lumpur requires one to travel about 25 kilometers towards the mountains of Gombak. Instead of taking the main Kuala Lumpur-Karak Expressway, the only road that can be used to reach Mimaland is through Jalan Gombak (also known as Jalan Karak Lama). Adding more mystery to the park's reputation, this winding and narrow road is also widely believed to be the most 'haunted' route in Malaysia.
Map of Mimaland from KL.
Closer map of Mimaland from Jalan Gombak.
As it was still early morning, we could see the mountain ridge in the distance still being partly covered by clouds. The road itself goes parallel with the nearby Gombak River, which flows and merges with the Klang River down in Kuala Lumpur. Passing through multiple villages, we could see the road getting narrower and its turns getting sharper as we drove further towards the mountains.
Titiwangsa in the distance.
A brief look at its history shows that the theme park was opened around two years before the main Kuala Lumpur-Karak Expressway completed its construction in 1977, making the park older than the major highway itself.
Driving through Jalan Karak Lama (left) near Kuala Lumpur-Karak Expressway (right, above)
The entrance junction is easy to miss if we're not using our GPS, as there's little indication or signage around. We used Surau Silaturrahim as a landmark, which is 50 meters from the entrance road to Mimaland. Once reaching the junction, a large timber gateway can be seen just across a small bridge.
Timber gateway towards Mimaland.
As we drove pass the gateway, the road rapidly becomes smaller and steeper. In a few hundred meters the road quality degrades to basically pieces of broken tar and gravel, and the surrounding area changed from village houses to thick jungle. The last landmark is a lone house on the left and a broken road straight towards the entrance of the theme park.
Steep narrow road.
Poor road condition towards theme park entrance.
After heavily spraying ourselves with mosquito repellant, we proceeded to pass through a metal hoarding gate and found ourselves in front of a large structure; the gateway to Mimaland.
Once serving as the grand entrance to the theme park, the striking building now stands alone amidst a sea of trees, an eerie monument for the lost world beyond.
Mimaland grand entrance.
Crumbling administrative space behind the main gate.
Opened in 1975, Mimaland ('Mima' being an acronym for 'Malaysia Miniature Park') was crowned as the first theme park in Malaysia, along with boasting a pool that was said to be the largest in Southeast Asia. Spread around an area of 120 hectares, the massive park attracted countless visitors from all over Malaysia (Singapore's Universal Studios, in comparison, is 20 hectares in size).
Current map of Mimaland. (Ref: Site visit combined with themeparkbrochures.net)
Isolated on top of a hill surrounded by lush forest and mountains, the park was designed to be a world of its own. Numerous attractions and facilities encircled its large man-made lake, including a water-themed park (complete with giant slides and a huge pool), a sports center, carnival area, jungle tracking area, camping grounds and a prehistoric animals park. Closer to the lake itself were many motel rooms, boating pavilions, fishing spots, floating chalets and restaurants to cater to the droves of visitors that patronize Mimaland all year round.
Current condition of Mimaland's man-made lake.
Crumbling sports center.
At the time of the park's opening in the early to mid-1970s, the KL-Karak Highway was still incomplete and Jalan Gombak was the main road that connected large parts of Pahang (particularly Kuantan) to Kuala Lumpur. This strategic location may have spurred its growth in popularity throughout the following decades.
As visitors increased and the park grew more successful, Mimaland managed to attract celebrities and ministers as guests, along with being a location for numerous local film sets in the 1980s, among them including Mekanik (1983), Suara Kekasih (1986) and Gila-Gila Remaja (1986).
Marquee building, event space that faces the lake.
Rusty stairs towards a carnival open space area.
Unfortunately, Mimaland's success story came to a halt in the 1990's. In an ironic twist, the famous pool that contributed to the park's fame seemed to have started its spiral to failure. A tragic drowning incident at the pool in January 1993 involving a Singaporean visitor caused the park to temporarily close down. In the following year, renovation work in the same pool area caused a landslide, damaging the surrounding facilities. The landslide also caused mud to leak into the pool enclosure, making it unusable. After going through a series of legal, technical and safety issues, Mimaland finally closed its doors to the general public at the end of 1994, concluding its nearly 20 years of operation.
Fern-covered area that once served as picnic grounds with a miniature waterfall.
Old abandoned rides, still retaining their bright colors.
Two decades after the park's closure, memories of Mimaland still evokes nostalgia among the older generation, while its reputation as a mysterious abandoned theme park grew among youngsters. Whispers of Bunian kingdoms and ghostly hauntings spread the park's name far and wide, turning the site into one of the legendary destinations in Malaysia for those who seek the supernatural.
Pathways overgrown with shrubs and trees.
Remains of what seems to be a pump room, located near Pelangi Hall and restaurant area.
Interestingly, the Prehistoric Animal Kingdom, one of the park's attractions that featured life-sized primitive animal replicas, evolved into an unlikely modern icon of Mimaland. Hidden on top of a hill and surrounded by thick undergrowth, lays decaying statues of dinosaurs and Ice-Age mammals. Decades of exposure to nature turned the once-cartoonish figures into eerie monsters, waiting to be rediscovered by adventurers and explorers alike.
Life-sized statues of Gastornis, the 'terror bird' (foreground), and a huge looming T-Rex (background).
A Stegosaurus trapped among trees.
Giant statue of a Woolly Mammoth with broken tusks.
Damaged Dimetrodon replica with missing front legs.
Artificial rocks with the gaping remains of an Ankylosaurus underneath.
The iconic Mimaland 'sinking elephant', possibly in a tar pit replica.
Wild bamboo around a Triceratops.
Plans were made in the late 1990s to develop the land into a golf resort, followed by another large-scale endeavor back in 2015 between the landowner, MPHB Capital Berhad (formerly Magnum Corporation Berhad) & Magna Senandung Sdn Bhd. Unfortunately, both fell short due to various economic reasons.
Regardless, Mimaland seems to have found its own special place among a new generation of local travelers and adventurers, echoing its name around Malaysia once again, and hopefully for the many more years to come.
Lone replica of a bear.
Author's caution: The property is privately owned, guarded by men with dogs, and currently sealed-off from unauthorized entry. Trespassing is dangerous and heavily discouraged.
Mimaland history: NST171: The Rise and Fall of Mimaland (Teh Athira Yusof, 4/10/2020) - New Straits Time Online
Current condition: Malaysia’s Mimaland, a sad reminder of a splendid past (Thrifty Traveller, 16/6/2020) - Free Malaysia Today
New fame: Memories of Mimaland: Abandoned for over 20 years, M'sia's first theme park still draws visitors – some, for all the wrong reasons (Fernando Fong, 30/4/2017) - New Straits Time Online
Aborted development plans: MPHB Cap aborts Mimaland redevelopment deal (11/8/2015) - The Star Online
Post 2000s condition: Mimaland now a ghost town (25/1/2008) - The Star Online