TANJUNG MALIM: It’s a border town between Selangor and Perak that most people would drop by but not stay in.

Decades ago, many of its residents had in fact packed up and left for greener pastures elsewhere.

“It was a boring town with no entertainment at all. Almost all my friends left for the city,” recalled Tony Liew, 43.

Liew himself went to Kuala Lumpur upon completing his secondary schooling here.

But the situation has been changing.

Besides day-trippers lured by the cheap food (a set of curry noodles with teh tarik costs just RM8.20 at a kopitiam), Tanjung Malim folk who once left town are returning home and putting down roots here.

Liew, who was in the business of interior design and renovation, closed his Kuala Lumpur shop and came home to open a cafe.

“I wanted to do something to stimulate the local economy,” he said.

Furthermore, he could not tolerate the traffic jams in Kuala Lumpur and wanted a slower pace of life.

“It was too hectic,” he said, explaining why he shuttered his business five years ago.

Today, his cafe has survived the odds, even the earlier Covid-19 movement restrictions.

“I have been through hardships. But nowhere is better than home, and I want to do more to get young people to remain here,” he said.

Hotel operator Patrick Per also noticed the homecoming of folks who had previously left.

Cafes, chain restaurants and hangout spots for the youth have emerged since the movement control order ended, he added.

“This town could become a tourist destination. It is less than an hour’s drive from Kuala Lumpur. It is perfect for city dwellers who wish to escape for the weekend,” he added.

Per said that tourists could come here to enjoy the outdoors by hiking and rafting while feasting on freshwater fish.

Knowing that travellers need decent accommodation, Per, who helped out with his family’s timber business, poured his savings into building a four-storey hotel with 24 rooms.

Construction was temporarily halted when the pandemic struck, but it eventually opened on Boxing Day last year, he added.

For now, big things are in store for Tanjung Malim, which has 93,873 total voters, comprising Malays (60%), Chinese (20%), Indians (9%), and Orang Asli (9%), among others.

Barisan Nasional candidate Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon believes that the town has huge potential, citing the RM32bil Automotive Hi-Tech Valley project, which could generate over 550,000 jobs in the years to come.

“It will not only provide plenty of opportunities for the youths, but the income of the locals will also increase,” he added.

Dr Mah, who was a member of the Perak state executive council for two terms and also deputy education minister, has pledged to use his network to draw more investments to the constituency.

He said he would also create more dynamic activities to encourage the local youths to stay on while attracting outsiders to come here.

Dr Mah is contesting the parliamentary seat here for the second time.

His rivals for the seat are incumbent Chang Lih Kang from Pakatan Harapan-PKR, Datuk Nolee Ashilin Mohammed Radzi, who is representing Bersatu, Dr Amir Hamzah Abdul Rajak (GTA-Iman), as well as Independents Mohd Nor Izzat Mohd Johari, a teacher and Datuk Jamaluddin Mohd Radzi.