BOTA -- even today the name of this town is often misunderstood and mispronounced by outsiders.
Instead of saying Bota, with a soft "a" or "e" in the second syllable, its is often mispronounced as botak, which means bald in Malay.
Located about 40km from Ipoh, the origin of Bota can be traced back to two villages on the left and right banks of the Perak river.
It's name is actually linked to a dark myth.
According to villagers, Bota was the name of a giant monster who is believed to have once lived in an underground cave in the area.
The huge human-like creature, akin to Bigfoot, is said to be attracted to children running around without their pants on!
And, until today, parents will still use this tale to scare their children so that they do not to run around without clothes and return home before evening prayers.
Although there is no record on the history of this town, townsfolk say the original settlement was established about 200 years ago.
According to Alias Karim, 86, a fifth-generation villager living near the town, the story of Bota -- the giant creature -- had been handed down in his family since the arrival of his first ancestor more than 100 years ago.
He said Bota was the name given to a giant who roamed the thick forest, adding that it was more like "Bigfoot".
"The jungle Bota lived in was far away from human settlement then. The creature took shelter in underground caves during the day and only came out at dusk to forage for food.
"But what made the giant so feared by the villagers was its strange interest in children who did not wear pants or shorts," he said recently.
So strong was the villagers' belief in Bota's existence that parents, including Alias' own, did not allow their children to go outside their houses after sunset for fear they might be abducted by the giant.
Bota would leave its cave to hunt for its favourite food -- fish -- which could be found in the many swamps existing back then.
The creature liked to hunt for ikan puyu, or the climbing perch (Anabas testudineus), and ikan tilan, or the swamp eel (fluta alba).
"But, when it is desperate, Bota, who was muddy-grey in colour, will also hunt for humans and animals as food.
"Sometimes, when villagers heard cases of missing people in those days, they would immediately blame it on Bota."
In earlier days, the area around the villages used to be a dense forest.
So widespread was the belief in Bota that the two villages on both banks of the river acquired its name and became known as Bota Kiri and Bota Kanan.
The town's population now consists largely of Malays from Perak and Kedah, and the Banjar people.
Bota is famous for its tuntung or river terrapins.
A river terrapin breeding centre, established by the Wildlife Department in 1968, is a major tourist attraction besides the royal mausoleum of a few ancient Perak Malay rulers.
The wildlife conservation centre, situated in Bota Kanan, had become synonymous with the town.
Surprisingly, it is at the centre that visitors would first get to learn a little about the history of Bota and the origin of the town's name.
And, it is the last bit of question on the information panel there that would leave visitors hungry for more information.
It states: "Can you imagine what it would be like if Bota the giant roamed this area?"
For Alias, the question would remain unanswered.
"Some believe it is a myth, some believe the creature probably existed. But one thing is for sure, the name of this town is connected to the beast.
"Of course, thanks to education and development, the villagers now no longer believe and live in fear of Bota the giant.
"We only use the story to scare the kids to return home early so that they would get ready for prayers," said Alias.
Oh kome...deghoyan dah bebunga
Maghi kite minang anak daghe
Anak daghe...anak daghe Bota
Teman jumpe..di Padang Tenggale
Musim Deghoyan...Yg tua nak ke Mekah
Yg muda...Gatei nak menikah
Bila musim deghoyan
Dema beghani nampor
Ape deme nak heran
Saman buleh bayor....!!
By Jaspal Singh firstname.lastname@example.org 2011/09/03
Source: The NST Home Local Article 2011/09/03