Kuala Sepetang Charcoal Factory – Near Simpang & Taiping

For the Shutter Asia 2nd Anniversary we decided to head down to Penang, with a stop on the way at Kuala Sepetang to visit a charcoal factory.

We arrived there at about 10am, leaving KL about 7.45am – not too bad. We were met with some majestic scenes with lightrays, dust and a lot of hard walking folks.

Kuala Sepetang Charcoal Factory

There was quite a group with members converging in Kuala Sepetang from both KL and Penang, just under 30 I think.

Shutter Asia in Kuala Sepetang

This is Mr Tan our gracious guide who took some time to explain to us each step in the charcoal making process and the timescales and temperatures involved.

Mr Tan

There was wood everywhere as you can imagine.


Hot coals.

Hot Coals

Part of the job is stripping the bark from the logs (in the hot sun!), these fellas were hard at work.


Can you guess how old this fella is?


He’s 62 – yes that’s right! He used to be a fisherman but due to fuel prices he’s just joined the factory recently.

I had a go too, of course they make it look much easier than it is. I didn’t do too bad though πŸ™‚

Stripping a Log

We then checked out the packing and loading processes.


The guys were quite into having their pictures taken haha.


This is how they get rid of the bark.


And this lady has the excellent job of sorting out all the small charcoal chips into usable pieces and discarding the dust.

Charcoal Sorting

We went for a walk into the forest at the back to see where the wood was bought in, behind the factory there is a lot of mangrove trees but they are protected – so they fell the trees further down the river and bring them in by boat.

Unfortunately it was low tide so we didn’t manage to see that.

Mangrove Forest

A shot from behind the factory.


We wondered around outside for a while, with some people cam-hoing of course.

Shutter Asia

Then we spotted this cute puppy, a member of a recent litter of 6. We could take him home if we wanted.

Cute Puppy

Then we bade farewell to the factory, you can see the kilns here where they ‘bake’ the charcoal in different stages.

Kuala Sepetang Charcoal Factory

And goodbye to the hard working fellas, one of which had been working there for 40 years!


A very interesting visit.

The location of the charcoal factory is here, if you wish to arrange a tour you can call Mr Chuah at 012-573 9563.




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17 Responses to Kuala Sepetang Charcoal Factory – Near Simpang & Taiping

  1. Colin Charles March 12, 2009 at 2:07 pm #

    Great photo essay!

    Besides taking photos, did anyone conduct interviews with Malaysians, living the hard life?


  2. kevin March 12, 2009 at 2:12 pm #

    i wonder where they get their supply of mangroves. honestly speaking, the coal industry should be checked in a way.

    perhaps gazette the mangroves to avoid over logging?

  3. Mellissa March 12, 2009 at 3:12 pm #

    Ooh this randomly reminds me of our charcoal quest in Giant before heading up to Cameron’s, hahaha.

  4. KY March 12, 2009 at 5:10 pm #

    the small dog might be delicious! :X

  5. Myhorng March 12, 2009 at 6:30 pm #

    i wonder what color of the water when the worker took their bath.

  6. EdiΓ§Β₯ΕΎ March 12, 2009 at 7:33 pm #

    good one…

    i learn a lot!

  7. kaswira March 14, 2009 at 2:40 am #

    good point kevin

  8. Joey Logano March 16, 2009 at 12:53 am #

    Wow the 62 year old man, thats an inspiration right there! That guy still looks good and strong, I hope when I am that old, I can be going like that πŸ™‚

  9. Ronan March 16, 2009 at 11:20 pm #

    Hi all,believe it or not,i’m the owner(mr.chuah)’s son….
    dont worry,we need license to do mangrove logging n Malaysia government has been doing a god job by replanting the trees(mangrove).the trees can only be only be cut dwn when it reaches 20~30 years of age.so if we do not control it,we would hv run out of supplies long time ago.other than this our government has a huge hectors of protected mangrove forest that no logging activity is permited at all…

    ***pls note that the man in the pic above is not Mr.Chuah,he is Mr.Tan(my dad best helper)

  10. ShaolinTiger March 18, 2009 at 7:07 pm #

    Colin Charles: Yah, some of them were very talkative. Some chatted about their lives for more than an hour. I don’t know if any of it was documented though.

    kevin: As replied further down by Ronan, the Mangrove logging is well controlled an renewable.

    Mellissa: Hahaha yah.

    KY: Trust you!

    Myhorng: Well I picked my nose and it came out black, so I’m sure you can guess.

    EdiΓ§Β₯ΕΎ: Thanks!

    Joey Logano: Yah solid right? Pretty impressive.

    Ronan: Thanks for the comment and explanation, have corrected the name.

  11. harold May 9, 2011 at 7:36 pm #

    i am looking for an emailaddress and telephone number of mr.Chuah or the company/factory, as i am interested to buy quantities of charcoal.

  12. SA June 8, 2011 at 1:04 pm #

    Hi Ronan,

    Do we need to make arrangement to visit the charcoal factory if it is just 4 to 5 of us? We will arrive around 11.30AM from Penang.


  13. spyzon July 17, 2011 at 2:40 am #

    The above is still not to bad, if you see they taking out the arang then u might wonder how’s the water look like. By the way there another company that process the arang for export, from outside u could see the arang dirt, just imagine, what they breath on….

  14. Ivy Yap November 8, 2011 at 11:29 pm #

    I love your pictures.

  15. ShaolinTiger November 10, 2011 at 3:19 am #

    Ivy Yap: Thanks πŸ™‚

  16. allesmithe November 19, 2012 at 11:23 am #

    err… what are the kilns called in malay? this photo essay is very useful. I’m using some of the info for a fictional report essay.

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