The Taiping Lake Gardens (Malay: Taman Tasik Taiping) is the first public garden established during the British rule in Malaysia. The garden is located near Bukit Larut, and is equidistant to the town centre and the Taiping Zoo.
The Taiping Lake Gardens was originally a mining ground before it was established as a public garden in 1880. The idea of a public garden was the brainchild of Colonel Robert Sandilands Frowd Walker. The garden was developed by Charles Compton Reade (1880–1933), who was also responsible for planning the Kuala Lumpur garden town, together with Lady Swettenham.
The abandoned tin mine ground was donated by Chung Thye Phin as a recreation park for public use. In 1884 the gardens were planted with grasses, flowers, and trees; a part of the gardens was fenced, to keep bulls out.
The 64 hectares (160 acres) site was the first public garden in Malaya, and was cherished for its beauty; it has been well-maintained since its opening. There are ten scenic lakes and ponds, which highlight the gardens. Along Residency Road, near the gardens, were golden rain trees (Malay: Samanea saman) or hujan-hujan (pterocarpus indicus) planted along the pathway. In George L. Peet’s A Journal in the Federal Capital, when he visited Taiping in 1933 he said “I know of no more lovely sight in this country than the Taiping gardens when the rays of the early morning sun are shining obliquely through their clumps of bamboo, palms and isolated trees scattered on islands among the expanse of water. One receives in that glorious half hour an experience of light in foliage that is quite unobtainable in England”.
There are few private and government houses located near the gardens; among them are the Old Residency (home of the Secretary to the Resident), the Raja’s House at the junction of Birch Road and Residency Road and the army officers’ residences on Batu Tugoh Road. The gardens were so striking that they attracted many travelers to write of their beauty:
The streets are shaded by rows of the angsena tree, which at irregular intervals bursts forth into a riot of blossoms, even more yellow than those of the laburnum. These it rains down in golden snow upon the streets, providing a carpet fit for a Sultan, for yellow is the royal colour in the East. With its golden snow, the angsena spreads abroad an almost overpowering scent, even more sweet than the smell of the pinang blossom. Most of the towns in Malaya have planted this Pterocarpus indicus as shade tree, but in Taiping it has grown to a greater height than elsewhere.
— Cuthbert Woodville Harrison, An Illustrated Guide to the Federated Malay States (1911)