Just for fun

Postcard from… Taiping

Same old me, always delaying. Today is exactly one week since coming home from Taiping. Yeah, Luke and I backpacked to Taiping! It was one hell of a trip as I didn’t really prepare myself mentally or physically to be honest. Two days before the trip I got a call from Luke (herein will be referred to as Lychee or Raymond Lam Fung) out of the blue asking me to be his fellow traveler. I was in the mood of traveling, in fact not long ago I successfully booked tickets via AirAsia to Kuching next year, and poisoning from programs on Discovery Travel & Living and real life influence from my friend, Deco who had recently returned safely from his first ever backpacking trip. So I was quick to reply a yes after short consideration. In the next 48 hours I could be seen in front of the computer, doing this and that, got my ten fingers in ten pies, none of what I did was related to the impending trip though. I was still awake on the night before the trip 0300 hours to blow my wet sandal I washed earlier with a hairdryer.

Of course, as clever as always, I managed to wake up the next morning, although not exactly on time. After a quick bath, and grabbing my gears and gadgets off I go to the Pudu Bus Station with Lychee. You would think we were going on a trip aimlessly wouldn’t you? Well, I certainly know the importance of preparation before a trip. On the bus Luke said he’s nervous LOL.

29 Nov 2009 1200 GMT: After 4 hours of bus journey, we arrived at Kamunting Bus Station 1200 hours sharp. We then continue our journey to Taiping on a taxi although there are omnibus services at the bus station as we figured out it’ll take more time for the bus to leave according to schedule. As a side note, the taxi operators are uniformed in bright orange as required by their association of taxi operators on every Sunday according to our driver. The fares are also fixed accordingly and for ours trip RM8.00 will be charged. I remembered 4 years ago at KL I was charged the double of the price I’m paying now for a similar service. Our driver was kind enough to introduce a few interesting places along the short 15 minutes journey before reaching Taiping. We stopped perfectly at a casual market where a food court is just right in it besides the public taxi station. Time for lunch! We ordered some of the recommended cuisines we saw from internet like Fried Fishball Kueyteow, Popiah, ABC, rojak and Eight Treasures Tea. For certain reasons we actually took quite a long time in ordering food although we had already decided what to eat, maybe it was because of the bags that we were carrying people turn their eyes to us most of the time which made us feel a tad of awkward. Strange to say but there’s a “rule” in the food court that’s if you’re ordering drink from a beverages stall you would be better off sitting nearby to them or else they might not want to serve you even if you order from them. Having satisfying enough of our taste buds, we were on the move again, and off we go to explore the city of everlasting peace, with heaps of historical traces.

around Taiping

clockwise from top left: Taiping Market or Old Market | backview of District Office | 1930-built now shop lot with accomodation service | Kwang Tung Association building

Just when we were about to leave our table a young girl came and said to me I haven’t pay for the ABC. All blame it upon Mr Raymond Lam for he didn’t tell me the drink is unpaid yet. Taiping is a fairly compact town, with two major roads (Jalan Kota and Jalan Taming Sari) stretching from one end to the other end, connecting every parts of the town are the occasion cross streets, which made destinations and places of interest accessible by walking distance. The town also receives the highest rainfalls in the Peninsular, as you can see in the photographs most of the time the skies are cloudy and dark. I saw a man talking on the phone in Cantonese saying some vulgar words cursing the sky because it started to rain.

around Taiping

clockwise from top: cross road like this made up the town of Taiping | Lychee checking his hair in front of an unusable red telephone booth | we had to rely on this map on display in the Perak Museum for the rest of the day | Clock Tower with tourist information counter but it was closed on Sunday, we had no map!

Thanks to Mr Lychee’s bloody brilliant idea to travel on Sunday where some of the most important places like the tourist information counter below the Clock Tower is closed on Sunday! We then went to 7-11 and Popular bookstore to look for a town map but we can’t seem to find any. Eventually we found a map on display in the Perak Museum so we took a picture of it.

around Taiping

top two images: birds lining along on the cable and lamp post besides the Taiping Market | a white stork caught flying across the top of a building

Went into The Store too, no town map as well, but got myself some Carera ball pens (B-1). I don’t understand why must I go hundreds of kilometers away from home to buy a Carera product. The last time I bought the B-1s was at the KB Mall at Kelantan.

around Taiping

clockwise from top left: Perak Museum, we saw it on our way here on taxi | statue of Col. Walker approaching to an old jet fighter besides the museum | tombstones besides a church we passed by on the way to museum | Taiping Prison Dept. | the church we passed by

The way to the Perak Museum by walking is quite a distance away. Pity Lychee for he had to be my “Ah Sei”, my camera bag and tripod were all attached onto his backpack while I only travel light with my camera strapped on my hand and a rather small backpack I carried along. It was late afternoon by the time we arrived at Perak Museum and it started to rain heavily too! Just in time for us to spend in the oldest museum in Malaysia while waiting for the rain to pause. The museum exhibits lots of wildlife and its skeletons in the front hall. As we visit deeper into the inner part of museum only to found it’s still under renovation. Apparently, Sir Hugh Low, the British Resident of Perak founded this museum in 1883.

around Taiping

Luke posing with Mr Choong, former English teacher, the Taiping Market as backdrop

We took opportunity to rest and rejuvenate while waiting for the heavy downpour to stop. That’s the most noisy museum I’ve ever been to in my opinion. Lots of  kids running around and occasionally amaze in enthusiasm. We moved on shortly after rain had stop to the Taiping Prison, if you have sharp eyes you’d probably by now should be able to anticipate what’s next on our storyline. Well, it’s Sunday, the gate is closed! Since we were at the end of our planned journey we figured out it’s time to return to town and look for accommodation before it’s too dark. But things took a twist we somehow lost our way back, and we ended up arriving at another destination, the Taiping Lake Garden. We were not in the mood for sightseeing anymore as the sky is getting darker so we quickly resort to asking a couple of hawkers in that area and we finally managed to return to town.

Back in town, our task was to look for and locate some hotels that we both know through our studies and then check if the pricing is acceptable. We were still unable to settle down after some searching as they were mostly too expensive, fully booked or too far away from town. An old man in his 70s approached us at the corner of a five foot ways while we were busy looking at my camera screen locating street names. He asked us where did we come from and he even asked our names. He introduced himself as Mr Choong then when I agreed with him that I have the same surname like him he excitedly tapped on my shoulder.  He was a friendly and nice man. We chatted for awhile and he went on to become an instant 15-minutes-tour-guide of the town. The best part was he solved our accommodation problem by recommending us two hotels from the same owner whom he knows. We were so grateful for his helping hands and we asked for a photograph with him. He looked a bit worry at first and told us he is too old for photograph and while saying that he checked his hair with bare hands and said no problem. Meeting this gentle old man is never quite in our plan but sometimes this kind of thing just came along and lift our heart and certainly it makes a trip more memorable. At the end of the day, we settled down at the Malaya Hotel for RM40.00 per night. Thanks to a fine old man who just wanted to have his dinner before stumbling upon us.

around Taiping

clockwise from top left: Peace Hotel | another hotel across the street owned by the same owner of Malaya Hotel according to Mr Choong | swallow nests hut built on top of building, there are plenty of them in Taiping | City Council Plaza, the lowest level houses a wet market, we had our breakfast the next morning in the food court thanks to Mr Choong's tip and there's a bowling arena in it too!

30 Nov 2009 0900 GMT: We overslept one hour before waking up reluctantly, after one whole hell day of walking and as a result of that two more corns pop up to make it four under my right feet. Remember the “rule” I mentioned earlier in a food court? We went to the upper floor of the City Council Plaza to have our breakfast and I saw one very old lady, she’s a drink stall operator from far waving to us. Maybe because we looked like tourists. We couldn’t bother enough though as we continued looking for food and a place to sit. I glanced at the old lady by chance when we finally sat down at the other side and the following thing I saw actually hits me very hard. Stepping down from her tall chair I saw an old lady with hunchback walking slowly to other place. I felt a lot for her. She then sat back on her tall chair continued inviting customers. I asked Lychee why is the world so unfair. Supposedly our plan of the day was to visit to Matang or Port Weld at the late morning and then return to Taiping Lake Garden cum Taiping Zoo for the rest of the day. We however screwed up the visiting plan to some places of interest namely the Mangrove Forest and Charcoal Factory at Matang, due to communication and time constraint. We headed back to Taiping on an omnibus for lunch. While on our way to lunch we finally got ourselves the town map we had been looking high and low for at the tourist information counter. As for lunch we had the famous Ipoh Beansprout Chicken and some side dishes at a restaurant close to the Lake Garden before going back to the place where we got lost yesterday.

around Taiping

clockwise from top right: Taiping Lake Garden, former tin mine and oldest lake garden in Malaysia | tourist riding a big swan | the famous branches of rain trees along the street bending toward to lake | Lake Garden of Taiping with Maxwell Hill serving as backdrop | a leafless tree bending toward the lake, ignore Lychee

We decided to take the longest path to Taiping Zoo in the hope of seeing and taking more pictures along the Lake Garden before reaching the zoo. It’s a huge piece of god-made landscape. I enjoyed the breeze air and wind there while walking although it was an afternoon. If I’m to be at there again I’m going to find a suitable spot and just lay and laze there while enjoying the gentle breeze of cool weather.

around Taiping

hidden beauties

The ultimate destination of the day – the Taiping Zoo & Night Safari, showcases variety of animals from Sahara desert to tropical forest in the oldest zoo in Malaysia. The Night Safari is also first of its kind in Malaysia but we chose not to visit it. The entrance ticket was RM12.00 per person. I taught some foreigners Malay language at the zoo. She was looking into an empty cage and I told her it’s an empty cage while pointing to a signboard which says “Kandang Kosong”. She smiled and thanked me and I said no problem.

around Taiping

wild life on exhibition at Taiping Zoo

We spent almost half of the day in zoo seeing animals and taking pictures. We were lucky to pay every corner of the zoo a visit before it closes at 1800 hours. Lychee was looking all over the zoo for a tiger because he think it would be a waste if he can’t get to see a tiger in a zoo. It’s surprising to spot some kangaroos (bottom picture between a lazing Malaya Tiger which Lychee finally found before we go back and a butterfly). I saw a magpie too! It was a Magpie Robin (bottom left), sounds like a very heroic bird. It’s the second time in two weeks I encounter a magpie. I know it’s gonna be my lucky day every time I see a magpie around. And Newcastle beat Watford a few days later.

around Taiping

Ready for Another Round; A zoo staff clearing the walkway after the zoo closes and making way for the Night Safari session.

Catching a taxi in Taiping is fairly difficult. We got lost again while on our way back because the Lake Garden is way too enormous. This time it was already dark when we got back and the first thing we did was looking for food. We took a break at an outdoor food court ordering Waat Dan Hor, lobak, Roasted Duck rice, several pastries and herbal teas as our last dinner at Taiping. We took down the picture of the food on the table and a friendly hawker spoke in a loud tone from far “Wa cameraman ah!”

1 Dec 2009 1000 GMT: It was the last day of our trip. We finished the movie, “Vantage Point” on HBO from the comfort of our room before checking out. We spent the next few hours after brunch shopping before purchasing bus ticket at a counter near to a taxi station and got on a taxi shortly to transfer us back to Kamunting Bus Station. The driver kept talking about prison matters, which made me suspect he could be a former prisoner as he told us lots about what’s inside of a prison. At 1500 hours we bid farewell to the town of everlasting peace. Back in KL, we actually had a short adventure in the heart of the city. We missed out the famous Jalan Alor where we intended to have dinner at while looking for it. We came to the landmark McDonald’s at the centre of Bukit Bintang so we thought it’s not a bad idea also since we never have any burger in it. I apologized for the lack of food photos throughout the whole trip as I don’t have them with me. I hope you enjoy the photos, stories and our journey.

Until the next “Postcard from” update, ciao!