Taiping, July 2019

Recently I visited Penang for a 3D2N trip and I decided on my way back to stay in Taiping for a couple of nights. My friend Lay Chun picked me up from the station on arrival, late afternoon. She invited me for dinner in Matang. When we arrived at the Lemon Tree restaurant, I was surprised to find a large group already waiting for us. Lay Chun explained that a group of her friends was having regular gatherings and that my arrival coincided with one of those. I knew a few of them already , the atmosphere was pleasant and the food delicious. A good start of my visit.

The next day, early morning, my friends Henry Chan and Soon Lay picked me up from Furama hotel, for a day trip to caves and a waterfall in the Ipoh region. I have reported about this rewarding outing in a separate post: Two caves and a waterfall . Here three pictures to give you an impression.

The following day I finally met Syed Bakar ;-).

Taiping has two New Villages , Aulong and Pokok Assam, created around 1950 during the Malayan Emergency , to separate the villagers from the communist guerrillas in the jungle. With the help of my friends I have tried to find people who have been living in those villages and could tell me about life there, when the village was still fenced off with a gate and a curfew.

Last year I met a man who has been living in Aulong, but not from the beginning, click here (scroll down) to read more about it . Lay Chun suggested I should contact Syed Bakar, who has been living in Pokok Assam. I did, by phone and whatsapp, and it clicked immediately ūüôā

But meeting him was not so easy, because, even at 83 years old, he is a busy man. An art teacher (formerly in Malay College), now still giving classes in Penang and Kota Kinabalu, often not at home.

This time he was at home and free to chat !

First I had breakfast, Chee Cheong Fun at Mr Tong’s shop. You have to be early, otherwise it is sold out.

I walked back to my hotel, where Syed picked me up and took me to Assam Kumbang where he is living now. I liked his place, full of paintings and books.

We chatted for several hours, he is a very good storyteller! He moved to Pokok Assam with his family in 1950 when he was a teenager. Life was not easy, they had to start building a house on the assigned plot of 90 x 45 feet, timber was not easy to obtain. I should have recorded our conversation ūüôā

After our chat Syed drove me around in Pokok Assam. Of course a lot has changed, he pointed out a few houses that still are more or less original. The medical post is an abandoned ruin now. The last picture is of the house where he was born, outside Pokok Assam.

It would be a good idea for the Taiping Heritage Society to invite him to give a talk!

After this fascinating meeting, I went for lunch to Doli, a restaurant close to Furama, famous for its Malay Kuey Teow Goreng.

Walking back to my hotel, I passed this former cinema, abandoned already as long as I visit Taiping. I was wondering if it could be one of the Iversen cinemas If one of my readers has more info, please let me know.

I had a relaxed Sunday afternoon. The Lake Gardens, the Raintree Walk, the Playground, what else do you need to be happy?

Later I had dinner with my friend Amril. He is very knowledgeable about everything that is going on in Taiping ūüôā . Last year I visited the history gallery of St George’s, but did’t manage to visit the history gallery of King Edwards VII, see my report Taiping again. Amril told me that there are actually two history galleries in KEVII, one in the Primary school and one in the Secondary school! Just go to the office, explain your interest and ask permission to visit the gallery, he advised

And that’s what I did. Next morning, after breakfast with my friend Yeap at Lian Thong (yummy eggs on toast), he dropped me at KEVII .

First I went to the office of the Secondary school, very friendly people, Mr Siva went with me, opened the gallery (normally closed) and guided me around. He is an old Edwardian, has also been teaching there, and knows a lot about the school .

An interesting collection of various school paraphernalia and photos. For example a photo gallery of all the principals of the school. I took a picture of Mr Long’s photo , because I was planning to visit Mrs Long, who is a friend of mine.

Mr SIva presented me with a coffee table book, published in 2008, about the history of the school, from 1883 until 1983. Much appreciated!

From the Secondary school I walked to the Primary one, where the reception was equally friendly. Here it was Mr Fadzil, an art teacher who guided me around.

The first railway in Perak, from Port Weld to Taiping had its station at the present school grounds. When this station was moved to its present location, King Edwards was built. The most interesting exhibit in the gallery, was the collection of artefacts, discovered during construction of new halls, remnants of the railway.

The school was expecting other visitors from a teacher training college, students were busy cleaning and arranging trophies etc.

One picture for the album ūüėČ

After my visit he joined me to the nearby Ansari Cendol where I had cendol and pasembor for lunch. We had a very pleasant conversation, about many different topics.

One of our topics was durian, the King of Fruits, which we both love. I don’t trust myself to buy them, so I was pleased when Mr Fadzil told me that he would join me, later in the afternoon, after he had picked up his kids from school.

We had kampung durian, very nice, and surprisingly cheap, I paid only RM 10 for a big durian !

Before walking back to my hotel I visited Mrs Long, showed her the photo of her late husband, and had a nice chat with her. She is a good story teller too!

After a short rest, I went out again to have dinner with my friend May Cheah. We went to the restaurant in the Shun Tak Association building. Good food and another pleasant chat.

My last day, time was going fast with all my “social” activities :-). My friend Halim had invited me for breakfast at his place, with Yeap. Both are committee members of the Taiping Heritage Society.

After breakfast Halim drove me around the town and showed me some places, he liked. Here we are at Austin Pool.

He brought me back to the hotel and after my check out, picked me up again to drop me at the station.

One reason that I feel so at ease in Taiping is the friendliness and hospitality of the Taipingites.

Taiping, March 2019

No big plans for this visit. Actually I had one specific plan. Through a friend I came in contact with Syed Bakar, a retired teacher who has been living from 1952 until about 1995 in Pokok Assam. Pokok Assam is one of the New Villages, created during the Malayan Emergency, and I am interested in its history. But he was away during my visit, giving art classes in Sabah (although now 83 year old !), so meeting him will have to wait until my next visit ūüėČ

I will write this blog as a kind of diary.

Monday, 25 March

I arrived in Taiping in the afternoon, traveling by ETS, comfortable, but bring some warm clothes! Preparing for the trip I could not find my umbrella, which you definitely need in Malaysia’s wettest town. Fortunately it was sunny when I arrived and I decided to walk to my hotel. First I stopped at Ansari for cendol. There I bumped into May Cheah, an old friend.

I decided to buy an umbrella in the Taiping Mall and just before I reached there, the first raindrops fell. When I continued my walk, with umbrella, it was absolutely pouring. As I was hungry, I managed to reach Casual Market for a plate of Char Koay Teow, but there I had to wait until the rain got less.

I had booked a room in my favourite Hotel Furama and after taking some rest I went out to Prima for a light meal of Chee Cheong Fun. After the heavy rain the atmosphere was cool and fresh. I walked back having a look at the beautifully restored Shun Tak Association and the Silver Jubilee Jetty (1932). A nice first day.

Tuesday, 26 March

I had breakfast with my friend Yeap at the Lian Thong restaurant. It is a popular eatery in Taiping. Yummie soft-boiled eggs on toast! The shop is housed in an attractive building, just forget about the ugly background.

No blog about Taiping is complete without a few pictures of the Lake Gardens. The fallen tree at the Raintree Walk is very attractive.

I hired a bicycle at hotel Furama, so I could explore a few places further away from the town centre. My first destination was the Kempe Club in Assam Kumbang. Built in 1922 as an alternative for the more posh New Club . In its heydays very popular with sport fields around the club. Now no longer an official club, but a group of (senior) citizens uses the building for their meetings.

The caretaker invited me in and offered me teh tarik. More people arrived and a game of mahjong was started. The different races mix here easily like in the days of yore. Very pleasant atmosphere.

My next stop was an abandoned pre-war bungalow, next to the official residence of the MPT chairman (who recently received in Berlin an award for Taiping being third in the Best of Cities category in the world). See my report About Taiping.

It must have been an impressive bungalow until it was abandoned about 20 years ago. It may have been occupied by government servants (KE VII school staff?

Now it is an impressive ruine, you can just walk around and enter it (at your own risk). I must confess that I am fascinated by decaying buildings, but of course it is a shame that the authorities have allowed this to happen.

For my lunch I went to the Casual Market, the Malay section, where I had a plate of popiah’s at Famous OMar Popiah.

I had dinner in Prima with my friends George and Jenny, and I invited them for coffee and cake at Yinn’s Patisserie, next to Yeap’s shop. A few years ago beautifully renovated by the brother of Yeap. Thean Hock was in the cafe and happy to show us around.

Wednesday 27 March

A “social” morning. I went to Tong’s CCF shop for breakfast with George, who was in Taiping for Cheng Beng and , not surprisingly, met a former classmate ;-). After that I visited Suet Fun, who has closed the Nest bungalow, up Maxwell Hill, for one year, because she is going to write a book about Maxwell Hill. I wish her good luck!

My next destination was the Taiping Municipal Gallery, which was now open, although still only partially operational. But at least there are several posters and banners about the things you can see and do in Taiping.

I met the friendly manager and asked her if she had ever visited the ruined Railway building opposite the Gallery. She had not yet, because she was a bit scared of the squatter who had taken the building as his “residence”. I had a look, he was not there and , with me as a guide, she and her assistant were brave enough to have a look inside ūüėČ .

In the afternoon my friend Bok Kin and her husband Ng Teng Hin picked me up from my hotel to visit the tomb of Ng Boo Bee and his relatives. Ng Boo Bee is the most famous tin miner, opium farmer and contractor in the history of British Malaya and Teng Hin is a great-grandson.

The grave is located in the Hokkien Cemetery of Taiping. Cheng Beng was approaching, when Chinese visit the graves of their ancestors for cleaning and prayers. Ng Boo Bee’s grave is almost a fortress, very impressive.

My friends told me that last year the grave had been thoroughly cleaned and repaired, they walked around and inspected it, but everything still looked in good condition.

There are also graves of descendants, both around the main grave and on a separate plot. From left to right, the graves of Ng Boo Bee’s mistress, one of his sons, and a grandson (Teng Hin’s father).

The graves are decorated with statues of lions and guardians.

I like to visit cemeteries, see for example my recent post about KL Cemeteries. We walked around a bit, beautiful trees, there is a War Memorial for those who lost their lives during the Japanese occupation. And there is cattle roaming around, not always good for the graves, but very romantic.

After visiting the cemetery we had dinner in West Joy Cafe, near Prima. Nice Thai food, will come back.

Thursday 28 March

My original plan was to go back home by train on Thursday. But when our Singapore friend ST Lee told me that he was coming back for Cheng Beng that day, and would like to meet me, I changed my plan: Aric decided to come by car, we would stay one more day in Taiping and drive back on Friday. I got a 50% refund on my train return ticket ūüėČ

I decided to hire a bike again and first went back to Lian Thong for my breakfast. Soft-boiled eggs on toast again ;-). Had a nice conversation with Teoh, the owner.

When I told in my hotel about my cemetery visit, they told me about an isolated tombstone on the slope of Residence Hill, near the esplanade. I had a look, there are actually three tombstones, one of them recently painted, so somebody must take care about it. Would be nice to know who has been buried there.

Next I went to the Tourism Office in the Clocktower. Had a short chat with Miss Eng, she was busy as there were several visitors. A good sign, although the interior still looks more like an antique shop and there should be more leaflets, etc.

With my bicycle it was easy to ride the full length of Jalan Kota and take pictures of the heritage buildings along this street. Clockwise, from top left the Residence of the OBJ, the building of the Hokkien Association , the Malay Mosque ( oldest mosque of Taiping) and the Hosian Temple.

The Mariamman Temple can also be found along Jalan Kota. I was invited in, a priest prayed for me and I received some ash on my forehead. Nice.

I was clearly in the Cheng Beng mood and decided to have a look at the Hai San Communal Memorial, located in the new Botanical Garden of Taiping. Hai San and Ghee Hin were the two fighting groups of Chinese during the Larut wars. This grave is dated 1864 and could well be the oldest monument of Taiping.

The Botanical Garden is still under development and looks a bit barren.

Close by is the impressive Taiping War Cemetery, immaculately maintained, with separate sections for Christians and the other religions.

I rode back to my hotel through the Lake Gardens. I will hire a bicycle more often during my future visits, Taiping is very suitable for cycling and the bicycles of Furama Hotel are very good quality.

Aric arrived in the afternoon and, after some rest, we drove to Barrack Road 100 to meet St Lee and his sister Mrs Long. It was a very pleasant meeting with dinner in the Chinese Recreation Club (CRC).

Friday 29 March

The next morning we took them to the new Telegraph Museum, which they found interesting.

ST got quite excited when he saw this railway bridge (actually not related to the museum, but to the former First Galleria next door). This bridge has been relocated here from Bukit Mertajam and ST (who is from BM) has been crossing this bridge numerous times when he was schooling!

Then it was already time for a farewell meal! We went to the Lighthouse Restaurant in Matang and enjoyed their famous seafood porridge. Delicious.

A very nice trip!

About Taiping

As readers of my blog know, I love Taiping and I have written many posts about what I consider to be my 2nd hometown.

They will also have noticed that I can be quite critical about Taiping, Bandar Warisan (Heritage Town).

Before I write a blog about my last visit to Taiping, it may be good to report here about the opinion of others..:-)

In January and February 2018, the Malaysian television channel Astro Awani has aired six episodes of a documentary about Taiping, brought by the Northern Corridor Implementation Authority and the Taiping Municipal Council.

I missed the broadcast last year, but discovered later that all episodes are available as YouTube videos. You find them below.
When you click on an episode, you get the full version (each about 25 minutes), including an intro and with several breaks between the different topics. You can also view each of the topics in that episode (click on the start time)

Altogether almost 50 topics, a lot of variety. And everything very positive ūüėČ

Episode 1

  • Trong Leisure Farm & Resort 2:20
  • Ethno Valley Resort, Bukit Gantang 6:00
  • Antong Coffee Mill 8:40
  • Taiping Lake Gardens 11:50
  • Doli Kuay Teow Goreng 16:30
  • Spritzer Eco Park 18:10
  • Trong Hot Spring 19:50

Episode 2

  • Kampung Sempeneh, rock climbing & bat cave Batu, Kurau 1:55
  • Kelulut Honey Farm, Jelai 7:55
  • Mee Udang Banjir Mak Teh, Kuala Sepetang 11:00
  • Matang Museum 12:50
  • Matang Mangrove Eco-educational Centre 16:10
  • Kuala Sangga Fishing Village 22:25

Episode 3

  • Kuala Sepetang Charcoal Factory 2:05
  • Ansari Famous Cendol 5:45
  • Batu Kurau Fruit Farm 7:40
  • Kampung Anak Kurau, Bertam weaving 9:15
  • Kampung Dew Firefly Jetty 11:10
  • Fadzil House restaurant, Pokok Assam 15:00
  • Burmese Pool 16:35
  • Ulu Tupai Nature Retreat 20:05

Episode 4

  • Zoo Taiping 2:55
  • Mergastua Restaurant (Zoo) 6:35
  • Night Safari 7:25
  • Gate Cafe, Taiping 10:15
  • Bukit Larut 12:20
  • Nafis Kitchen restaurant, Taiping 15:50
  • D’Muhibbah Nasi Lemak 18:35
  • ATV Adventure Park Larut 19:00

Episode 5

  • Taiping Heritage Trail 1:50
  • Oasis Restaurant, Assam Kumbang 9:50
  • Taiping Prison Gallery 12:05
  • Little India 14:35
  • Tai Sian Hoot Temple 15:20
  • Indian Muslim Mosque 15:50
  • Tanuntaya Batik, Assam Kumbang 16:55
  • Raintown Brother Western restaurant, Kamunting 19:40
  • Cross Street Bazaar 21:05

Episode 6

  • Pesta Taiping 1:55
  • Warisan Anak Utura (pottery), Changkat Jering 4:20
  • The Train restaurant, Taiping 7:20
  • Taiping Street Art 9:20
  • The Greenhouse restaurant, Taiping 10:00
  • Perak Museum 10:55
  • 5D Art Paradise 14:25
  • Locs & Thyme restaurant 17:15
  • Coronation Swimming Pool 20:14

I have decided not to give my opinion about the documentary, but I invite my readers, and especially the Taipingites among them, to send comments to this blog. Some comments have already been given on YouTube.

I came across these YouTube videos, after I read a few months ago in the New Straits: Times: Taiping makes it to 2018 Top 100 Sustainable Destinations . Probably I was not the only one who was surprised. Taiping a sustainable destination, even belonging to the top 100 in the world?

I searched for more information and found this list:

And here is a world map with (in green) the 2018 top 100 selection and (in purple) the 2019 top 100 selection. It looks like each year there is a new top 100!

This map and the list come from the Sustainable Destinations Top 100 website. When you click on this site the green circle for Taiping, you get a webpage about Taiping with this text:

Perak‚Äôs second-largest town is defined by water and greenery. Locals laud it as the ‚ÄėCity of Peace‚Äô for trailblazing Malaysia‚Äôs first museum, first railway and first newspapers in English, Malay and Tamil. But it‚Äôs Taiping‚Äôs ‚ÄėRain City‚Äô title that has stuck. Taiping has the biggest volume of rainfall in Peninsular Malaysia: all the better for its verdant lake gardens (and the pastime of ‚Äėrain betting‚Äô, where locals take a punt on what time downpours will start and stop).

Taiping is a tourism destination with elements of nature such as mountains, waterfall and wildlife. Taiping is popular with the beauty of flora and fauna that attract tourist. Taiping always gets the most frequent rainfall catchment that is near 320 days per year.

Taiping’s nature welcomes wildlife and lush plants. The beauty of the nature is able to give a feels of relaxation to the tourists that come to Taiping. Tourists can enjoy the beauty of Lotus Flower in the lake and other plants around the garden.

The page contains four photos (Raintree Walk, Perak Museum, Lake Gardens and the former First Galleria, now the Municipal Gallery) and a video, the first episode of Discover Taiping. That’s how I got to know about the Astro Awani documentary ūüėČ

Not only did Taiping make it to the 2018 Top 100 Sustainable Destinations, here is an article from the STAR, 7 March 2019: Taiping is No 3 most sustainable city in the world :

Taiping was placed third, behind Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, and Vancouver, Canada in the “Best of Cities” category, which awards cities that show leadership in urban sustainability and in avoiding disruptive over-tourism.

The awards were presented at the ITB Berlin, the world’s largest tourism trade fair.

Here is part of the (long) awards list. The whole list can be found here. No idea why for the Best Of Cities award, only Ljubljana is mentioned and not the no. 2 and 3, Vancouver and Taiping.

Here is the presentation of the rewards to representatives of Ljubljana and Taiping.

Also here I will refrain from giving my opinion. Comments are welcome

Taiping again

My third visit in 2018!  This time a bit longer than usual, first three nights in hotel Furama, then two nights in the Nest bungalow up Bukit Larut.

I took the 10:55 ETS train from Sentral and arrived 14:18 in Taiping, where my friends Lay Chun and Bok Kin were waiting for me. We had a late lunch together and chatted a lot about Taiping heritage. As the weather was rainy, they dropped me at my hotel,  and arranged to meet again the next morning.

After some rest, I walked in the evening to the Lake Gardens, to have a look at the second raintree, recently fallen down. Both trees fell down in that part of Jalan Pekeliling (Circular Road) that recently has been closed to traffic and is now called the Raintree Walk. A coincidence?

The trees have become a tourist attraction! Armed with my umbrella I walked to the Larut Matang food court for my dinner. I had popiah’s at the famous Omar Popiah stall (now renamed Jaffan Popiah). Delicious and value for money (RM 0.70 each).

Walking back to my hotel, I passed the floodlit clocktower, now tourism office, which I was planning to visit the next day. 

The next morning I met Dr Indra of the Ceylon Association. We had breakfast together and a look at the renovated Association building, one of the few successful restoration  projects in Taiping. Left the building as it looked in December last year, right the present situation

Since my last visit, a new fence has been erected. The interior still has to be refurnished. 

Nearby (corner of Jalan Taming Sari and Jalan Idris) an example of what unfortunately is more common in Taiping, the skeleton of a ruined building, waiting for its final destruction.

One of the plans I had for this Taiping trip, was to visit the history galleries of two famous Taiping schools, St George’s Institution and the King Edwards VII school.  Here is the beautiful facade of SGI. It is a Lasallian school.

At the school I met Lay Chun and Bok Kin. And Yeap Thean Hock, who had the key of the gallery, because it is not open to the general public.

The gallery was opened in 2015, when SGI  celebrated its centennial. Yeap, who was involved in the creation of the gallery, guided us around. An interesting collection of photographs and memorabilia.

After a char kway teow lunch with my friends in the Peace Hotel, we went to the recently opened Telegraph Museum, another example of a successful restoration.  

Both outside and inside it looks magnificent. The first telegraph lines in Malaya connected Taiping to Port Weld and to Kuala Kangsar, so it is apt that a museum about the history of telegraphy and telecommunications has been established here, in the old Post & Telegraph Office (1885).

I hope the museum will become a success, the collection is well presented but quite technical. And the ticket price is too high, RM 8 (15) for Malaysians (non-Malaysians). Compare that with the National Museum in KL, RM 2 (5) or the Perak Museum in Taiping, RM 2 for everybody.

Around the corner the former Topo and Survey Office (1891), also a few years ago beautifully renovated. It housed the First Galleria until a few years, now a signboard says that it is the Galeri Perbandaran (Town Gallery), it looks empty and closed.

My next stop was the Tourism Office in the Old Clock Tower (1890). During my last visit it was closed “for renovation”, now it was open, a friendly young lady was mopping the floor because it had been raining and the roof was leaking (!).

I asked her if there was a Taiping heritage trail leaflet, she told me that it was out of stock, but she had a tourist map of Taiping. It showed all the traffic lights (!) and had a list of tourist attractions, some of them (13, 14, 17) not existing anymore.

I appreciated her attitude, she can not help it that this “Tourism Office” is pretty useless at the moment and looks more like an antique shop.

I realise that this blog is a bit pessimistic and sombre, I can’t help it. Taiping is still my favourite “second hometown” in Malaysia, but a Bandar Warisan (Heritage Town) , as it proudly promotes itself? I don’t think so. A Town of Past Glory would be a better epithet.

Take for example the Central Market, Malaysia’s best preserved example of a 19th century market building (1884/1885). What will be its future? Hopefully not changed into a Central Market, KL-style!

Of course there is some good news too, like the renovation of the well-known Ipoh Bakery. Here two photos, one earlier this year during the restoration and the final result.

One reason for this Taiping visit was that I wanted to meet my friend ST Lee, living in Singapore but with a keen interest in Taiping Heritage, where he owns a beautifully renovated house in Barrack Road.

I met him, his sister and her friends for a nice dinner at the Chinese Recreation Club (excellent food!) and the next morning for breakfast at my favourite Chee Cheong Fun stall of Mr Tong, together with Yeap Thean Eng.

After our breakfast we went to the King Edwards VII school. Yeap, the president of the Taiping Heritage Society, had warned us already that the history gallery might be closed, because the building where it was housed, was infested by termites.

But I still was shocked by what I saw. Yes, the century old raintrees are still impressive, but the iconic building is locked and cordoned off.

How can this have happened? And what will be done about it? No history gallery, but I was told that there exists one in a different building of King Edwards. Will check during my next visit.

Opposite the school there are a few buildings which are in a much worse condition. Five years ago I have published a blog post, Shame on Taiping, about these buildings, the Town Rest House (1894) and the former Perak Railway Building (1885/1893). Both buildings abandoned and slowly going down the drain.

Here is the Perak Railway Building, later housing various government offices. You can just enter, if you don’t mind meeting an occasional squatter. I explored the buildings this time with my friend Amril and took many pictures. I am planning to write a separate post about these buildings and the Resthouse. I have visited them almost every time I was in Taiping.

And this is the Rest House, in slightly better condition, at least the floor boards are still there.

Incomprehensible that in front of the Resthouse there is still a signboard about the Rest House , one of the “Firsts” of Taiping and part of the Taiping Heritage Trail. What will a tourist think when he follows this trail and sees this building?

Early afternoon Aric arrived from KL, we went to Kamunting for Assam Laksa, one of his favourite dishes, he is always looking for new stalls and collecting the info on his Assam Laksa website. This stall was not very special (pretty awful according to Aric).

We had much better food that evening, with ST Lee and his sister, in vegetarian restaurant Teik Ee, Jalan Tupai.

After the busy days in Taiping, it was time to relax. The next morning we picked up our friends Paul and Fahmi from the station and drove to the jeep station of Bukit Larut. From there with the 4WD to the Nest, where we were warmly welcomed by Suet Fun and Peter. They have really done a wonderful job, I love the colonial atmosphere.

And the food, Suet Fun is a creative cook. It was quite chilly, with occasional rain, we were the only guests that night, and spent the rest of the day doing nothing ūüėČ

Evening view. Left Gunung Bubu, about 20 km away

The next morning I took pictures of some beautiful “creatures of the night”

After breakfast and some droning by Aric, we walked up the hill until the Cottage bungalow, the oldest bungalow of Maxwell Hill, now out of bounds because it is part of the telecom installation.

We were back in time for lunch, where a group of nice ladies had arrived, former school mates of Suet Fun.

In the afternoon we walked down to the “Sixth Mile”, looking forward to a cup of tea in the Cafeteria, but it was closed already. Misty weather, very scenic.

The evening dinner was exquisite and the company pleasant.

The next morning the weather had changed, blue sky, nice views of the plains and the Straits. Compare with the evening picture above.

Aric did some more droning. In this short video you can see how the Nest is surrounded by jungle, with Taiping deep down and far away the coastline.

Reluctantly we had to leave, our jeep was taking us down at 11am. Still enough time to take more pictures. Looking forward already to a next visit.

On our way back to KL, we had lunch in another Assam Laksa stall, near Bukit Gantang. Much better quality!

It was again a very rewarding visit, although it must be clear to the reader that I am rather pessimistic about what is (not) happening in Taiping. The authorities may claim that Taiping is a Bandar Warisan, but I miss a sense of real commitment.

In my April blog I quoted from the Rough Guide (digital version):

Nowadays, bypassed by the North‚ÄďSouth Expressway and replaced in administrative importance by Ipoh, Taiping is declining gracefully, its streets lined with tattered architectural mementoes of its glory days.

Maybe I just will accept that, of course it has its own charm.

Taiping, July 2018

After my visit of the Gunung Rapat Cave Temples, I drove to Taiping, my 2nd hometown…:-). I arrived just in time for a forum discussion organised by the Taiping Heritage Society.

When I checked in in my usual Furama hotel, the reception warned me that it might be noisy in the evening, because in  kampung Peng Loong, near the hotel, a temple festival was going on, to celebrate the birthday of Datok Keramat Empat. These Datuk temples are very interesting, you can read more about them here.

And yes, it was noisy, but it stopped at midnight. I expected Chinese opera, but it was more disco style with a scantily dressed lady singer! The times they are a changing ūüôā

There was a friendly atmosphere, with food and beer. And also people were praying..:-)

The next morning I went for breakfast to the stall of Mr Tong for my chee cheong fun (see my earlier Taiping reports). I asked him if I could come to his house that evening to watch him making the chee cheong fun. I was welcome.

I had another look at the Datok temple, now of course everything was quiet. The shrine is standing against a giant tree. Walking back to my hotel, I noticed an impressive old bungalow with the year on the facade, 1915. A friendly lady, living in the house showed me the name of the bungalow on one of the gate pillars: Spring Lodge

THS had organised an excursion that morning to the Bukit Berapit train tunnels. These tunnels (there are four) are no longer in use after a new tunnel, three km long, has been excavated for the ETS train from KL to the Thai border. Bukit Berapit is a pass between Taiping and Kuala Kangsar, Isabella Bird passed here in 1879 on the back of an elephant..:-). From the no 1 trunk road, we followed a trail leading to the ruins of the former Bukit Berapit station.

From there we walked to the tunnel entrance. Until a few years ago the rails were still there, now they have disappeared, probably sold as scrap iron. The tunnel was dark, partly muddy and flooded. Great fun, although too much for some of the ladies..:-). See the captions of the images.

On our way back to Taiping we stopped at the tombs of Long Jaafar, the father of Ngah Ibrahim. Legend has it that he discovered tin in the region, after one of his elephants came back , his legs covered with tin mud.  Long Jaafar had his fort here, now only the tombs remain

Nearby, in Bukit Gantang, we had lunch at a road stall, nice Malay assam laksa. It was a nice excursion, we visited only one tunnel, I would like to explore the other ones as well.

In the afternoon I met my friend May for tea, in the patisserie next door to the Boo Bee shop of Yeap. This attractive  townhouse was owned by  Kapitan Chung Keng Kooi (1829-1901).

The recent renovation of the left half of the house is well done, and it was quite busy with a young crowd. Hope it will be a success, the cempedak cake was nice.

After tea I walked to Tong’s house, quite near to my hotel. His wife and he were already busy preparing the chee cheong fun. Interesting old fashioned process. But very hot inside, after a while I escaped to the Lake Gardens.

It was a nice evening, the gardens were beautiful as usual, with many people enjoying the peaceful atmosphere. I walked around a bit, always like to have a look at one of my favourite trees , the cannonball tree. Probably many walkers are not aware that a few of these trees are growing in the lake gardens.

Since a few months MPT has closed part of the circular road for motorised traffic, it is now a pedestrian area, called the Raintree Walk. A good move of MPT. Less successful are the planters, placed along the Raintree Walk. Click on the right picture, to see how some of them are used…:-)

The next morning I went with two THS ladies to Aulong. Aulong is a “New Village” created around 1950 during the Emergency. Its purpose was to house squatters who were living near the fringes of the jungle, to isolate them from the CT’s,¬† the communist guerrillas. Those new villages were fenced, with guarded gates.

I am interested in the experiences of people who lived in those new villages. One of the ladies had a classmate whose father had been living in Aulong since 1958, and we went to interview him..:-) It was a nice meeting, but not very informative, when he moved to Aulong it was already more or less a normal village.

The left picture shows a GE screenshot of Aulong. The arrow-like road pattern in the center could have been dating back to the creation of the village. The blue line is where in the past the first railway, from Port Weld to Taiping, was located. And north of Aulong you can see the former airport of Taiping.

As we were so close to the airfield,we decided to have a look. Big empty space, I wonder if there are plans to develop it. I have heard that the land is still owned by the Ministry of Defence.

I had been really very busy after my arrival in Taiping, so I was looking forward to two relaxing days in the Nest, up Maxwell Hill!. The weather was nice, here is a view from the Nest to Gunung Bubu, about 65 km away.

After the jeep has dropped you at Speedy’s bungalow, it is a short walk to the Nest, with each step you feel that you are moving into a different world, into the past…:-)

In earlier posts I have written already a lot about Suet Fun and Peter’s paradise, here a few pictures only. The food was delicious as usual, and the feeling to live in the past was stronger this time, as there was a problem with the electricity, so no hot shower…:-)¬† ¬†Brrr, but refreshing.

What a difference with Speedy’s. Waiting for the jeep back to Taiping town, I had time to explore. Officially all doors were locked, but I have been living long enough in Malaysia to know that there is often a backdoor still open…:-)

Back in town, I stopped for a short while in the Taman Botani, the new mega project to create a botanical garden in Taiping. I must say, it looked nice, although I personally still think the money could have been spent better, for example in upgrading the Maxwell Hill bungalows.

My last appointment before driving back to KL was with Dr Indraraja , who was going to show me  the renovated building of the Ceylon Association. I was a bit early, so that gave me time to have a look at the buildings along Station road which for me represent the Shame of Taiping, Bandar Warisan.

The two buildings between the former First Galleria and the Rest House, can still be entered. But when I did that, a half-naked squatter started shouting at me, so I thought it safer to leave the place…:-)

The Rest House is slowly deteriorating. Click on the pictures and read the signboard, the tablet and the banner. MPT should at least remove all three. The last picture shows the “entrance” I used in the past to go inside. At least that entrance has been blocked.

Let me end this post in a positive way. The restoration of the Ceylon Association has been completed, and the result is pleasing. Here is a view of the backside.

And here are pictures of the front. Pity that the ground floor windows are modern, but Dr Indra explained that the window frames were beyond repair.

Here some pictures of the interior. The ceiling is nice, with the old fan. The first floor planks were very uneven and had to be covered with a kind of laminate. The interior is still empty, furniture etc had to be removed for the restoration.

It was again a visit full of variety.

Taiping, April 2018

My last visit to Taiping was in December and in my¬†blog¬†about this trip I explained why I visit my second hometown so often: “meet friends, enjoy the food, see what is new (and what is still ruined)”¬† It was similar this time..:-)

I drove this time, it was the Cheng Beng weekend, but on Friday traffic was still smooth. My plan was to have lunch with Pasembor and Cendol in Ansari, but the shop was closed, so I went to the Old Railway Station and had Assam Laksa there. Not bad.

Pity that the January Cafe is closed. As a result the Old Taiping Railway Station Gallery is also closed, because the two brave girls who have tried to run the cafe, rented the space on condition that they would take care about this picture gallery.

Before checking in at my hotel (Furama as usual), I had a look at some buildings along Station Road. The renovation of the Ceylon Association Building (1901) seems to be ongoing.

However, the nearby Rest House (1894) remains in a deplorable state. I really do not understand how the Taiping Town Council (MPT) can still keep the heritage signboard in front of this dilapidated  building.

In the afternoon I walked to the Lake Gardens. Recently a small part of Jalan Pekeliling (the former Circular Road ) has been closed to traffic and become a pedestrian area. A good initiative.  The famous raintrees bordering this road are getting old and a few weeks ago one of them  has fallen down on the pedestrian stretch. For the time being MPT has decided to leave the tree there, it has become a tourist attraction..:-)

The Lake Gardens were beautiful as always. If I would be living in Taiping, I would walk here daily..:-)

I had dinner with friends. They suggested to have Western food for a change! We went to Thomas Western Food on Barrack Road, where I had a tasty pork chop with cheese. I noticed that Thomas was wearing an Amsterdam T-shirt and asked him if he had visited my country. He had not, the shirt was given as a present..:-)  Will come back to his shop

Actually I came back to the same shop the next morning. I had breakfast with Dr Lee from Singapore who was back in Taiping for Cheng Beng. He suggested a shop opposite his house in Barrack Road. Stalls with a variety of food. It looked so different that I did not recognise it as the same place where I had dinner the night before!

A few weeks ago a booklet was published, Taiping the Guide,¬† with 128 pages of tourist information (in English and Malay) about Taiping. Free of charge for visitors. Of course I wanted to get a copy, so I went to the Taiping Tourism Office in the Old Clock Tower. But it was closed, apparently because of “change of management”. At least a notification should have been put on the door.

Searching for more information about this booklet,¬† I ¬†came across an article about Taiping in the digital¬†edition of the famous Rough Guides. Together with the Lonely PLanet guides, they were my traveling “bibles” in the past…:-). Here is an interesting quote:

Nowadays, bypassed by the North‚ÄďSouth Expressway and replaced in administrative importance by Ipoh, Taiping is declining gracefully, its streets lined with tattered architectural mementoes of its glory days.

This collage could be an illustration

Of course many nice heritage buildings can still be found

But many basically nice heritage buildings have been “defaced”. Awful painting, giant signboards, are there no rules and regulations about what you can and can not do with historical buildings?

Walking back to my hotel in the evening I noticed a small crowd near an Indian shop. There was music, people were playing the drums. What was happening?.

Soon it became clear, a chariot was approaching, there were devotees offering and coconuts were smashed. It reminded me of Thaipusam, but, searching the Internet later, I found out that it was actually the celebration of Panguni Uthiram, an important day for (Tamil) Hindus. It is believed that most divine marriages took place on this day, for example the marriage of Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva.

This cultural diversity in Malaysia is one of the reasons that I feel so at home. Pity that politicians try to destroy it, by fueling tensions between Malay, Chinese and Indians ūüôĀ

The next morning I went to the Nest, the “heaven on earth”, managed by my friends Suet Fun and Peter. The Maxwell Hill jeep service took me to Speedy’s bungalow, from where it was a few minutes walk to the Nest. My first visit was last year, have a look at my report Maxwell Hill, May 2017¬†

When I was sitting on the steps at the entrance of the bungalow, enjoying the surroundings, two hikers came up, asking me if this was the way to Gunung Hijau. When I said no, and gave them the correct directions, they asked “Do you live here”?How I would have liked to say yes..:-)

Here are two pictures of the interior.

I had a relaxing time, reading books and walking around a bit. The garden has beautiful flowers. The last morning we discovered a new-born Red Helen butterfly, just out of the pupa, still pumping up its wings. And in the kitchen a very bizarre cockroach, with a head shield resembling the head of a tiger. Apparently a Homalosilpha ustulata

Near the front porch,  bright fluorescent lights were mounted, attracting numerous moth species. Amazing variety in shape and color

The second day of my stay I decided to have another look at the Birch monument. On my way down from the Nest, I passed Speedy’s, very scenic with the misty weather

It’s a sad story. In 2004 I have celebrated my 60th birthday in Speedy’s (see the above-mentioned report) with Guna as caretaker. It was a beautiful bungalow. Later it was closed and transformed into a Biodiversity Center. A failed project, now it is empty, waiting for a new destination?

Strangely enough it is still mentioned in the Taiping The Guide booklet. The description  ends with :

The Bukit Larut Biodiversity Center will be a very interesting tourist attraction. making it a must visit in every traveler’s checklist when they are in Taiping

When I visited the Birch monument last year, my friend Amril guided me there. Now there is a sign and a clear trail leading you after 150 m (not  50!) to the monument. Why it mentions T.W.W Birch instead of J.W.W Birch still remains a mystery.  Be prepared for leeches when you visit the monument

It was a pleasant stay in the Nest, not in the least because of the food Suet Fun and Peter are preparing for their guests. Not only delicious, but also a feast for the eyes

Rather reluctantly I took the jeep back the next day. I had lunch with my friends in Prima, after which I drove back to PJ. Sunday evening (Cheng Beng!) it had taken friends ten hours to drive back, but on this Tuesday afternoon traffic was smooth

Already looking forward to go back to Taiping and the Nest ūüôā

Taiping, December 2017

“Do you have a plan for your next Taiping visit”, a friend asked me. “Not really”, I replied, “I just like to visit my second hometown, meet friends, enjoy the food, see what is new (and what is still ruined)”.

I booked three nights in my favourite Furama Hotel and went by train to Taiping. Aric and his family traveled to Thailand, using the same train, an opportunity to practice my selfie (wefie) skills.

At the Taiping station my THS (Taiping Heritage Society) friend Tung Lay Chun was waiting for me. She had arranged a (preview) visit to the new Telegraph Museum, but first she showed me the work going on at the future Botanical Garden of Taiping. A botanical garden in Taiping? It was the first time I heard about it

In this Google Earth map I have sketched, with a red contour, the location of the proposed Botanical Garden. The green markers indicate existing buildings and points of interest. As you see, it is a huge project, compare it with the size of the Lake Gardens

The banner suggests that the Taiping Town Council (MPT) is responsible for the project and I was told that funding is by the Federal Government. RM 10 million for the first phase!

Here is a plan of the garden. The supervisor, a nice Malay lady, explained a bit about the garden

According to a signboard, the first phase should be completed in November 2018, but when I look at the present situation, I wonder whether that is feasible. Here are some pictures.

A large parking lot, they must expect many visitors

To be honest, I have my reservations about the  project. Penang has its famous Botanical Gardens (1884), Taiping its equally famous Zoo (1961), the oldest in Malaysia. Why create another botanical garden in Taiping?  Will  Penang follow with another Zoo? A friend said that it may be better to have a Botanical Garden there than buildings and condos and of course I agree, but the money could also be used to upgrade/beautify/renovate Maxwell Hill and its heritage bungalows.

After this visit it was time for lunch. Nasi Arab, delicious!

The Telegraph Museum is not yet open to the public, but the friendly supervisor Athira didn’t mind showing us around. Most of the exhibits are already there, but they are still working on the explanatory notes.

It is apt that Taiping has been chosen as the location for a telegraph museum, as the first telegraph line was opened in 1874 between the Deputy Resident in Taiping and the Residency in Kuala Kangsar. The building, housing the museum, was built in 1884 by the department of Posts and Telegraph and has been beautifully renovated. In the beginning it was also the post office.

Here I am standing in front of the museum, in the left picture with a mail coach and in the right one with  Athira (in black) and three interns, who are helping her.

We had a look of the interior, with some machinery, digital displays, you could practice Morse code etc. It will become an interesting museum when everything is finished.

That evening I had dinner with Lay Chun’s husband in a food court near the Beverly hotel, chilli pan mee. Good food, nice company! The friendly owner of the stall was happy to be in the picture with me…:-)

The next morning, on my way to breakfast, I passed the row of dobi (laundry) shops, which use the field in front to hang and dry the laundry. Often very colorful and photogenic.

I had asked Suet Fun and Peter, the tenants  of the Nest bungalow, to join me for breakfast at the Chee Cheong Fun stall in the Taiping hawker center.

After my visit in September I had whatsapped on and off with Tong, the owner of the stall. The CCF was delicious and it turned out that Peter and Suet had met Tong before. Taiping is an even smaller world than Malaysia…:-)

I had no specific plan for the rest of the day, so when Wan Amril called me and told me that he was going to his cafeteria at the 6th Mile on Maxwell Hill, I asked him if I could join him. The 6th mile is the end point of the jeep service. Beside the cafetaria, there are a few bungalows.  As it was school holidays and also weekend, there were quite a few visitors, good business for the cafeteria.

It was a nice day, the view was quite good, deep down you could see Taiping town and far away the coastline of the Straits. Pleasant atmosphere

While Amril was busy I walked around a bit and took pictures..Left a view of the 6th Mile “village” and right a walking path, recently constructed.

Here a few pictures of one of the bungalows in the 6th mile village. According to Amril the original name was the Doll. Now it is being renovated by his mother, the wife of the OBJ.

A few other bungalows at the 6th mile are probably beyond repair.

I had my lunch at the cafeteria

There was time enough to walk the ~1 km uphill to Speedy’s bungalow, where I celebrated my 60th birthday, 13 years ago. Guna was the caretaker then. Later there has been a failed attempt to create a biodiversity center here. Now it is closed, such a pity.

It was a nice and refreshing afternoon. Maxwell Hill deserves to become a more popular tourist attraction in Taiping.

That evening I had dinner with my friend May, as usual in Siang Malam. Later we walked to the Cross Street Bazaar and the District Office, we had a look at the Ho Hsien Ku temple and we had our picture taken in front of the I Love Taiping sign. Coffee in a nearby stall was the end of a rewarding day.

Where to have breakfast the next morning? I was in the mood for half-boiled eggs and toast and decided to go to the Lian Thong shop in Jalan Kota, but it was closed on a Sunday. So I ended up in Prima, also not bad.

Time for a walk in the Lake Gardens. On my way I passed two historical landmarks, the Government Offices (now District Office) and the Chartered Bank (now Public Library). See my blog Taiping, old and new .

it is always a pleasure to walk around in the Lake Gardens

During my last visit in September I had met a gentleman at the Ansari cendol stall, see my report Taiping September 2017 . Because of our shared interest in Taiping Heritage we had kept in touch and when he heard that I was visiting Taiping again, he suggested that I should visit his sister, Mrs Kim Long, who is living in Barrack Road and who I had met for a short while in September.

After my walk I called her and I was welcome. It was a fascinating meeting with a very vital elderly lady, a treasure trove of memories about Taiping and its past. Looking forward to meet her again

I could not resist the temptation to take a wefie with her.

After my visit I had lunch in OK and cendol in Ansari. I had tasty char siew rice in nearby restaurant OK, only later I read in a review that their speciality is soup noodles. Next time!

After my lunch I had a look at the building of the Ceylonese Association, nearby at Station Road. Built in 1901, it is now being restored!  Left the front facade, right the back.

Also at Station Road, opposite the iconic buildings of the King Edwards VII school, are what I have called the  Shame of Taiping,  the former Rest House and the former PWD department (originally the Railway headquarters) . I wrote that report more than four years ago and not much has changed.

The Rest House has been cleaned up inside and fenced off, but it is still easy to enter. This time I even ventured up the first floor.

The PWD building, opposite the former First Galleria (another failed project) is actually quite attractive.

It has been cleaned inside and fenced off, but you can still enter it through the adjacent building (i anybody knows its original function, please let me know. To remove all the trees and rubbish, one entrance was widened and later repaired (left picture), but it is wide open and from there you can enter the PWD building. Before the cleaning operation, squatters were living inside this building, now there was only one, using the former ticket counter (?) as a makeshift house (right picture). He was sleeping, I didn’t disturb him. A sad situation.

The reason that squatters don’t live inside the building anymore, can be seen in the picture gallery below. Most of the flooring has disappeared! Has this been done by the owner (MPT?) or has there been illegal looting, as the wooden floor boards are valuable according to my friend Yeap.

Will be continued during my next visit. Taiping Bandar Warisan!

That evening I had invited friends for dinner at the New Bee Guan restaurant, Jalan Maharajalela, around the corner from my hotel. Food was not really special but the company was pleasant

The next morning I had dim sum for breakfast with Yeap, the president of the Taiping Heritage Society. We talked about heritage and that it would be nice if Ipoh, Taiping and the Kinta valley could get Unesco World Heritage status, with tin mining as central theme.

I had booked a train ticket for the afternoon, time enough to walk around a bit and take some more pictures

One of my friends wondered why I didn’t move to Taiping permanently…:-). There are many reasons why I will stay in PJ, but I hope to revisit Taiping many more times.

Taiping September 2017

At the end of our Trip up North, Aric dropped me in Taiping, where I stayed two nights in my favourite hotel Furama. My¬†last visit was in May (read the report here)¬†and I was missing my “second hometown” :-).

After a shower and some rest, I had dinner with Tung Lay Chun and her family. Later that evening I met Wan Amril for a drink. Both are members of the Taiping Heritage Society and knowledgeable about Taiping heritage .

Four years ago I have written a blog post Shame on Taiping! about the pitiful condition of several historical buildings in a town that proudly presents itself as  Bandar Warisan (Heritage Town). In the meantime these buildings have deteriorated further, but recently there has been some activity and Lay Chun and Amril updated me about the present situation

The next morning I went out for breakfast. A bit early, because I wanted to try¬†the “most famous” Chee Cheong Fun in town..:-). During my last visit I had also gone to stall 37 in the Taiping hawker center near¬†to the Bomba, but the CCF¬†was sold out early in the morning. This time I was lucky and just in time.

Delicious food. I chatted a bit with the friendly owner of the stall, his family had been operating this stall for many decades already. Will sure come back.

After my breakfast I walked to the Lake Gardens.  In January 2017 I published a blog report Taiping Old and New in which I compared old photographs and postcards with recent pictures taken from the same location.  One of those buildings was the Standard Chartered Bank, now the Public Library. The Lake Gardens are beautiful any time of the day. I passed the Peace monument, the THS has tried to beautify this monument by planting flowering plants around it, but that was not a success. Now it looks better, with new tilings around the  brick posts, each carrying a peace message in various languages

My first target was the ruined Casuarina Hotel on the hill where once the Residence stood. According to Amril there were (serious) plans to build a 4-star boutique hotel here. The hotel has no heritage value, it was built after Merdeka. No sign of any recent activity here yet.

I was not in a hurry, so I checked the number of pillars and their location, the only remains of the former Residency. In total there are 32 pillars, see the GE image below.  This imagery was obtained in 2007, when the Casuarina hotel was still operating!

Walking back I passed the (former) First Galleria. After a few successful years it was taken over by MPT because of mismanagement. Now¬†it is called the Taiping Municipal Gallery. It was closed. Note the sloppy¬†way they have kept the old sign, just removing “will” (and forgetting to add an “s” to function). My Taiping friends tell me there is nothing of interest inside. Pity.

Behind this Gallery is the soon to be opened Telegraph Museum. The first telegraph line in Malaysia line was built between Taiping and Kuala Kangsar, so it makes sense to have a museum about the history of the telegraph here. Hopefully it will be managed better.

I continued my walk to the biggest eyesores of Taiping, the Old Rest House and the former PWD building. During my last visit you could enter the PWD building through all doors, no fencing at all. Squatters were living there and trees were growing in the courtyard. Recently they have cleared the interior, removed the trees and bushes. They had to destroy one of the entrance doors, so a bulldozer could enter. After the cleanup the destroyed door was rebuilt, in itself a good sign.

Also the doors have been closed in a primitive way, and in Malaysia that means you can still enter..:-). The courtyard is clean now, which makes the ruined state of the building only more obvious. The same holds for the Rest House, it is fenced off, but you can still enter. Also here the undergrowth  around the building has been cleared. According to Amril this building is designed to become a boutique 3-star hotel.

My breakfast had been quite filling, so I decided for a light lunch with cendol and pasembor at Ansari, one of the two famous cendol stalls in Taiping.

Before I ordered my food, I got into a conversation with two gentlemen, who had just finished their meal. We came to talk about Taiping heritage and one of them was the owner of two beautiful heritage houses, in Barrack Road  around the corner. We had a look at these houses and will keep in touch with each other, because of our shared interest!

I had been walking quite a lot, so I took a long rest in the afternoon. I decided¬†to have popiah for my dinner, so I walked again to the Taiping hawker center. No popiah there, but interesting preparations for the last day of the Hungry Ghost month. During the 7th month of the Chinese calendar, the ghosts of the ancestors are permitted to return to the world of the living. At the end of this month they have to go back and Taai Si Wong (his¬†effigy is shown in the right picture),¬†takes care that they do…:-)

When I reached the stall of the Famous Omar Popiah near the Central Market, they were just closing. So no¬†popiah, I¬†went to a nearby stall and ordered¬†satay and ketupat, also nice…:-).

After my dinner walking back, I came across a Caucasian¬†couple and we started chatting. Not¬†very often I meet Mat Salleh’s¬†¬†in Taiping…:-). They are from New Zealand, traveling in SEA, and were ¬†pleasantly surprised by the relaxed atmosphere of Taiping. Of course I agreed and we decided to have a drink together. We walked back to the Taiping hawker center, where we had three big Heineken for RM 21 only. Just behind Taai Si Wong…:-)

A¬†nice day. I don’t know why, but it is easy in Taiping to meet interesting, friendly people.
The next morning I met Yeap, the president of the THS. A few months ago the Malay Mail Online published an interview with him about the deplorable state of many heritage buildings in Taiping.

He was willing to show me some of these buildings. In the GE map I have indicated with letters the locations we have visited (click to enlarge)

In the center of the town, one block behind the Old Rest House (A in the map), a dilapidated facade, overgrown by trees and greenery. Decaying for how many years already?

Two examples of shoplots. This one (B) is located on Jalan Lim Tee Hooi. MPT has put a warning sign, AWAS (Be careful)

Here is the second one (C) opposite Central Market. Again a useful warning sign by MPT…:-)

Next we visited the area around Swettenham Road (now Jalan Istana Larut). In colonial times many sumptuous bungalows could be found here, and also more simple government and army quarters. Here is what is left of an impressive bungalow (D on the map). Note the pillar structure. No fence, you can just enter. I explored the ground floor, the upper floor is no longer accessible, look at what is left of the stairs.  No wonder that useful parts of the building will disappear. It would be interesting to find out more about the history of this building.

Here are a few more pictures of deserted government quarters (E, F, H). Not fenced off, you can just enter and explore.  G is special, a gate with two posts is all that remains of what once must have been a big bungalow on a huge plot of land.

Thanks to Yeap for an interesting excursion. Next time I will explore more.

Taiping, 20-23 May 2017

After my visit to Maxwell Hill I stayed a few more days in Taiping. Main reason was to join a THS excursion to the Klian Pau church on Monday 22 May. As I had no car this time, I did a lot of walking. That is no problem in Taiping with its compact town center, where almost everything is within walking distance.

In the evening I walked to the Cross Street Bazar , thinking to have some snack food there, but I was a bit too early. The District Office looked beautiful, without the cars parked in front of it during daytime.

Walking back along Jalan Kota, I noticed that a crowd of people had assembled, apparently waiting for something to happen. Soon floats appeared, it was a temple procession, similar to the Cingay parade in Johor Baru, although on a smaller scale. In JB it is a famous tourist attraction, here even many of my Taiping friends were not aware of the event. Strange.

The next morning I went to a hawker center opposite the Taiping Mall for my breakfast. One of the stalls (no 37) is famous for its chee cheong fun, but at 10 am it was already sold out! I had curry mee instead with coffee, also not bad and cheap too for only RM 4.60.

After my breakfast I started my walk through the town, first looking for mural paintings.

The last few years Mural Art has become very trendy in Malaysia. It started in Penang , followed by Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur, Gopeng (he links connect ¬†to blogs I have written about it).¬†Of course Taiping did not want to stay behind. Personally I like the Zacharevic style (Penang, Ipoh) best, where often the specific structure of a wall is used to create the mural. In Taiping (like in KL) the walls are used as a huge “canvas”.

For example this recent one on a wall of the Kwangtung Association behind the district office. Students of the USM Penang were still working on it during my visit.

The artworks depict scenes related to Taiping’s past, the tin mining, the first railway, the central market. I have given the approximate location of the murals. Technically well done, but I miss the Zacharevic sense of humor.

Taiping presents itself proudly as Bandar Warisan¬†(Heritage Town). But walking around, I was wondering if it really deserves that name. Too many of the heritage buildings are in a delapidated¬†condition. For example the Town Rest House, one of the many “Firsts” of Taiping.¬†The left picture shows the ruins of the Rest House behind a ¬†wall with a pretentious text on the fence. The right picture shows a description of this “First”, built by the British in 1897 and upgraded to a double-storey brick building in 1894 (six!)

Four years ago I have written a blog “Shame on Taiping” and not much has changed since then. Here a few pictures of the building next to the Rest House. You can enter the building, but AYOR,¬†because squatters live inside.

Of course there are also positive things to say. Look for example at this beautiful facade of¬†Ng Boo Bee”s house at,81, Jalan Kota. Ng Boo Bee was a rich Chinese businessman, who rebuilt almost half of Taiping after the disastrous fire of 1880 and this was his residence.

Here are a few more pictures of buildings that drew my attention during my walk. The Peking hotel was built in 1929 as premises for the rubber dealer’s association. It was used by the Japanese Kempeitai during WWII. Now an affordable hotel,  the friendly manager allowed me to have a look at the interior. The Peace hotel (1928) also looks good.

I had a look inside the Central Market, built in 1884/85 and still in use. The future of this heritage building is uncertain, there are plans to relocate the Central Market and then renovate the building. Hopefully it will not become like the Central Market in Kuala Lumpur.

Of course I also spent some time in the Lake Gardens, the most beautiful gardens of Malaysia. During my many visits to Taiping I must have taken hundreds of pictures, it never gets boring.

And I discovered something new! A few Cannonball Trees , easily to be missed, because they are not located near a path, but in the middle of a field. They are native to Central and South America, but have been cultivated in many tropical regions. I had seen them in the Penang Botanical Gardens. Interesting flowers and fruits

That evening Yeap, the president of THS had invited me for a concert by a Polish accordion player, in the hall of St George’s Institution.¬†It was an interesting performance ¬†of classical pieces, arranged for accordion by Waclav Turek himself. I was very impressed by one of the first pieces he played, Bach’s¬†toccata and fugue¬†in d¬†minor. I recorded a small part of this masterwork, originally written for organ.

The next morning, Yeap picked me up from my hotel for the THS event. The Klian Pau church is the oldest Catholic church in Taiping. Built in 1875 as a simple wooden structure on top of a hill, it was replaced by a stone building at the foot of the same hill in 1884. The official name is Our Lady of the Sacred Heart church.

THS member Rocky explained the history of the church and showed us around.

The hill behind the church is called Calvary Hill.  Read more about the interesting story of this hill  here. It was completely overgrown and in preparation for this trip, Yeap and his workers had done a good job to clear the path up the hill.

On our way up, we passed several Stations of the Cross.  In the past there may have been a view of Taiping from the top of the hill, but now it was blocked by trees.

We  also had a look at the nearby cemetery. On the slope of a hill, very Chinese (Feng Shui). Old and new graves next to each other. I was wondering if it was possible to get more information about the old grave of J. Mc.Namara, who died 18 June 1894. Surprisingly I found a reference in The Chronicle and Directory of China Etc. 1892 ! He was an Inspector Second Class in the First Battalion, Perak Sikhs, stationed at Batang Padang. His commander?  R.S.F Walker, whose statue can be found at the Perak Museum.

After a brunch in front of the church, we went back to Taiping and visited the Shun Tak Association, one of the successful restoration projects in Taiping. There is a cafe ¬†inside, where we had lunch. The rest of the day I was lazy, only went out for Hainanese Chicken Chop¬†in Yut Sun with friends and had coffee with Wan Amril in the Greenhouse. Next morning roti canai in the hawker center near my hotel. Food is one of the attractions of Taiping…:-)

After my breakfast I decided to try the Heritage Bus, a new initiative. According to my map, there should be a bus stop opposite the Taiping Mall. Asking around, nobody knew about it, they directed me to the starting point, near the Peace Hotel. There I found a shabby waiting area and an ultra-modern bus. I paid one Ringgit and entered the bus, with a few more locals. After about half an hour we were back, we had done the Heritage Trail, without any information or explanation. Completely useless, but nice air-con in the bus. Simple changes could make it a lot better.

In the afternoon, with friends who had arrived from KL, I visited the Antong coffee mill. We had a look at the mill, where they were roasting the coffee, and tasted a few varieties of coffee.

Located on the Antong grounds is a nice house, where in the beginning of the 20th century Sun¬†Yat Sen’s mistress has been living.

I had visited the Coffee mill and the Sun Yat Sen house earlier, but I was interested to see a recent mural near the factory. Again large-scale, 100 meter long, maybe it will be included in the Malaysian Book of Records as the Longest Heritage Street Mural. But will it become a tourist attraction, as suggested by the TTA (Taiping Tourist Association)? I have my doubts.

The last night in Taiping we stayed in Flemington, where we enjoyed the rooftop swimming pool and the nice view of the Lake Gardens.

A Taiping visit, as usual full of variety…:-)

Maxwell Hill, May 2017

Note: click on any picture to enlarge it.

Maxwell Hill is one of the oldest hill resorts in Malaysia. Development started in the 1880’s with the¬†construction of a number of colonial¬†bungalows for government officers. One bungalow, the Nest, was privately built in 1887 and from 1904 it was used as a retreat by the Methodist Church of Malaysia. About half a year ago this bungalow got new tenants,¬† Suet Fun and her husband Peter, friends of us, and we were eager to visit them and see how they had changed in a very short time the look and feel of the place.

An Ipoh friend of us, Hong, and his niece Karen were also interested, so we booked accommodation for two nights and met at the jeep station at 2:30 pm for a roller coaster ride up the hill. The jeep took us to Speedy’s bungalow where Suet and Peter were already waiting for us.¬†From Speedy it is a few hundred meter walk to the Nest

It was a warm welcome with a glass of fresh hill water. Suet explained a bit about the history of the place and showed us around the bungalow.

I had never been in the Nest before, apparently it was catering for large groups, bunk beds, rather basic. The transformation had been amazing, as if you suddenly were taken back many decades to the past. I hope the few pictures below give an impression. The Nest has become a place to relax and enjoy, good that we had booked two nights.

The rest of the afternoon we spent around the bungalow, enjoying the changing weather, sometimes mist and clouds, sometimes quite clear. Refreshing temperature.

We could not see Taiping town itself, the left picture shows deep down the reservoir belonging to the Spritzer Eco Park and far away the Straits of Melaka. The mountain in the right picture is Gunung Bubu, about twenty km away!

Recently we have bought a drone and this was a good time to test it and take videos of the Nest and the surroundings.

The wind was quite strong, Aric was a bit worried that the drone might be blown away, but it landed nicely in frond of his feet.

Superior  technology

Here is a compilation of the videos taken that afternoon.

In the meantime Suet and Peter were busy with preparations for the dinner. And what a dinner it was!¬†Peter is a Kelabit from Bario, they have also a house there, and one of the dishes was bamboo chicken. I don’t remember the names of the other¬†dishes, but it was delicious. We had dinner outside at¬†the monumental table on the bungalow terrace.

And then there was Antong coffee in the living room¬†near the fireplace where Peter had lit a cosy¬†wood fire. Life can be good…:-)

After a windy night, we woke up with a blue sky.

We had breakfast with French toast and Bario pineapple jam. Then it was time to take more pictures.  A stick insect was exploring my breakfast plate and in the grass a swallowtail moth (Lyssa Zampa) was looking (in vain) for shelter

The Hibiscus is the national flower of Malaysia and you find them everywhere, but¬†notice in the picture the grass and small herbs¬†surrounding it. There was hardly a bush visible, it almost looked like the flowers came straight from the earth…:-)

We decided to take a morning stroll down to Speedy. Looking back we saw the Nest in all its glory.

Just before we reached Speedy, there was a large level field, with a nursery. In the past this has been a tennis court!. We found a nice ginger species.

I

Speedy recalled sweet memories, but also made me sad. In 2004 I celebrated my 60th birthday there with friends, when Guna was the caretaker of the bungalow. Later  it was decided to transform this bungalow into an Center for Biological Diversity. A failed project, as was to be expected in view of the limited accessibility. Now it is empty, unlocked. Sad. Compare the present situation with my birthday party, 13 years ago

Guna (yellow shirt) had prepared a nice barbecue.  How time flies.

The view from Speedy is still fascinating

Walking back to the Nest, Hong and I discovered an overgrown trail, leading steep up the slope. Hong knew that there should be another bungalow, between Speedy and the Nest, the Hugh Low bungalow. We scrambled up the trail, got scratched by many thorns and indeed, we found the remains of the bungalow!  We ventured inside, very carefully

Here are a few more pictures of your exploration. A very satisfactory mini-expedition!

In the afternoon we had quite heavy rain, very refreshing,¬†suitable for a nice nap…:-)

In the meantime other guests had arrived.  Suet had decided to serve a banana leaf dinner and asked for our help to prepare the table.

Not only did it look splendid, the food was also delicious.

Moths were attracted by the bright light

There was another reason why Hong and I wanted to¬†visit Maxwell Hill. Wan Amril, a friend of us, who is very knowledgeable about everything related to Taiping, had told us about a memorial stone for J.W.W Birch, the first British Resident of Perak, appointed in 1874 and murdered in 1875. He had “discovered” this stone eight years ago on the top of Birch Hill, one of the hills forming Maxwell hill. Read his fascinating report The Forgotten Memorials . Wan Amril manages nowadays the Cafe Bukit Larut at the 6th mile and he was willing to guide us to this memorial stone.

The next morning we thanked Suet and Peter for their hospitality and met Wan Amril at Speedy. From there we walked along the jeep track until near the first telecom tower at Birch Hill. There a vague trail took us after a few hundred meters to the stone