Taiping, 20-24 February 2020

In a recent post, I reported about a trip to Kuala Selangor with our UK friend Rodney. He had also never visited Taiping, my 2nd hometown.! A good reason to plan a short trip, only 3D2N, because he was flying back to UK on 24 February. A bit too short for me, so I booked 2 nights in Furama for Aric and Rodney, and two more nights for me. Therefore this report is in two parts πŸ™‚

We started early on 20 February, because our first destination was Penang. Rodney’s longtime Malaysian partner, Keng, had passed away in the UK, a few months earlier and Rodney had brought his ashes to scatter them in the sea near Penang, where Keng was born. We had offered to help and support him.

On our way North we had breakfast in Tanjung Malim. We had half-boiled eggs with ice coffee, where the ice was made of coffee in the shape of a heart, so it would not dilute the coffee, while melting. A clever trick.

Traffic was smooth, we reached Penang in time to have lunch at the Taman Emas restaurant we had visited before, with good char kuey teow and assam laksa.

We continued to Teluk Bahang near the northwestern tip of Penang Island, where Aric had, with the help of a friend, booked a boat.

We had bought yellow and white chrysanthemum flowers to scatter with the ashes.

It was a simple, moving farewell ceremony.

The road ends here. There used to be a restaurant here, aptly named The End of the World.

From Teluk Bahang we drove back to Taiping, where we arrived in hotel Furama around 4 pm. After a short rest we walked to the nearby Lake Gardens. Usually it rains in the afternoon in Taiping, but this time it was beautiful weather. We enjoyed the tranquil atmosphere.

A few more pictures. Top right flowers of the Rain Trees (Samanea Saman) that border the Lake. Bottom left the fruits of the Cannon Ball Tree, not all Taipingites may be aware that a few of these strange trees are growing in the Lake Gardens.

The sunset was very nice. Look at this picture, isn’t it beautiful? The Lake Gardens are fascinating, any time of the day.

Compare it with this video. The famous Chinese Pagoda Bridge in the Lake Gardens has been recently decorated with gaudy LED-lights. Many people are happy with it, personally I think it doesn’t go well with the atmosphere of the Lake Gardens. Feel free to comment.

After this long day we had our dinner at the outdoor food court of Prima. With beer, satay, rojak, otak otak and other delicacies.

The next morning we started with breakfast in a small hawker center near my hotel, often called the Circus Ground by locals, because in earlier days circus shows were given here. The grassy field in the center is surrounded by palm trees and recently “decorated” with “I Love Taiping”. Hmm. We had delicious Chee Cheong Fun in the stall of my friend Mr Tong, 4th (!) generation owner.

Our morning program was to visit the Ayer Hitam waterfall, near Batu Kurau, the rural backyard of Taiping. My last visit was three years ago, it is a 45 minute drive from town. Approaching the trail head, I got a bit worried because quite a lot of development had taken place, a new resort was still under construction. Notice the concrete reinforcement of the river slopes!

The road ends at a small water catchment where we parked our car. Fortunately the trail was still unspoiled, although I noticed some work going on to widen the trail.

It is only a 20 minutes walk on a clear, partly cemented trail, to have a view of the waterfall. From there a small trail brings you in a few minutes down to the base of the fall.

A short video of the impressive and still pristine waterfall. Better don’t wait too long to visit this fall, before “development” takes over.

It was an easy half-day trip, we were back in town for lunch at the Yut Sun restaurant in Jalan Pasar. Of course we had the famous Hainanese Chicken Chop πŸ™‚ .

After a long rest in our hotel, we drove to Kuala Sepetang (former Port Weld). It has become quite touristic, but when you cross the river on a pedestrian bridge to the other side, it is still quite unspoiled. From the bridge you have a good view of the fishing village.

We walked the (only) street until the end, to a big Taoist temple, the Shang Di temple, dedicated to the Emperor of Heaven. Recently built, maybe because the villagers have more income these days? Richly decorated with a huge statue of the Dragon Turtle.

Beautiful tile tableaus, illustrating the dangers of the sea and the importance of paying respect to the gods.

We stayed quite some time at a jetty, watching the sunset and the traffic on the river. Very relaxing.

On our way back to Taiping we stopped in Matang for dinner. There are a few popular seafood restaurants in this small village. We chose the Light House Seafood restaurant where we had a nice seafood porridge.

Almost back in our hotel we came across a Hindu procession. A chariot was pulled by two impressive buffalos. Asking which deity was venerated, I was told that it was Shiva Lingam. I leave it to the reader to find out what a lingam is πŸ™‚ .

Of course I had to show Rodney the mural of Amelia Earhart, the famous American aviator, commemorating that she had landed In Taiping on 20 June 1937 to refuel. A beautiful mural, only problem is that she never did! Read more in my two posts Amelia Earhart and Taiping and Amelia and Taiping (Part Two) .

The next morning we decided to have our breakfast in Casual Market. But before walking there, we first made a detour to have a look at a bungalow, a few hundred meter from the hotel.

Why? Mr Foo, working at Furama and, like me, interested in Taiping and its history, had told me about this bungalow, that until a few months ago it was almost completely invisible because of “jungle” surrounding it. Now the land had been cleared and a beautiful bungalow had come into view. Abandoned, but still in good condition. Built in 1932.

Here is a close-up of the bungalow and a screenshot from Google Street View, taken last year. You can just see part of the roof. An interesting discovery, I know more about its history, but will keep that for another post.

We didn’t take my usual route to Casual Market and passed on our way a small Chinese temple, which I had never noticed before. Notice that the “deities” are wearing a songkok! It is a so-called Datuk Kong temple. A mixture of Chinese folk religion with Malay influences, there are many of them in Malaysia. The right picture shows the Peace Hotel, opposite the Casual Market. Built in 1928, it has a rich history. Nowadays there are food stalls on the ground floor.

Stairs lead up to the first floor. As far as I know that is the domain of the ladies of the night πŸ™‚ . I climbed up to have a look, didn’t meet any ladies, but the wooden interior was nice.

Casual Market is another favourite food court of mine. There are two popular stalls with Char Keow Teow, this time I chose the fishball version.

After our breakfast I showed Rodney and Aric a few of the heritage sites of Taiping, both the positive and the negative ones. Here is the Central Market of Taiping, an iconic building (1884/85).

There are several separate sections. Left a stall in the pork market, I wonder how old this stall is. Right the fish market.

Front view of the Market. Good news, there are plans (and funds!) to restore the market in its old glory (not like Pasar Seni in KL, I hope).

Taiping has many famous schools. This is Saint Georgius Institute (SGI), one of them.

To be honest, it is the mixture of restoration and decay that attracts me in my 2nd hometown… πŸ™‚ . Left the attractive restoration of the Ceylon Association Building. Right the remains of the Rest House.

The government buildings next to the Rest House are still easily accessible. Am I too negative in suspecting that the authorities leave it like this, hoping that drug addicts who are still staying there, will cause a fire one of these days that will destroy the whole building? See my detailed reports Taiping Bandar Warisan and Taiping, October 2019 . Don’t worry , I did not climb up to the first floor πŸ™‚ .

Two more pictures. A nice mural and the skeleton of what once must have been a nice house. As I wrote, the mixture of development and decay attracts me.

After this morning visit of Taping, Aric and Rodney drove back to KL.

The second part of my stay. A nice lotus flower at the entrance of Furama and a picture of me and a huge tree, around the corner of the hotel.

In the afternoon I visited with my friend Halim two quite different kinds of graveyards. First the large Prestavest cemetery in Tupai. I thought that these huge rows of tombs were graves, but the space is too small, they are rest places for the urns of cremated people!

So it is an elaborate (and very expensive!) version of the traditional columbarium, where we also had a look. The caretaker must have thought that we were potential “customers” πŸ™‚ Nice statues of the Buddha give the place a serene atmosphere.

There was still time to visit the tomb of Long Jaafar in Bukit Gantang. He was a Malay nobleman who supposedly (accidentally) discovered tin in the Taiping region. The tombs are well kept, but from his fort nothing remains.

On our way back we enjoyed assam laksa in a roadside stall near Bukit Gantang.

The next day I had breakfast with my friend George. He introduced me to Taiping, many years ago. He suggested the Ee Ee Fatt 128 coffee shop in Tupai. I had Chee Cheong Fun again, not bad, although I still prefer Mr Tong’s πŸ™‚

After breakfast we visited the Botanical Gardens of Taiping next to the Lake Gardens. I had been there when it was still under construction and wondered why to create a botanical garden, with the beautiful Penang one so nearby. Better a botanical garden than a new residential area, my friend Yeap said, and I think he was right πŸ™‚ .

The garden is still under construction,, many trees and palms have been planted already, and there are several scenic spots.

Here is an example, a Fan Palm. I have enlarged the name tag, because I am wondering who has designed the format. Why is the name Taman Botani Perak so dominating? The name of the plant, PALAS KIPAS should be on top in large capitals. Below it, in a slightly smaller font, the Common name : Fan Palm, the Official name, Licuala grandis, the Family name, Arecaceae . Missing the country of origin, Vanuatu. Last lines, in a small font, plant id number, planting date and Taman Botani Perak. Why not Taman Botani Taiping, by the way?

Not yet many flowering shrubs, I found a few.

Next to the Botanical Garden, but now separated from it, one of the oldest heritage sites of Taiping can be found, the communal tomb of the Hai San. The Hai San and the Ghee Hin were two Chinese factions, fighting each other in the Larut wars.

For lunch George and I were invited by Girlie and Yeoh, two other Taiping friends.

I still had some energy left for another trip to the Ayer Hitam waterfall, this time with Halim. Two times the same waterfall? As access is so easy, I had sent a WhatsApp message to my Taiping Heritage friends, if they were interested to join me for another visit. But only Halim responded.

Left the start of the trail, right one of the several sheds where locals stay during the durian season, to guard the king of fruits.

Halim had never visited this fall before and, being an adventurous guy, suggested that we should come back another time and camp overnight. An attractive idea, but I feel a bit too old for it.

Walking back, I found this ginger flower, an  Etlingera coccinea , one of my favourites. It looks like the flower just grows from the earth.

We passed again the new resort, Chalet Latip D’Ayer Hitam and had a chat with the people working there. Modern, colorful design, but I have my reservations about building the chalets so close to the river that you have to reinforce the river banks with concrete.

An beautiful old-fashioned Malay house that reminded Halim of his younger years .

In Batu Kurau we had a teh tarik and apom balik. Batu Kurau has a volunteer fire brigade, the stall was next to it, and our table in front of the “bomba” truck. Fortunately no fire alarm went of during our stay.

Taiping is famous because of its Lake Gardens, so neighbouring Kamunting also wanted one. A nice try, but they can not compete. This is the most interesting part, a lotus pond, crossed by a bridge. Two metal towers at both ends of the bridge. No idea if they ever had a function.

Next morning I had breakfast with Yeap in Lian Thong , soft-boiled eggs on toast, named roti goyang in Malay, “shaking toast” Do I have to explain the name? Later, Yeap picked me up from Furama to bring me to the station, but first we had lunch in the restaurant, that is part of the Ceylon Association building. Nice Tom Yam fried rice. During our lunch a lady joined us, a friend of Yeap, but also a karaoke partner of my friend George. Proving once again that Taiping is a very small world πŸ™‚ .

Waiting for the train back to KL. One of the reasons that I feel so at home in Taiping, is the hospitality of its inhabitants. Will go back soon πŸ™‚

Birch monument, Taiping

Do you know that there is a commemorative stone for Birch, up Maxwell Hill, my friend Wan Amril asked me, when I met him in Taiping, May 2017.

Of course I knew about J.W.W Birch, the first British Resident of Parak, appointed 4 November 1874 after the Pangkor Treaty and assassinated 2 November 1875. I knew that there was a memorial clocktower for him in Ipoh, but I had never heard about a monument in Taiping.

Wan Amril, who is very knowledgeable about Taiping and its history, had seen a photo of the monument in 2009 and had visited it in December of the same year. Here is the very readable report written by him about what he called a mini-expedition: The Forgotten Memorials .

He was willing to bring me to the monument and of course I accepted his invitation. Aric and I were staying in the Nest, enjoying the hospitality of Suet Fun and Peter, together with another friend, Law Siak Hong, president of the Perak Heritage Society.

From the Nest bungalow it is less than 1.5 km along the tar road to where the trail starts. The tar road ends at the Cottage, the first bungalow of Maxwell Hill, built in 1884.

It is easy to miss the trail. And you must be prepared for leeches.

After about 200 meter you reach the monument.

This is the text on the monument: THE FIRST ENGLISHMAN TO CLIMB THIS HILL WAS MR T.W.W. BIRCH. FIRST BRITISH RESIDENT OF PERAK IN 1875 . In 2009 Wan Amril had already noticed the mistake, the T should have been a J.

Next to the commemorative stone, there is a metal plaque, not easy to decipher, Wan Amril gives: LAWATAN PERTAMA KALI D.Y.T.M. RAJA MUDA PERAK KA BUKIT INI PADA 23.7.73 JAM 8.02 PAGI. Translated: Inaugural visit by His Highness the Raja Muda of Perak to this hill on 23-7-73 at 8:02am

An interesting monument, leading to several questions. When was it placed here and by whom? Who was responsible for the spelling mistake and why was it never corrected? And of course the most important question, did J.W.W Birch indeed climb Bukit Larut during the short period (less than one year!) that he was the Perak Resident? If he did, for what purpose? Adventure? Looking for a possible hill resort πŸ™‚ ?

Back home in Petaling Jaya, I searched Google for more info and discovered that Birch had kept a journal during the period that he was Resident of Perak! In 1976 an annotated edition of these Journals has been published, out of stock, but the National Library of Malaysia has copies!

I visited the Library in December 2018 and found the book with the help of friendly library staff.

I coud not borrow it, so I sat down and soon found the passage in which Birch describes his visit to Taiping. I made photocopies, here they are. Interesting reading, this is Birch’s private diary and he doesn’t always mince his words :-). Click to enlarge.

Here is a summary with some comments from me

Birch arrived in Taiping from the Dindings on Wednesday 30 June 1875. He met Captain Speedy, had discussions with Campbell about surveying matters and inspected the construction work on the road from Sempang to Qualla Kangsa. Spelling in those days was often different from the present one.

He also meets the Mantri, Ngah Ibrahim, at Bukit Gantang and has to settle Chinese disputes. About Sunday 4 July he writes: A large party of Europeans have come over to see Capt. Speedy and the place is quite lively with upwards of 30 elephants also collected. Do I detect some disapproval here πŸ™‚ ? Not surprisingly he is rather critical about the flamboyant Speedy.

On Tuesday 6 July, he starts the expedition to Gunung Hijau. Not looking for adventure or a potential hill resort, surveying is the target. Campbell and Speedy accompany him and three more Englishmen. Plus of course porters, the plan is to stay overnight at the top of Gunong Huji (Gunung Hijau), so besides surveying equipment also material for a temporary shed has to be transported up the mountain.

After “a very steep and troublesome climb” they reach the house of a “Chinaman” at about 1700 feet, where they stay overnight. The mines are very good there with lots of water around, Birch writes.

The next day they must have started early, because at 9am they reached already some Malay houses/huts, at an altitude of 2500 feet. Also here the (tin) ore was very rich and “… an enterprising man may make a fortune here in a very short time …

The Chinese house, the Malay huts, at least the lower ranges of Bukit Larut were inhabited, so there must have been reasonably clear trails. For the upper part, I think the (orang asli?) guides who undoubtedly brought Birch and his team to the top, chose basically the route which now leads to the Hill Station (at 6th mile) and continues to the Cottage on top of Caulfield Hill. Here is a topo map of the upper part of Bukit Larut. Left the Hill Station at an altitude of 3400 feet. Gunung Hijau is at 4750 feet.

Caulfield Hill is what mountain hikers call a “false peak” at 4500 feet. You think that you have reached the top, but you have to go down first and then climb up again to the real peak. Frustrating, I speak from experience πŸ™‚ In this case the saddle between Caulfield Hill and Gunung Hijau is at an altitude of 4300 feet.

After breakfast, they continue, and Birch writes: “after getting considerably higher, we had to go down a dip of about 500 feet, and then ascend again, but at last reached the top” If I am right about the route they followed, he is more or less correct, they had to go down about 200 feet and climb up again 450 feet.

At the top it is cold, there is mist and a strong wind, but there are also splendid glimpses of the land below and the sea. A shed is built, there is intermittent rain and at night it is very cold.

The next day Birch and Campbell wake up early to do their surveying work. They used instruments similar to these two, left an aneroid barometer and right a theodolite.

First they determine the height of Gunung Hijau. Probably everybody will be familiar with a barometer as an instrument to give information about the weather. Notice that the inner scale gives the air pressure (in inches Hg) and also weather descriptions, From Stormy (28 inch) until Very Dry (31 inch).

But a barometer can also be used to determine height, using the fact that the air pressure will decrease when you get higher in the atmosphere.

Birch had measured 29.42 inch for the air pressure at Mrs Marple’s house (where he was staying in Taiping) , and now he found 25.15 inch. He had also measured the temperature at both locations.

With these values he was able to calculate the difference in altitude between the two locations and found 4425 feet. Estimating the altitude of Mrs Marple’s house at 60 feet, this would give 4485 feet for the height of Gunung Hijau. And that value is not correct, more than 250 feet short, the actual height of Gunung Hijau is 4750 feet ! In an Appendix I will give more details about his calculation and about a possible explanation of the discrepancy..

The next step was to determine the actual location of Gunung Hijau. They used the Admiralty Chart number 1353, where the location of the mountain was given and also the location of several island in the Straits, Pulo Jarra, Pulo Rima, Pulo Kandy and Pulo Tellong. Is the location of Gunung Hijau on the map correct? Now the theodolite is needed. With this precision instrument you can measure angles, both in a vertical and a horizontal plane. The procedure is as follows. The theodolite is pointed to an island, and the angle is measured. Using this angle you can draw a line on the map. Repeat this for the other islands. Where the four lines intersect, is your location. In principle two lines are enough, but more will be better. Result of these measurements : “ … we found that Gunung Hiju was in correct position exactly

The view is magnificent, from the Dindings in the South to Quedah Peak (Gunung Jerai) in the North. Penang is clearly visible. Apparently they can also see Taiping, deep down, the prison, roads etc. About the view Birch writes “It is one of the prettiest bird’s-eye views I ever saw, and beats the view from Penang Hill all to nothing“.

All this during the morning hours, because at 12pm, they pack their instruments and start the descent, another 3000 feet down, to the house of the Chinese at 1750 feet, where they stay overnight again.

The next day, “with a good deal of pain in our muscles ” they descend the last part where elephants(!) are waiting, who bring Birch back to his lodgings at Mrs Marple. That night he has a fever, but the following morning he feels well and fresh again and starts works with Campbell to plot the results of the expedition .

It is his last day in Taiping, in the afternoon he goes to Bukit Gantang, on elephant, where he meets Ngah Ibrahim and has a discussion with him about debt slavery and other matters. He stays overnight in Bukit Gantang and continues the next day to Kuala Kangsar.

It is 11 July. Ten days later, on 21 July, in a meeting of Sultan Abdullah with the Malay chiefs, it is decided that Birch will be killed, not poisoned but stabbed to death. Because he has no respect for Malay culture and tradition, some say. Because he wanted to abolish “debt slavery.” other historians say.

One question about the monument has been answered. Yes, Birch climbed Gunung Hijau in 1875, together with four other Englishmen. When and by whom the commemorative stone was placed at what now is called Birch Hill, will probably remain unknown forever.

I am thinking about climbing Gunung Hijau myself during one of my following visits to Taiping. Of course not starting from the foothills πŸ™‚ There is a trail starting near Caulfield Hill and from there it should take about one hour. Probably there is no view anymore, but I want to check out myself. Anyone likes to join πŸ™‚ ?


Appendix

Atmospheric pressure depends on altitude, as you get higher it will decrease. In my university it was a standard experiment for physics freshmen to determine the height of the laboratory building, using a barometer.

So I was interested how Birch determined the height of Gunung Hijau. Here is the passage in his Journal again, where he does the calculations

The formula he uses is H = 60.000 (log R – log r) K , where R and r are the barometer readings in Taiping and on the top of the mountain, and K is a correction factor depending on the temperatures, measured at the two locations.

Where did Birch find this formula? He mentions Ranbines and Molesworth. Googling for Ranbines gave no results, but Molesworth did. A lot of hits, it must have been a popular handbook for engineers in the 19th century. First edition in 1863, here is a photo of the 19th edition, published in 1879.

The pocket book has 788 (!) pages and can be found online here. I was lucky, I only had to scroll to page 12 to find what I was looking for πŸ™‚

We have to take the logarithm of the two pressure values. Nowadays we use a pocket calculator, but in those days you had to use logarithm tables, which are included in Molesworth’s Pocket Book. By the way, during my own high school days, I still was using a logarithm table! Here are the logarithm pages in Molesworth.

Mainly for nostalgic reasons, but you may try to reproduce the values given by Birch πŸ™‚ Actually I did. Taking the logarithms of the pressure values, I noticed that he gives them in 7 decimals. The tables have 5 decimals, interpolation gives the 6th, but not a 7th. My guess is that the tables in Rambines have 6 decimals, so interpolation gives the 7th. Not that it makes much of a difference. Subtracting the two logarithms, Birch finds a value of 0.0681047, while I find 0.068109, one decimal less, using the Molesworth tables.

The final part of Birch’s calculation is a bit surprising. Birch takes logarithms again ! But there is no need for that, just fill the values in the equation for H, given above

H = 60000 x 0.0681047 x 1.083 = 4425.4 feet (with my value, I find 4425.7 feet).

Of course it is true that using logarithms you replace multiplication by addition, but at the cost of using tables, and the two (long) multiplications are basically primary school stuff.

About the difference between the 4425 + 60 feet found by Birch and the actual value of 4750 feet, the most probable explanation is a change in atmospheric pressure (weather conditions) during Birch’s trip. At least two days between the measurements at Mrs Marple’s house and the top of Gunung Hijau! Look again at the dial of the barometer. “Very Dry” and “Stormy” have a pressure difference of 3 inches!

To see the effect of a small variation in r, I redid the calculation for r= 24.95 inch and found H =4651 feet.

This is a well known disadvantage of the barometric method to determine altitude. Both measurements should be done at the same time!

Taiping, October 2019

This time I visited Taiping to see the Nine Emperor Gods Festival. About the procession and the fire walking I have written a separate post, Nine Emperor Gods Festival . But during my 4D3N visit there was enough time left to walk around Taiping, visit friends and enjoy the food. Here is a report.

After the procession and lunch on Saturday 5 October , I decided to walk to the Amelia Earhart mural at the junction of Jalan Abdul Jalil and Jalan Taming Sari. On my way I passed the Central market and had a look inside. In the morning bustling with activity, but now quiet. Good news: plans for renovation of this iconic building have been accepted and a dilapidation survey has started. The “modern” clocktower in front of the market is quite interesting.

Here is the Amelia Earhart mural. A large mural to commemorate that she landed at Taiping airport on 20 June 1937. The problem is, she never did, as I have explained in two blog posts, Amelia Earhart and Taiping and Amelia Earhart and Taiping (part 2)

The mural is well done and her plane accurately depicted, but the text captions are wrong. She did not land at the Taiping aerodrome, but flew directly from Bangkok to Singapore on 20 June 1937. And the Taiping aerodrome may have been the first one in the Federated Malay States, but definitely not in South East Asia. Read my posts for more background information.

Walking back to my hotel, I passed two buildings that epitomise Taiping for me and actually are a reason that I love the town so much πŸ˜‰ . The contrast between attractive old buildings and ruined structures appeals to me.

The building of the Ceylon Association is another example of successful restoration. And continuing my walk, I could not resist the temptation of a cendol at Ansari πŸ™‚

Last month I have published a post Taiping Bandar Warisan about two ruined buildings along Station Road, the Rest House and the Perak Railway Buildings. I ended this report with:

Finally the Perak Railway Building and the Rest House have been fenced off. Let’s hope that this is the start of a positive development!

I am afraid that I was too optimistic. The Rest House looks fenced off quite well.

But you can still enter easily, as one of the entrance gates is unlocked

I was rather shocked when I saw the fencing of the Railway buildings. Only the front facade is fenced off, the side facade is just open as usual! My friend Yeap gave the explanation. Merdeka Day, 31 August, was celebrated this year in Taiping and the parade was passing the buildings along Station Road. The partial fencing was to cover the eyesore from view! Shame on MPT if that is true.

The main entrance (left photo) is “locked” in a very provisional way. Notice how the fence ends.

But from the other side you can. The fence is a solid construction, but completely useless this way. I entered from the side facade and took several pictures. I took care not to wake up the squatter who was living there and sleeping πŸ™‚ !

I have sent my report about these two buildings to the Taiping Municipal Council and to the Perak Exco for tourism, arts and culture. No reply (yet).

Next two large scale murals. one related to the Central Market, the other one to the Port Weld railway. Well done by the same artist, apparently sponsored by Koridor Utara and MPT. You can find murals nowadays all over Malaysia, good that Taiping seems to “specialise” in large ones.

Almost back in my hotel, I crossed one of my favourite food courts, opposite the Taiping Mall, where I had enjoyed my Chee Cheong Fun breakfast earlier that morning. It seems that in the past, this was the place where they held circus shows. No idea who came with the idea to “add value” to this relaxed place by erecting a useless I LOVE TAIPING .

After a rest in my hotel, it was time for my usual walk in the Lake Gardens . I had taken my umbrella, because the sky was threatening. But with the sun still present, the result is enchanting.

It was a Saturday afternoon, people were enjoying their boat rides, as I was enjoying my walk.

Just a few more photos of plants, flowers, fruits and fresh leaves. Life is good in Taiping.

I have walked numerous times in the Lake Gardens, and never noticed that there is actually a dinosaur near the lake side! After part of the Circular Road became the pedestrian Raintree Walk, people can use it for their exercises.

In the evening I went out for dinner. First I walked to the Casual Market, forgetting that they are not open in the evening. Walking back, passing the nicely illuminated clock tower, I went to another favorite food court of mine, Prima, where I had my Char Kuey Teow.

I was not the only customer πŸ™‚

The next morning I had breakfast with my friend Yeap in Lian Thong, eggs on toast and coffee. Another nicely restored building.

I had rented a bicycle from Furama hotel, because I was planning to visit the Taiping Aerodrome. But first I visited Mrs Long, the sister of my Singapore friend ST Lee. She is the wife of the late Mr Long, headmaster of King Edwards VIII and it has become a tradition to have a chat with her in her beautiful house at Barrack Road. She is a very good story teller.

When I was doing my research about Amelia Earhart and her supposed landing at the Taiping Aerodrome, I became interested in what was left of the aerodrome. I found a so-called aviation map of British Malaya (1935), with a detailed map of the Taiping Aerodrome. Compare it with the Google Earth screenshot. The left corner of the airfield has been developed already and there is concern that the rest of the airfield may follow. Protests have been hold, until now successfully.

Here is a view of the airfield. It would be great if a destination could be found in line with the original function of the field. For example an airfield for glider planes, or a skydiving school. Bus as you can see on the GE map, the field is now surrounded by residential development, so there might be safety issues.

Not much is left from the original buildings. This might have been the control tower.

A few more pictures. Could the building in the bottom pictures have been a hangar? First I thought that the concrete track in the top right picture could have been a runway, but on the GE screenshot you can see that the runway ran diagonally across the airfield (and has been been extended later, after the 1935 map was made).

On my way back to town, I stopped for a while at another mega-mural, near Antong’s coffee mill. Well done, but not a very good location, not many visitors will come and see it.

Back in town, I visited the Taiping city gallery, where I met Puan Jamilah, who still recognised me from an earlier visit. The planning is that this nice building should become a tourist information center for Taiping, but there is a lack of funding. Pity.

I met Yeap again for lunch, now in the company of Halim. After our lunch we visited the antique shop of Kapitan Tan, where Halim of course had to try the old Vespa πŸ™‚

In the afternoon I took a rest in my hotel . Later Yeap picked me up and together we went to the Tupai temple for the fire walking. Here is the link again: Nine Emperor Gods Festival.

The next morning I had breakfast with Keseven, a Taiping Heritage Society (THS) member who like me is very interested in the Taiping Aerodrome and rather upset about the Amelia Earhart mural. Taiping is a small town, so it was no surprise that we met there Neal, another THS member. Of course we talked/gossiped about Taiping and THS πŸ™‚

Halim was free that morning and willing to drive me around Taiping. So I walked back to my hotel, passed the dobi lines, always a colorful spectacle, packed my stuff and checked out.

Halim has been very active in tourism, so we made another stop at the Taiping city gallery and talked a bit more with Puan Jamilah.

Our next stop was at the pillars of the former Residency with the ruins of the ruined Casuarina hotel . Six years ago I have published a report, Shame on Taiping! , about this location. Nt much change, but of course more decay.

A few pictures. Halim told me that he and his wife had managed the restaurant of the hotel when it was still operating, about 12 years ago, so this visit was a kind of nostalgic experience for him.

Halim is quite adventurous and wanted to explore the first floor of the hotel, now resembling a jungle.

He was even more adventurous when we visited the New Club swimming pool, our last destination.

Before dropping me at the station, we had lunch in the Old Railway Station with Mee Rojak and Cendol.

Then it was time to take the ETS train back to Kuala Lumpur. A very convenient way of traveling!

It was a very rewarding trip. Thanks to all my Taiping friends. Looking forward to come again.

Nine Emperor Gods Festival

Last month one of our friends told us that he would have vegetarian food during the Nine Emperor Gods Festival. This Taoist festival is yearly held during the first nine days of the ninth lunar month. The largest celebration takes place in Ampang, but there is also one in Taiping, which I had always wanted to see, but never had πŸ˜‰ .

I asked my Taiping friends about details, and they told me that the main procession would be held on Sunday 6 October, and the fire walking on the last evening, Monday 7 October. So I booked my usual hotel Furama and arrived by train Saturday 5 October afternoon.

Taiping has become a warm nest for me, friends were already waiting at the station, and before sending me to my hotel, we had lunch in restaurant YES.

After a short rest in my hotel, and in spite of the drizzle, I decided to have a look at the Nine Emperor Gods Temple. There are three Kew Ong Yah (Nine Emperor) temples in Taiping, the original one is in Tupai, on walking distance from my hotel.

A lot of activity was going on. Devotees were praying in the temple and having (free) vegetarian food. Many of them were wearing traditional white clothes.

In the temple compound I saw already the floats and chariots that were going to be used during the procession.

That evening I had dinner again with my friends, this time in restaurant 8383 in Pokok Assam. As I said, Taiping is a warm nest for me. The food was delicious and really value for money.

The next morning was the procession. The husband of my friend Bok Kin is a descendant of Ng Boo Bee, the famous tycoon. In April they had taken me to Ng Boo Bee’s tomb, click here for the report. Ng Boo Bee’s town house is in Kota Road., the procession is always passing by there and it is a tradition that the family prepares an offering table in front of the house. Bok Kin invited me to watch the parade from there and of course I accepted her invitation.

Before the procession started, I joined the family in burning joss sticks, not surprisingly nine sticks this time πŸ™‚

Many people were waiting for the arrival of the parade. The cream-colored building is Ng Boo Bee’s townhouse

Start of the procession. In the background the iconic Taiping clock tower.

When the chariots were close to the house and the offering table, they made a left turn and almost ran to the table, stopping just in time.

Many participants were carrying whips, using them to make a cracking sound. There were also quite a few devotees, dressed in tattered monk robes, a fan in one hand and often a bottle of beer in the other. They personify Ji Gong. Fascinating to watch.

Rocking the chariot is a common practice. I had seen it before at the Chengay festival in Johor Baru.

I kept taking pictures πŸ™‚ .

Most of the chariots were carried by men. This one was an exception.

This Ji Gong entered the house to pay his respect to the house altar and wrote something on a piece of paper before he continued.

Another Ji Gong. His robe is tattered. His cap is covering his eyes. Holding a bottle of beer in one hand and a fan in the other. The original Ji Gong (1130-1209) ate meat, drank alcohol and did not care about his clothing… πŸ™‚

The most fascinating part of the procession are the many men, often still teenagers, who have been piercing their cheeks, walk with hooks in their backs etc. They are called masong. Most piercing is done with long, thin, metal poles, but there were a few devotees who had used heavier stuff, like this guy who was using two swords, and the guy to the right, using a gun. Can not imagine how that can heal easily.

Here are more pictures. One guy using an umbrella, another one a tyre pump, even one carrying a ladder! Notice how all of them have one or two helpers, carrying a stool. Understandably, sometimes they have to sit down for a while πŸ™‚

An Indian drum band added to the festive atmosphere. My friends said that this year the procession was longer than before. Several temple are contributing, and also Indians take part in the parade.

Here is another way of self-mortification , similar to what I have seen at Thaipusam, where devotees pull a chariot with ropes attached by hooks to their back. No chariot here, but other boys, pulling back, while the masong are more or less hanging forward.

More piercing of cheeks.

The last part of the procession. Devotees are carrying kavadis. Both the kavadis and the piercing have their origin in the Hindu Thaipusam tradition. Actually, there is a Hindu festival, Navaratri, during the same nine days of the ninth lunar month, but not related, as far as I know.

Heavy stuff, no wonder they sometimes have to sit down for some rest.

One of the last floats. Sprinkling (holy?) water on the crowd.

The whole parade took around 1.5 hour. After cleaning the offering table, the family invited me for lunch. Vegetarian of course πŸ™‚

The fire walking took place on the evening of the next day, so I had plenty of time to walk around in Taiping, meet other friends, enjoy (non-vegetarian) food, etc. I have written a separate post about it, Taiping, October 2019, and will continue here with the fire walking.

The next day around 7pm, my friend Yeap picked me up from my hotel and we found a parking place not too far from the Tupai temple, where the fire walking was going to take place. We were early, a big space had been cordoned off, and people were preparing the bed of ashes. It was shorter than I had seen in Sri Lanka, many years ago.

We had a look inside the temple, where Yeap introduced me to Ong Hean Hai, the caretaker. He is standing second from right, with his children . Later he invited us to his office, where he gave an explanation about the Nine Emperor Gods festival.

There were many food stalls in and around the temple compound. In one of them they were making Yeow Char Kwai, a favorite of mine, specially when freshly fried. The name translates as Oil Fried Devils and here is the explanation for that strange name πŸ™‚

As we were early, we had dinner there. Vegetarian curry mee, very nice. And black coffee with Yeow Char Kwai, delicious when you soak them in the coffee. In the meantime Bok Kin and Teng Hin had also joined.

Preparing for the fire walking, the devotees, dressed in white, perform several rituals. They enter the inner temple, where other people are not allowed. They walk back and forth several times to the fire walking compound, chanting.

The Nine Emperor Gods Festival is associated with rain, and this time was no exception. When the fire walking was beginning around 9pm, it had also started to rain. Maybe easier for the devotees to walk on the ashes? For us onlookers, we needed an umbrella.

The lighting was not very bright, so it was difficult to take good pictures. Here are two videos I took. The devotees are circling a few times around the ashes, before they walk.

It is interesting to watch the fire walkers. Some of them walk slowly, others almost run. Some carry a child or a bundle of clothes. Because of the rain, you could not see any glowing ashes, but it still must have been burning hot. After the first group of devotees, also others try. It is said that you can only do it if you have been vegetarian during the nine days of the festival , but I doubt if that is true

AFter the fire walking was finished, we went back to the restaurant, where also many of the fire walkers were enjoying a drink, food and company.

The festival was a memorable experience for me. I took many videos dring the procession and the fire walking. Here is a collage.

Taiping Bandar Warisan

In 2013 I wrote a blog Shame on Taiping! about a few of Taiping’s heritage sites which were in a bad condition. Especially the former Perak Railway buildings and the Rest House, both along Station Road, opposite the King Edwards VII school

Since that time I have been visiting these buildings regularly when I visited Taiping, taking many pictures, both inside and outside. Here is a (large) collection. I have indicated the year that they were taken. Click on a picture to enlarge.

First the Perak Railway Buildings. Here is a scan from Anuar Isa’s report Taiping’s Many Firsts, published by the Taiping Municipal Council (MPT) in 2013.

In 2016 I took this picture of the whole complex, the old timber structure (1885) in the foreground and the (newer) brick building to the left.

Front and side facade of the old timber structure (PWD 269)

Same for the two-storey brick building (PWD 267)

More pictures of the decaying front facade of PWD 269. Without comment, only the year I took the picture.

Between the two buildings there is a nice gate. Notice that sometimes there was an attempt to block the entrance, so that squatters etc could not enter.

This counter must be familiar to Taipingites πŸ™‚ Nowadays it is often occupied and the squatter living there does not always welcome your visit.

A few photos of the interior of PWD 267. Abandoned but still in reasonable condition. I could even venture to the first floor. Notice the nice iron columns.

The courtyards of the two buildings were taken over by jungle.

In 2017 there was some activity. My Taiping friends told me that one of the entrances had been widened, so a bulldozer could enter the courtyards. When I visited the building, I noticed of course that Donald Duck had disappeared ;-). The entrance had been professionally repaired. A good sign?

The courtyards had been thoroughly cleaned, shrubs and trees had been removed. Of course the ruined state of the buildings became more visible now.

Only later that year I had time to visit the interior of the buildings and I was shocked. The interior had been vandalised, the wooden floorboards had been removed! Was that the real reason for the earlier activity?

It was still possible to climb up (carefully!) to the first floor. The damage is even more clearly visible. Later I asked around, but I was not able to find out who was responsible for this destruction.

In July 2018 I only had a look at the courtyard, there was an unfriendly squatter, I didn’t want to get into an argument with him.

Not surprisingly the jungle is fighting back already.

In December I came again, this time I had no problem entering. Not much change. I am not an expert, but I think these two buildings are beyond repair.

Next to the Perak Railway Building is the Rest House, the Rumah Rehat. Here is what Anuar Isa’s report says about it.

I have been staying in the Rest House, many years ago. At that time it was called Lagenda Hotel. A budget hotel, but quite acceptable, nice colonial atmosphere.

Around 11 years ago the hotel was closed. In the beginning hardly any fencing, you could just walk in, and of course squatters did. Later there came haphazard fencing like in this picture. Still very easy to trespass.

Here two pictures of the iconic main facade, in 2009 and in 2018. Not too much deterioration. But that is only appearance.

In 2012 there was a fence, but very easy to enter. Some decay, mainly in the ceilings.

One year later, still a fence with gaps, main entrance still looks ok.

Inside the building there are signs that people are living here.

People were complaining about the lack of proper fencing and in 2015 a prominent fence was erected, promoting Taiping as heritage town !

A bit ironical in my opinion. Look at the right picture, with the Rumah Rehat as it was and as it is now.

Even with this new fencing it was still possible to sneak in. The entrance still looks quite good and the stairs to the first floor are solid. But walking around there are clear signs that people are living here, even making a fire!

A short visit in 2017. Some signs of decay.

In 2018 I visited Taiping several times. Not much was left of the “heritage” fence.

But a signboard still tells about the Rumah Rehat, one of the many Firsts of Taiping. And a heritage plaque has been attached to the facade.

There are more signs of decay, although it looks that some repair work has been done. These picture have been taken December 2018, less than one year ago.

As a laymen I think the Rest House can still be saved, but fast action is needed.

Here is a drone video of the two buildings, taken last year.

For a long time already I have been planning to write a blog post with a selection of the pictures I have collected during the past 7-8 years, but it didn’t materialise yet. Until today when my heritage friends pointed me to this article in the Harian Metro: Ikonik usang jejaskan imej Taiping . With these two pictures:

Finally the Perak Railway Building and the Rest House have been fenced off. Let’s hope that this is the start of a positive development!

Amelia and Taiping (Part Two)

The conclusion in my blog post Amelia Earhart and Taiping was that she had never landed at Tekah airport. I am a contributor to Wikipedia and, after a discussion with (THS) friends, I decided to edit the history section of the Wikipedia entry for Taiping Airport, removing ” and made a stopover at the Taiping Airport for refuelling

I left the part “Amelia Earhart was flying between Thailand and Singapore and permission to land at Taiping Airport was granted on 7 June 1937 by the then Resident-General of Malaya. “, although I was wondering if this statement was correct, because I could not find any other independent reference on the Internet.

I was also intrigued that she mentioned a few times Alor Star in her notes, but never Taiping.

In this post I will try to answer/solve both issues.

After publishing my post, I searched the Internet again and I was lucky, I found another reference in the Wikipedia entry Federated Malay States Here it is:

Notable event
The Federated Malay States were within the flight path of American aviator Amelia Earhart on the Thailand–Singapore leg of her final and fatal attempt to cross the globe in 1937. She was given permission to enter FMS airspace with provision to land at Taiping Airport on 7 June 1937.

Contributor Bukhrin added this passage about Amelia Earhart on 14 January 2007. Notice the differences. Main point is that she got permission to enter FMS airspace.

That night, before I fell asleep (!), I remembered that Purdue University has an Amelia Earhart Archive ! The next morning I searched the Archive and, lo and behold, this is what I found:

Authorisation to fly through the FMS airspace, and permission for the aircraft to land at the Taiping Aerodrome. Signed 7 June 1937!

So, after all, Taiping IS special? Not really.

In those days before the war, British Malaya comprised three entities, the Straits Settlements (Singapore, Melaka, Penang and the Dindings), the Federated Malay States (Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Pahang) and the Unfederated Malay States (Kedah, Johore, Perlis, Terengganu and Kelantan).

During her flight, Amelia Earhart passed all three , so she needed authorisations for each of them. They were handled by the American Consulate in Singapore. Here are the letters of the Consul to Amelia with the permits attached.

And here are the permits, one for the Straits Settlement, and separate ones for Johore and Kedah. Click to enlarge. For the FMS permit, see above.

All give permission to enter the airspace and a provision to land at the respective aerodrome(s). For the Straits Settlements in Penang and Singapore, for Kedah in Alor Star , for Johore in Batu Pahat and for the FMS in Taiping.

Five airports. Could it be that she had in her mind to land at Taiping airport. And why did she mention Alor Star in her notes?

Today I found the missing puzzle piece in the Purdue archive!

It is the flight plan for her first (failed) attempt in March 1937, where she was planning to circumnavigate the globe in the opposite direction. She will have used the same flight plan in June. Starting on 20 June in Rangoon, two options are shown, a) From Rangoon to Alor Star and then to Singapore or b) From Rangoon to Bangkok, then to Alor Star and finally to Singapore.

She chose option b), landed in Bangkok for refueling, and then decided to skip Alor Star and fly directly to Singapore.

In that case the remark in her notes: We checked over Alor Star airport but did not stop, and headed for Singapore, makes complete sense.

Case closed for me.

I think Taiping Heritage Society should completely rewrite the History section of the Taiping Airport entry. Because the source of the confusion is located there. The info in the FMS entry is correct, although you may argue that it is not really that notable πŸ™‚

Of course a more general problem is, how reliable is Wikipedia? It is a collective effort with more than 100.000 active contributors. Read more here about Wikipedians . There are checks and balances against vandalism, wrong info etc. But especially with “minor” entries, like Taiping Airport, errors can go unnoticed for a long time.

Amelia Earhart and Taiping

This blog post will have a different format. I will describe chronologically what made me a detective the last three months πŸ™‚

It started with this article in the New Straits Times of 17 June: Historical aerodrome make Taiping what it is today, say experts, conservationists . In this article it says:

The Taiping Aerodrome became famous when aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart made a refuelling stop there on June 7, 1937, before continuing her journey to Singapore and New Guinea in her historic attempt to circumnavigate the globe.

I had heard about Amelia Earhart, that she disappeared during her attempt to circumnavigate the globe, but I knew not much more than that. So I checked Wikipedia, it has a detailed article about her. Here is part of her 1937 flight route:

Of course I directly saw a problem. Refuelling in Taiping on 7 June? On 7 June she crossed the Atlantic! On 20 June she flew from Bangkok to Singapore. Could it be that on that day she made a refuelling stop in Taiping?

I am a member of the Taiping Heritage Society and asked them :

There was no response, and I left it at that.

Fast forward to 30 August, when a THS friend wrote: “Wow! There’s a mural being painted on a wall at the corner shop next to the Taiping hospital complete with her face and an aeroplane. 👏👏👏”

Another THS member sent me a picture of the, still unfinished, mural.

Of course my curiosity was raised again and I repeated my question, does anyone know where this claim comes from. This time there was more response πŸ™‚ . A THS member wrote that there was a separate Wikipedia article about Tekah Airport. Here is a quote:

The airport also achieved fame through the famous American aviator, Amelia Earhart in 1937, when she was doing her world flight and made a stopover at the Taiping Airport for refuelling. Amelia Earhart was flying between Thailand and Singapore and permission to land at Taiping Airport was granted on 7 June 1937 by the then Resident-General of Malaya.

This solved part of the puzzle. It doesn’t say that Amelia LANDED at Tekah on 7 June, but that on 7 June she got PERMISSION TO LAND at Tekah . I will come back to this Wikipedia article later.

Next I used Google to find information about Amelia and Bangkok, Taiping and Singapore. Amelia Earhart & Taiping gave a few hits only, for example this one and this blog, but they basically just copied the info from the Wikipedia article about Tekah.

Earhart & Singapore gave more results. Especially this one: Kallang Airport put S’pore on global aviation map, visited by legendary pilot Amelia Earhart Here is an picture from this link:

Interesting detail: Kallang Airport in Singapore was opened on 12 June, one week earlier than Amelia’s arrival! I will come back to that later. The newspaper clippings show how famous she was.

My Google search for Amelia Earhart & Bangkok struck gold πŸ™‚ . The website This Day in Aviation describes important dates in aviation history, and, not surprisingly, has many pages about Amelia Earhart.

Here is the page about her flight from Rangoon to Singapore: 20 June 1937 .

From Rangoon, yes! When you look at the route planning, shown above, you will see that there are TWO entries for 20 June. First from Rangoon to Bangkok, where she landed for refuelling, then from Bangkok to Singapore.

There were two other planes that day, from Rangoon to Singapore. She left Rangoon after the two others, all three stopped in Bangkok, but she arrived first at Singapore, BECAUSE WE CUT STRAIGHT AND DID NOT STOP ALONG THE WAY.

Here are her notes:

Though we did not sight them, there were two transport planes that day on the same route which we flew. The Imperial Airways machine left Rangoon first and the K.L.M. Douglas at daybreak. Our Wasp-motored Lockheed left fifteen minutes later. All stopped at Bangkok, then followed different courses to Singapore. We arrived there first, at 5:25 P.M. local time, because we cut straight and did not stop along the way.”

SO THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A STOP AT TEKAH AIRPORT!

When I communicated these findings with my TH friends, most of them were convinced, but some of them wondered if those notes where authentic.

Then a THS friend pointed out that a few months after Amelia’s disappearance a book was published by her husband (and manager) Palmer Putnam: Last Flight.

The book is out of stock, but fortunately it has been digitalised and is available as an Amazon e-book . I bought it, it is very interesting reading and of course I was especially interested in her route from Rangoon to Singapore. Here are scans of the relevant chapter.

I have color marked the passages which are of interest for this blog. Click to enlarge.

If you wonder how these notes have survived her disappearance, keep in mind that her whole trip was followed eagerly by public and press. Regularly she communicated her notes with Putnam and the press by telex, cable, telephone. Personally I am convinced that the notes are authentic.

What struck me, reading these pages, is that she mentions three times Alor Star. Why Alor Star and not Taiping?

“… on a course south toward Alor Star …” , “…. along the eastern coast of Malay and then across the peninsula to Alor Star….“, “We checked over Alor Star airport but did not stop….”

A few concluding remarks:

I think that much of the confusion has been caused by the Wikipedia article about Tekah Airport. I checked the history of that item and found that it has been created in 2007 by Wikipedia user Andrew Kidman. He also modified and edited it. In 2009 he added the history section, see the quote above. A few month later he stopped contributing. I have found no other mention of a permission to land on 7 June 1937 and think that it might be erroneous. I have contacted him via Wikipedia, but no reply until now.

Kallang airport was opened only a week before Amelia arrived. In “her” book it is described how much preparation was needed, months before she started. Could it be that her landing at Kallang was a last-minute decision?

Here are some recent pictures of the Amelia Earhart mural in Taiping.

The statement that Tekah airport was the first airport in South East Asia also comes from the Wikipedia article, and is incorrect, I think. Both Thailand (1914) and Indonesia (1924) were earlier.

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ . 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 πŸ˜‰

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 πŸ˜‰

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 πŸ˜‰ .

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 πŸ˜‰

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 πŸ˜‰

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’s second-largest town is defined by water and greenery. Locals laud it as the β€˜City of Peace’ for trailblazing Malaysia’s first museum, first railway and first newspapers in English, Malay and Tamil. But it’s Taiping’s β€˜Rain City’ 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 β€˜rain betting’, 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 πŸ˜‰

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