Wow, are you going to Taiping again, my friends asked me, your last visit was in August, only six weeks ago! What could I say, I was just missing my 2nd hometown. So on Thursday 1 October I took the ETS again. I was a bit shocked, especially in the train, by the lack of social distancing, but fortunately I was sitting next to a friendly lady, who was on her way back from visiting her grandchildren in KL. A retired teacher like me, we had a nice chat.
In Taiping, my friend Lay Chun, fetched me from the station. First we had lunch in 3939, a popular hawker center. I had prawn mee.
One of the reasons that I wanted to come back to Taiping so soon, was to see with my own eyes the pillars of the former Residency. In 2013 I wrote a blog Shame on Taiping! about the deplorable condition of several heritage buildings in Taiping. The Pillars and the ruins of the State Rest house/ Casuarina Inn on Residency Hill were one of them. After that report I visited the hill almost every time I was in Taiping.
This picture is from September 2014. I have marked two pillars in this and the following pictures with red crosses.
August 2020. During my last visit we took drone pictures (left). The two pillars have become invisible, completely overgrown (right).
On 19 September a gotong royong (cleaning operation) was organised by the Taiping Heritage Society and many other NGO’s, with a follow-up the next week. I was eager to see the result, so I asked Lay Chun to drive to Residency Hill before dropping me at hotel Furama.
I was really amazed at the effect of the cleaning operation. What a wonderful job had been done, with the support of the Taiping Municipal Council (MPT). All the pillars had been cleaned and were visible again.
Also a start had been made with the cleaning of the State Rest House. This relatively new building was built around 1970, to replace the Rajah Rest House and the Town Rest House. To make space for it, the former British Residency was demolished, with only the pillars left standing.
When I was there, I chatted a bit with Encik Hasmi from the Heritage Unit of the MPT, who was showing the place to a group of interested visitors. I really hope this initiative will result in a new lease of life for the pillars and the Residency Hill.
After taking a rest in my hotel, I walked to the Lake Gardens. Dinner that night with my friend George , who also happened to be In Taiping. Again in Pusat Makanan 3939.
It has become a tradition to visit Mrs Long, the sister of my Singapore friend ST Lee, during my Taiping visits This time I had breakfast with her and her friend Ms Chong in a nearby Indian shop.
She is a well-known and beloved person in Taiping, it was nice to see how happy people were to meet her.
Although she is 90 year old now, she is still full of energy, we walked around quite a bit . The two pictures below epitomise for me the charm of Taiping, a mixture of beauty and decay. Not all Taipingites will agree with me, but personally I wouldn’t mind if the town remained like this forever 😉
Ms Chong is living in a beautiful house on Station Road. One of my favorites, every time I passed it, I admired the architecture and wondered how it would look inside. So when she asked if I would like to come in for a while, I accepted her invitation with pleasure.
After our walk we went to Ansari for cendol and pasembor.
The owner of Ansari was visiting India and can’t come back (yet), as Malaysia has closed its borders because of Covid-19. Therefore his two sons temporarily manage this famous landmark of Taiping.
It was a very pleasant meeting, very nice to see how lovingly Ms Chong was taking care of her friend.
I had rented a bicycle in Furama, very convenient in Taiping. In the afternoon I used it to ride to the Residency of the OBJ. Toh Puan Nori , his wife, had organised a meeting with senior Taiping citizens, to talk about Taiping’s history.
I had prepared a selection of slides. It was an animated discussion, especially about the Pillars and the New State Rest House. I wrote a separate blog about it: A Meeting of Old-Timers .
The next day, Saturday, there was a new round of gotong royong at the Residency Hill. When I arrived there, on my bike, there were already many people from various NGO’s. Here is a video.
To be honest, I didn’t really take part in the actual cleaning, I mainly took photographs (and was photographed). And I had my breakfast, the catering was well organised.
At around 11am the gotong royong was finished. Time for a real adventure! With friends I visited Menggelunchor, a water slide near Kuala Kangsar that was popular in the early 20th century. Here we are standing in front of it, from left to right Syafiqi who guided us to the slide, my THS friend Halim, me and Pak Yang , an outdoor enthusiast. For a detailed report click here.
There was time enough for more. First we visited the Green Stone Camp, a project of Pak Yang, on the banks of the Kangsar river. Remote location and clear water, still under construction, a place to keep in mind.
Then it was time for lunch. We had assam laksa in the well-known Laksa Buyong stall in Bukit Gantang. I had told the others that I would pay for the lunch and was surprised that I only had to fork out RM 6.50 ! It turned out that Aifa, the owner, didn’t charge us for the laksa, as a reward for a useful discussion with Syafiqi and Halim about business! I only had to pay for the drinks. Malaysia boleh!
Our last destination for the day was a disused railway tunnel near Bukit Gantang. Two years ago I had visited other tunnels near Bukit Berapit, but never this one. Access was a bit difficult 🙂 .
This is the tunnel, the last one before you reached Taiping in the past. It’s a pity that also here the rails and sleepers have been removed.
Recently Pak Yang and his friends have found and cleaned the platform of the Bukit Gantang station (right picture). In the left picture we are walking to the station, following the former railroad.
Via these steps, the passengers climbed up to the railroad tracks to board the train.
It was a wonderful day. Here are the GPS tracks of the trip.
The next morning I had breakfast with George, Chee Cheong Fun at Mr Tong’s stall.
As I had no commitments that morning, I decided to take my bicycle and just ride around, taking pictures here and there. Beautiful buildings, buildings that needed repair, or even had vanished completely. The first one near the Esplanade, the other three on Swettenham Road. As I mentioned above, it’s this mixture that I find attractive.
Even the former Perak Railway Buildings have their charm, although it is of course a shame that the authorities have let it go down the drain, without any fencing, so squatters and drug addicts can use it freely. One year ago I wrote a blog about it: Taiping Bandar Warisan .
A good location for another gotong royong?
During my last visit to Taiping, I had a look at an apartment in Crystal Creek and reported: “ The view from the balcony is spectacular, but we found the general atmosphere of Crystal Creek disappointing. Many condo’s are for sale, or used for AirBnb. A bit of a failed project, despite its own waterfall? “
I got a friendly comment on this report by Grahame, living himself in Crystal Creek: “I cannot argue that the finish to the public areas and the recreational facilities is very disappointing. But, and it is a big but, our condo and life in this location is fantastic!! “
We got in contact via e-mail and whatsapp and decided to meet. Here we are having lunch in Double Tap, after our first choice, Doli, had a long queue. Very nice Western style, food.
After lunch Grahame and Safina invited me for tea in their condo. And I agree with them, the view from their balcony is fantastic, and the condo itself very comfortable.
Another view of the Lake Gardens.
I had invited Yeap and Halim for dinner that evening, stipulating that I would be the host. Nice Thai food in the West Joy Cafe. Pleasant company, but when it came to paying the bill, Yeap wanted to pay. Sometimes Malaysian hospitality can be a bit overwhelming 🙂
The last morning I had breakfast at Lian Thong for another favorite of mine Roti Goyang. eggs on toast.
My train would leave at 2pm, so I had a few hours left to work on another “project” of mine. The main river of Taiping is Sg Larut, which splits in several tributaries. With the help of Google Earth I have sketched many of these tributaries here.
Using my bike again, I cycled around town , looking for sign boards where roads were crossing tributaries, expecting that one of them would still be named Sg Larut. Here are a few, none of them is Sg Larut.
Google Maps names the tributary below Sg Larut, but that is wrong, it is Sg Batu Tegoh
For Taipingites, can you identify which tributary this is 🙂 ?
The advantage of cycling is that you reach places that are a bit too far for walking. Here are two buildings I had not yet photographed before. Left the Masjid India (1969) and right the Buddhist Chan Shan temple (1953)
On my way back to my hotel, I passed this interesting villa, near the OBJ Residency. Built in 1940 in late Art Deco style. Pity that it has been neglected.
That was the end of another rewarding visit. Fortunately on my way back to KL, social distancing was no problem. both in the ETS and the MRT.