Taiping, February 2023

Before starting to write this blog, I decided to take a look at the two blogs I wrote about my visits to Taiping last year, in March and June. I noticed that my Taiping visits are usually very similar: I meet friends, enjoy the Lake Gardens, explore the town and its heritage, have nice food. etc. This visit was not different, so be warned ;- .

On 15 February I took the ETS to Taiping I like train travel, it is more relaxing than driving. I always choose a seat in coach C, because the canteen is there ๐Ÿ˜‰

In Taiping my friends Lay Chun and Kar Seng were waiting for me. We had lunch in the 226 Kim Hai restaurant in Aulong, where they are regular customers.

Nice food and as usual they didn’t let me pay for it. Malaysian hospitality!. From left to right, pork ribs, bitter gourd omelet (my favourite) and mantis shrimps.

After lunch they dropped me at Furama. From my hotel room I always had a view of a beautiful (but abandoned) bungalow. I was a bit shocked to see that the bungalow had been completely destroyed and replaced by a non-descript eatery.

After taking some rest I walked to the Novotel where I met my friend Derrick and his “gang”. They were on a road trip, staying overnight in Taiping and he had asked me to show them Taiping. As they had already been walking around in the Lake Gardens, I took them to Kuala Sepetang (Port Weld), where we walked around. Here a view from the bridge.

The first railway in the FMS, from Taiping to Port Weld, was opened in 1885. Dismantled in 1941, now only a signboard remains. On our way back we had dinner in Matang. The Light House restaurant is famous for its seafood porridge.

The next morning my friend Yeap picked me up from my hotel. We had breakfast together, another tradition. This time we had thosai in a mamak.

I had asked Yeap if he had contacts in the Taiping Sikh community, because I was interested to visit the Gurdwara Sahib. Not surprisingly he had, after breakfast we went to the Gurdwara where we met Datuk Balraaj Singh. The present Gurdwara was built in 1970 to replace a beautiful building, completed in 1921. The Taiping Gurdwara Sahib has an interesting history, going back to the times of captain Speedy, who in the 1870s went to India and came back with a group of Sikh sepoys to protect the interests of Ngah Ibrahim. A few years later they formed the Police Corps of Perak and in 1881 a wooden Gurdwara was built in the police compound. During the first world war, most Sikhs left to fight and many didn’t come back. Access to the gurdwara was problematic for their families (high security), in 1916 it was decided to build a new gurdwara.

Left the modern gurdwara, right the only remaining image of the beautiful old building.

Yeap’s wife was interested to see the gurdwara and joined us. Visitors are welcome, but you need a headcover. I had brought my cap, for Yeap and his wife there were shawls. What a handsome couple ๐Ÿ˜‰ . We first visited the main hall (called the darbar), the entrance door was decorated with the Ik Onkar symbol, meaning literally There is only one Creator.

The darbar is a big empty space, dominated at the far end by an elevated throne on which rests the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of Sikhism. First I thought we were alone, entering the hall, but coming closer to the “throne”, we noticed that somebody was sitting behind it, reading the book. It was the Granthi, the ceremonial reader of the Guru Granth Sahib.

A gurdwara also has a langar, a community kitchen, where free vegetarian meals are prepared by volunteers for everybody, irrespective of religion or race. There is also a school and a library. Left the communal kitchen, right a few classrooms.

The courtyard of a gurdwara always has a big flagpole, carrying the Sikh flag. As there was no wind during our visit, you can not see the Khanda on the flag , the official symbol of the Sikh faith, After finishing his reading, the Granthi came to greet us and offer us a cup of tea. Here I am standing between him and the caretaker of the gurdwara.

A nice experience and a very interesting religion!

I went back to my hotel but stayed there only a short time, until Goh, another THS friend picked me up and took me to his house. He is a good photographer, a few years ago we had explored Taiping, resulting in an blog Taiping Old and New. He is also an avid gardener and I had asked him if I could have a look at his garden. His wife prepared coffee and we had a nice “senior” chat

He had a big collection of Desert Roses. We are trying to grow them at home, not easy. He also showed me the budding flower of the Queen of the Night, a species of cactus that only blooms for a single night. I asked him to send me a picture of the flower, which he did the following day. So beautiful.

It was almost lunchtime, we went to the Casual Market, where we had char kuey teow. There are two stalls in Casual Market, preparing this popular food, this time we had the fishball variety. The official name of this food court is Larut Matang Hawker Centre, sometimes also called the Cashier Market, but Goh was adamant that this was not correct.

After lunch we drove to the foothills of Maxwell Hill. The next day an exhibition “A Tale of two Hills” would be opened in the Maxwell Base Camp, we decided to have a look already

Everybody was busy with last-minute preparations, but they still had time to show us around. Left Suet Fun (mentor of the project) explaining the project to another early visitor. Right a description of the four contributions. Narrative and narrator are the new fashion words ๐Ÿ˜‰

The contributions contain photos, videos, text. Here are two narrators with their narratives.

After Goh dropped me at my hotel, it was time for a well-deserved rest, Later I went to the Lake Gardens. A few years ago part of the Circular Road has been closed for traffic after a few raintrees had fallen on the road. It is now the Raintree Walk, very popular. One more part , until the Zoo, is now also for pedestrians. Very good initiative of MPT (the Taiping town council).

Until now four of the majestic raintrees have fallen on the road.

Several other trees have fallen in the opposite direction and still manage to survive.

Some more pictures of the Lake Gardens. I like the photo of the ladies who have brought a table and chairs and are enjoying an afternoon tea (?) at the water edge.

A walk in the Lake gardens in not complete for me without having a look at the cannonball trees.

I had invited Bok Kin and her husband for dinner that evening and they suggested the new Brew House, next to my hotel. I asked them to notify me when they had arrived in the restaurant, then I would join them in a few minutes ๐Ÿ˜‰

The food was not really that special, but it was very nice meeting them.

During my visit in June I had visited a number of Hindu temples with Muthu Pulai, another THS member. He had suggested a day trip to a Muniswaram temple in Prai (Penang) for the following day, but when I was back in my hotel, I received his message that he had to cancel the trip last-minute. So I had to improvise a program for the next day.. Fortunately my friend Halim was free.!

I decided to start with Chee Cheong Fun breakfast at my usual stall no 37 in the Circus Grounds food court opposite Novotel. Very close to Furama, on my way I passed the colorful Dobi Line.

At the CCF stall I met Foo, earlier working at Furama, having breakfast with a friend. The stall is now managed by the son of Mr Tong, who has retired. Food quality still the same.

Later Halim picked me up from my hotel. First we went to his house, He has a lovely house and a beautiful garden.

Halim has recently started painting and I was interested to see the results. I was quite impressed. A few months ago he had a mild stroke, causing him some speech problems and I was even more impressed by the way he handled this (hopefully temporary) handicap. He carried a notebook to write down what he couldn’t tell and was not shy to communicate with other people.

There are several places I always like to visit when I am in Taiping, many of them heritage related. We had a look at the Residency pillars, cleaned a few years ago by THS and other NGO’s. See my report Taiping October 2020. They still look quite impressive.

The same can not be said of the remains of the former Casuaria Resthouse, still a ruined mess.

Then it was time for lunch, in the nearby New Club

Halim told me that he could see a waterfall from his home in Taman Lake View and that he would like to visit it. I told him that it was the Kamunting fall (Sg Ranting fall). After lunch we drove to the Indian temple near the Water Reservoir, where the trail to both Taiping waterfalls starts. I told him the trail to the Ranting fall is not that easy. We will see, during my next visit.

Back in my hotel, there was the usual afternoon rain.

After the rain stopped, I walked around the town. The egrets were still coming back to roost, It is a fascinating sight to see the flocks of birds return around 7 pm

In Jalan Kelab Cina the faรงade of a shoplot has collapsed a few months ago, damaging a few cars parked in front. The owner has now put up shielding with a warning sign “Park at your own risk”. Through a hole I could take a photo of the interior. Will be interesting to follow the development, if any, of this property. Taiping has (too) many of those ruins.

Next I walked to the Central Market. Part of it, Siang Malam is being renovated. Left a picture I took last year June, right how it looks now. There is progress !

Left the interior of the Siang Malam, still a lot has to be done. Right the main building of the market. No visible activity since last year.

Not really hungry after my lunch in the New Club, I just had some snack food in my hotel.

The next day I woke up early for a day trip with my friends Henry and Soon Lay. Visiting temples and caves around Ipoh was the target of this trip. We did so many interesting things, that I wrote a separate blog about it Take Your Time. Here two pictures, to give you an impression.

The next day was already the last one, going back by ETS in the afternoon. First I had breakfast with Henry and Soon Lay in D’Cherry , Tupai district.. According to Henry the best Nasi Lemak in town. Quite good.

After breakfast they were willing to drive me around the town, so I could have a look at a few of my “favourites”

Recently the STAR published an article about the Taiping murals A total of nine has been planned. We passed one that was still under construction. Here is a picture taken by me next to a Google Earth Street View. Personally I have reservations about this approach, using the wall just as a canvas. Compare it with what Zacharevic has done in Penang and Ipoh, basically using the structure of the old wall instead of obscuring it..

Here is another (in)famous example. Again the wall is just used as a canvas. Infamous because Amelia Earhart never landed in Taiping. See my latest blog Did Amelia Earhart land in Taiping? Two recent newspaper articles, from the STAR : QuickCheck: Did pioneer female pilot Amelia Earhart make a stopover in then-British Malaya? (verdict: “FALSE”), and from the NST: Earhart’s Taiping mural will not be erased . Sigh, Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur

Then it was time for what I call the Shame of Taiping, the two heritage buildings on Station Road, the former Perak Railway building and the Rest House. In 2013 and 2019 I wrote blogs about it, Shame on Taiping! and Taiping Bandar Warisan. Here a few photos, when you compare them with the two blogs, you will see that the decay has progressed.

The Perak Railway Building (Later PWD). At least now solidly fenced off (after the interiors was demolished completely)

The Rest House has also been fenced off, but it is still easy to enter.

Opposite those two ruins, the impressive buildings of the King Edward VII school. But don’t be mistaken, when I visited the school in 2018, parts were not accessible because they were infested by termites.

Finally a photo of me and my favourite ruin. Located at Jalan Sultan Jaafar, behind KEVII I read that the the land is for sale for RM 1.3 million. I would like to find out who were the original owners/tenants and why this bungalow was left to rot.

After Henry and Soon Lay dropped me at my hotel, I packed my stuff, checked out and waited for Halim. Our plan was to visit the Kota Ngah Ibrahim, have lunch, after which he would drop me at the Kuala Kangsar station.

First we went to the Ansari Chendol, where the biasa chendol was still only RM 1.80.

Then we drove to Matang where the fort has now be renamed Muzium Matang. Because it is more than the fort now. The building next to it, which I always called Speedy’s bungalow, has been renovated and is open to the public, free of charge. That was the reason for our visit, the fort itself I had visited many times,

The beautiful building next to the fort was actually the Security Guardhouse of Ngah Ibrahim’s police force.

We spent quite a lot of time in the museum, lots of information, the captions were not always easy to read

The restaurant Halim had in mind for lunch was Selera Azrorasa, located in Matang Gelugor. Famous for its fish curry, he said. Nice location, very remote. We ordered food and soon discovered that the service was very slow. And it was still quite far to Kuala Kangsar. I was getting worried.

Finally we decided that we had to leave, we asked the waiter to “tapau” the food (common practice in Malaysia to “take away” food) . Ten minutes before departure I arrived at the station. Halim took our lunch home and told me later that the food was good. I ordered coffee and sandwiches in the train canteen ๐Ÿ˜‰ A funny ending of a very rewarding Taiping trip.

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