Sunday, December 08, 2013

Day One: Ipoh - Cameron Highlands - Kuala Lumpur Trip 2013

Although it is factually incorrect from the subject, i am going to talk about the night before, when my parents and I checked in to the Transtar office at Golden Mile Complex for my first trip to Ipoh.

My past experience travelling on a Transtar coach from Genting Highlands back to Singapore left such a deep impression on me; i decided to book with the same company to Ipoh. Cost per person, including fuel and insurance surcharge was S$40.17.

The coach that came to pick us up at 10pm was Lionstar (Transtar's subsidiary). I would have been fine with this arrangement except for one issue; the bottom section of the reclining chairs was not working! Seriously, for an overnight coach? The driver was also blasting loud music in the first half of the journey and i am sure my nose got a few whiffs of a lighted up cigarette! Thanks to the above "issues", I barely clocked two hours of sleep!

A toilet (and smoking break) was scheduled at around 3am. Oh, i guess i didn't mention that this coach would stopover at three different cities; Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh and Penang. When the bus pulled up in front of Puduraya, i thought we have boarded the wrong bus! 

Arriving in Ipoh Amanjaya terminal at 5am was totally unexpected! The parents caught some sleep while i checked out the rest of the terminal. The terminal is located fifteen kilometers away from Ipoh city and the standard cab fare was said to be an exorbitant RM 30. Honestly, with all these hassles, i think it might be easier to take the more expensive plane route next time.

There was a transit hotel with very basic amenities (which means only a bed). I was willing to fork out the RM 20 an hour rate just to rest my tired self but as there are three of us (max was for two persons), mom made the final decision to just take the cab to our designated hotel. 

We didn't manage to check in to French Hotel (totally expected) but the friendly frontline staff did allow us to leave our luggage with them as we explored the city very early in the morning. Furthermore, she even passed us a food map and directed us to our first meal in Ipoh. 

Jalan Leong Sin Nam where we had breakfast at Ming Court Hong Kong Tim Sum (明阁香港点心)! The street is also known reputably as the dim sum street where i counted at least four different Chinese restaurants offering dim sum! 

After a short chat with the cashier in the restaurant, we took to the streets again for the next item on the itinerary; white coffee! Apparently i am not the first person to check with her as she immediately pulled out a map and directed me to a reputable shop where we can have our caffeine fix. 

It was not even 8am and this barber was already open for business! The chair and retro decor reminded me so much of my childhood in the 80s! 

I can roughly make out that the Chinese characters were saying 施比受更有福; which means it is a blessing to give rather than to receive. Very creative for the artist to use the window as part of the character.

Eye catching buildings! Add two more colours and it shall henceforth be known as the rainbow stretch. Look closer and you should be able to spot a lady directing the traffic at this busy intersection. 

Ipoh is divided into two main sections for tourists; the old town and the new town. New town was in fact not very new; being developed way back in 1908! 

There is a very easy way to identify which is which by using the Kinta River; the area to my right (east) is the New Town whereas to my left (west) is the Old Town. 

Old Town where you can find many heritage buildings! A good trail to take when everyone is not as tired and sleepy as we were on that day! 

Mom gamely posed for my camera. 

Spotted a playground we know Jovyn would thoroughly enjoy! Damn, we really do miss her on those five days we were in Malaysia. At times, i am just glad she wasn't there to display her spoiled tantrums! :P

Finally had my first original cuppa white coffee from Nam Heong!

To be totally frank, Ipoh exudes a lot of old charm (i even chanced upon an ancient printing press machine in Star Printing Works) and this might not necessarily sit well with people who might have the impression that everything is clean, renovated and all shops would be open for business.

My observation over the two days i was in Ipoh was that many shop houses were badly maintained with quite a number already out of business.

Some revitalisation works were ongoing and i sincerely hope they would eventually result in buildings that can capture Ipoh's glamourous heritage.

One perennial icky problem was the huge number of pigeons.

What goes in must come out and with so many birds sleeping in the old town, the droppings can be massive! I have even seen with my own eyes; employees scrapping the dried shit off the ground with a garden spade!

Let's move on to more eye-pleasing pictures; do pay the Ipoh Tourist Information Centre a visit where you can find informative brochures and helpful maps.

An old Volkswagen beetle driven by an elderly slowly trudging along the road!

Checking out the iconic Ipoh Railway Station, War Memorial and the Ipoh Tree. For detailed information, please feel free to click here.

This is the Sultan Idris Shah State Mosque; a unique feature was its many orange domes. We didn't step in as we were unsure if it is open to the general public.

Other buildings for your viewing pleasure!

A small altar honouring Datuk Gong was placed against the wall; instead of a statue, it was a face-like stone that took the place.

Dating back to 1929, this iconic three-storey townhouse (Han Chin Pet Soo) housed a miner's club with access given only to their members. 

Popped by the nearby concubine lane which was in a sorry state of disrepair. Check out more pictures via the link here

Water meters with a protective cover. My guess is that this was more for security to prevent users from tampering with the meters. 

Old school lorry that used to be frequently seen on Singapore's roads. In the past, such lorries also doubled up as hearses for Chinese's funerals. I am aware because my late grandfather's (maternal) coffin was loaded onto the lorry before we departed to the cemetery. 

My heart skipped a beat when i saw my mom checking out the plastic containers! There is no way i am going to allow her to buy in Ipoh and carry them all the way back to Singapore! No matter how dirt cheap they are!

Canine and feline spotted - there were definitely more cats than dogs in Ipoh. By the way, please look before your every step on the streets; i encountered little bundles of 'gold'' every now and then.

A stretch of shophouses selling religious items related to Chinese customs and festivals like praying cups, paper money, statues of gods, customised ancestral tablets etc. 

Shop selling Ipoh's famous pastries and biscuits! Having been accustomed to food tasting in other parts of Malaysia, i am amazed that it is not the practice in Ipoh. Hence, i didn't even buy a single bag of their signature biscuit; heong peng! 

Would you dare to stay in such a run-down building? 

ABC Pets - a good-sized pet shop located very near to the French Hotel. My intention was only to look at our four-legged fur friends but i was shocked to find snakes, iguanas, porcupines etc for sale too!

Besides the many varieties of birds, a number of less common cat breeds were also available; like the hairless Sphynx and ultra adorable Scottish Folds.

There was even a baby monkey! Having worked in the pet industry for a good part of my adult life, it was sad to see animals being caged and bred for profitable purposes.

Anyone can help to translate? I only know Tak Boleh is "Cannot". [Update: Thanks to Ms Jenny Tan, the translation is "Cannot Throw Rubbish Here"!]

At this point, it was 11am - All of us were dead tired and the weather was so bloody hot! However, we were still an hour ahead of the earliest check-in time. So, we stepped into KFC.

12 noon - checked in successfully to French Hotel although i had to upgrade the accommodation as the one i reserved was still in "housekeeping" mode. For my review on French Hotel, click here

Had a great shower and after three hours of rest, it was time to hit the streets again! Gerbang Malam is a night market in Ipoh that opens from 7.00pm until 1.00am. 

Walked past a cemetery which i think belonged to the nearby St. Michael's Church. I intended to visit the very next day to take some photos but time didn't permit. :(

Ipoh Parade - one of the bigger shopping centres in Ipoh that had a cinema, bowling alley, Kbox (karaoke), laser quest, Kids Zone and Parkson (a departmental store)! As you can see, it was undergoing upgrading when we visited. 

Spent a relaxing late afternoon in Ipoh Parade and had fried chicken in Marrybrown before going back to the hotel to have an early night as we need to wake up early the next day.

Oversea restaurant has a branch in Ipoh?! For those who wonder why i am reacting this way, the charred char siew i had at its main branch in Kuala Lumpur was the best until the spot was taken over by Kay Lee. 

Last picture of a neighbouring apartment block that seriously need a new cost of paint job. 

We retired for the night shortly after reaching the hotel. It was a long time since i last slept at 8pm! 

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