Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Day Two (Includes Kaya Puffs and Pomelo): Ipoh - Cameron Highlands - Kuala Lumpur Trip 2013

I woke up at 5.30am because both parents were already up and gunning to get out of the hotel for breakfast! The sleep was great although i 'nua' a while longer before dragging myself out of bed for a necessary bath.

Out of French Hotel by 6.30am and was greeted by a dead quiet road scene. Amazingly, it was the same scene the morning before but the feeling this time, after having had sufficient sleep and a refreshing rain shower, was vastly different.

Dim sum for breakfast two days in a row is seriously no joke; albeit this time, we patronised the imposing Foh San that was modernly designed with a nicer ambience! For my review, click here.

Mom goofing around with the power lines that stretched from building to building. This is a scene not commonly seen in Singapore as most of the power lines are located underground. 

Feline waiting for something; food, i presume. 

Very old school, non air-conditioned bus sighted on the street! The cute bus was quite petite with only one entrance that also served as the exit. Can see from my parents' face that this brought back some nostalgia of Singapore's public transportation a few decades ago. 

Took a dump in the hotel and it was time to meet up with Daniel, our tour ambassador arranged with Jammy from MyIpohHoliday, at 8.30am at the lobby of French Hotel

The eight-hour itinerary was customised by us with initial inputs and recommendations from Jammy, who is an Ipoh native! Our criteria was simple; an air-conditioned car (petrol included) that can seat three of us with a driver cum ambassador who can speak Mandarin. 

Daniel turned out to be a real gem as he shared with us attractions in Ipoh that we can visit next time and his childhood memory of places like the cave temples and Kellie's Castle. Planning for a trip to Ipoh, you can send an email to Jammy at myipohholiday@gmail.com; she also advises on other tour-related queries like accommodation! You may also visit the facebook page here

Our itinerary brought us to a quite a number of places, first of which was the eerily beautiful Kellie's Castle! For more details (and photographs of course), click here

Kellie's Castle was actually out of Ipoh city and took us roughly 30 to 40 minutes each way. 

However, the ride wasn't boring as we chatted a bit with Daniel and there were plenty of sights including abandoned houses and even an entire street devoid of any human resident! 

Visited four cave temples in one go! Starting with Kek Lok Tong Cave Temple [極樂洞] - Cavern of Ultimate Bliss (the latter was my cannot-make it translation). As with Kellie's Castle, a post has been dedicated to the temple and you check out this link for the details. 

Lunch was at Sun Yeong Wai [新扬威烤鸭饭店], restaurant famous for their roasted duck! I was elated to find char siew that was just a notch lower than Kay Lee! The only regret i had was not asking for takeaway for another session of indulgence back in the hotel. 

Two doors away was Yee Hup, a brand synonymous with Heong Peng (香饼) which was a type of pastry biscuit that Ipoh was famous for. I didn't get any as the shop didn't provide any sampling! :(

What i did manage to purchase were a few boxes of coconut biscuits! Sampling was provided and i must say it appeared dry yet tasted surprisingly delicious and crunchy with a trailing coconut fragrance.

After the fulfilling lunch, it was time to walk a bit to digest the food - visitation to yet again another cave temple known as Kwan Yin Tong Temple [觀音洞] - Cavern of Guanyin Bodhisattva

Truthfully, visiting five temples in merely five hours was a very tiring affair! Time to further indulge in my favourite activities; food hunting! 

The Ipoh man, Daniel that is, brought us to his favourite food haunts which were all within walking distance from our hotel. One which was the smooth soya beancurd from Funny Mountain

Another one that came strongly recommended was Sin Eng Heong, renowned for their kaya puffs! Coincidentally, it was opened by the relative of my secondary school senior. 

In my three days, two nights in Ipoh, this was the first time i saw people queuing for food! Daniel mentioned that the weekend queue would be all the way out, past a few shophouses. 

Trays and trays of fresh kaya puffs came and went for twenty minutes before it was our turn! Each piece cost RM 0.80 and we requested for only five since this would be a pain to bring back to Singapore.

Food map for Sin Eng Heong as above with red border. 

Pomelo was another Ipoh's specialty even though Daniel didn't appear to be too fascinated with it. Nonetheless, the parents wanted to try and we chose a fruit stall located right opposite Sin Eng Heong. 

Two types were available; the more expensive red meat and the cheaper white meat. Since the difference in pricing wasn't much, we went with the red one (tied with red string). 

Our only condition was for the stall owner to help us remove the skin! The way she manoeuvred the knife and the speed she removed the skin were simply a jaw-dropping show! 

Back at the hotel where we can finally take another bath and rest our tired feet, it was also time to attack the food we bought; the kaya puffs and the pomelo! 

Let's start with the puffs - they were marvelous and featured the yellow type of custard kaya that i personally preferred over the green one. The skin was thin, extremely flaky with a light crispiness that tasted very satisfying in conjunction with the incredibly generous kaya filling!

The pomelo was another story altogether; not as sweet as we expected with an unwanted tardiness that made us wondered why we bothered buying it in the first place.

Rested for 90 minutes before stepping out once again for dinner! Amusing wall painting finally spotted even though such street art was not as prevalent as Malacca or Penang. 

Clay wrapped beggar chicken with herbs! Salted baked chicken seemed to be another must try in Ipoh as i can see quite a number of shops selling them. It's a pity that i am travelling to other parts of Malaysia and it would not be convenient for me to haul them from one place to another.

Mom perked up at this shop selling traditional Chinese biscuits and pastries! I am so glad she didn't buy tonnes of stuff - imagine the weight i have to endure back to Singapore! One torturing memory was a trip to Kuala Lumpur with her; thanks to her, i had to hand carry thirteen paper bags filled local goodies! 

Lou Wang beansprout chicken which was overrated in my opinion. Check out my review here. A Facebook friend has corrected that the original beansprout chicken is supposed to be the one at Cowan Street. Maybe i would check it out the next time i visit. 

Another reputable one serving the same dish, Ong Kee, was located diagonally from Lou Wang. If i am with the Gang of Four, chances are high that we would visit it straightaway after Lou Wang! 

It was barely 8pm and i didn't want to sleep so early! Hence, it was chill out time at the Jose & Deli Eatery which resided on the second level of French Hotel

While our time away in the cafe under a canopy of soothing music as the parents read the Chinese dailies and i thumbed at my mobile for facebook updates and blogging. Not to mention there was also dessert involved! Blissful indeed!


For Day One, click HERE.
For a summary of my trip, click HERE.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Kwan Yin Tong Temple [觀音洞] - Cavern of Guanyin Bodhisattva @ Ipoh City [Perak, Malaysia]

The last of my excessive temple stops in Ipoh; Kwan Yin Tong is, similar to the rest of the temples i visited, located by the side of a picturesque limestone hill known as Gunung Rapat. 

Divided into roughly three different sections, i am trying my best to categorise the pictures so that they appeared consistent even though i was running all over the place in search of my dad, who went missing momentarily. 

Let's start the journey by crossing over the red metal bridge.

Don't belittle this narrow stream of muddy water; it brought down tonnes of mud and sludge that literally submerged the temple grounds thirty over years ago.

Temple (觉慧寺)
Paying homage to the numerous enlightened beings in the Buddhism realm wasn't the first thing i did but for the sake of easy remembrance, it was the first building ahead of me. 

Painted wall mural depicting the Gautama Buddha under a Bodhi tree where he gained enlightenment at the age of 35 years old after 49 days of meditation.

Temple interiors - featuring mainly white washed walls and artificial flooring that betrayed the true natural origins of the millennium-old cavern.

Eighteen Arhats - i am going to spare you the details of their origins and purposes. For more information, just click on the following wikipedia link; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eighteen_Arhats

Divination lots - how many of you have actually tried this? I have yet to do so although on one hand, i am curious to know what the lot would say if i ask about wealth and fortune.

On the other hand, i am also afraid that this simple piece of paper would affect my thought, motivation and followup action if it turns out negative.

Not only that, you likely would have to defer to the divination of a fortune teller (especially for individuals like me who don't really know shit about traditional Chinese poems and their inferences), which means you are subjecting your fate to another person.

Anyway, the temple is currently undergoing a donation drive for funds to replace the current building. 

Proceeding to the second section where i am going to scale a hill after finding my dad missing from the temple compound! I presume he was somewhere near since he is hard of hearing and hence, might not be able to hear my loud voice calling out to him.

Gigantic chess set! 

A Chinese poem on the cliff that was beyond my comprehension; it sounded somewhat along the line of past and present life for the limestone hill. I think. 

Mom taking a photo with her zodiac animal; the horse which would be the upcoming animal for the Chinese new year. A post on the decorations at Chinatown (Singapore) would be posted soon!

Looks a bit like me hor! I thought it bears some resemblance to a personal friend; Jeffrey Lim! On second thought, it was said both of us could pass off as twins! haha. 

True to its name, Kwan Yin Tong was blessed with a lot of statues on the bodhisattva associated with compassion; according to one website, there were over 75 life-like sculptures on her. 

They were numerous enough yet i didn't find them as impressive as the 500-Arhat temple in Bintan Island where each luohan was uniquely special with different posture, expression etc.

Hill (慧峰)
After hollering a while to seek the attention of the missing father without any success, i decided to climb up the hill as Dad was known to be more of an avid explorer than me (that's where part of my adventurous genes came from). 

Unlike me, he wasn't terrified of heights! 

The uphill trek was worth the climb as you would be guaranteed of a better view of the surroundings. Provided you climb all the way to the top though. 

The pathway up appeared to be incomplete yet it remained open to the public. 

Maintenance of completed items also seemed to be weak with signs of apparent neglect. A pity especially when it could have benefited for offering a good view via a not too difficult climb.

A pair of pandas on the rock along the way.

Getting quite high up without a sign of dad. I was getting worried as there weren't many visitors around and accidents can take place in unfamiliar areas. 

A notice on the side barring visitors from proceeding further added to my worries. What if my dad decided to go ahead and met with some accident?!

With rail-less staircase adding on to my fear of height, i was apprehensive to advance further yet had to because of my dad. Was about to step forward when i heard someone calling me from the bottom of the staircase; my dad. 

This area i unwittingly put as "others" was the most fascinating as in there were many things to see and do, despite it taking up not a very big space. 

With the building taking three sides and the cliff on the sideline, the open area was effectively boxed up and well-protected from the rain although it continued to have natural sunlight streaming in to light up the many artifacts within the compound. 

There were hundreds, maybe thousands, of tiny golden Buddha statues screwed to the wall that shimmered and shined upon a magical touch by the sunlight.

Items placed precariously in a little cavity.

A shrine for dogs?! Come to think about it, is there really a temple dedicated to dogs? The most i can think of is one honouring the canine that followed the deity, Er Lang Shen. 

人缘树 - the tree that would enhance your popularity!

Tie one red string (RM 1) around the branches and you shall be blessed with better relationship in love, friendship, family ties and even with strangers! 

Thai wishing gong - you are supposed to rush your hands on the gong and make a wish concurrently; your wish would come true if you manage to hear an echo.

Saw this in the attached administration office cum shop. For those who don't recognise Chinese, it talked about an interested subject - Spirits of babies who died before they were borne.

An existing room on the second level was actually converted into an altar where the tablets / ashes of those spirits were enshrined for a nominal fee. Would love to check them out but public access was discouraged.

More of "let your wishes come true" stuff surrounding the building! 

In this case, the overhanging tablet can also double up as a message board. Gosh, if only i can write so beautifully. Honestly, even i cannot recognise my handwriting sometimes! 

A one-off sculpture of a skinny man holding on to a kid who has supposedly passed on due to hunger. 

I have seen this before and their origin was definitely from Japan although i am not sure what you call them. 

Each of them came attached with a jingling bell and blessings like safe, prosperous etc. As you can see, the bells have rusted and i don't see any place where i can purchase and add on to the entourage. 

A Japanese style wishing pond - you are supposed to go in barefooted and walk on the twelve stone steps while mumbling your wish and keeping your eyes closed. As you reach the end, toss the coin behind you. 

Another one; i have seen on some blogs that there were love locks as well even though i didn't remember seeing any. With five temples since morning, i am already facing fatigue and i bet so are many of you who have been following my Ipoh updates!

To conclude on a lighter note, let me post you a question with reference to the above photograph; how old do you think she is? Don't be dirty minded okay!

No answer but it didn't matter since the laughter was on the subject which was a cow! 


Batu 4½, Jalan Raja Dr. Nazrin Shah 
(Jalan Gopeng), Ipoh, Perak.

Additional Information
There was another temple further down even though we didn't have the time (nor the energy to check it out). The big board indicated that the temple had resurfaced after being buried under the soil for 32 long years!