Monday, May 29, 2017

Attractions and Charms of Taiping @ Perak

Contrary to the many attention-seeking places in Malaysia, Taiping remains modest among the many wonderful destinations in the country. Although quiet, Taiping has rich heritage and resources to boast that makes it alluring in its own right. 

In the 19th centuries, it was the tin mining state's (Perak's) most flourishing area. The mines attracted large number of settlers. Taiping is home to many firsts in Malaya including the first railway, telegraph office and prison. After tin supplies dwindled, the capital then moved to Ipoh in 1937. However, the remnants of the once glorious town stay strong and younger generation are starting to revive the town with much appreciation of its history.

Check out the nature-filled, breath-taking stay in Sentosa Villa, Taiping here.
I love Taiping
Colours of Taiping Perak
Heritage Trail of Taiping

Kuala Sepetang Charcoal Factory (Mr Chuah)
For years we see how charcoals create delicious satays, flamimng barbecues and aromatic soups on grandma's old stove but do we know how charcoals are made? Our very own country produces mangrove trees that are fantastic for making charcoal or Black Jewel. Charcoal produces longer and more intense flame than wood as water content is removed.
Wood by is transported by river
Mr Chuah welcomed us with great charisma, singing oldies with such joy that my parents were singing along too. The owner of the charcoal factory who has been producing black jewel for 36 years in the 86 year-old factory is very passionate about the trade. He explained that our quality charcoals are mostly exported to Japan who taught Malaya the technology of producing charcoal in the first place.
Mr Chuah Chow Aun explaining about the value of 'Black Jewel'
Charcoal are dehydrated in kilns, the 'igloo', that is made up of 26,000 pieces of bricks
Mangrove wood is 'baked' in the kiln for a total of 24 days
In the kiln with 50 tonnes of fresh wood. After becoming charcoal, the product only weighs 10 tonnes.
Operators can tell the readiness of the charcoal just by smelling the steam
Wood vinegar produced as secondary product
Continued monitoring of fire is crucial to produce high quality charcoal
Mastering the art of making charcoal
Our mangrove wood is of great quality sought internationally
Potent side products produced during the charcoal making process- wood vinegar, air purifier and beauty soap 
Some food is never the same without charcoal
Kuala Sepetang Charcoal Factory
Jalan Taiping, Kuala Sepetang, 
34650 Taiping Perak
012-5739563 (Mr. Chuah)

Maxwell Hill/ Bukit Larut
Maxwell Hill is the icon of Taiping and a must-visit. Founded in 1884 by British Assistant Resident William Maxwell, Maxwell Hill is the oldest hill resort in Malaysia. It stands at 1205m above sea level and is home to lush greeneries in a misty ethereal setting that confuses between heaven and earth.
Taiping, the wettest place in Malaysia
One tricky situation though, is purchasing the ticket to ride the jeep up the hill. Walking is one option but it will take approximately 3 hours to reach the top. Until now, no pre-booking before the day of travel or online booking is available. Therefore, getting in line before the counter is open is crucial to avoid disappointment. Unless, of course, you do not mind walking uphill. Also do take note that tickets sell out extremely fast as there are limited jeeps and not more than 50 persons are allowed each batch.
The queue at 7.30am. Ticketing office opens at 8.00am.
The first batch will be at 8.30am, reaches top at 9.00am and returns 11.00am
There are trips departing at 8.30am, 10.30am, 12.30pm and 2.30pm. The arrival and return times follow the same pattern.
Fresh environment at Maxwell Hill, Bukit Larut
The rugged jeeps of Bukit Larut
These are legendary transportation up the hill
The ride in the jeep uphill is one experience worth mentioning. The journey on the jeep is literally a roller coaster ride! The jeep is the only transport allowed up on Maxwell Hill. As they make their way up through steep and sharp corners, its metal clanked against each other although they are still trustedly held by screws which ages are unknown. Drivers are experienced and deserve another token after the drive. Be prepared to bounce incessantly with the excitement of acceleration every now and then.
What a ride!
Reached Bukit Larut
The English Courtyard of Maxwell Hill
Ethereal environment
Unworldly sceneries
Wish it was this chilly and temperate everywhere in Malaysia
Enjoy swinging with mom
Romantic spots
Endearing sight of the hilly forest
Suspension bridge a favourite for photoshoots
A window to nature
Get a glimpse of Taiping town
Even an effortless selfie looks crisp with natural beauty...I mean the trees
A stroll on the hanging bridge
Facilities must be repaired
Dysfunctional items should not mar the beauty of the hill

First Railway Station in Malaya
The humble town Taiping is famed for Malaya's many firsts. The first railway station is not the one in Kuala Lumpur but in Taiping which was built in 1885 and ran between Kuala Sepetang (Port Weld) and the town transporting tin from mines. It was only 13 km in length but contributed a big part to the Perak economy during its heydays.
The first railway station in Mmalaya
Taiping Railway Station, now a place for good laksa and cendol
Also thanks to the Taiping Railway Station, my parents' dating days grew to fruition. This is the place where they used to meet while one is in Penang and the other in Ipoh.
My parents' meet up point when they were dating
Levers to control train tracks
Assam laksa and cendol at January Cafe

Taiping Lake Gardens
The Taiping Lake Gardens is no ordinary garden. You can probably tell its uniqueness when you hear about it being the top wedding photo shoot location in Malaysia. This garden is built on an abandoned tin mine and the first public garden to be opened in Malaya in 1880. The beauty of the lake is timeless and actually even more beautiful after 137 years as the ancient angsana trees grows gracefully huge and bends even more across the road showing visitors the way to the water opposite.
Absorbing the sunshine
Absorb the fun and delight of the 64 hectare garden with 10 scenic lakes. Throw a rug and relax over picnic while looking at people roller skating, riding on paddle boats and getting friendly at playgrounds. The garden offers charming bridges and multitude postcard-worthy backdrops for your photography fancy.
One of my favourite views
Bamboo Garden

Taiping War Cemetery
A visit to a cemetery is not eerie at all at the Taiping War Cemetery. Instead, it imbues tranquility, gratitude and reverence to those who have fallen for the country in World War II from 1939-1945. Neatly placed in rows, the tomb stones are divided into two parts- the Christian graves and the non-Christian graves. Take a walk here which is between Maxwell Hill and the Taiping Lake Garden. It will send you to contemplation and offer a deep sense of appreciation towards that land that you are walking on.
The pensive mood at the Taiping War Cemetery

Malaya's Oldest Coffee Mill- Aun Tong Coffee
It is surprising to discover that the first people who started appreciating coffee are Taiping folks! Aun Tong Coffee is Malaya's oldest coffee mill. Fragrance of coffee picked us up by the nose. Their coffee is still made with pride and passion the old-fashioned way. Every customer is greeted with a piece of 'roti kok' (dehydrated cripsy bread) where they can try various types of coffee in their signature tiny stainless steel tester cups with. The durian coffee is one of its kind and makes a wonderful gift, full of local character.

*Thank you Anis Nasuha for her recommendation to this valuable place*
Taiping's heritage coffee Aun Tong Coffee
Drink to your hearts content
Every visitor is given a piece of 'roti kok' which you can try the coffee with
We were welcomed to try all sorts of coffee produced by Aun Tong in their signature tiny stainless steel mugs
My coffee break
Appointments have to be made for demonstration of coffee roasting in their time-honoured mill.  Also do check out corners of the mill where displays of traditional and antique pieces will transport you back right to the 19th century.
Old house of Aun Tong
The house where Sun Yat Sen stayed when he visited Taiping
Aun Tong Coffee Mill
No. 8A, Jalan Assam Kumbang, 34000 Taiping, Perak Darul Ridzuan, Malaysia, 34000 Taiping, Perak, MalaysiaPhone+60 5-807 5189Opens everyday from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm

Kuala Sepetang Fishing Village
Kuala Sepetang or formerly called Port Weld is a fishing village that is approximately 30 minutes drive away from Taiping town. Seafood is aplenty here but do watch out of for blood suckers. Here, do take the opportunity to stock up on the (ironically) fresh dried anchovies and other sea products. Take a river cruise and spot dolphins or witness how fish farming is done. Receive some soaring motivation when you catch sight of eagles which is said to proliferate in the skies of Kuala Sepetang.
Dried seafood market at Kuala Sepetang
Salted fish
Fresh catch from the sea
Look for a cafe with an eagle
Charcoal and wooden interior
Chill beside the river in a fishing village themed cafe
Fishing village themed hotel

Atrium Lounge Taiping
As you cruise around Taiping town, you would not miss to notice that there are many clan associations here. This is because settlement pioneered here due to tin ore. The famous clans of Ghee Hin and Hai San originated many stories in the town. To take a moment for all the heritage to seep in, chill out at the Atrium Lounge where an old clan building is turned into a bar.
Atrium, an old clan building turned into a lounge
The interior here I must say is pretty awesome, cleverly combining contemporary and vintage. The soul of the olden building prevails with its very oriental details and decoration that speaks of the clan values. Just when I was sucked in the whole dimension of living in the days of my grandparents, I snapped out of it when the high tech projector, live band and the illuminated bar reminded that the whole place is a groovy speakeasy in the 21st century. Its al-fresco set up is perfect for a romantic drink or a warm gathering.
The main features are preserved and the interior follows an oriental style 
The airy cafe
The Chinese round doorway

Malaysia's First Night Safari
I must say that my visit to Malalysia's first night safari is out of patriotism. While I understand that maintaining a zoo or a safari is not easy, I believe Malaysia's Night Safari has lots of room for improvement. The ride on the clattering train have somehow managed to allow me to spot some nocturnal animals. This definitely calls for an urgent feedback to the Board of Tourism to keep our night safari competitive with the ones overseas. I wish I could repay my parents for the childhood zoo trips they brought me with a better one in the future. Nonetheless, I enjoyed spotting kancils and tapirs that evening.
Taiping Zoo with my parents
Lets go to the zoo!
If you are anak Perak (Perak address on IC), you get 20% off for yourself and your family!
A train will take visitors around the zoo at night
Here we go!
Tapirs are nocturnal animals
Tiger having a swim
Gigantic Hawker Stall Spread between Prima Taiping Kopitiam and Restoran N&N
When in Taiping, witness the value of its people that might not be as common in other parts of the country. There is a street where 3 restaurants have established an extremely amicable agreement to serve their customers although they are not seated in their restaurant. This means, you can be sitting in Restoran N&N and still order from Prima Taiping Kopitiam and vice versa.
The street where three restaurants share
The amount of food here will just put your decisiveness to test. From burgers to noodles to rice and kuihs, take your time to choose...and the best part is, at a discounted price from KL's food rates!
Customers can order from three different shops and will food will still be sent to you!
The busy street at night
Thank you Taiping...I will be back!