15 Oct - 21 Oct 2011 Ipoh

Perak Darul Ridzuan
Jalan Che Tak 1 - 5
Ipoh Sakura Hotel +6052439254 babygurl82@live.com
Clean and adequate air-con double room with shared bathroom for only MYR 45.- or US$ 14.10 per night. Brilliant, sexy and very helpful staff.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Sakura Hotel in Ipoh, which we would recommend, and for directions:

Exploring the colonial heart and the historic quarter of Ipoh, Malaysia’s fourth-largest city, affectionately known as the City of Bougainvilleas, learning how tin enriched this mainly Malaysian Chinese city around the turn of the 19th century CE and time-travelling back into the good old days when the Chinese towkays, who ran gambling hells and opium dens, invested their money in rows over rows of multifunctional shophouses with narrow fronts and deep rears, e.g. for rattan weavers, tin smiths and signboard engravers; recharging afterwards our batteries with (i) excellent low she fun (leech-shaped rice noodles with plump and crunchy bean sprouts) and vegetarian yong tau foo (soybean-based mock dishes, made from stuffed tofu) at the clean and friendly vegetarian Soon Xin Stall in Ipoh’s New City and (ii) fresh and soft bao (steamed big black-bean buns) at the great Lim Ko Pi restaurant +6052532898 in Ipoh’s Old City.

Trying Ipoh’s famous signature dishes: (i) drinking the creamy-fatty Ipoh White Coffee (Cantonese: bak kopi), which is specially roasted with palm-oil margarine and has a colour similar to that of cappuccino when served with milk, at the excellent Old Town White Coffee restaurant +60165368308, (ii) spooning fresh, sweet and smooth tau foo fah, soybean pudding, at the clean and friendly Lay Kee Shop in Ipoh’s New City and (iii) munching juicy, XXXL-size pomelos, Perak’s most famous fruit.

Sampling Ipoh’s noodle diversity in the city’s countless Malaysian-Chinese slurperies, washing them down with plenty of Tigers (large bottle for MYR 12.50 or US$ 3.90), Carlsbergs (large bottle for MYR 12.30 or US$ 3.85) and Anchors (large bottle for MYR 11.- or US$ 3.45), becoming highly trained and almost civilised noodologists, sadly suffering a pescetarian relapse from our vegetarian resolutions and learning to differentiate (i) fishy hor hee noodles, very delicious kuey teow noodles with fish balls, fish paste and hand-made fish wan tan, (ii) delicious Hakka noodles with yong tau foo (our fave eatery: Yin Yau Kui at the Restaurant Paris) and (iii) slimy chow hor fun noodles (our fave eatery: Sun Tuck Kee), which are silky smooth flat rice noodles fried in such a way that they are a little wet with dark gravy (as opposed to the Penang char kueh teow noodles which have no gravy but are fried with egg, prawns or cockles and the Cantonese-style wat tan hor noodles, which are completely immersed in a clear egg gravy).

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.”

Visiting two Chinese-Buddhist temples in Ipoh’s environs, (i) the busy 1926 CE Perak Tong cave temple, situated at Gunung Tasek, north of Ipoh (any bus bound for Kuala Kangsar: 6 km, 20 min, MYR 1.50 or US$ 0.45 per person), counting more than 40 Buddha statues and enjoying stunning views of Ipoh and its surroundings from the top of the karst hill, and (ii) the kitschy 1970 CE Sam Poh Tong temple, south-southeast of Ipoh (any bus bound for Kampar: 5 km, 10 min, MYR 1.50 or US$ 0.45 per person), an obvious cash cow for its private owner; later, descending from heaven back down to earth and discovering Madame Oh’s delicious lay fun laksa (rice noodles in a rich and spicy fish gravy with shredded cucumber, pineapple and bean sprouts) at her clean Hore Lok Cafe +60125231498 (MYR 2.50 or US$ 0.80 per large bowl).

Reading in the funny and politically always correct newspaper “The Star” from 15 Oct 2011 about “imported beggars from China … who had to beg for more than 19 hours a day in markets, temples and hawker centres and earned an average of MYR 1,000.- or US$ 320 per day” and wondering whether Ipoh’s sometimes pestering beggars were the local or international representatives of their guild.

“They are but beggars that can count their worth.”

Taking the comfortable Ekspres Kesatuan bus (with business-class like “snoozer seats”, +6053188750) from Ipoh’s Medan Gopeng Bus Terminal to Alor Setar (260 km, 3 ¾ hours, MYR 23.- or US$ 7.20 per person) thus driving for miles on end through flat rice-paddy plains and entering the conservative, strongly Islamic state of Kedah, the rice bowl of Malaysia.

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