Taiping Travel Blog› entry 1 of 11 › view all entries
August 21st, 2006 – by: Raches
My paternal grandmother has lived in the same house since before she gave birth to her 10 children, of which my dad is the fifth. Only recently has this house been renovated - but perhaps a better word is 'transformed', because the old wooden house-shack, painted green with high ceilings and walls that didn't quite reach them, stained cement floors and no such thing as a bathroom, let alone air-conditioning - was gone.
Eating & Drinking
Food in Taiping, like most things, is cheap. For around 2.20 Malaysian Ringgits (RM) you can get a bowl of hot noodle soup, laksa, chicken, pork or duck rice, etc etc. That converts to about $1 Australian. The servings aren't big, but the oppressive heat makes it hard to work up a huge appetite. And if you are left hungry at the end of your meal, you can always buy another one!
The best thing about Malaysian food is the flavour and spices.
We went out for dinner almost every night. The restaurants are pretty similar to the open-air eateries, except they'll give you cutlery and a bowl of water to wash it with, and they serve hot tea in those inconveniently tiny cups.
You can find most soft drinks everywhere, and the local beers are Tiger and Anchor. Surprisingly, I spotted Guinness in a fair few places as well, and Carlsburg seems to be the most popular imported beer. Fresh juices are cheap but I somehow never got around to drinking one. You can find tea and coffee in many places but the tea is milky, super-sweet and has a strange flavour so I wasn't game enough to try the coffee, I forgot that the typical Malaysian coffee, served strong, black and sweet, is pretty good.
There are a lot more cars on the road than I remember, but people still love their bike-riding, both motorcycles and pushbikes. I would never call downtown Taiping crowded, but it's never deserted either, and any semblance of peaceful village life may be attributed to the oppressive humidity. It's horrible, to be honest, because the only way to escape it is under a cold shower or in an air-conditioned room, and it's this going back and forth between extremes that can make you sick. It rained every day I was there, but only in the afternoon for a short while.
There are a couple of major department stores, one imaginatively called The Store, another called Fajar. These are multi-level stores that sell clothes, stationery, kitchen goods etc. There are enough shops and places to eat to keep you entertained for maybe half a day... and no guarantees on the quality (you wouldn't come here to buy name-brand goods, in fact, I don't know if they even exist in Taiping!).
A few colonial buildings are scattered around the town, as there was an English presence here a few decades ago. In fact, my dad's school (King Edwards) is a lovely colonial style building that beats my high school. Even the outer suburban areas are nice - most people own their own block of land and many houses, like my grandmother's, are newly renovated.
One night my dad went to a temple where a woman, representing the Goddess of Mercy and Love, was holding appointments with people who had physical or emotional ailments and wanted advice. This woman was something of a clairvoyant, as she knew things about my dad's injury (a nerve thing that affects his back and right arm and hand) without him telling her a thing. He visited her twice and felt much better than he has in the last two years living with the injury.
I took up the opportunity to get a full body massage from a woman recommended to me by an uncle. The 1.5-hour long massage costs RM50, well worth it. She also comes to you and uses a lightly fragranced oil that she tells you not to wash off until 3 hours later.
I don't think there are many tourists in Taiping - I only saw one white guy and he might have lived there - so it's not a bad place to get a taste of Malaysian 'kampung' culture - there's even a hotel downtown. Admittedly, it might be hard to get by without any Malay, as only a few people know English. But it could be worth the stop if you're heading to Ipoh or Penang, even if just to see the beautiful lake gardens or the Taiping Zoo (see reviews).
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