Taiping Travel Blog

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Beauty in Taiping.
Taiping is a town in Malaysia's north, less than an hour from Ipoh (south) and Penang (north). I've always thought of it as a small town; both my parents were born there and on previous visits, it always appeared small and somewhat backwards. Times change and people change, and I suspect Taiping has stayed the same. However, to my (relatively) grown-up eyes, Taiping seemed to sprawl, and held surprising pockets of beauty among the bad traffic and outdoor eateries.

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.
My grandmother's newly renovated house, with a view of the temple down the road.
In its place stands a grand one-story stone (I think) house, painted cream and terracotta red, with tiled floors, flushing toilets, air con and even a DVD player! I suppose what I'm trying to say is that spending 5 nights here was indescribably more comfortable than the last 4 times and perhaps contributed to my enlightened view of Taiping as a whole...

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.
By the river - an excellent but hygienically questionable restaurant.
If you're in a restaurant, there will be chopped garlic and chilli in little bowls on the table, and often soy sauce as well. We ate lunch at an open-air cafeteria called Prima Coffee Shop (not a cup of steaming coffee to be seen) several times. Its setup is common to most eateries in Taiping: round tables, plastic chairs, fans going full-blast and little food stalls lining the perimeter. You order at the food stall and they'll bring the food over to you, then you pay them. I tried rice with curried prawns and potatoes, mee rebu (sweet and sour noodles) and a spicy, tasty noodle soup that I don't know the name of (I can't speak Malay or Hokkien, or Cantonese or Mandarin... so pointing has to suffice in some situations).

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.
My little cousin Aaron in the bathtub with, yes, a watermelon.
I suspect there are only a few restaurants in Taiping that would pass as a restaurant by Western standards - but the food probably isn't as good. You know how it goes. We had some great food - satay chicken, frogs' legs, lemon chicken, deep fried tofu, fish head curry, crunchy honey-glazed chicken, seafood curry, steamed fish, fried fish, sweet and sour pork and lots more.

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.
View of the mountains around Taiping.
Oh, and being a tropical area, there are lots of fresh fruit - we went through a lot of sugar bananas, papayas and guavas (we call them jumboo - I have no idea how to spell that).

Taiping itself
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.
My ah-mah peers out of her front door.
I think this is the norm in the 'dry' season. The rain only sometimes succeeds in taking the edge off the humidity, but without it, Malaysia wouldn't  be so green and lush.

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.
A glorious sunset.
Just out of town there is a graveyard for the fallen Indian and Australian soldiers who came and fought here - I had no idea.

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.
A war cemetery - fallen soldiers from India and Australia are buried here.
The massage includes face, neck, shoulders, back, arms, legs, feet and stomach and is of the relaxing kind rather than the grinding/pounding kind.

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).
Ghostboy says:
Wonderful writing, and very informative. Great work! (I sound like a teacher, although I'm not) ;)
Posted on: Aug 26, 2007
Raches says:
Very true... especially with a family as big as mine - I have 36 cousins!
Posted on: Aug 26, 2006
travelman727 says:
Have a wonderful time in Malysia and Singapore! It's always rewarding to link with your family's heritage. It makes you feel a part of something greater than yourself.
Posted on: Aug 26, 2006
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Beauty in Taiping.
Beauty in Taiping.
My grandmothers newly renovated h…
My grandmother's newly renovated …
By the river - an excellent but hy…
By the river - an excellent but h…
My little cousin Aaron in the bath…
My little cousin Aaron in the bat…
View of the mountains around Taipi…
View of the mountains around Taip…
My ah-mah peers out of her front d…
My ah-mah peers out of her front …
A glorious sunset.
A glorious sunset.
A war cemetery - fallen soldiers f…
A war cemetery - fallen soldiers …
Dusk falls.
Dusk falls.
Taiping Restaurants, Cafes & Food review
I tried, but it's hard to remember restaurant names. This one is by the river, upstairs from the port where the boats come in with their catch. It's g… read entire review
photo by: forevert2