|The Lake Gardens in Taiping|
Continuing our southerly travel, we’re now in a town called Taiping. It’s a smallish town of about 200,000 people, located near the west coast about one third of the way down mainland Malaysia, about 270km north and a bit west of Kuala Lumpur. It has the dubious distinction of being the wettest place in Malaysia, receiving about 4m of rain per year, due to its location at the foot of some impressive hills of about 1300m in height. The locals apparently don’t ask ‘if’ it will rain, rather ‘what time it will rain’.
It doesn’t seem to be on many people’s tourist list as we haven’t seen any other white face’s since we’ve been here. It’s pretty much of a standard town, laid out in a grid format, with shops, an indoor market and quite a few impressive old colonial buildings. It seems the locals, particularly the children, aren’t used to seeing white faces as we often find we’re being stared at as something really unusual and novel.
|Just after taking this picture some locals asked to pose next to Jackie for a photo|
On two occasions now, people have come up to us and asked if they can have their photograph taken standing next to us. They are all very friendly and often people wave and say ‘Hello’ and, if they can speak English, they come over for a chat wanting to know where we are from and genuinely wanting to know about us and England, it’s really quite nice. We keep on wanting to say we’re nothing special, there are literally millions just like us back home, but it doesn’t stop them staring and smiling.
|Health and safety at work!|
Taipings history started in 19th century when tin was found and the town received a large influx of Chinese people to work the mines. Feuding occurred between rival Chinese groups that was only settled after the British arrived in the 1870’s, who assumed control of the town, negotiated a peace and had a treaty signed between the warring groups on 20th January 1874. The town was renamed Taiping after the signing, which is a Chinese word meaning everlasting peace. It used to be the capital of the Perak district until 1937 when nearby Ipoh replaced it.
|Otters at the zoo|
The Japanese also came through here during the Second World War on their way to conquering Malaya and Singapore. Although I can’t find any direct reports on the Japanese in Taiping, I know that they had to go through this town on their way from capturing Penang Island and Butterworth on their way south. A major obstacle just to the south and east is the Perak River that runs through Kuala Kangsar just to the east of the town and the British were hoping it would stop the Japanese advance. By my reckoning they would have entered Taiping around Christmas Day in 1941, then swept east through Kuala Kangsar, made light work of crossing the Perak River and entered Ipoh (our next destination) on 26th December 1941.
|Jackie just has to!|
The old tin mine alongside the town has long since been abandoned, the huge gashes in the ground filling with water and it’s been landscaped and made into the very attractive Lake Gardens with a very nice zoo attached, with animals that are well looked after, where we spent a few hours yesterday. It stands at the foot of a 1250m high hill called Bukit Larut, which used to be called Maxwell Hill after the first British Resident, George Maxwell. Being a very pleasant 12⁰C lower temperature at the top than in the hot humid town, the British built quite a few houses up there and there is still a small settlement up there today.
|Now I ask you, is this any way to treat your teddy bear? Using him to support you kindle while you read!|
|The Land Rover|
We took a trip up there today via a Land Rover. You can’t take any vehicles up there other than government Land Rovers as the road is extremely narrow and very steep with really tight hairpin bends. The vehicles go about every hour and we had already read about the high speeds they are driven up there, often with massive drops on one side and we weren’t disappointed. I think about 11 of us (including the driver) got into the Land Rover at the bottom and off he went. He rarely got out of third gear due to the steepness, but he took those hairpin bends like a ‘good-un’.
No slowing down, just swing it round to not loose speed which would mean having to change gear. I think it was probably to impress the younger Malay lads in the back who make all the right ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’ and ‘wow’s’ to cause a smile on our drivers face. It was accompanied by plenty of horn-blowing so the people walking up could jump out of the way and to alert the Land Rover on its way down to avoid a ‘head-on’.
|The view from the top back to Taiping and the sea beyond|
|The little village at the top|
Interesting to say the least, but in half hour we were at an end of the Land Rover journey, but alas not at the top. That was a further 3km and 250m’sh higher, so off we set on foot in quite pleasant temperatures (about 24⁰C’ish). After something less than an hour we’d walked into mist and reached the top, which was a transmission mast in a gated enclosure, so after all that walking we couldn’t even stand on the summit and there was very little view, all a bit of a disappointment.
|The locked gate at the summit|
However, we turned round and walked back down to the Bio-Diversity building where studies are being made on flora that can survive in this climate and we stopped to have a chat with some locals on a field trip off to study what they called the ‘moist forest’. There were some clever people there, one chap did his PhD at Sheffield and his Masters at Adelaide. Another chap we spoke to studied law at Cambridge.
Anyway, in no time we were back in the same Land Rover and same driver to go back down, but as it was only the two of us he was driving a bit more sensibly and handed us some fruit to eat. We think they were Langsat (Lansium domesticum – look it up on Google), and very nice too. Being the nice chap he was, he stopped to collect people on the way down to save them walking so, by the time we reached the bottom we were up to 13 in the vehicle!
Unable to get a taxi back we walked to the local museum which, being a Saturday, was packed with screaming, running children, who often stopped to stare at us, another family wanting a photo, this time with dad and baby girl in arms who didn’t like the look of strange white faces and started to cry! Oh, and while we were in there we got the days rain, plenty of it, accompanied with some thunder and lightning. Glad we were down off the hill, it looked ugly up there now! We waited until it abated a bit and then headed for the nearest café and then back to our hotel with doughnuts!
Our hotel is a strange place, it’s called the Cherry Inn and comes out as number 1 in Taiping in Trip Advisor, but they have no website or any listing on the web for making a booking. Eventually Jackie found a phone number on the Malaysian ‘yell.com’, so I rang and spoke to a guy who has some English and managed to make him understand we wanted to book a room. The place is really nice and well done out, but it is right above a cold store and our room has the compressors right outside our window making an intermittent racket all night. Jackie’s been OK with her ear plugs, but I’ve been awake on and off each time it starts up. We asked to change rooms, but he showed us one with no windows, a smell of damp and a shared bathroom, so we stuck with the one we’ve got. There are other rooms, but we think they are occupied, although we haven’t seen anyone else. It’s only RM70 a night (£14) and we’re leaving tomorrow anyway, so we can put up with it for one more night (I hope!).
There are many cats in Taiping, most looking well looked after, there is only one thing more than cats though, and that’s rats! We must have seen 50 running around the gutters/sewers eating, chasing each other round restaurant tables, but no one else seems to bat an eylid!