Its early Friday morning and we, my wife and I that is, are all packed and ready to go.
Our destination : the City of Ipoh, the state capital of Perak Darul Ridzuan which lay 180km to the north of Kuala Lumpur. That’s about 2-3 hours drive (depending on who is driving, as my wife always reminded me).
The pertinent question is, especially amongst fellow Malaysians, ‘Ipoh? Why Ipoh?
Yes indeed. Why Ipoh? For me, Ipoh, being the state capital of Perak Darul Ridzuan, has its fair share of attractions, as is with the other Perak locations eg Taiping, Batu Gajah, Kuala Kangsar, Teluk Intan etc : historically, naturally, socially, gastronomically and supernaturally.
Admittedly, Ipoh being situated in the Kinta Valley, is reportedly to be a very, very warm location, with that trapped heat and all. And yes, based on past experiences. Ipoh is hot. Not ‘hot’ but hot.
But no hotter than Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya or even Subang Jaya, come to think of it. All these locations are by the way, all located in the Klang Valley.
But thats not something within the limits of our control, so it’s either a hindrance to us enjoying Ipoh or its something that we have to just put up with, and put up with it we shall.
Well, thats the plan anyway.
We got on the ELITE highway from the Putrajaya exit and before long we joined the NKVE to ultimately connect with the NSE (North-South Expressway).
Thats a lot Es, I know but hey, if it connects you, it connects you.
Anyway, for reasons of our own, we had planned to make a pitstop at the Sungai Buloh RnR station to have breakfast. It was more brunch than breakfast actually and since we had no plans to drive to Ipoh on empty stomachs, the pitstop turned out to be a very welcomed idea.
At the Sungai Buloh RnR, we came across a group of musicians performing at the RnR. I always believed that the real test of a musical group is when they had to perform live or unplugged, regardless of whether you had a string of hits to your name or had not even released a single of any note.
Some failed miserably whilst some performed admirably. This group was the latter. It made brunch so much more enjoyable and for that, we made sure of dropping a few notes to the collection box.
Afterall, they too have to earn an honest living.
Armed with bottles of cold drinks and tidbits bought at the convenience store, we made our way back to our trusty not-that-old Proton Saga and tally-ho, its onwards to Ipoh.
As it has always between my wife and I whenever we embark on long distance drives, we while away the drive deep in conversation over a whole range of topics, and before we knew it, voila! the eagle has landed. Welcome to Ipoh.
Our hotel reservations for the weekend had already been made, thanks to my hotel booking app, and so it was all ready and waiting. That and the fact that we arrived in Ipoh with lots of time to spare, allowed us the luxury of diving straightaway into our list of things-to-do.
We drove to the north of Ipoh and headed for Gunung Lang Recreational Park, a recreational spot created and developed from the remains of one of Ipoh’s main economic activities of the past : tin mining.
The Gunung Lang Recreational Park is made up of two landmass, with a body of water in between, enclosed by limestone hills on both sides. The body of water is man-made as a result of tin mining activities of old. Developed at a cost of RM8.4 Million (about USD 2.0-2.5 Million), it was officially opened in 1999 and is maintained by the City of Ipoh itself.
Parking bays are readily available and is free to all visitors to the park. There is no entrance fee but as the main attractions are on the other side of the lake, a boat ride is therefore necessary and that will put you back RM3 each (less than USD1).
Having paid for our boat ride, we got on the catamaran and headed to the other side of the lake. The ride itself took less than 10 minutes and upon reaching the other side of the lake, we are free to roam until the last boat ride back. That is if you want to.
The other side of the lake has a mini aviary housing the birds and jungle fowl, as well as pens for the deers, the cattle and the ostriches. Not as extensive like they have in the zoos but enough to draw squeals of delight from the kids who ventured here with their parents.
Personally, I feel animals like these should be placed in zoos as thats what zoos are designed for. But then again, Malaysian zoos, in my view, do need a massive makeover, conceptually and management-wise, for there are so many aspects of running a zoo that are as important.
There are other exhibits as well : the Perak Malay houses and the different species of flora. For the amusement of the kids, there are playgrounds as well. An evening stroll in the park surrounded by different types of flora would not be amiss.
The highlight of the roaming around had to be by the water’s edge. It is quietly comforting to stand at the water’s edge and watch the fishes swim by, splashing their powerful tails whilst taking bites at the many pieces of bread and fish pellets thrown in by the visitors to the resort.
Despite it being an enjoyable experience, Gunung Lang could do with a re-think, conceptually, going back to the drawing board, and proceed with a makeover. It has the potential to do much better, but yes, a makeover would not do it harm.
We did not choose to stay until the last boat ride back, obviously. It was not long before we began to feel the effects of the long drive to Ipoh and the idea of taking a long cool shower, laying our weary bodies in a comfortable bed with soft pillows in an air-con room began to appear very attractive to us ‘old and weary folks’.
Said our goodbyes to the resort at Gunung Lang and started to head for our hotel located in the middle of Ipoh. Found it without much trouble, checked in and before you know it, lights out. Power nap.
Woke up and feeling rested and refreshed, its time to ‘hunt’ for dinner. Its an accepted fact that every location and every state has its own gastronomical attractions, and Perak is no different.
We have been told that Ipoh has this particular dish called ‘Laksa Sarang’. Literally, it means bird’s nest laksa, with laksa the basic name of the dish. My wife, who is into gastro-tourism, found a perfect place for us to have a taste of this dish and we were soon on our way to the restaurant. Upon reaching the restaurant, we sat ourselves down and place our orders.
It did not take long for the food to arrive and yes, the laksa broth fulfilled its basic requirements with respect to its sourish, tangy and fishy taste. But its the way the dish is presented is what gives the dish its name.
Essentially, the bird’s nest is actually made up of fried eggs and is done up to look like a bird’s nest. When mixed with the laksa, the ‘bird’s nest’ offers a slight difference to the overall taste. Slight difference but still tasty.
Presentation notwithstanding, some prefer the traditional laksa and do not care much for this fusion dish whereas some are slightly more receptive than others. To each his or her own taste, I guess.
To round up dinner, we had freshly brewed coffee made from coffee beans said to be grown locally. Dinner rounded up our first day (and night) in Ipoh quite well and soon, the effect of a full stomach made itself evident.
What tomorrow has in store for us is another story but if its as fruitful as it was for us today, then this Ipoh trip is going to be a trip to enjoy.