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Ipoh to Penang via Kuala Kangsar


I hadnt even heard Hebrew Helen arrive back home that night, in fact I'd had to call her at 10 worried whether she was OK. True to form she had hit it on with some locals and had been haranged into a karaoke bar. Her shuffling about the next morning woke me as she got ready to go out on another free tour with them. It would have been a waste to spend another night in uninspiring Ipoh and so I elected to go even though she was staying, not for the first time it was the most incongruous of partings. I was left feeling a tad sorry for myself as she waltzed off on another jaunt and I was left to wander round the scant colonial relics of the city before jumping on a bus. It was especially numbing because since not being able to take photos, I really felt like I was just going through the motions and might soon forget I'd ever even been there. The deserted railway station proved to be an excellent spectacle though with its newly renovated whitewashed domes, and besides a few notable mansions, churches and the very large impressive St. Michaels Institution, which resembled a Florentine palace, I struck upon a very atmospheric blue painted restaurant built in 1906 and still named the F.M.S. (Free Malay States). Another unexpected marvel, a nearby pub with Tudor overtones was called the Miners Arms, testimony to the birth of Ipoh and most surrounding towns on the back of tin mining. It still remains Malaysia's fifth largest export. It didnt take me long to find a bus to Kuala Kangsar then, a contrastingly small, very pretty affair, it being a royal town. Home to the Sultans of Perak for 5 centuries, I had decided on a pit stop here in order to check out some more appealling architecture. It was on the way out to the Royal Palace that I came across first of all a personal point of interest, an A-4 Skyhawk looking very smart in an unusual russet, blue and cream cammo paint job. Then there was the very sizeable mud laden river full of many water monitors, so big I had to have a double take, they looked so much like crocodiles. Even the odd architectural relic still had a charm about it and most buildings were suitably pristine in this regal neighbourhood. A case in point was the massive unexpected museum complex I chanced upon. It was not in the guidebook, a glaring omission since it obviously had a long pedigree, I decided I didnt have time for its evidently large collection though. Just past it was my initial goal, the Ubadiah Mosque, which was a fantastic overindulgence of whitewashed towers and golden domes, its central massive losenge shaped dome being unlike any I could recall. It was so ostentatious as to be like a Disney interpretation. Dressed in skimpy knee length shorts and sporting muddy, burst shoes, the sweat piling out of me like a salvo of bullets, even I had to accept that entering it would have been tantamount to desecration. Beyond that, prompted by a few unexpected friendly waves, it seemed they didnt get many foreign faces here after all, the Royal Palace eventually revealed itself. Just about discernible beyond grand entry gates was another enormous whitewashed edifice, seemingly a hybrid of Western squarishness qualified by a series of large golden onion domes. The nearby Royal Museum which resembled a traditional longhouse had been built in 1926 to serve as a temporary mausoleum and was a wooden wonder resplendant in mainly yellow, peppered with ornate carving. During the long hot walk back to the bus station I'd had more time to convince myself that my originally intended onward step to the town of Taiping would not be a good move after all. Such is its history that it is the only Malaysian town to retain a Chinese name. With no way to take photos and no guarantee of a cheap bed there, my chance sighting of a conveniently timed afternoon departure to Butterworth seemed to make more sense. It was a not completely unpredictable browslapping though when I learned that it was booked out, before wonder of wonders I was approached by two young Indian sweethearts who had been waiting around trying to offload an unwanted ticket. That was a result and no mistake and clearly it was meant to be. I resisted the urge in Islamic Malaysia to pick them up and kiss them both, and so beyond expectation soon found myself on the way back to Penang. Well versed due to my recent fleeting visit, I made a beeline for the 75 Travellers Inn, the spot where I had stayed 5 years previously. It fostered a spirit of introspection, of what I had done since then, and I questioned what the hell I was doing now!

Posted by andyhay 00:00 Archived in Malaysia

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