Friday 6 Oct Ipoh..

By train this morning to Ipoh.....   Slowly though the northern suburbs of KL, then picking up speed to 130kph on the run up the peninsula to Malaysia's second (or is it third?) city.

We'd never been here before, except for a passing glance as we drove by on the outskirts on the motorway to and from Penang. but I believed the urge to tear up history and replace it with more fashionable modernity may have passed Ipoh by, as I think the go-getters, encouraged by the then long-time PM Mahitir, concentrated their wrecking balls on the more financially rewarding  KL. So, I hoped, Ipoh's colonial past may have escaped too much "development".  

Train travel has always appealed,  but we were unlucky today in our seat allocation..our view was blocked by very wide window frames.  I peered around this as much as I could without quite dislocating my neck and saw a lush countryside dominated by rubber trees, palm trees, banana trees and small fields of market gardens.  At this point, it looks like the palm oil plantations are winning. But it's obvious that if the Malaysians turn their backs for even a couple of years, the jungle will simply take over again.  I've been told there's no exact word for "drought" in Malay, and that even in the dry season, it rains for at least seven days in each month.

ne complex I caught a glimpse of, out Sentul way, showed some architectural appeal - it was nearly gone before I saw it, so I've downloaded this image from the internet. 

Next time in KL, I'll take a trip out that way for a better look.

It's  hard for me to describe Ipoh as a 'city', despite having a population of nearly 700,000.  It looks like a very large country town, without a significant CBD.

Its train station was once ever-so-gracious with its own on-site hotel, but it appears that both could do with some TLC.  The architect of the station was the same English fellow who designed KL's original elegant Moorish-inspired railway station (before it was supplanted by KL Sentral).  His efforts in Ipoh were more modest, but still appealing. 

Leaving the station by means of a taxi which was also a contender for the decrepit class we encountered last night, we saw streets that  are wide and uncluttered, - except for the hordes of cars which made it a slow drive to the hotel.  It was early afternoon as we arrived - and this time on Fridays is prayer time at the mosque for Muslims, so that probably contributed a bit to the traffic jam.

Our hotel, The Weil, is said to be one of Ipoh's best town  hotels.

However, its offering of a 'high tea' this afternoon (I was in 'rest-and-recovery' mode) wasn't in the true English tradition'.  It even had a (disguised) 'durian' cake!  One mouthful was enough for me. 




We'll leave our major exploration of Ipoh for tomorrow, with a planned walk around the historic colonial 'Old Town' area.   However, this afternoon, after the dubious 'high tea', we walked next door to have a quick look at a convent school for girls, which was opened here more than 100 years ago (below left), and just across the road, St Michael's Catholic Church (below right), established here nearly 130 years ago to serve the growing Chinese Catholic community.

 Its website says it's a Gothic-style church, but it doesn't quite fit the traditional mould - not surprising really, since I've since found it it was built by a Chinese Christian contractor, so there are definite Chinese elements to it, not least in the symbols above the porte cochere which reads, in Chinese 'God is the Source of all Truth'.   (I'll have to take the word of Google for that translation).,   In the grounds of the Cathedral there's a large kampung -style house - I'm not sure of its history or if it was always on the site and has simply be re-used over time.  Another 'oddity' of the church is its car park - around its concrete walls are 'stations of the cross' icons, something I haven't seen in church car parks before.

above: the church car park, with its "Stations of the Cross" icons built into the brick wall.

 above: Our hotel, the Weil, is visible behind the kampung house in the grounds of St. Michael's Church.
Saturday 7 October, Ipoh.

Why do breakfast restaurants in large hotels have to play such awful background music?   Bland pointless noise just adds to the stress of loud conversations of people in a hurry, with crashing plates.


Dave and I have over the years developed a rating system  (0-10) for hotel showers and plane landings.  Obviously, all plane landings get a pass mark so far, but some have just made it.   The shower at this weekend's hotel, the Weil, gets 9.5.  The slightly slippery floor cost it half a mark. 

Last night's dinner in the hotel's Cantonese restaurant gained a 9, just on the strength of its BBQed duck (right). Wonderful.  The point lost in the rating was for the total lack of a wine list...  Dave had to,pick from a rack with a very limited selection.  Best he could come up with was Rawson's Retreat. But the duck could entice me back there tonight. 

Dave likes prawns but he hasn't ever adapted to the Asian taste of eating the shells .  Apparently, the shells are considered a delicacy, as is the head, where he definitely draws the line.

Next: Walking through the historic Ipoh Old Town