Saturday,  7 October, Ipoh

Saturday evening Mass at St Michael's... no great surprises there, since it was in English.  The main Sunday Mass is in Chinese, and once a month, there's a service in the national language, bahasa melayu. The church was reasonably crowded (and yes, the photo at right was not taken during Mass!)

The church, although built with a Gothic twist a century ago, has in the 21st century accommodated its congregation with air conditioning ducts, which were too efficient for Dave's comfort.   The aircon temperature here in Ipoh is generally set too low for DB, who has resorted to wearing a jumper at times. 


Earlier, we set about our exploration of the Old Town...., starting with the train station.

According to one on-line guide book:

The building also houses the Majestic Station Hotel, which calls itself a 'Grandiose Moorish Colonial Hotel' and is sometimes referred to by the locals as the Taj Mahal of Ipoh.  That is something of an exaggeration but it does have an air of faded grandeur to it, and the hotel's verandah, stretching the full length of the building, is the sort of place that gin and tonic was invented for...

That is definitely an exaggeration.   The hotel is obviously closed, and any renovations have long since stopped.  A pity, because (with much much money), it could be resurrected.

One of the highlights of the Old Town is Royal Ipoh Club (above).  Judging purely on appearances, it's a poor relation for the Royal Selangor Club in Kuala Lumpur.   Despite Dave's wearing shorts, we were signed in almost without hesitation - the only requirement being that we were 'foreigners ', which obviously we were. 

What struck me was that on the padang in front of the club, a game of cricket was underway.  These Colonial clubs nearly always incorporated a cricket ground, so the local plantation owners could indulge in a spot of "home", but this was the first time I've actually seen cricket being played in Malaysia.   Soccer is much more popular.  We'd read that the food here at the Ipoh Club wasn't too bad,  but we elected to just have a quick look around and continue exploring the surrounding streets.

A short walk away was a big school, 2000 pupils, St Michaels Institution (above), established by the de la Salle Catholic order, as was the most prestigious school in KL, St. John's Institution.  Being a weekend, there was no one in sight. Also deserted was the next door mosque, which to my inexpert eye looked to have an Indian Muslim look.

Traffic was not too chaotic, so we attempted jaywalking, only to be stranded in the middle of the road.   The best looking policemen in Malaysia dismounted from his motor bike and rescued us with a beaming smile, imperiously holding up traffic until we crossed.  He really was good looking. Wish I'd taken a photo,  but I restrained myself.

Work is proceeding in the Old Town, restoring and recycling colonial era buildings to meet today's demands, which appear to be mainly galleries, boutiques and coffee shops.

Rain encouraged us into a couple of these, and at one, we shared a table with a fellow Aussie, from Melbourne
.  She was a bit more adventurous than me   Her accommodation for the  night was a single  room with shared bathroom for $A35 in a very quaint restored "shophouse" run by an Englishman in Concubine Lane.   Yes, in times past the name of the tiny street was derived from the occupation of its residents, sponsored by their wealthy Chinese merchant lovers.

Some more impressions of Ipoh's Old Town:



right: The Birch Memorial (JWW Birch was a British Colonial official in the 19th century, who came to a bad end - he was assassinated in 1875, which led to a local war in the Perak sultanate and consequently more British control of the Malayan peninsula.

ne of Ipoh's claims to fame is a particular (peculiar?)  sort of coffee. 

Known as Ipoh Old
Town White coffee, it's promoted by a chain of that name. which has gone international.   I have tried it twice.  Never again.  The beans are roasted in margarine, and the coffee is whitened and sweetened with condensed milk. Dave had so far not sampled this brew, so a visit to its origins was called for.  He asked for the less sweetened variety. 

His verdict?  Not too bad. But I don't think he'll be back for seconds.

Ipoh's other attractions centre mainly around the caves and the temples they contain, in the limestone mountains which ring the city.    We didn't have the time, or maybe the inclination to go caving on this visit...maybe next time.  Or maybe not.

 Next: Onto Singapore for a second - and third - taste of a  genuine Singapore Sling