Saturday, December 22, 2018

RM Journey: Into Ipoh

Five years ago, i left a place i spent five years in. That place is near Ipoh, a usual weekend getaway for food and entertainment. In other words, to de-stress and keep balance being a student. The fond memories of Ipoh will remain with me and forever hold a special spot. Over the years, Ipoh has grown to be a booming tourist attraction. No surprise as i always see its potential, but there are definitely still room for improvements. Recently, my family and i visited Ipoh, partly to reminisce, and partly to explore and discover, creating new memories.

Colourful mural art scattered around Ipoh. It was challenging to find them previously (read Wall Paintings in Ipoh) but today, there were abundant. 

We came from the north (read about Kuala Sepetang) and our first stop was the Taman Rekreasi Gunung Lang. Passing by this place numerous times in the past, i was often intrigued. It was a crowded late morning, school holiday, Saturday when we arrived. Upon stepping onto the viewing platform of the lake (or pond), surrounded by limestone hills, it was a splendid sight that i quickly became excited. Green, water, who doesn't?

Noticeable from afar. Sometimes the man-made waterfall stops.

We purchased boat return tickets and boarded the serving boats to the other side of the recreation park. This boat ride was probably the best part of this visit, frankly.

There were a few attractions on the other side of the park. However, most of the facilities looked under-maintained or broken. The area was generally clean, had good spots for picnics with family/friends, and bicycle rentals. There was also a mini zoo. And free-roaming monkeys.

One of the highlights here was the Gorilla Face Wall. Can you see it?

We strolled around for awhile, then queued to board the return boat back. At least it was a good walk in the park to burn off calories. We continued our journey into Ipoh old town, frequently stuck in traffic amidst tour buses and other holiday goers. We found a parking area and headed on foot to Thean Chun Kopitiam, one of our go-to food places whenever in Ipoh. It was crazy crowded! Finding a table was a challenge; waiting for the food was challenging patience. I don't remember it being that crowded before, and the area around the kopitiam was touristy as well.

Yummy pork satay for appetizers. The accompanying peanut sauce was good. 
This kopitiam was popular with egg/caramel custard too and while seated, we saw cup after cup of this delicacy sold. I remember it was too sweet for my liking.

Waited slightly more than an hour for this Ipoh Kai Si Hor Fun 'Chicken Kuay Teow Soup'. It maintained its quality and remained as one of my favourites for this dish! This soup was richly aromatic and flavourful; the noodle was silky smooth. Writing/reading about this now makes me salivate.

After lunch, we walked across from the kopitiam to the Concubine and Market Lanes. The lanes now reminded me of Jiufen in Taiwan, although much smaller in scale and not on a hilltop.

There were many souvenir and snack stalls along the lane. And pretty artwork for photography. Minus the crowd. I actually liked the ambiance there.

Exiting at the end of the lane, we queued to enter the Ho Yan Hor Museum. Entrance was free. There was a guide at the start of the museum tour providing brief explanation about the history of the herbal drink and an introduction to the museum. After that, it was free and easy reading through the exhibit, went up a floor and ended with a tea tasting session.

Replica of the past.

Interesting display.

The man who made it.

Nearby the museum was the Miniature Wonders Art Gallery. Entrance to the lower floor was free as it was also a shop. The miniatures or dioramas were well detailed, colourful and lifelike.

Photo taking and sharing were permitted. But no touching.

The Chinese period dioramas were aplenty here.

It was quite incredible, the attention to details, on a finger-sized model.

After the dos, we went for tea at Li Heng Fatt Restaurant. Well, 'tea' is not exactly being tea (drink) but the hor hee 'fish paste ingredient soup' here was our go-to choice. The bouncy fish balls and springy fish wantan in soup were delightful. Also, don't forget to order the crunchy fried fu chok.

Our chopsticks and spoons took the food quicker than the camera could.

We checked in a Homestay in Wisma Octagon, a fairly new building. The apartment was strategically located with food hotspots nearby, had a swimming pool and gym, and sufficient car parks.

When we were descending down the lift to go out for dinner, a family entered and went down with us. When they crossed the road, we crossed the same road. When the shop was in sight, we headed to the same direction: Cowan Street Ayam Tauge and Koitiau Restaurant. Operated by an elderly couple, we frequented this restaurant for its chicken dishes instead of the bigger names, more popular ones around.

When in Ipoh, have tauge 'bean sprout'. They are fatter and juicier here, claimed to be because of the water. Cooked simply with soy sauce, this simple dish was refreshing. 

Again, no photos of the chicken and noodles. But try them out for yourself. The chicken meat was tender and smooth, best drenched in its delicious sauce. There were exotic chicken parts that my family enjoyed too.

My friend told me that Ipoh Parade Shopping Mall renovated and when i saw it for myself, i was overwhelmed with a blend of nostalgia and excitement. The uplift made the place brighter. A good shopping place for branded goods and likewise, good enough to burn off some calories before supper.

We walked to the happening Tong Shui Kai (Dessert Street), spoilt for choice. There seemed to be crowd at every stall, so following the guide that where the crowd is for good food didn't help. We picked what we wanted and sat near Stall 15 by the roadside. I had the famed mango-lo lo dessert. The Wan Tan Mee was tasty and we ordered a second plate. The Porridge was yum too but they were sold out before we could order a second bowl. Memory told me of a Chee Cheong Fun Stall at the end of the Street by a grumpy uncle. I liked the mushroom sauce. However, the stall was not there. After supper, we headed back to our apartment, stomachs filled, hearts satisfied.

The next morning, we took a walk to Kedai Kopi Sin Yoon Loong for breakfast, across the famous Nam Heong Kopitiam (read Kedai Makanan Nam Heong). The warm, innocent egg tart in Nam Heong was worth the queue. Freshly baked, i was awestruck in my first bite. We sat in Sin Yoon Loong and we could order from any of the nearby shops.

Since i missed my chee cheong fun last night, i had my craving fixed. Equally satisfying, paired with iced Ipoh White Coffee. This kopitiam also served egg on toast. Don't forget to wobble before you swallow.

From afar, i noticed the line at Funny Mountain To Fu Far. In fact, i was there the day before but they were sold out on the to fu far. I joined the queue.

It wasn't too long before our turn. The to fu far did live up to expectation. Soft and light. Overrated, may be, but i still liked it.

Good to pack home, my Mom bought the Salted Chicken Aun Kheng Lim at its memorable red-white-walled shop. The frozen ones could be kept even longer in the freezer.

Another famous delicacy shop around the area that i, again, became victim to queue, was for Kaya Puffs Sin Eng Heong.

After checking out from the Homestay, we walked to Kedai Kopi Yong Suan for Nasi Ganja (the proper name should be Nasi Kandar Ayam Merah). It was nicknamed so because the rice and curry mix was addictive. Unfortunately, there was a queue so i queued. But fortunately, since we were dining in, we were told not to queue and instead, sat and ordered.

We had the same thing. Spicy, appetizing! The chicken, however, was slightly cold/hard. I think another plus point was that it was cheap. Make a pit stop here for the buzz.

There are many temples in Ipoh. Previously, we visited the beautiful Kek Lok Tong temple. This time, we visited the Sam Poh Tong temple on our way out of Ipoh.

The garden was zen-like but looked old. It had the potential to be a stunning landscape piece.

At the front of the road, we also stopped by Ling Sen Tong temple.

Statues at its ground.

Walking around the area. There was a cave temple too.

Using the old road, we left Ipoh and found our way to the HOGA Gaharu Tea Valley in Gopeng. I was impressed with the place. It reminded me of the BOH Valley in Cameron Highlands, with its modern infrastructure, cosy cafe and pretty shop.

It transformed completely since my last visit.

Chilling while having a gaharu ice cream. There was also a tour offered to visit the valley and its attractions. This is how tourism should develop.

Continuing on the road, we then turned into Kampar for dinner at Heng Kee Claypot, claimed to be the original claypot chicken rice. At a newly opened location, it was spacious.

With antiques on display.

Man in action, preparing them claypots. I liked mine with salted fish. It was good to try.

Ipoh has definitely grown in tourism. While the tantalizing food scene continues to draw busloads of crowd, there are now more things to do and places to visit in between meals in the city. Near the city, one can also partake in adventurous outings such as caving in Gua Tempurung or white water rafting in Sungai Kampar, or visit the historical Kellie's Castle. The architecture of the buildings in Ipoh are also worth admiring like the Ipoh Railway Station. Set in a lush limestone setting, this journey into Ipoh was a welcoming walk down memory lane that added moments along the way.

Disclaimer: Links to previous posts have not been updated with current status and note the dates of posting.