Cave temples of Ipoh

Day 38, Friday, 03 Feb, Penang – Ipoh

Ipoh is a city of 700,000 in the state of Perak, inland and south of Penang. The city was started in the 1870’s to support a rapidly booming Chinese population that came to develop, own and work in the nearby tin mines. It doesn’t really have much of  claim to fame and I going to say the much smaller Penang was a lot more lively, though it is Friday in Ipoh so a lot of the Islamic businesses are closed.

Anyway, back to the start of the day ! The night wasn’t too bad considered the volume and sheer awfulness of the cacophony from next door, thankfully after some long and rambling, but still loud, speeches it all shut down around midnight and I slept like a dead man till the alarm went off at 6:30. I had allowed myself thirty minutes to brush teeth, get dressed and walk the couple of kms to the bus station. I am going to say even at that time of day power walking with a 15 kg pack on your back and a day pack on your front works up a sweat. On the subject of day pack on the front backpackers, I used to think they looked stupid, I still do, but I am now one of them – it works.

Highly unusually for Malaysia, the bus was late…  something that is very usual though and one of my big annoyances is, I asked how long it takes to get to Ipoh, I was told 2 ½ to 3 hours, which in fact is pretty much the driving time to Ipoh. What they don’t say is the trip actually takes about 4 hours because you stop and wait for 30 minutes in other bus depots, twice. So my expected arrival in Ipoh was around 10 -1 10.30, we arrived at 11.45, at the express bus terminal which is about 15 minutes from town by local bus, which I caught for the first time today !  Yes…

My other pet gripe is lack of information. We got to the first bus stop and were ushered off the bus, no reason why, nowhere to go, even the Malay girl was confused. We stood vacantly around for a while until someone came and swept the bus, we then all got on and sat there for 20 minutes, waiting…

I had planned on staying at the Station hotel in Ipoh, as it was supposed to be a lovely old English colonial hotel, though a bit run down, hence a reasonable price. In fact it was so run down it was closed….

The station cafe was open so I headed in there for my first coffee of the day and to check the guide book for more hotel options – of which they are not many apparently. I met this older American guy in there (and have forgotten his name) and he gave me his map of Ipoh and directions to the hotel he was staying in, in case my chosen one from Lonely Planet, the Embassy didn’t work out.  Which it almost didn’t, I couldn’t find the Embassy, so after over an hour of wandering around downtown Ipoh looking for accommodation that was not too expensive I realised there are two roads named Sultan and I had been looking on the wrong one, so put right I soon stumbled dripping sweat into the Embassy Hotel and took my 12 dollar room. Once I changed the sheets, chased out the geckos and realised that all water, including I suspect some from the loo ends up on the bathroom floor, the room was sorted and mine for the night. For a change I had somewhere to hang washing !

As I had pretty watched seen all the sites of Ipoh,  I had planned on being brave and taking a local bus to the temple caves just out of town.  As I had lost a few hours with the bus and finding my hotel I just decided to take a cab as it was only $4. My cabbie, Sam, was a great guy, sister lived in Auckland and he was a retired cop with Ok English, nice to chat with someone after quite a few days of being alone.

All around Ipoh are a number of small limestone hills, randomly dotted about, I would love to have been here to see them before they stuck a small industrial city in the middle of them. A number of the hills have Buddhist temples and shrines in them.  The Perak Tong temple complex was amazing, not particularly old being started by Perak Tong in 1926, but built inside and above a cave system in the limestone hills.

Inside there are a number of paintings on the cave walls, along with half a dozen large statues of Buddha figures.

Come here young man !

The alien scared the crap out of me though, I thought it was just a movie!

There is also numerous steep staircases to pagodas scattered around the top of the often jagged hill and this quite cool shrine.

Sadly the view from the top is dominated by an ugly industrial wasteland infront of those beautiful limestone hills, tragic !!!

I was quite impressed with the place, especially as it was one of my key reasons for coming to Ipoh. I will aim to get to one of the other temples tomorrow. After the temple it was 4.00 PM I was very hot and dehydrated and had not eaten all day so when I went outside to wait for a ride back to town I decided whatever came by first would be ride, bus or cab. I got a cab, it was the shittest cab I have been in in my life, I am fairly sure we just made it back – it is only 6km..  I snacked at a hawker stall on the local speciality Kway teow, which I happen to like, bonus ! and then went to McDonalds for a shake as I knew it had free wi-fi from when I had walked past it earlier in the day.

Strike action ! Just like home.I then wandered back to my room about 6.00, and did not much, but I did have a hip flask of Famous Grouse scotch to keep my spirits up as I watched The Mechanic on my laptop, what a great movie, well all things considered, a great movie…

Am currently in Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands. My hotel does not have any internet so I am in one of the Indian restaurants that has free wi-fi. I have just had the best paneer mattar ever !