Friday, April 8, 2011

April Seven Twenty Eleven

I finally got the chance to spend my birthday in Malaysia, for the first time in five years.

So, I had Eric, who was nice enough to make a short trip to Taiping on my birthday, and the day was well spent with me being the tour guide (yang kurang bertauliah haha!) to bring him around my hometown. Known as the wettest town in the country, there were fears that the rain would spoil our plan but thankfully, weather was perfect throughout the day.

Eric came down a day earlier and I brought him for dinner right after he arrived at Taiping railway station. We spend some time chit chatting at Prima food court and went back home to take a good rest before the one-day tour on the next day. First stop of the day was supposed to be Maxwell Hill or also known as Bukit Larut. Unfortunately, the jeep drivers had some "emergency" meeting that morning. What kind of emergency was that, I also don't know much. In addition, unless there are more than four or five people who wants to go up Maxwell Hill, the jeep will not operate. Kinda disappointed, but never mind because we had several other back-up plans.

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Made a brief stop at Taiping Lake Garden.

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Second stop was Matang Sea Mangrove Jungle.

We then drove for about fifteen kilometers from Taiping town to see the mangrove sea forest in Matang. There is a Educational Jungle and Research (Eco-Education) Centre where people can walk on the boardwalk through the swamp and enjoy the flora and fauna species from the shoreline and sea mangrove eco-system.

My last visit here was more than two years ago and I noticed that the place has been badly neglected of late. The place isn't properly maintained and at some parts of the boardwalk, the damaged sections are left unrepaired. It's something that happens too often in Malaysia, I suppose?

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How the mangrove forest looks like halfway through our walk on the boardwalk.

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Chalets for tourists to rent and stay overnight on the riverfront.

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A signboard to warn visitors from becoming a kind Santa Claus and feed the monkeys in the forest haha!

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The unique shape of roots from the mangrove trees, which if I still remember, helps them to breathe.

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The oldest tree at the area, which has been there before the country's independence.

From the forest reserve, we took a short five-minute drive to Kuala Sepetang, a small fishing village nearby. This coastal town was formerly known as Port Weld and is popular for its excellent seafood. With reasonable price for everyone, the seafood here are guaranteed to be fresh.

One thing about coming to a small town is that the local people know each other so well that they will instantly recognise you if you are visiting their place. That was exactly what happened to us because every movement of ours received stares and attention from people in the coffee shop, the lady washing dishes in the restaurant and also the kids who were just back from school.

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The Port Weld railway station, the first railway line in the Peninsular, is located at the centre of the town.

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The wooden houses on stilts opposite the river.

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The only way of getting over there is by sitting this ten-cent-per-trip sampan haha!

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No, not the one on the right; that's a fishing boat. We had to take the small sampan like the one on the left!
A super scary experience if you are not good in balancing yourself lol!
 

When we saw the locals got onto the sampan, it looked like it's very simple. However, if we weren't extra careful and slow that day, I guess we would've ended up in the water haha! It was not easy at all to stand inside the moving sampan, even though the journey takes less than twenty seconds. As expected, our jakun-ness invited smiles from the local people lol!

Going through boring and tiring daily routine of working in the office, or attending lectures five days a week, it was great to take a break from everything and just relax and see how people live a much simpler life. They do not need Facebook or Twitter to spend their days. The guys here sits down together on a table and smoke, the ladies will be discussing about their TOTO results with their own gangs, the kids play marbles and tops, while the grandma and grandpa would be singing karaoke in their homes.

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People might be living in a wooden house but don't play play; they still have Astro haha!

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Home-made ikan masin (salted fish).

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It was the birthday of the God at one of the temple there, and they were having some celebration throughout the week.

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A tortoise pond at the temple. I doubt these are tortoise though.

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Stopped at one of the stalls to have lobak. That guy in red singlet saw me taking this photo and he asked the lady to pose with a "peace" sign haha!

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The fried tofu was so soft (I am guessing that it was home-made) that made me ta pao a few pieces back too.

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It's always great to have a bowl of ais kacang (blended ice) on a hot day.

Another attraction at this area is the charcoal factory. The charcoal factory can be an interesting place to visit if you don't mind the hot, smoky air and the strong smell of charcoal, due to the burning of the charcoal. A visit here will let you witness the whole process of charcoal production - from the freshly cut mangrove trunks, all the way to the black and shiny charcoal in the end. There are a few charcoal factory owners in this area but they are generally very friendly and ready to answer any questions.

In fact, you can also try doing the jobs the workers there do, like removing the skin of the trunks, provided that you are nice to them and ask them politely.

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The trunks are transported from the mangrove forest by boats to the factory. The skin are removed before being placed inside the igloo-like stove.

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The stoves are really huge and it's a sight that is not easily forgotten. One stove can fit about 1,400 trunks at one time.

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One cycle of heating the trunks takes about one month. It is a slow and tedious job, that takes a lot of patience.

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The finished product, before being carried out from the stove.

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Went outside to get some fresh air. By this time, we smelled like charcoal already haha!

We drove back to Taiping to get something to fill our stomach because it was already almost three by then. Our lunch was at the casual market in town. We were quite in a rush when we had our lunch, because we thought of trying our luck again by checking out if there were still trips provided to Maxwell Hill. The last trip of the day was at three. We reached the foot of the hill at five past three and I believed the jeep wouldn't be so punctual.

We were wrong. The jeep left for the hill just few minutes earlier!

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Only if we had finished up this plate of wantan noodle faster, we would've been able to go up Maxwell Hill =\

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Feeling kinda disappointed, we replanned our itinerary and visited the British War Memorial, located a stone's throw away from the foot of the Maxwell Hill.

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Followed by a short stroll at Burmese Pool. Here is where I got my white shoe dirty because I stepped on some soft sand haha wtf!

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Our last stop was at Flemington Hotel. This is the view of Taiping Lake Garden from the roof-top of the hotel.

We were out for more than half a day and both were feeling exhausted already. We decided to get back home to rest a bit before continuing with our plan later that night. By the time I woke up, it was eight already and I realised that I slept for almost two hours haha! Mom and Sis had gone out to get a cake for me earlier that evening and I thought of doing something different.

Instead of celebrating my birthday at home, I thought of doing it outdoor - at some mamak stall haha!

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Damn happy because this is my first birthday cake in five years. Haha, sad case right?

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They got me blueberry cake with fruit topping that night.

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The feeling of blowing candles is like this: ^.^

Thank you everyone for making my 24th birthday a memorable one. Your wishes at Facebook (it was 140++ on my last count), text messages to my phone, your phone calls, your presents, your ang pao, and your time spent with me. I really appreciate it a lot : )

Sumpah, ikhlas one haha!

P/S: I hope now people will now know that Taiping is not all about Taiping Zoo only ; )

17 comments:

Chung Min said...

Hey Calvin, are you celebrating at A'Rahman Taiping?
By the way, how much does it cost you to board the sampan?

ivan seng said...

happy belated birthday!
i've been too busy to check any facebook and notice people's birthdays... anyways.. i really enjoyed your blog.. especially when it is about taiping... just made my stressful week feel so much better!

sakura said...

10 cents per boat trip? serious???

n how come ur pics so nice 1? haha..

anyway, hv a safe trip back on Sun :)

Tempus said...

haha happy birthday LAR man! too bad u r too far away if not we can go for macarons in empire as ur birthday cake!

DT said...

Dun u reckon the stares were attributed to the villagers' awe at the monstrous dude roaming their village rather than familiarity. :)

calvin said...

@ chung min:
yup! good spot-on! just like a typical and true taipingnite hehe xD

initially we wanted to do it at la promise near public photo studio, but they didn't allow us to bring in outside food. so, we just walked out and find somewhere more convenient instead and ended up at the mamak haha!

the sampan trip costs only ten cent one way haha! :P

calvin said...

@ ivan seng:
thanks kuok hau!

no worries about the late wish ; ) your comment already made my day. and living so far away, it is always nice to see or read something from your hometown : )

calvin said...

@ sakura:
yup, ten cents haha! it was just a very short trip, but still, ten cents is still damn cheap right? xD

thanks and i hope everything will go smoothly too : )

calvin said...

@ tempus:
it's alright! just make that my 25th birthday cake :P

calvin said...

@ dt:
i also seriously believe that the stares came from their amazement for seeing a gigantic monster intruding their village haha!

kae vin said...

Happy Super Belated Birthday! :) Have a safe trip back to Japan tomorrow!

calvin said...

@ kae vin:
woah, getting a message all the way from austin! touched sial :P

thanks and good luck in your presentation too! : )
see you in tokyo soon!

Fantabulous May said...

nice birthday

May @ http://amayzing.me

wanderme said...

That first picture of the lake gardens is just spectacular! Have always wanted to go there (it's a 10-11 hour bus ride from Singapore). As a local, would you know what's the best time to go to see the place in such sunny weather also? Is September a good time?

calvin said...

@ wanderme:
Hello there! Thanks for your lovely comments!

I guess Taiping is a great pit-stop for travellers from the south, especially Johor and Singapore, who are on their way to Penang.

Even though it is a much more laid-back little town, compared to the big cities, that is what makes Taiping stands out among the rest, for its rich nature and greens.

Generally, the moonson season in Malaysia runs twice a year - from April to May and October to November.

However, Taiping is well known throughout the country as the rain town and you will never get more showers than other places in Malaysia.

Additionally, you might want to avoid June and July, as it is the dry season and the water in the lake sometimes get dried up.

So, as you mentioned, September is probably an ideal time to drop by Taiping :)

Bino C said...

I finally made it to Taiping. Wrote about it here: http://iwandered.net/2014/01/12/taiping-lake-gardens-malaysia/
Especially loved the Lake Gardens. You have a very picturesque hometown!

calvin said...

@ Bino C:
Hello Bino! Great to hear that you finally drop to my hometown.

You got really fantastic photos from this little town, didn't you? :D