Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Whole Lot Of Firsts In Taiping

One of my close friends and I have been talking about taking a road trip together for yonks. I reckon this deliberation of us driving off into the sunset ( ermmm...this is a mere exaggeration to make this entry more dramatic), has been in the pipeline ever since 2006. But it has never materialised, due to various reasons, which I (for the life of me) cannot recall. Finally, the opportunity arosed and we've decided to visit a friend of mine in Taiping.

We set off at around 10 a.m., got on the Kerinchi Link and drove straight towards Sungai Buloh, where we made a pit stop at the Restoran Jejantas. I know, it was less than an hour of driving when we decided to stop but the call of A & W there was too hard for us to resist.

After making another stop in Tapah, we arrived in Taiping at around 3 p.m. From there, we headed straight to Hotel Meridien, a quaint little family run hotel. The room was modest, beds were clean and the bathroom clean, prerequisites that have always been compulsory for me.

The view from the room was not too shabby. The one we had overlooked blocks of buildings in the town. If you are driving, parking will not be an issue nor is security for that matter. We automatically registered food, when we saw a mamak restaurant across the hotel. Hence, that was where we made our first journey in Taiping.

We then met up with my friend after having our late lunch, who graciously drove us around the town. It was quite unfortunate that we took the trip last November, which marked the monsoon season in Malaysia. Thus, the drive around town was accompanied by slight downpour that limited my photography effort, explaining the total lack of visuals on some of the places that I mentioned here.
  • Taiping Cometary & War Memorial
Our first stop was the Taiping Cemetery & War Memorial, set near the Taiping Lake Garden. The cemetery is a resting place for Malay, Australian and British soldiers that had died during WWII against the Japanese forces. The road in between the memorial, acts as divider for the the cemetery . The left being the resting place of the Muslims, while the right for the Christians.

ItalicThe self-explanatory signage situated nearby the entrance of the memorial. It overlooks a hill on the right side.

Immortalizing my visit to the memorial by way of (what else?) photo taking.

  • The First Railway Station
The next trip was to the first railway station in then Malaya. The only remnants of the building was the signage above plus an adjoining building that currently housed a coffee shop, as seen below.

It was as if time stood still here. Apart from the new contemporary coloured paint, every part of this place still has the feel of a bygone era.

  • My First Night Safari in Taiping Zoo
Since I have never experience a night Safari, I thought what better way for me to have my first experience in the town of firsts. You will be given 30% off for the entrance ticket, if you are a perak-born. Please be sure to produce your IC as proof.

Here's yours truly in front of the ticket counter.

Two out of three of the resident hippos in the zoo. Lex, the adult male (on the left) and April, a juvenile (on the right). The adult female fondly named Raya is not featured here as she was too close to me and I wouldn't want to scare her with my camera flash.

One of the species of owl in the zoo.

Photography effort was a challenge in the Night Safari as the area was not well-lit. I would advise those planning to go there, to opt for the walk rather than the tram ride, as it will give you more time to appreciate the nocturnal animals featured in the zoo.

However, I would prefer to come back again, for a day trip because after the experience I would think it would do the Taiping Zoo more justice if I were to go for a day visit
, as I am certain comparatively, the diurnal animals are more interesting and exciting than the nocturnal ones.

  • Matang Mangrove Forest, Larut Matang
The journey to the 40,000 hectares of mangrove forest took us about 30 minutes from Taiping town. The Matang Mangrove Forest is dubbed as one of the most well-managed mangrove forest in the world. It is opened as early as 9.00 a.m. and visitors will have to make a brief stop at the guard house to fill in a visitor form. After submitting the form to the guard, you can drive off and park your car at the spacious parking lot located around the area.

My partner in crime, giving the signage near the entrance, justice.

There a number of chalets, a surau and public toilets located inside the mangrove forest itself. There's also an observatory hall where you could hold group activities and could comfortably fit around 50 people.

At each point of the forest, there will be signage like the above to explain to the visitors about the different species of mangrove trees in the forest. You could find the Rhizophora as well as the Avicennia species in the forest.

There are boardwalks accompanying the visitors all around the forest. Hence, getting you feet dirty or wet is not an issue.

A landmark photo with the oldest mangrove tree from the rhizophora species in the forest.

Another one of my fascinations, mushrooms.

Giant mangrove ferns.

I have a great fascination with everything tall and green. Give me a tall and big tree, I could stare at it with my mouth gaping for hours.

  • Kota Ngah Ibrahim or Ibrahim Fort
On our way back to Taiping town from the Matang Mangrove Forest, we stopped by Kota Ngah Ibrahim. The white bungalow built in 1896, the first biggest fort built by a Malay, is situated 15 minutes from the Matang Mangrove. There were very few visitors when we were there but were quite surprised that the place was well-managed with a lot of interesting exhibits.

The fort's exterior with large and well-maintained lawn.

Dayang in front of the exhibits located on the ground floor.

Ever wonder how the infamous J.W.W. Birch looks like? Inset shows the boat that he usually travelled on.

Well, don't do this at home kids, you should be paying attention in class and not pose for the camera.

Yours truly in Ngah Ibrahim's office.
  • Taiping Lake Garden
Before we left Taiping, we couldn't resist stopping by the Lake Gardens. There were big trees flanking the roads. We decided to park by the designated spot and to take in the beautiful scenery.

The big trees give the road along the Taiping Lake Garden a cool and shady effect. Word has it the Taiping Lake Gardens have been one of the most famous film locations in Taiping.

The branches are so long that they touchd the water by the lake side. It would be a great feeling to sit here once in a while with a book and sandwich in hand and enjoy the peaceful surrounding.

The lake with Bukit Larut or Maxwell Hill in the background.

My take on Taiping, it is a town with a lot of historical heritage sites. On that note, I do hope the locals will continue to appreciate them. There were quite a number of old buildings with historical values, which were abandoned. It would be disheartening to see a town with 40 firsts to lose its shine, if efforts to restore these building are not done immediately.

I will love to make a few repeat trips to Taiping soon because there are a few dishes which I haven't tried and places I haven't seen. Next time, I hope my trip there will be accompanied by clear skies and sunshine.

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