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April 01, 2017
The Abode of Grace -- Perak
 
 The Abode of Grace -- Perak 
Went on a road trip to Kuala Sepetang & Ipoh in Perak.
Approximately 273km, about 2 hours 50 minutes’ drive from Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Sepetang is a coastal town located in Perak, Malaysia. The town was formerly known as Port Weld. It is a thriving fishing village, and the main jumping-off point to the river mouth community of Kuala Sangga, which is a Chinese fishing community known as “老港” at the river mouth which specializes in fish breeding in cages. The Port Weld railway station was located at the town center. The whole railway line from here to Taiping, which was the first railway line in the Peninsula, is now dismantled. Only the ticketing booth and the Port Weld railway signboard remain. The ticketing booth is now a Chinese coffee shop, and the shop owner has been maintaining the railway signboard till present day. Kuala Sepetang has excellent seafood and some are even situated on the upper floor overlooking the river. Kuala Sepetang is also well known for its mangrove swamp reserve park which is open to the public daily. It has a boardwalk built over the swamp for tourists, and chalets in which tourists can rent to stay the night at the riverfront. There are also charcoal kilns and some of which are open for tourist visits.

 We took off as early as 6 o’clock in the morning, stopped by at Kampar, a small town in the Perak state, to have breakfast in the morning market. Highlights were the sticky rice and charcoal fried noodle, but there are many food stalls inside and outside the market. You will definitely feel the joy of happy stomach if you are a food lover! Then, we continued our journey to Taiping, entered from Changkat Jering junction and drove another 15km, about 20 minutes to arrive in Taiping. The first hotel we went for inspection was the Flemington Hotel which is located at the breathtaking Lake Garden of Taiping. The hotel has 116 well furnished rooms and it has a skybar next to their rooftop swimming pool. For food and beverage, there is a coffee house with all-day dining and a Chinese Restaurant on the first floor. After all, we would say this is the best hotel with strategic location in Taiping for now. Next, we proceed to another hotel inspection at Bukit Larut, named as Beverly Hotel. This is a 2 months old hotel with a food court attached next to it. This would rather a simple yet, the newest hotel in town. The hotel is more suitable for corporate traveler as there are shopping malls, restaurants and pubs nearby the area. 

After that, we drove straight to Kuala Sepetang, about 20 minutes from Taiping town and we arrived at the Kuala Sepetang Police Station – the meeting point with our tour guide, at around 11.30 o’clock. Without any delay, we hop on to his SUV and head straight to Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve, spend a short while on the boardwalk and learn some interesting info about the mangrove. Later, drove across the road and arrived at the Charcoal Factory by Mr. Chuah. There, we witness the process of charcoal making from A-Z, even on how they transport the timber to the factory. It is a fun way in learning the making of charcoal, which some of us is using it as our daily resources. Soon after a simple educational trip, we were starved and busy searching the best and famous Mee Udang (Prawn Noodle) in the town. Unfortunately the famous Mee Udang Mak Jah was closed and we ended up eating a simple and normal mee udang.
Later in the afternoon, we continue our journey by boarding a motorboat. Instead of walking on land, we are now drifting on the sea. Started off with eagle watching, you can see the Brahminy Kite and White Bellied Eagle flying low to catch their food. Next, we went further in and stopped on a narrower water to learn the way in collecting cockles. Is actually not hard when you are only holding a long wooden stick with a small metal cage stuck at the tip of the wooden stick, draw the cage in the water until touches the sands below. You will then feel or hear the cockles kept into the cage while the boatman accelerating the boat forward. However, if you are looking at the people who are doing that in earning their living, it is tough! What they do is they will tie their foot with the wheel and accelerator to control the boat’s speed and hands on the wooden stick, repeatedly making the same move in collecting cockles. 

After that, we continue our boat journey to Kuala Sangga, upon arrival, we notice there is a different between a normal fishing village and this old Chinese fishing village, their boats are all sheltered under the hot sun and were parked nicely on the dock. At the entrance, we were greeted by the locals sitting in front of their doorstep just to chill and chit-chat at there. An easy and cozy life we can see. Besides going out to the sea to fish and collect cockles, people who stay put in the village will do their job like preserving shrimps and fishes, counting cockles by bulk and weight, cooking, cleaning and taking care of the younger ones. The village also catered school, clinic, Chinese temple, a catholic church and a public hall. Families are all staying in the wooden houses on stilts. Basic transportation in the village is bicycles and motorbikes. However, the only way to get to the mainland or to do groceries is that they have to use their boat to travel about 20-30 minutes to the nearest town, Kuala Sepetang. It is an interesting village where their main resources are only from the sea and they have all the necessaries to provide a well living standard by themselves. One of the visitors from Taiwan even drew a nice and detailed map picture of the housing structure of the village and named it as “老港人文地图” also known as “Old Port Humanities Map” for the villagers. After the village visit, we move on to the sea again, stopped on the water and do some fishing before we move back to the town.

At about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, we went back to the town and visit a unique hotel right next to the jetty. The Happy Eight Kuala Sepetang, well decorated with woods and placing a huge eagle head in front of the hotel. Combining a seafood restaurant on the second floor and a café on the ground floor, the hotel is the best place to stay, chill and eat in the town. All rooms are uniquely designed with different theme; the most astonishing is that one of the rooms, the sampan is actually a bed facing the balcony. You can even do fishing from your balcony. Other than that, all rooms are with different drawings and almost all fixtures are nicely crafted from woods. All we would say, this is an art!
Later about 4.30pm, we departed from Kuala Sepetang to Ipoh, the third largest city after Penang and Kuala Lumpur. Upon our arrival, we checked in M Boutique hotel and proceed with the room inspection. This is a brand new hotel sitting at the center of Ipoh town. This urban vintage hotel has 3 different themes housed at 3 different floors. The Adventure, The Majestic and The Excelsior have its own kind of design accommodating different taste of living style. Not to forget backpackers of single travelers. The hotel also has the room type with bunk bed and single bedded room. Apart from this, they provide free DIY laundry and drying services and plenty of seats at the stylish public area. For F&B, they have the Ipoh signature Old Town White Coffee and the Myth Eatery & Bar. They also have M Shop selling merchandise products to all visitors and in-house guests. After the inspection, we finally rest our feet in the nice and cozy room. Took a shower and continue out to search for food. Ipoh is a gourmet wonderland. There are lots of good food like bean sprout chicken hor fun, assam laksa, indian cuisine, hawker food, Western, Japanese and the best Chinese Hot Dishes. We end up in a restaurant next to the Ipoh airport. We had duck belly claypot, steam fish with ginger paste, braise roasted pork with yam and a vegetable. After we filled our stomach, we went for a night tour around the Ipoh city. There are plenty of night clubs, bars and cafes around. We grabbed a beer at Bricks & Barrel before we headed back to hotel for good night sleep.

The next morning, we checked out at 8 o’clock and went for a hotel breakfast at The Myth Eatery & Bar. We departed at around 9 o’clock from the hotel and started our long day hotel inspections in Ipoh town. Firstly, we checked out the Accor property, Ibis Style Hotel which nestled in the center of the town. Rooms are neat and clean, and overseeing colorful rooftop of the shop houses from the window of the room. It also features a restaurant, barista, rooftop bar and 4 modern function rooms, making it perfect for both leisure and business travelers.
After this, we continued to Hotel French Ipoh. It is also centrally located in the city and the hotel has a nice café on the second floor. The name is Jose & Deli Eatery, is an all-day dining restaurant of the hotel. The rooms are bright and clean, simple yet comfortable. They provide all basic amenities and facilities like safe box, mini bar, hairdryer, LCD TV, solar powered shower, iron board, WIFI and etc. Then, we continued to Tower Regency Hotel & Apartments. Rooms are simple and a bit old, but they have a rooftop swimming pool next to a café, ballroom, function halls, gym room and even karaoke room. For families, their apartments are just nice to fit in 4 persons with a simple kitchen and living area.

We finished the inspection in Tower Regency before 12 o’clock. Since it was still early for our next appointment and surprisingly that we are not hungry yet, we decided to visit some interesting homestay at the residential area. First, we visited the 6IX Senses. It’s like a boutique vacation villa which can accommodate up to 16 persons. It has 10 luxurious suites and bedrooms and many premium home facilities. However, it doesn’t pays per room; guest must rent the whole house at per night basis. Next, we went to another Happy Eight @ Pasir Puteh. It follows the signature wooden style decorations and fixtures. The uniqueness of this property is that the bed in one of the room is hanging down from the ceiling and an outdoor bathtub sheltered by yam leaf.

Around 1 o’clock, we started to move to Tambun, where Best Western the Heaven located. It is currently the most premium condominium in Ipoh. The Best Western here is an apartment style hotel. It has 1 bedroom suite, 2 bedroom suites and 2 plus 1 bedroom deluxe or executive. All suites are luxuriously designed and full amenities are provided. Facilities like swimming pool, gym, jogging trail and restaurant are all well-kept within the property compound. The surrounding is also a uniqueness of this property; the nature lake and mountain are just added points to people who are staying in the area. After that, we proceed to The Banjaran Hotspring Retreat for hotel inspection. The surrounding was beautiful, especially the thermal steam cave, ice bath, crystal cave and the natural hot spring dipping pools. They are the highlights of getting into a wellness retreat. We also went into the Jeff’s Cellar. It is the world most unique wine bars set within a limestone cave. It is so comfortable and cooling once you step into the cave. In terms of room, they only have 2 types, which are the Garden Villa and Water Villa. They are all well maintained and all rooms come with an ensuite seating area, a patio with private pool, private outdoor rain shower and a sunken Jacuzzi with natural geothermal hot springs water. We already felt relax while we only walked around in the villas.

Later around 4pm, we continued our inspection to the Symphony Suites. It is a new boutique hotel located along the road with fascinating limestone cave and temples near the entrance from North-South Highway at Simpang Pulai. Rooms are big and all basic amenities are provided in the room. Finally, we arrived at the funky hotel that we spent a night. We checked in at Happy 8 Old Town, a cute, boutique, artistic, unique and a hotel that full of surprises! It has basically 5 different themed rooms which contains own tastefully designed, drawings and same as other Happy 8 properties, furniture and fixtures are mostly done up by wood. What also great about this property is that it nestled in the center of Ipoh old town. Walking distances to all well-known coffee shops and cafés.

The next morning, which is also the ending day of this trip, we first went to the famous Kong Heng coffee shop for our great breakfast. After that, we walked around the old town, taking pictures of Sekeping Kong Heng, long stretch of old shop houses converted into interesting cafés (remaining the origins however) and some other nicely done restaurants. Soon after we visited the old colonial building which has converted into a bar and restaurant, we stopped by at Gopeng (a small town not very far away from Ipoh). Here, we checked out the My Gopeng Resort, which does white water rafting, or river rafting and providing chalets and dormitory rooms for overnights. Then we also visited the Gaharu Tea Valley on the way down. They provide mobile tour in the valley, explaining the functions of leaves and woods and we even tried the Gaharu tea. You may want to do a quick shopping at the merchandise shop as well.
After finished all inspections, we finally rest our arms and legs in the nearby market stalls for a quick lunch. We tried their famous “Lai Fun” a kind of noodle, in Gopeng before we headed back to Kuala Lumpur.

 
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