It has been a rough few months, so when I was asked to be a travel mate to Ipoh, I was looking forward to it. My plans was to sleep, lick my wounds, plan for the future and practice yoga. Food? Not on the agenda? Limestone caves? Nope.
Anyway, from my past experiences with Ipoh, I just remembered a haphazard crazy one-way system downtown and constant traffic jams and shopping malls in the middle of nowhere. This time round, I was pleasantly surprised. Firstly, the roads were practically empty all the time (possibly because it was a long weekend and Ipoh-ites had fled to Penang or KL). Secondly, Ipoh has become really clean! Thirdly, it was really quiet and sleepy and had the exact atmosphere I wanted for my getaway.
We put up in a budget hotel with this interesting sign by the doorway. I wonder if they knew the implication of such a question. Still, the hotel was clean, quiet and had almost everything you could expect or want from a budget hotel (aside from the broken bathroom / toilet door). The area, which was near Jalan Hospital, was quiet and shady, with hardly any traffic at all, notwithstanding having a few intersections nearby. All good.
Finding food in Ipoh for dinner is a challenge for two non-Ipoh residents who had no idea where to go. We walked around the neighbourhood but only found Indian Muslim food available. In the end, we jumped into the car and headed downtown, where almost everything was closed as well. We managed to find a Chinese tai chow and bought some food. Three dishes for RM35 – slightly more expensive than KL prices (an egg, a tofu and a veg).
The next morning, I managed to find some time for Ashtanga vinyasa practice in the hotel room. Yes, plus point was there is enough space in the room for yoga practice. Ashtanga vinyasa can be so calming and meditative notwithstanding its intensity.
After practice, some coffee and then snooped at the nearby mall for lunch. It was mostly Malay fare, which is a tad too meaty for me. I ended up getting some east coast Malay cuisine with some delicious stuffed chilli which I have not had for a long time. It was so good that I had four!
In the evening, we headed to the downtown area again and had Yong Tow Foo at “Let’s Rock”. It was so busy that we had to wait for a table. The food was good but a tad oily. Then we headed to “Yes Yoghurt” for some dessert then took a walk to Ipoh Parade to burn off the calories.
First off, things were only open in pockets. So there were places where shops were open and then rows and rows where nothing was open. You could even hear the wind whistle. Secondly, whatever was opened (food mostly) was not fantastically appetising. People told us to head to Ipoh Garden East or wherever but honestly it does nothing for tourism if things downtown are shut and you have to use Waze to get to food all the time.
In fact, if it were not for Waze, Swarm and Foursquare, our lives would have been very difficult. Thank goodness for mobile apps! Anyway, Ipoh Parade was like any other shopping complex. Not particularly exciting but then again I am not a fan of shopping malls. We took a walk around, went to Popular Bookstore and headed back to the car.
The next day was our final day. We headed downtown again, this time looking for a chicken rice shop. When we reached there, we found it was not open for business (well, we were warned that it is not a place to go to for breakfast / brunch). We bought some Ipoh biscuits at a nearby store. I have to say I love it that everyone can speak English, even when I am approached and spoken to in Cantonese (as opposed to Mandarin), when I tell them I cannot understand, they switch to fluent English immediately. Excellent! We then had some noodles for brunch, then headed back to rest, pack and head back to KL.