Taiping, Perak.

The ever peaceful town, Taiping. Well if you translate the Chinese characters of this Perak town, that's what they mean. And of course in relation to this Cameron Highlands website about Malaysia highlands, they have the hill station called Bukit Larut (aka Maxwell Hill). A visit to Bukit Larut without visiting Perak's former capital city, Taiping wouldn't make your travel destination travel complete. Besides, Taiping has a long colourful history, making it one of the heritage travel destination for tourism Malaysia.

A coffeeshop in an old heritage building in Taiping, Perak

Going there isn't too difficult. Taiping is situated halfway between Penang and Ipoh and it takes approximately one hour drive from either direction of the PLUS North-South Expressway. If you are coming from the north, take the Kamunting exit, from the south, the Taiping exit. From there you can just follow the signs to reach the Taiping town.

I have visited Taiping on several occasions, but never quite as much as this trip. I do have some customers in Taiping but I've never quite have the opportune to tour Taiping. Travelling in from the Kamunting toll exit, we passed by the industrial area. This route took us pass several well known factories like Silverstone Tires, famous for making 4x4 tires and Spritzer, our home grown mineral water bottling plant in Malaysia. Taiping has a good underground water table rich in mineral content and that's where Spritzer draws their water to bottle into their brand of mineral water.

Taiping, Perak first started out as a tin mining town way back in the 19th century. The tin mining activities attracted a lot of Chinese migrants looking for job opportunities. Because of the prospect for making a fortune from tin, it also brought about the formation of two clans namely the Hakka Five Association and Cantonese Four Association that didn't get along well with each other resulting in terrible feuding amongst the two groups. It took British intervention in the 1870 to control the situation.

Taiping Perak Museum, first museum in Malaysia

Taiping has many old heritage buildings, after all with its rich history there would be of course some legacy from it. Amongst the first of many, it has the first museum in Malaysia - the Perak Museum, the first hillside resort - Bukit Larut (Maxwell Hill), the first lake gardens - Taiping Lake Garden, the first clock tower, the first wet market building, amongst others.

Driving in via Kamunting, we would first pass by the infamous Kamunting Prison (Penjara Kamunting), where many a political prisoners were jailed by the Government using the unpopular ISA or Internal Security Act. From there we would head towards the peaceful Taiping Lake Gardens. What a contrast, the sombre dreaded jailhouse to the peaceful greens and calm lake! They are just side by side.

Yes, the Taiping Lake Garden is a must visit! If you liked anything green about Cameron Highlands, you surely would love the soothing colours of Taiping Lake Gardens minus the cool air of course! Don't forget to bring your camera along! I'm sure you would snap at least two dozen worth of pictures if not more! If I didn’t know better, the Taiping Lake Gardens with its scenic scene can be the perfect spot for some interesting destination wedding photos too!

The infamous Penjara Kamunting Prison.

For activities, there is the Taiping Zoo. Good to bring along families and children to learn a thing or two about animals. They have night safari too, however we weren't so keen for nocturnal activities. Having already tried the Singapore Night Safari, Kenny commented that the Taiping Zoo Night Safari weren't so interesting in comparison. Well if you have nothing else to do at night, you could give it try. Of course if you were passing through like us, you probably won't miss much by giving it a pass.

Besides we were hunting for grub, like hungry animals, we wanted to try their popular hawker food at the food court near the wet market. It took us awhile to hunt it down. The mobile phone GPS navigation system was no help, because it pointed us to a wrong food court. Perhaps the name was the wrong one or what, I don't know. That's the problem with high tech wizardry, they aren't perfect.

The food court was pretty huge. There was an assortment of hawker stalls with food ranging from Hainanese Chicken Rice, Popiah, Jawi Mee, Chao Koay Teow, etc. Malay stalls weren't short either with their Malay mix rice and all. Mmmm... time for makan-makan!

Taiping Lake Gardens is a must visit!

The wet market nearby was an interesting structure. It is very old and made of wood. If the history is anything to go by, I guess it was build in 1884. And yes there is an interesting pastime played by the locals around the wet market. Taiping is considered one of the wettest place in Malaysia receiving twice the average rain in comparison with other parts of Malaysia. And the locals would gather around the wet market to make bets to see if it would rain on that day. Should there be even on droplet of rain that touches the roof of the wet market, it would be considered as rain has fallen. My customers around Taiping confirmed that this activity is true. However, I didn't see any gathering of locals for this game, but I suppose I was not there at the right time to witness this activity.

There were lots of old Taiping heritage buildings, some were spruced up, and some were not maintained. Well it provided lots of photography opportunity. Some of these buildings could be as old as 1880! Like for example the Perak Museum was build in 1883, the Taiping wet markets in 1884, the railway station in 1881, the Anglican All Saints Church in 1886, and the Masjid Tengku Menteri in 1870, to name a few.

A quick look see around Taiping and it was time for us to go. We wanted to catch the land rover ride up to Bukit Larut so we didn't hang around too much in the Taiping town centre. Perhaps next time I get a chance to stopover while travelling through the Perak state, I might have another look see about Taiping. It is not a big detour from a journey between a travel to Penang and Ipoh. On the other hand, perhaps I might just head to their food court for their hawker fare.


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