Trip Start Jul 08, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Taiping was an unexpected surprise. Liz, from Portsmouth, and Anya, from the states, and myself decided that we wanted to return to Penang for Thaipusam but decided to head out for a week as we had time to kill. Out initial plan was to spend probably two days in Taiping and then head to Pangkor Island. Manium, who worked at the hostel in Penang, gave us the number of his cousin, Ganason, and told us to head to his pub first and he would help us to find our feet. That was a slight understatement as we arrived to be offered his room he rents in a four star golf resort. Ganason has a house over the road from his pub but kept this room for when he wanted to have a swim at their pool! On top of that he called the manager of the resort to send a minibus to pick us up and take us there. That minibus was almost our private taxi during our stay.

When we arrived at the pub we started with a bucket of Tiger - it seems the common way to drink is in buckets were you buy 5 bottles of beer in an ice bucket. As we where starting on some refills our eventful week started with someone grabbing Ganeson's phone from our table as the bar is open to the road. Ganason managed to chase and grab him as the guy was jumping on his bike and after a scuffle brought he back the bar until the police arrived. After it had calmed down we decided to head to our room and freshen up before we got too drunk so that we could head back to the bar in the evening.

Anya didn't play out with us in the evening. She was a bit freaked by the afternoon's entertainment. Actually Anya seemed freaked by most things but left in the morning so it wasn't a major problem. Liz and I headed back to the pub and spent the evening meeting a whole group of new friends. There were people that Ganason introduced us to but also most other people in the pub as Taiping is not hugely on the tourist trail so we were a bit of an attraction.
We did meet some really good people that night that we continued to see, or at least talk to, until we left Malaysia. Everyone in that town was very friendly and we left with a wad of business cards accompanied with requests to call if we needed any assistance. Ganason seemed to be the man about the town and we meet a broad spectrum of his friends from gangsters to policemen. He also had a lovely group of girls from Singapore who ran his bar for him. The bar was a great place to hang out with all the different characters it was a small cosy place with a chilled atmosphere and had a pool table and a drum kit, guitar and mic that were always in use with various people.
The bar usually shut around 03:00 but we managed to keep it open until around 06:00 and were dropped off by Murthy, a friend of Ganeson's who lived in Penang. He became a good friend and invited us to join him back in Penang for Thaipusam. He also agreed to pick us up in the morning to take us on a tour around town.

Taiping is the richest state in Malaysia and made its money originally from tin mines. It still remains affluent today - even to the point that there is no local transport. Taiping is also the rainiest place in Malaysia. It sits on the ridge that dissects the country down the middle and usually one side of the country will always be in rainy season as it falls under the monsoons from both east and west. In Taiping it rains almost every day, apparently 3-4+ days without rain is news worthy.

We were collected as promised the following morning feel very hung over. Our first stop was Ganeson's place so that he could join us and then it was the shop to collect some beers. This was our second clue that our stay could be a very drunk one. We started at the first British Governor's home although the thought of being interested in touring around was nonexistent but we did manage a picture outside. Our next stop was more interesting though - Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve. It would have been great to stay a night there as it sounded amazing how the swamps food and recede with the tides and change the shape of the land. The swamps were amazing and the tides were starting to turn and come in but it was time to move on to Ganeson's favourite seafood restaurant. I survived on a couple of nice veggie dishes whilst Liz was exposed to eating the assortment of food put in front of us. The restaurant was in a beautiful location hanging over the river with a fishing village and fish market below. After our feast we wandered around the market for a bit shopping for some fresh fish and seafood. On our way back into town we stopped at lake in the centre of town that had amazing trees on the roadside of the lake but arched across the road and down to the lake on the other side. After that it was a quick shower and back to the pub. We had decided that as we still had a couple of things we wanted to see, and the pub seemed on the cards each night, we would have a lazy day the next day and hang out here for the week as we were also inundated of requests for things to do. We bumped into Hanz heading back into town; he was staying in 100 Cintra Street with us and cycling down Malaysia so he joined us for beers in the evening.

As predicted the following day was very lazy but in the afternoon we were taken out to drink some jungle juice in the afternoon and no surprises that led us to the pub again in the evening. Lots of drinking but my Hindi dancing is getting better. The next day after a late start we headed to the zoo where we spent a lazy afternoon wandering around.

The day after we went to Bukit Merah where there is an Orang-utan sanctuary on the island. They take orang-utans that have been recovered from captivity or rescued from the wild and rehabilitate them back into the wild. There is a small part of the island were you can see them going through the various stages of rehabilitation but the rest of the island is their home and playground before they are finally released back in to the wild, usually Borneo. We were lucky as there was a two month orang-utan born in captivity there still being nursed.

The rehabilitation centre was part of a complex on the mainland that also included a posh hotel with a water park and eco-park. Thiru, one of Ganeson's friends, worked there and it seemed like his day to look after us as he got us the mega passes that let us visit everything for free and also made sure we had free food whilst there.

The following day was our last full day so we headed off to go up Maxwell Hill, one of our original plans. From the top you get stunning views across Taiping and the surrounding countryside, that is if it not cloudy. Our final night was spent in the pub saying goodbye to everyone. We were due to meet Murthy back in Penang for Thaipusam but apart from that it was time to bid our farewells.

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