My dear friend Papa Mike has been hankering about the wonderful cuisine of Taiping, a small town in the state of Perak, Malaysia ever since I've bumped into him some years back. He spent his formative years at St George's School and when he finally put a trip together for us recently, it was an opportunity not to be missed. A culinary 300km ride through Taiping, Ipoh and finally to Penang through the back country roads!
6 of us met at the Golden Mile Complex, Beach Road in Singapore to board the 5 Star overnight bus to Ipoh. It certainly lived up to its name with an electric adjustable seat and first class super spacious legroom.
I have never been on such a comfortable coach that I had no trouble falling asleep throughout the 7 hour bus ride. At 5am, I was gently woken up and could not believe we have arrived in Ipoh. The boys were kind enough to unload our foldies from the luggage compartment so here was I barely conscious finding my feet on the quiet and dark street.
We wasted no time to put the bikes together and my choice for the Brompton paid out handsomely, at least for now. 3 mins was all it took to assemble the Brompton out of the bag and all ready to go. This allowed me to help the others with their Dahons and Bike Fridays. It was still dark and a ride through the fresh morning air of Ipoh was invigorating. Everyone was still asleep, save for an over friendly lady of the night, and the streets were deserted. Most offeeshops were still closed but we managed to find one and had breakfast #1 of noodles and coffee. With so much time in hand, we ended up doing a very early morning tour of Ipoh visiting the famous colonial train station and of course the 100 plus year old St Michael's School.
As it was still only 7am and our hotel would never allow us to check in till at least noon, we hung around the Padang (big field for official events). A huge Perak flag fluttered gracefully catching the morning breeze. Many morning joggers were running around it, strangely in an anti-clockwise position. Our foldies drew curious stares and questions. Papa Mike entertained us here with his impressive swordsmanship, a skill he learned from a Kung Fu master. KC of course was a little apprehensive as the "sword" was none other than his precious camera tripod.
Dr Mike working out at Ipoh' s Padang
Having had his morning workout, Papa led us to breakfast #2 where we had toast and a host of other local delicacies. I usually am not used to a heavy breakfast so having a second one in a span of 2 hours was a bit much.
Little did I know that after this, we proceeded for breakfast #3! This time for the best curry noodles in Ipoh but not before passing a very special place. The Law Practice of the father of James Bond actress Michelle Yeoh.
I was amazed how the rest of the boys could still be excited about another bowl of noodles and Christoph, my German buddy and I were a bit noodled out at this stage.
We knew that the Maker of Heavens and Earth was with us when we rode to Ritz Garden Hotel and was allowed an early check in! Better still, our foldies could be kept in the safety of our luxurious room. At just about US$35 a night, I was beginning to love Malaysia, at least this part. A quick shower and all of us were ready to paint Ipoh with a bright splash of red.
We gathered at the lobby and walked to lunch. We settled for wonderfully spicy Nasi Kandar - an Indian rice dish with various meat and veggies doused with 3 different types of curries. At US$1.50 a plate and a taste that brought us to the clouds, we couldn't be happier.
As the heat and humidity were rising uncomfortably, hitting an easy 33c, we made our way to an aircon shopping mall. On the way, we got distracted by a soya bean shop that was supposed to be the best in Ipoh. Funny Mountain was the name. The owner must be laughing at the long line of people, cars plus even a tourist bus that made a bee line to sample its delights. We enjoyed having our soya bean curd there, feeling even more bloated.
Our afternoon was spent at the movie, The Dark Knight. That was the best decision ever watching Batman coming out of retirement to save a city from the bad guys. If he can do that, so can we oldies who like Batman, aches and pains aside, still have some mileage left for a greater purpose if you can consider trying all the famous food places a noble goal.
Dinner that night was at the famous Teck Kee Restaurant, a 2km stroll from our hotel. Papa had already pre-ordered a whole suckling roast pig days before and the last time I saw one of these beauties was when I had to carry one for my best friend's wedding to his in-laws 20 years ago.
At least, now I get to eat it. The 6 of us were squealing in delight at each specially chosen dish that accompanied the mothership dish. There was a claypot filled with of fish maw, mushrooms, abalone and other goodies, veggies and a special yam rice. That downed with plenty of Carlsberg made for a very good start to our trip. O yes, did I forget the dessert, steamed coconut with cream?
The walk back to our hotel did us good to digest the degustation and if that was not enough, some of us went for a foot massage while others plunged into the icy cold pool at the top of the hotel. Needless to say, we slept very soundly at night all excited for the adventure to begin tomorrow.
As I drifted to sleep, I still could not believe we had 7 meals that day. If ever there was a target for carbo loading, we exceeded that very comfortably indeed.
I think this song by Van Halen best captured the excitement we felt for the trip as we all could not wait to JUMP into the ride!