What could be a perfect travel destination for a weekend? I wondered. My close friend and I have been extremely busy with our work after the pandemic and were looking for a getaway to somewhere within Malaysia. With that on mind, I was searching for a place closer to the nature, a place which is serene and a place which I could splurge my money on because everything is so cheap. Whilst searching, I stumbled upon an image of Taiping Lake Gardens on the Internet. It was a coup de foudre until I could imagine the image hypnotising me by saying, “Come… come… come and visit me… .” That’s how attractive it was!
For two years, my close friend, Li and I waited to travel together. We have known each other since 2011 when we were both studying in the same university. She is a travel junkie just like me and the best part, she is not a picky person and very laid-back. A super important trait to be my travel companion as I dislike travelling with a fussy person. And guess what, her hometown is in the state of Perak. That’s where we are about to head to – the town of Taiping which was formerly a mining town in Perak.
Our last travel destination was Hat Yai, Thailand on December 2019 where we navigated our way to hostel without using GPS at night, shared room with a peculiar stranger and challenged ourselves to eat the crunchy fried insects from the floating market. And, it was three months before the major COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in Malaysia. A year after 2020, we saw a glimpse of hope when Malaysia lifted the interstate travel ban on October 2021 which allowed us to plan for our budget travel on November 2022.
We fixed our budget at MYR200.00 for two days and one night stay in a city within Malaysia which I presume would be quite affordable as compared to Thailand where we spent MYR500.00 for similar duration because we had to rely on taxi to move around Hat Yai. Besides that, the interstate travel was highly encouraged to support the local tourism industry in 2022 in order to boost the economy after the pandemic which gives us the opportunity to visit major attractions and book hotels at discounted price.
Hence, we decided to go to the one of the most sustainable cities in the world! – Taiping. It is not only a cheap destination but closer to Penang as well – Taiping is just one and a half hours’ drive away from Penang where our home is located.
A Metallic Taste – Hor Ka Sai
Before starting our journey from Penang to Taiping, we had our breakfast at a food court near Taman Lip Sin in Penang. In the food court, we spotted a less crowded Hokkien mee stall. At the stand, I was busy examining the beverage menu and asked Li, “What is Hor Ka Sai?”.
To my surprise, Li said it is a drink which originated from Taiping. I wasn’t expecting to discover this famous drink in Penang. It was a pure coincidence! Feeling lucky, I ordered one glass of iced Hor Ka Sai from the counter which cost me MYR7.00. Well, it was expensive compared to an ordinary hot milk tea – a popular drink for breakfast which costs on average MYR2.00. But, was it worth it?
I slurped iced Hor Ka Sai and felt a strong mixture of local coffee and malt chocolate tingling on my tongue. It was bitter and yet sweet. I wondered how the inventor came up with the idea of mixing the two contrasting ingredients to create this amazing drink. Although I’m not a fan of coffee, I really enjoyed the drink. And yes, it was worth all the money. By the way, have you tried it before? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below. And with the last slurp, our journey to Taiping commenced.
The Highly Anticipated Visit – Taiping Lake Gardens
A Shelter For Rain Trees
The average rainfall in Taiping is higher than other cities in Malaysia. As a result, Taiping Lake Gardens shelter various rainforest trees including the famous Pterocarpus indicus, a protected species. Our hostel, Sojourn Beds & Cafe check-in is at 2pm so we visited the park straightaway upon reaching Taiping at noon. I was searching for Pterocarpus indicus, however, I failed to find it.
But, I managed to capture a tree which looked similar to Pterocarpus indicus. It was huge, had drooping branches and dome-shaped crown which help to provide shade for a family but the disc-like fruit pods were nowhere to be found. If you’re a botanist, please help me to identify this tree and let me know in the comment below.
A Mysterious Walkway
I quickly glanced at the clouds. And, I thought to myself, “Is it going to rain soon?” But the couple ahead of us was busy taking photos of the scenery. They weren’t bothered by the dark clouds at all. Well, for true travellers, be it rain or shine, they are well prepared. Whilst strolling, we spotted a walkway leading to the other end of the garden.
And, it looked creepy as though a monster were lurking behind those trees, awaiting us at the other end. To make it worse, we even heard a strange noise echoing from there. Li was terrified by the sound and she was not willing to take another step further.
To me, it sounded like a Malayan partridge getting ready to mate. But, I wasn’t brave enough to walk across either especially without any barriers on the sides. It seemed too risky, what if it were to rain? What if I were to slip and fall into the water? I can’t swim well. My thoughts were racing. So, we didn’t proceed further in the walkway. And, we decided to head back to the car before it were to rain as we didn’t bring along our umbrellas. What do you think? Should we have walked to the other end? Share your opinion in the comment below. I would love to know!
A Place For Backpackers – Sojourn Beds & Cafe
Upon arrival at Sojourn Beds & Cafe, we spent a few minutes observing the entrance door. Wonder why? Well, the word Sojourn caught our attention. The letter “R” resembled a human carrying a backpack. Quite creative, we thought. We were convinced that we were at the right location, a budget friendly hostel for backpackers.
I was observing the décor in the hostel. The ceiling was decorated with festoons of various countries flags. I found a wooden book shelf at the corner of the room near the staircase to the upper floor. It gave me a sense of calmness and I could picture myself sipping tea whilst sitting on one of the chairs with a book in my hand. It would have been a perfect place for solo travellers and bookworms. I wondered how the owner came up with the inspiration for this concept. He is probably passionate about travel and books.
We proceeded to check in at the reception. I paid MYR77.00 for two days and one night stay in a private room with shared washroom. That was quite cheap for an accommodation in the town centre near to all the attractions like Taiping Lake Gardens, Zoo Taiping and Maxwell Hill. In addition, we don’t have to drive around town to find a place to buy food and drinks as the hawker centre is just one minute walk from the hostel. A great location at the heart of Taiping!
What’s Next In Taiping…
After resting for an hour in the hostel room, we have decided to walk around the town centre. Note that, it was still cloudy but no sign of the rain. We were walking for about six minutes and I saw something – a telephone booth. It was an uncommon sight in the middle of the town centre especially when we are way past the telephone booth era – when smartphones were unheard-of and telephones were hooked to a wire. And we weren’t able to dial someone outside of our home and had to rely on telephone booths found on the streets for emergency use.
Wondered how it looked like? What is so special about this telephone booth? Stay tuned for my next episode on my walkabout in Taiping! By the way, if you are interested to know more about Sojourn Beds & Cafe, feel free to visit their Facebook page.
Hi Shalini, Taiping is also associate as retirement place and it is well supported with your writing
Hi Vijayan, you read my mind 🙂 yes, I was thinking of it as an ideal retirement place as well. It was so calm and peaceful.
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Dear Shaalni, this is beautiful and so inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing your journey ♥️
Dear Nicole, thank you for your lovely comment. Looking forward to share with you my another journey in Malaysia 🙂