Friday 30 November 2012

Traipsing Around Taiping

Total Distance: 5,705 km
Distance in SE Asia: 476 km
Backsides out of 10 (bliss): Mike 7.5, Judy 7.0
Snakes as Road Kill: 8, Live: 1
A wooden house on stilts - my memory is of a military
compound with rows of neat houses, geckos chasing insects
on the bedroom walls and a badminton court a short walk away.
The old 8mm home movie film chattered over the sprockets on the projector. On the lounge wall, the images flickered and settled down. There was a sweep of jungle, an aerial shot, and then a Malay village or kampung, came into view. The helicopter banked as though coming in to land, but suddenly the film ended and we were left wondering what it was all about. We do know the footage was shot by my father, in 1956/57 while he was serving with the New Zealand Army in what was then called Malaya – before independence and while the fight was still going on against the Communist Terrorists or CTs as they were known.

The film’s still around but our parents are not, so those pictures remain one of life’s little mysteries.
The museum was closed when we visited but the manager
ushered us into the grounds so we could take photos. He said it
was going to take a year and RM2m to repair the damage caused
 by termites which had attacked the all wooden structure.

Former Perak Sultan's home,
now the Royal Museum of
Mum, Dad, Chris and I lived first in Taiping, I have memories of a wooden house on stilts, and then in Ipoh – both towns which owed their existence and their wealth to the nearby tin mines. Now the tin has gone, and the towns are slowly fading, as Judy and I discovered while visiting them both while en route to Penang.

Some of Taiping's old colonial buildings are holding up well
despite the passing of time. This one is used to house a
variety of local government offices.

Other buildings haven't withstood the ravages of time - mould
and decay and eventual collapse.
I recognised nothing – no streets, no buildings, not a thing. We made a few tentative inquiries of people we bumped into, but it was more than 50 years ago and a woman in a tourist office just looked blankly when we mentioned the emergency and the fight against the CTs. There’s still a big military presence in Taiping, but the Brits and Aussies and Kiwis went decades ago and the sentries on the gate looked far too young to ask.  We found the officers’ mess, a comfortable looking building, and hung around for a few minutes in the hope of talking to someone. The outdoor tables were beautifully set, but the place was deserted and we gave up.
Despite discovering nothing of relevance to that short period of my childhood, we enjoyed both towns. They seem quintessentially Malaysia, and after a few days on the road in SE Asia we felt comfortable poking around the markets, museums and eating at the hawkers’ stalls.

Notes from the Road – Ipoh to Penang
Street scene - Taiping
Once you get used to the heat, humidity and thunderstorms, this is easy cycling. We stuck to Highway 1 pretty much all the way, and it’s flat with just one exception. North of the Perak royal town of Kuala Kangsar, there is one stretch of stiff uphill which probably lasts 20 minutes. At that point it runs parallel to and right alongside the E1 motorway. Highway 1 varies in traffic density, with some quiet patches but mostly it’s reasonably constant. The only issue we had was with trucks coming up behind us on narrow bridges - a mirror might be handy.

Soft boiled eggs presented with a cup -
break them into the cup and drink.
Yum.. mantis shrimp

Soon after our arrival in Penang - enjoying a seafood lunch
with new friends.

The grave of an unidentified
Indian soldier in the
Commonealth War Cemetery, Taiping.

Taiping's undercover market - in a big, tin-roofed shed.


  1. Hi!! you two intrepid peddle pushers. You seem to be enjoying the sites, tastes and people on the road through Malaysia.Interesting bit of family history Mike. Counting down to Xmas break back here in NZ. Take care, and love to you both

  2. Hi guys, such a great awesome talking today :) lots of love xx


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