sign in a cave in Laos

10 November 2007

A drive through Perak - The Brunei Times

A drive through Perak

Saturday, May 19, 2007
THE city of Ipoh is situated in the Kinta Valley of Perak. Perak means the "silver state", possibly named as it was an important tin mining area. The Kinta Valley is a very scenic place, extending about 20km both south and north of Ipoh, and more than 40 steep, limestone hills rise precipitously from the valley floor to over 600 metres.

Many of these hills are still covered in dense vegetation, and are riddled with caves, some of which are accessible to the public, as show caves or cave temples.

It's easy to see many interesting sites on a day's drive around the area. Starting in the city of Ipoh, head south on the old trunk road to Kuala Lumpur. Just a few kilometres outside the city, you will come to the Sam Poh Tong complex of caves on your left. Stop here and admire the cave temples built against the vertical rock faces. Do visit at least one of the temples, there are more than five all in a row the most famous being Sam Poh Tong. Go through the cave and you'll see a pond packed full of tortoises and terrapins. You can usually buy green vegetables to feed them.

After, stroll over to the row of pomelo stalls alongside the road. Pomelos are the large green fruits, some are almost football-sized. They are similar to a grapefruit, but not as sour.

Continue along the main road south, heading for Gopeng. On the way, just after the junction to the highway after Simpang Pulai, you go through Kampung Kepayang. This is an abandoned village which straddles the main road. If you look carefully you should notice there is one or possibly two shops which are still open. The rest have been long abandoned. Note also the old wooden houses dotted along the roadside. They are beautiful buildings, on stilts and with lovely carvings and wooden shutters. Immediately after, on the left, is the Kong Fook Ngam cave temple which was established in 1884.

Go through Gopeng, which is 20km south of Ipoh. Once you have driven past the town, follow the signs to Gua Tempurung, the turning is on your left. Gua Tempurung is one of the most famous caves in the Peninsula, it is open to the public for guided tours, and has walkways and electric lighting. It is a stunning cave, with huge chambers and fantastic stalactites and stalagmites. A river runs through the cave. There are a variety of tours you can do, ranging in length. Be prepared to climb all the stairs inside the cave it is well worth it.

The stretch of road near Gua Tempurung is often lined with fruit stalls, depending on the season. If you are lucky, and if you are a durian lover, like me, you can buy an abundance of these heavenly fruit really cheaply. But be prepared to stink out the car! If you are not a durian aficionado, maybe you can buy mangosteen, longans, langsat or rose apples, depending on what is available.

From Gua Tempurung, go a couple of kilometres south to the Kuala Dipang crossroads, and turn right to Tanjung Tualang. This is the place for seafood lunch. Sample the prawns, they are great. Once you have satisfied your stomach, head north towards Batu Gajah. Near Chendrong, eight kilometres from Tanjung Tualang, look for a big metal monster on your right. This is a tin dredge. It is one of only two or three left in Malaysia. It is well worth stopping here and walking around and soaking up the atmosphere. The old mining pools are a haven for bird life, and sometimes there are lotuses in bloom. The dredge is a relic from the heydays of tin mining, and is a fascinating sight. Hopefully it will be preserved as it is an important historical artifact.

Continue through the kampungs to Batu Gajah and take the road east towards Ipoh and look for the signs to Kellie's Castle. Kellie's Castle is a folly, an unfinished mansion, commissioned by an English rubber planter in 1915. The castle was never finished and is shrouded in mystery. It has since been renovated and the grounds open to the public.

From here head on to the old Ipoh-KL trunk road, which you already drove down earlier. This will take you back to Ipoh. In Ipoh, be sure to go to the railway station and see the Ipoh tree in the garden in front of the station. The poisonous latex of the Ipoh tree is used by the Orang Asli (aborigines) for their blowpipes.

Ipoh, of course, is the eating capital of Perak, so after a great day's sightseeing, what better than to check out the food on offer? Try the renowned Chinese cuisine, and don't forget the Ipoh white coffee. Enjoy! The Brunei Times

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