Unassuming and tranquil
Taiping translates to ‘everlasting peace’ and I can vouch for it indeed being a very tranquil place. It has an unassuming character which is probably why Taiping is largely unknown to international travellers. It holds no tickets on itself and seems happy to keep its quaint and old-fashioned charm a secret from the world.
Approximately 100km from Penang, Taiping in Malaysia was originally a Tin Mining settlement in the 1800’s. It is now a Heritage Town, with a rich colonial history, as is visible by the many English architectural influences still present today. But sadly, it doesn’t usually feature on most tourists’ itineraries.
The town has slowly been developing in recent years which will in time, I’m sure, attract more visitors. With many new hotels being built, travellers now have lots to choose from, up to and including 4 star hotels. I recently stayed at the Novotel, a brand new hotel here, which has very comfortable suites and is centrally located. We enjoyed the lovely lap pool with views of the nearby hills. They have quite a good buffet on offer too.
Food is cheap in the streets of Taiping and there are local delights to sample everywhere you go. For just 4 or 5 RM (Malaysian Ringgits) you can get a hot cooked meal. How cheap is that! Some of my personal favourites being Char Kuey Teow (noodles), Nasi Lamak (coconut rice), Roti Canai (flakey bread) and Satay (chicken or lamb only). Oh and I can’t go past a good curry puff for a snack, or a refreshing Ice Kacang to cool you down in the heat.
There are plenty of open-air restaurants and cafes for casual dining and quick meals of Chinese, Malay and Indian cuisine. (Note: I can’t call these places ‘alfresco’, as that means in literal terms ‘cool air’, which it definitely ain’t!)
We stumbled upon a great little bar/bistro near the Tune Hotel called Mr OK Darts which serves a selection of beers, cocktails and a variety of local and western foods. A popular hangout with a good atmosphere, air-conditioned and open everyday from 4pm, located on Jalan Istana Larut.
Many, many new developments are popping up everywhere, such as shopping complexes, a new main railway station and cafe/restaurants, including chains like Starbucks, which make the city a more modern centre. However, many locals don’t want too much change, as they like the slow pace, quiet, and relaxed feel. That’s why they are here; because the price of living is still affordable for them and there are no traffic jams like the bigger Malaysian cities – a definite plus. Have a read of Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia.
Remarkably, Taiping boasts a lot of firsts in the country, such as the first:
- Post Office,
- Golf Course, and
- the first Newspaper, in Malaysia.
But the most delightful aspect of this town is by far the Lake Gardens; 64 hectares of beautiful park modelled on Kensington Park in London. Huge, magnificent trees that are a hundred years old swoop over the lake almost touching the water and arch over the road to give drivers a lovely view going through the lake gardens precinct.
This is my favourite part of Taiping and I have spent quite a bit of time here taking photos, walking and admiring the lake and its flora and fauna. It’s superb. Arguably the most beautiful gardens in the country. Definitely a must-see if you’re here for a visit.
The Zoo is another highlight, and very popular, with a natural jungle environment for the animal inhabitants. You can actually touch the animals here; we got right up close to an elephant and took photos standing next to it.
The Taiping Zoo is quite famous for night time safaris. But most impressive, I think, is that the Zoo’s breeding program has been very successful for many species of animals including the Malaysian Tiger which is, or was, endangered.
Here it pours with rain everyday, making it very humid and has thus earned the dubious title of “Rain City”. The climate is hot, day and night, all year round. Temperature is always between 28 to 33 degrees celsius. It’s probably one of the most humid places in the world.
So come prepared and be sure to bring only lightweight clothing and expect to change frequently. Of course, if exercise is your thing, best do it in the very early morning when the weather is less stifling because from midday onwards, my advice is to stay out of the heat and try to find a cool place, if possible.
I hope Taiping continues to expand and grow in the future and most importantly, maintain its rich heritage buildings that give the city its charm. Then, it may be able to attract more tourists and holiday makers and really put it on the map.
I recommend stopping by for a short stay while driving through Malaysia. Because you may just be pleasantly surprised at what hidden gems you will find.
Is it time to book a holiday?