Tin town

Paradise - - Traveller - Air Niugini flies from Port Moresby to Sin­ga­pore five times a week, from where you can con­nect to Ku­lala Lumpur.

Res­i­dent Min­is­ter. To­tally dis­re­spect­ful of lo­cal cus­toms, he lasted a year be­fore his as­sas­si­na­tion in 1875.

By con­trast, the blind­ingly white rail­way sta­tion would fit well in In­dia, and in fact, Hub­bard, its de­signer, had served there and em­ployed a NeoMoor­ish style for what was orig­i­nally a hos­pi­tal. The lo­cals call it the Taj Ma­hal of Ipoh. Easy to find, it is set apart with a mar­ble fore­court and lawns and two other things to note, both con­nected with death.

In front of the sta­tion stands a flour­ish­ing ipoh tree, the poi­sonous sap of which was used by the in­dige­nous peo­ple to tip their hunt­ing ar­rows. Not far away is the War Me­mo­rial with its tragic in­scrip­tion record­ing the deaths of around half of the 170,0000 Asian labour­ers (many of them Malays) who were con­scripted to con­struct the in­fa­mous Thai­landBurma Death Rail­way in World War 2.

But there’s a lighter side, too. Fac­ing the Ipoh Field,an “old un­cle” drinks his cof­fee in a wall mu­ral. Ernest Zachare­vic, who painted much of Pe­nang’s street art, now shares his ta­lent on walls around Ipoh.

For the ac­tive vis­i­tor, there is Lost Worlds hot springs and theme park on the edge of town, and be­yond, moun­tains to climb and lime­stone caves (some with tem­ples) to ex­plore. In town there are huge shop­ping cen­tres and the recre­ational Corona­tion Park with a newly land­scaped Ja­panese gar­den.

One night we hun­grily cruise the town look­ing for din­ing op­tions, and across the river we find plas­tic ta­bles and chairs have over­taken sev­eral streets. Fam­ily groups tuck into huge bowls of those fa­mous sar hor fun noo­dles, unique be­cause of Ipoh’s min­eral-rich wa­ter.

A bi­cy­cle ven­dor, ring­ing his bell, sways be­tween din­ers with his load of dumplings and soup while nearby, globes of green-skinned pomelos swing above bas­kets of chrysan­the­mum and rose­bud teas.

The af­ford­able, uber-trendy M Bou­tique ho­tel (mbou­tique­ho­tels.com) sur­prises us most. Ul­tra-smart, packed with mem­o­ra­bilia, ac­cented with bold colours and quirky signs, it has the feel of a big city brand – one that could repli­cate through­out a coun­try. Our tiny room has ev­ery­thing we need, and the sparkling Old Town White Cof­fee Restau­rant next door pro­vides ex­cel­lent au­then­tic meals.

Ap­pro­pri­ately, M Bou­tique’s motto is “Strangers as Friends”. Guests come as strangers and leave as friends. We cer­tainly did – and that’s how we felt about Ipoh, too.

Ipoh time … the city’s Old Clock Tower (previous page); retro cases stacked at the M Bou­tique Ho­tel; street eats; the front desk at the M Bou­tique Ho­tel; street mu­ral show­ing the old un­cle.

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