32 degrees doesn’t sound too hot. In fact it should be wonderful respite from the close to 40 degree temperatures in China. But yeah…Nah. Somehow it was even more humid that China, topping the scales at around 90%. The result? Sweat pouring off of us as we walked from the train to our hotel. Suddenly 4km felt like 40km, especially with our backpacks on.
After we had cooled down, we did a bit of exploring and were immediately comfortable in what turned out to be a very cute and local city. By local, I mean that the only tourists to speak of were Malaysian, meaning no hordes of westerners or Chinese tour groups, no tacky tourist shops, and no super inflated prices.
On our second day, we did the unthinkable. We got a taxi to take us somewhere. For people who flat out despise taking taxis, it was a new experience. The destination? The cave temples a few km out of the city. And boy was it worth it. Situated on a side road off of a main highway, there were 3 temples nestled in the cliffs. The first was pretty naf with overly bright figurines and looked new and, well, tacky. The second one, Nam Thean Tong felt more “authentic” and also featured a monkey temple complete with resident monkeys which led to a small crowd watching their antics. We then had a look into the temple itself nestled into the side of the cliff. From the outside the building looked fairly bland and uninteresting. But once we got inside that all changed. Caves led off in several directions, and we ended up spending over an hour exploring the cave complex. Smaller temples were dotted around in caverns, stairs led up through the interior of the mountain leading to lookouts, wooden stairways and platforms sat precariously above impossible drops into blackness. It was an amazing place.
The third temple, Sam Poh Tong, was also stunning, but for different reasons. At the front of the complex was an ornate building complete with pristine Japanese gardens. Once we were able to tear ourselves away from that, we walked through the cave temple which by itself was very understated. But at the back, once we had exited the cave, was a large temple nestled in between the cliffs that was closed off to the public. It was overgrown and very run down, and it felt like a long lost temple in the jungle. Even the hordes of turtles and tortoises nearby couldn’t stop us marvelling at it. What a place.
The rest of our time in Ipoh was spent doing the usual – wandering and exploring. The river walk, which maps and brochures boasted as an esplanade with shops and beautiful scenery, was closed and served as more of a ghost town. We did however manage to find a large open bar/eatery to watch the Belgium v England 3rd place match at the soccer world cup. Sam clad in her Belgium Jersey, and Will in his Netherlands top left no confusion as to who we were supporting, nor did Will running around celebrating when Belgium scored the first goal. A standing congratulations from the large neighbouring table at the end capped off an enjoyable evening.
Next up, Lumut.
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