Sunrise in KL

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The sunrise this morning over a hazy KL taken from our hotel room in Bangsar. The temperature was already 25ºC and is forecast to rise to 33º. The highest temperature in Auckland today was 23º and this time next week we’ll be there! We are returning home after four years in Malaysia. Our stay here was the reason for starting this blog as a means of keeping our family and friends up to date with our news. While we are thrilled to be going home, inevitably we’ll miss things about our life in Ipoh, not least the people we’ve met and the friendships  we’ve formed. But we will not miss the heat or the haze! I’ll have to rename my website – From Ohaupo to Ipoh to ??  We’re not sure yet where we’ll be living but it will be somewhere in the middle of the North Island. It may even be back in Ohaupo! Watch this space.

Chinese mosque

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As we prepare to leave Ipoh for good and return home to New Zealand we’ve been trying to see things here that we’ve not yet got around to. One of these was a visit to the Chinese mosque or Masjid Muhammadiah. This beautiful building is unique in Malaysia – a mosque of 100 per cent Chinese design. The roof, which was imported from Longyan, is the most striking feature and is complemented by the pink and red of the walls and pillars. The mosque is surrounded by lovely gardens and plenty of shade. We’ve become accustomed to taking various scarves and sarongs around with us so we could cover up and enter the mosque precinct. There was a group of women and girls having a social function in the women’s part of the mosque and a group of men scrubbing the tiled ablution area to the side. They are clearly used to tourists and as long as you are suitably dressed, this is not a problem. It is definitely worth a visit.

Golf

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As readers of this blog know, we live in a golf resort. Neither of us has ever played golf nor do we have any aspirations to learn. I can see the green of the 18th hole from our balcony. The other day I observed four golfers painstakingly taking turns to get their four little balls into the little hole. I watched for five or ten minutes as they stood in the searing heat making their many attempts. It seemed like a complete waste of time and energy and I got tired and hot just watching them. However, there must be some compelling element to this game because so many people around the world play it, many of them spending vast sums to do so. I can’t imagine that I would ever be tempted to take it up, especially in a tropical climate but living on a golf course means that our surroundings are very pleasant and for me, the most positive aspect of the game is that it is quiet.

Morning walk

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Apart from the heat (about which I know I sound like a stuck record), taking a walk in Ipoh can be hazardous. I go out early most mornings when it is still dark in order to get a little bit of exercise while it is relatively cool. But there are no footpaths so I have to walk on the road. Because most motorists here drive at well over the speed limit this is a hazardous undertaking. Then there are the dogs, many of which are feral and roam around in packs. The other morning I was barked at ferociously by a guard dog that had come out of a property through a small gap in the fence. Many of the large houses around here have guard dogs enclosed in their yards and warning signs posted on their gates. I usually feel sorry for these animals, who are not pets and never get paid any attention. But I am accustomed to them barking at me from behind sturdy walls. Encountering this dog on the road was very frightening. Fortunately some golf club workers came along on a motorcycle just then and chased the dog away. It is far better if we go on a jungle walk (see pic above) but to do this, we have to get up really early and walk up hundreds of steps in the dark to reach the jungle before it gets too hot, so we don’t do it very often.

Food for Deepavali

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We shared several Deepavali meals with friends and colleagues over the weekend. They couldn’t have been more hospitable and welcoming. And the deliciousness and quantity of the food was overwhelming. The amount of planning and sheer hard work that goes into the preparation of celebratory feasts like this is mind-boggling and the generosity of our friends here in Ipoh is amazing. We came home with containers full of food and will be continuing to enjoy Deepavali food for days to  come

Rude awakening

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For the last two mornings I have woken up with a start at 5 a.m. It takes me a minute to orient myself and realise I am back in Ipoh and what has woken me is the amplified sound of one of the local mosques. And then I remember with a pang that I am no longer in Auckland. Why 5 a.m. today when the official time for the first call to prayer is 5.47 a.m? I have asked some of my neighbours why this particular muezzin begins at 5 a.m, which is at least 45 minutes before the required time, but have received no coherent answer. By the time the other two mosques within hearing range start their calls, I am wide awake and thinking about my first cup of coffee.  I guess I’ll become accustomed to it and sleep through as I did before my recent trip home.

A load of rubbish

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This is a common sight in suburban Ipoh – a load of rubbish on the corner dumped there by homeowners from the surrounding houses. There is a council rubbish collection three times a week but they don’t like keeping their rubbish in bins on their properties till the next collection. No matter that it will be scavenged through by the numerous stray animals that abound in all residential areas or that it may be scattered by wind. As long as their own properties are rubbish- free at all times, who cares about the surrounding area, even if it is very close by. The result is that the streets and verges of Ipoh are littered with plastic bags, boxes, cans, bottles, garden clippings and all sorts of larger items from cushions to mattresses to broken down washing machines. I find it depressing but it clearly doesn’t bother most locals, who continue this unhygienic practice despite then having to live with the unsightly consequences.

Faded splendour

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Unlike Penang or Malacca, Ipoh’s old town is somewhat rundown and unattractive. There are pockets of restored and re-purposed buildings, which is encouraging, but many of the architecturally interesting buildings are almost derelict. I came across a beautiful book (in the lovely Gerak Budaya bookshop in Penang!) about the Danish architect B.M. Iversen, who lived in Ipoh in the 1930s. He designed many buildings here, including several cinemas, one of which was the Ruby. We found it and took this photo. It is an attractive art deco building taking up a prominent corner and you can still appreciate its lovely lines. It now houses a downmarket furniture store and the unsympathetic signage and displays of low-cost furniture detract from the Ruby’s charm. B.M. Iversen’s daughter Ruth Iversen Rollitt, who wrote Iversen: Architect of Ipoh and Modern Malaya (Areca Books, 2015), was born and brought up in Ipoh. Recently she said:
“When I go back to Ipoh now, I weep. They don’t maintain it, it’s dirty, it was so beautiful previously … Ipoh is like the old George Town before it was revived. Because of the weather, it’s very difficult to maintain the buildings but the buildings in Ipoh are left to crumble. My father built many cinemas in Ipoh, they were burnt and most of them have been turned into furniture depositories. Ipoh is sad.”

Ipoh sunrise

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We watched the sun rise over Ipoh from half-way up Kledang hill. Having tramped up hundreds of steps to get there and sweating profusely despite the early hour, it was relaxing to sit still and enjoy the view – the lights of the city, the blue hills of the Cameron Highlands in the distance and the streaky clouds getting brighter with the rising sun. Once the sun was up, we walked further up the hill into the jungle, which to me always feels like a reward after the rigours of getting there. By the time we got down to the bottom, the temperature was already in the early 30s and all we could think of was a cool shower.

Tin miner’s rice bowl

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I was browsing in an antique shop in Penang and saw a stack of these bowls. The pleasant and informative shop assistant told me they were given to individual tin miners for their rice ration. Each had a different pattern and many of them were etched with the name of the owner on the inside. The Kinta Valley in Perak (the state in which we live) was the centre of the Malayan tin mining industry from the end of the 19th century.‘Perak’ means ‘silver’ so it is possible that the area was named after the silvery colour of the tin. I bought this particular bowl because I liked the decoration, it has a faint mark on the inside signifying whose bowl it was and we live close to the area where the tin miner who used the bowl may have worked. It is a lovely object. Today’s workers in Perak eat their lunches out of polystyrene containers, which you then see lying in piles of litter wherever you go. That doesn’t seem like progress to me!