Betik

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Ipoh has a reputation for good food. Apparently people drive up from KL especially to have lunch or dinner in Ipoh. There is an abundance of restaurants here, ranging from street stalls, where you can get a meal for a few ringgit, to high-end establishments. A lot of local dishes are extremely spicy and many are too mushy for our taste – bowls of soft noodles floating with overcooked vegetables do not appeal. Even a salad will be served so saturated with dressing that there is no crunch left in the lettuce or cucumber. The local food I like the most is the fruit, particularly the papaya (betik in Malay), but also the melons, mangoes and pomelos. We each eat a bowlful for breakfast every morning and, even after living here for two years, view it a treat. When I was cutting up the papaya this morning, I was struck by its beautiful colour and the star shape made by the seeds, so I took this snap.

Walking uphill

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We’re in training for our tramp up Mount Kinabalu in Sabah (east Malaysia) at the beginning of June. Because that will involve walking uphill for many hours, we’ve been trying to do some walks that involve going up and down stairs. One of these is a route up Ipoh’s highest hill, Bukit Kledang, which has various flights of stairs in various states of disrepair and no handrails anywhere! (The photo is of stairs I regularly went up and down while in Auckland and is about as far from the Kledang conditions as possible). We went up early yesterday morning while it was still dark so that we could test our headlamps and also take advantage of the cooler temperature. I never know which is worse – going up or coming down! Both seemed really hard yesterday and when we got back to the car at 8am, the temperature was already 31 degrees. I’m trying to remain optimistic about my chances of completing the Mount Kinabalu climb.

Cloud cuckoo land

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In an attempt to keep up the daily activity I enjoyed while in Auckland, I have been going out early most mornings for a brisk walk around the area of Ipoh in which we live. The other day I came across this house – yes, it’s a house, not a hotel! I think it is meant to resemble a chateau in some mountainous region of Europe, hence the steep roof to cope with heavy falls of snow. The grounds are embellished with a fountain complete with cupids and the postbox is beyond my powers of description.

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I guess whoever built it wanted a house big enough to conspicuously display his/her extreme wealth but also wanted a design that no-one else would have. I think they succeeded!

We’re back

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Back to high temperatures, to one’s shirt sticking to one’s back, to being covered in a film of perspiration almost all the time. It’s uncomfortable. I went out for a walk at 6.30 a.m. It’s not so hot I thought. But by 7.30 when I got back to our flat, I was flicking the sweat off my forehead before it could run into my eyes. Did I mention it’s uncomfortable? I guess I’ll adjust given time but on balance, I’d rather be in Auckland!

Everyday adventure

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It seems that almost every time I venture out into Ipoh I have some kind of adventure, mostly of the “heart in the mouth” type. After days spent indoors because of the haze, I went out at lunch time today to meet Jim and a colleague. They kindly invited me to join them for a delicious (though calorific!) lunch of chapati, biryani and dal. I parked my car at a row of shops that I am familiar with and they picked me up on their way to the restaurant. After lunch I suggested they drop me at the side of the road to save them some time. What I hadn’t realised was that a deep drain separated me from my car. I looked to the right for a place to cross and saw a dead dog. It couldn’t have been there very long because I hadn’t smelt it. I immediately veered to the left and found a rickety ramp across the drain. Driving back towards the golf resort I had to negotiate some road works that have closed down one side of the road. This means the traffic on my side of the road has to take over one of the lanes going the other way. This can be tricky because there are no cones or barriers dividing the two streams of traffic. One has to rely on everyone else’s good sense. The driver speeding up behind me didn’t possess any such thing. Impatient with the slow traffic in front of him, he swung over into the far lane and drove down the wrong side of the road at breakneck speed. Fortunately the only vehicle coming the other way was a motorcycle that hurriedly took evasive action. I will need some down time before I venture out again!

Eat your heart out Ohakune

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Ohakune has its giant carrot, Taihape its giant gumboot and Paeroa its giant L&P bottle. Here in Ipoh there are these giant pomelos. It makes me smile every time we drive past. This is in the Tambun area of Ipoh, along one of the main arterial roads. Tambun could indeed be beautiful with the green hills that surround it and the dense jungle vegetation that now only exists in small pockets. However, I wouldn’t call it beautiful now that it is dominated by shabby housing, overcrowded roads and neglected shop lots. It is even less beautiful in the thick haze we are presently experiencing.

Police report

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It’s happened! I was in a car accident in Ipoh last week, after having been told by several people over the last few months that it’s a case of when, not if. I was driving along minding my own business and listening to a Tchaikovsky CD when the woman who was driving in the next lane decided with no hesitation, no glance at her mirror and certainly no use of her indicator, to change lanes. She swiped the left front side of my car and then looked at me in amazement, surprised to see me there though I had been driving beside her for several seconds! After getting her details and completing my errands, I made my way to the nearest police station to report the accident. I was told in sign language (none of the police on duty spoke a word of English) I couldn’t report it there, I had to go to the central office of the traffic police in town. Not sure how I found my way there with their woeful directions and through masses of badly behaved traffic. One of the police at the front desk had some English and he proceeded to fill in the report, carefully noting that I was a foreigner, a housewife (!!) and a Christian (he deduced this without asking me). I refused to let him do the report in Malay because I had to sign it. He gave me a copy to take to the investigator who did not speak a word of English either. With the help of someone else, she ascertained what had happened and then organised for a photographer to take a photo of the damage to my car. Apparently they will let me know the outcome of their investigation. I gather, from the insurance company’s website, that I can get a no-claims repair if the police decide I was not at fault. We’ll see. All the police personnel I dealt with were unfailingly polite and wanted to help. But their offices were in a shocking state – dingy, filthy and run down. What a depressing environment to work in! People I have spoken to since tell me that the police are well-funded. If this is the case, none of the money is used on the maintenance of Ipoh police stations.

An update to this report (29 July 2016):

I have not yet heard back from the police. So my chances of getting a no-claims repair were nil. I got my car repaired and paid in cash for the cost of the excess on my insurance policy – go figure! The woman who bashed into my car got away without paying a cent. And so it goes, Malaysia style!

Monsoon

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There is no proper monsoon on the western side of peninsular Malaysia but there are rainy seasons. The rain usually falls in heavy downpours in the afternoons and brings welcome relief from the heat, though the precipitation can exacerbate the humidity. Today was one of the coolest days I’ve experienced since coming to live in Ipoh. It was cloudy for most of the day and there was rain on and off throughout the day. This meant that the temperature was two to three degrees cooler than normal and it was wonderful!  Driving in Ipoh during or just after one of these downpours can be challenging because the drains can’t cope with the volume of water and large pools form on the road surface. It is also dreadful for motorcyclists who get drenched if they can’t find a convenient place to shelter. They tend to congregate under bridges and motorway flyovers and wait out the storm.

Jungle walk

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We ventured into the jungle behind the golf course where we are now living. There is a pathway that leads to a series of small waterfalls. The water is clear and cascades over granite boulders, forming pools that are invitingly cool. The whole area is shaded by tall trees that have huge leaves. To get an idea of the size of the leaves we took the photo above, with my (very big!) feet as the scale. We were also fascinated by the tiny worm-like leeches that hurried in our direction as soon as they sensed us. We didn’t realise that any had actually latched onto us until we took off our shoes. When we removed the leeches from our ankles, the blood poured thanks to their clever anti-coagulating technique. We then took another path to get a view of the golf course and were met with the sight in the photo below. Someone had taken a lot of trouble to dump their rubbish in this otherwise pristine environment when they live in a city in which there is a rubbish collection three times a week.

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Heat

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We are currently experiencing a dry period here in Ipoh. The sky is a hazy white and the hills around the city are barely visible, as in the photo above. There is no mid-afternoon downpour to bring a little relief. The day starts at temperatures in the high 20s and gets steadily hotter, so that at 7pm when it starts to get dark, the temperature is still in the mid 30s. For people like us used to the temperate climate of the south Pacific, these days are frazzling. I feel bad complaining when people have been dying in their thousands from the heat in Pakistan and India. They and many people here in Malaysia do not have the advantage of switching on a ceiling fan or air conditioner. As I write this at 8.30am, I have the fan whirring overhead and the air conditioners cooling down the whole apartment. Looks like I’ll be spending the whole day indoors. Good news is that there is a 50 percent chance of rain this weekend.