Your guide to Taiping, Perak’s best kept gastronomic secret
You might have passed a large rest stop on the highway bearing the name of this Perak town while on the way to Penang — but have you tried making a stop at Taiping before?
Like many small towns in Perak, Taiping was once a mining town. But once that ceased operations, it was overshadowed by bigger, more touristy cities like Ipoh and Georgetown in Penang. In fact, not many know that this town actually won the title of the third most sustainable city in the world according to the 2019 Sustainable Top 100 Destination Awards.
It truly is a shame; Taiping is rich with natural resources — scenic mountains, centuries-old trees overlooking a large lake, and hilly areas for recreational activities. Come with us on a virtual travel adventure and perhaps that might give you an idea to check it out for your next travel trip up north.
Guide to Taiping
What To Do
Stroll through the Lake Gardens
The Lake Gardens is perhaps the most iconic attraction in Taiping. Formerly a mining site, it was later transformed into a man-made lake and public garden during the British colonial times in 1880. Much thought was put into the landscape of the garden, which flourished and is now home to extremely old trees and tropical plants. The garden is so beautiful that most locals deign to spend their time here, and many photo shoots and commercials take place here too.
Head to Bukit Larut
Bukit Larut, also known as Maxwell Hill, is a popular recreational spot in Taiping. Situated 1,250 metres above sea level, it’s a cooling respite from our tropical heat especially since early morning temperatures can dip as low as 10 degrees celsius.
You can choose to hike up – it takes approximately three hours. Previously, there used to be 4×4 Jeeps for hire to get up to the hill, but the service was temporarily suspended due to landslide problems. Here’s a little geographical tidbit for you: Bukit Larut is the wettest place in the country — it gets the highest rainfall in all of Malaysia.
Go on the Taiping Heritage Trail
This self-guided heritage trail is a long one, so put on your most comfortable pair of shoes — or you can simply split it into several smaller walking tours. Information about this heritage trail can be found at the tourist information office inside the Taiping Clock Tower, and throughout your journey, you’ll find information boards explaining more about the history of a particular monument or building.
This walking tour of the town will bring you to over 40 historical attractions including the Taiping Market, the old Peking Hotel that has an Anglo-Indian style, the historical King Edward VII School, and more. It’s the best way to fall in love with Taiping.
Soak your ailments away at the Trong Hot Springs
While it might seem counterintuitive to soak in a hot spring given our already hot weather, you’ll be surprised at how pleasant it actually is. There are five mineral-rich pools to choose from, and the hot springs also have lounge and spa facilities as well as proper changing rooms.
Catch the fireflies at Kampung Dew
Escape the bright lights of the city and instead check out the natural lighting in Kampung Dew. We’re talking about fireflies, of course. This river and mangrove area is home to the fireflies, and you can watch their magical glow when you hire a boat out to the rivers during sundown. It takes 15 minutes to head out to where the firefly colonies are, but once you’re there, you can bask in the beauty of it all. Don’t forget your mosquito patch. Locals will tell you there’s a famous crab noodle stall nearby that’s worth visiting — perfect for when you get peckish afterwards.
Where To Stay
Luxury hotels are not in abundance in Taiping, but there are several reliable choices that won’t disappoint you during your stay in the town. Novotel Taiping is one of them, with a strategic location in the heart of main town area with mountain views. Another one worth checking out is the Hotel Grand Baron that’s close to Bukit Larut, in case most of your activities are centred around that location. It’s a good hotel for those who prefer somewhere out of the main town area for fear of noise. Finally, for something that accommodates larger groups of travellers, try the Hermitage Boutique House. It boasts larger rooms and with an outdoor pool and plenty of parking for guests who drive. Its location isn’t too shabby as well, being in close proximity to attractions including the Taiping Zoo, Lake Gardens, and more.
What To Eat
Like any other place in Malaysia, you’ll never go hungry nor run out of tasty local food to eat. Far from being in shortage, there’s an abundance of food to try in Taiping that you might run the risk of not being able to try it all. The first place you need to head to is Larut Matang Food Court, which houses over 120 stalls of local food. There are two sections: the halal and non-halal section, so there’s a wide variety of local favourites to try. Most people, locals and tourists alike come here for breakfast and lunch, so expect a crowd.
If you’re on a nationwide nasi lemak pilgrimage, you can’t miss out on Warung Muhibbah, a popular nasi lemak stall. You can customise your nasi lemak according to your whims and fancy, from dishes including fried chicken, beef, and seafood to your preferred toppings. Come as early as you can, as it tends to sell out early.
Another eatery that you should add into your list is Yut Sun Restaurant, a traditional kopitiam style dining outlet (complete with round marble tables and mosaic floors) whose specialty is the Hainanese chicken chop. For the uninitiated, this is a local dish of crispy battered chicken thigh served with a side of peas, tomatoes, and potato wedges, topped off with brown sauce.
For desserts, an icy bowl of cendol (shaved ice topped with coconut milk, green rice flour jelly, palm sugar syrup, and red kidney beans) will hit the spot on a sunny day. There are two iconic stalls in Taiping that people will recommend: Bismillah Cendol and Ansari Famous Cendol. The two stalls are close together, so if you can stomach it, try them both to see which is the better one.
Lifestyle Asia 03 Jan 2023 Editor: POHNEE CHIN