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Are you from Chennai, la?

July 27, 2009

July 14th, 2009.

Somewhere in Kuala Lumpur.

11:30 AM

Damn! I had woken up a tad too late. The glasses of wine and God Knows what else had worked like magic. When it comes to wine, it’s definitely not easy to resist one more helping, especially if you fall in love with the idea that drinking wine is synonymous to romanticism! Grover and Thakur had gone to collect the passes for the Skywalk @ Petronas and I had to make a quick choice between Ipoh and Taiping for my overnight stay. Yes, today was the D-Day for me, where I split away from the group and start travelling alone. Surprisingly, I still don’t feel all jittery as I thought I would end up being. It probably has got a lot with the people around here in Malaysia. They are very helpful when dealing with tourists. Besides that there are so many Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis working almost everywhere in Kuala Lumpur that getting some inputs about where to stay and what to eat/do isn’t that difficult. You can start speaking in Hindi/Urdu/Tamil for some extra pointers. Grover had come back, but the bad luck continued to haunt us. He couldn’t get passes to go up the Petronas Towers and so it was decided that they would head to Genting from KL and I will be on my own in less than 15 minutes. Phew!

A little later, I bade goodbye to my friends and after a brief chat with the receptionist, I had finally made my decision. I will be heading to Ipoh, the capital city of Perak for my overnight stay. The buses to Ipoh and other parts of Malaysia leave from the Puduraya Bus Terminal in KL and luckily that was just 10 minutes away on foot from where I was staying. I think I was pretty close to China Town too. I took the first bus to Ipoh I could find and it cost me around RM 18 (for 200 kms….pretty good deal!). You must check out the quality of buses they have here in Malaysia. No Volvo bus back in India will ever come close to these ones. There are these Executive buses (double-decker) which have some really funky in house entertainment, plush seats and other state of the art facilities to ensure a pleasant ride. Another interesting feature is that you have to choose the travel company, prior to the travelling and then enquire about the timings of the buses to the destinations! All the bus operators have their counters in the bus terminals and it’s madness there. Everyone keeps shouting…”come to me…come to me…!”. I took the Transnasional Express to Ipoh and at around 2:30 PM, I made a move from Kuala Lumpur. Five minutes later, it started to pour heavily. As I tried to click pictures of the skyline, it slowly occured to me that KL has nothing much to offer in terms of culutre and heritage for a lot of us. There’s Petronas Towers, KLCC, some outstanding mosques and skyscrapers. Rest of the stuff is just buildings, markets and shopping malls! No wonder they always project the “Shopping Paradise” side of Malaysia, especially Kuala Lumpur so much.

2:45 PM

The moment the bus entered the North-South expressway to Ipoh, it was pure bliss. I think the only colour you can see while travelling in Malaysia is Green! Miles and miles of land reflecting stunning variations of the colour green. The roads are extremely good here and all along there are hills, palm trees, coconut trees and too many varieties of flora to even think about counting. Ahh…I wish I was driving on that freeway and if I was allowed to stop anywhere I pleased to click pictures, I think I would have taken atleast 2 days to reach Ipoh. It’s all unbelivably georgeous here.

4:00 PM

Ipoh.

Woah! There were these huge and beautiful monoliths rocks covered with trees dotting the landscape everywhere about 20 kms away from Ipoh. Some of them were being dug, probably for its stone. I had heard that Ipoh is the “City of Millionaires” where back in the 70’s a lot of people were into Tin mining. The bus stand was about 7kms away from the City’s Central market area in a place called Medan Geopeng. I had almost forgot this diary in the bus, but thanks to a gentleman who alerted me about it, that I have it safe with me. He was kind enough to guide me to go to the Central Market where I could find some budget hotels.

Ipoh is not really a backpacker’s place, but what I realised is that it can be a very useful stopover if you are planning to visit the Tea Plantations in Cameron Highlands which is about 60kms from Ipoh. This is when I met a French backpacker and he was kind enough to show me a map of Ipoh and he too suggested that most of the budget hotels in Ipoh were close to the Central market area. The first thing this French guy asks me, “Are you a Muslim?”. I smiled and said Nay! And he went on to say that, “oh! There are lot of Muslims here!” Not sure what exactly he was getting at. Anyway, his friend had forgotten his watch in the bus and was way too busy trying to converse with the locals there and figure out where the bus had gone. Transportation by bus in Ipoh isn’t great by any standards, it’s like travelling in a different version of the Setwin buses we have in Hyderabad. Moreover, it’s always expensive to travel by a taxi here in Malaysia. They never have a faremeter, hence it’s always advised that you bargain the price before you get into the Taxi. The journey in one of those buses from Medan Geopeng to the Central market area cost me about RM 1.50.

5:00 PM

Ipoh is the capital city of Perak, but the part of the city I was travelling through wasn’t really the rich side of the city. Nevertheless, I saw a lot of shops and buildings of the same height and the scene was very quaint compared to the situation and environs in Kuala Lumpur. Moreover the city is surrounded by hills (called as “Bukit” in Malay) on almost all sides…a beautiful setting for a peaceful evening for me. The moment I got down from the bus near the Central Market, I headed to an Indian store to enquire about a budget hotel. That was the first glimpse of the Indian connection here in Malaysia. A lot of people speak Tamil and if you can speak/understand it, travelling across Western Malaysia shouldn’t be a problem at all. The guy whom I was talking to, starts conversing in Tamil with his friend and I was thinking…ahh! Atlast one language that i can relate to. Ennaku Tamil Konjam Konjam Teriyum!….All the “da’s” of Tamil are replaced with “La’s” here in Malaysia and Singapore and almost every sentence ends with a La, specially when referring to a second or a third person. He told me about a hotel next to the “Chennai Curry House” restaurant. I tried to converse with him in my broken Tamil, and he asks, “Are you from Chennai, la?”. I said, “Nope! Am from Hyderabad!”.

As I turned through the alleys of that area, I had this eerie feeling of having been lost in an alien city. The hotel was pretty close from where I had started and it’s name was Hotel Dragon and Pheonix. I had to shell out RM 60 for a night, it’s not an encouraging thing when I know that I was going to stay in Penang and Langkawi for about RM 15 a night. But I was too tired and desperate for a nap that I had to take it. A very nice room I must say with clean sheets, towels and hot water.

7:30 PM

The Malay lady at the reception spoke very good English and it wasn’t hard for me to figure out the directions to Little India in the old part of the town. 5 minutes later, I realised that this part of Ipoh sleeps by 6 PM and I had to find something quick before every damn shop in this area was closed. The lane from where Little India starts will instantly remind you of a bustling shopping area in any of the South Indian markets with hordes of shops selling apparel, religious kits, jewellery etc. And every shop plays blaring Kollywood Music! It’s so difficult to belief whether you really are walking in the lanes of Malaysia under such circumstances! Finally I came across this restaurant named “Anand Bhawan” which seemed like a busy one in Little India. The guy who was taking down my order there was a Tamilian from Bangalore and when I tried to speak a bit of Tamil, he asks, “From Chennai?”. I said, “No…Hyderabad.”….”Oh…Telugaa?”. And he did speak very good Telugu. While I was binged on Jawi Paratha and Chicken Tikka, we spoke for a long time and he (Ramu) told me a lot of things about life in Ipoh, how he had landed up in Malaysia, things to do in Ipoh and how famous “Anand Bhawan” was across Ipoh and other parts of Malaysia. I am sure, if I was eager enough, he would have went on to show me the pictures of the Ministers who dined at that restaurant! He did tell me about couple of discotheques and cineplazas and I was almost sure that would end up watching a Tamil movie here in Ipoh. But sleep got the better of me and I headed straight to my room.

9:00 PM

As I pen these words, I realise how hard it’s to sleep at 9 PM after 3 days of insomnia and need be, for less than 4 hours a day! I don’t know, I might find myself waking up every 2 hours and wonder why it isn’t dawn yet. Further the loud music from the nearby Karaoke bars is a distraction! I don’t have a choice though…S.L.E.E.P

(as written in the diary, dated 14th July, 2009. Ipoh)

(To Be Continued…)

P.S: I think I owe a lot to York Mei, a resident of Taiping who has been kind enough to give some advice about travelling in Malaysia. Thanks la!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 30, 2009 4:19 pm

    Sahi sahi! seriously dude, all those pics you’ve taken [guess I am the only one who has seen all of them, till now] are amazing. simply amazing!

    • Hemanth permalink*
      July 30, 2009 4:23 pm

      @RC: Thanks man! Well, the other day, me and Karo did have a close look at some of those pics…I think quite a few pics in Langkawi have come out really well..I just wish I was a better photographer!…:)..

      Btw..I don’t think many people haven’t gone through them on Facebook as well…I guess not having “people” in any of the frames isn’t interesting anymore!..:D

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