21 October 2012

Monkeys, octopus attacks and a disturbing lack of bars....

Our decision to go to Ipoh was a last-minute one, spurred on by a public holiday weekend and a total lack of availability for accommodation in any of the more appealing places nearby.  In hindsight, perhaps we should have been warned by the various comments of "Ipoh?  What do you want to go there for?", and "There's nothing there!".  But we thought that as one of Malaysia's state capitals, surely there had to be something there that was worth looking at, and so we set off bright and early one Saturday morning.

By a stroke of good fortune (the only one we had that weekend!), we managed to drive in on the road that goes past the stunning limestone cliffs, some of which had temples built into the side of them.  These were really quite impressive.  Some temples seemed to be so organically entwined with the cliffs that it was almost as if it were the temples that were there first, and the cliffs had formed around them.

And of course there were the ubiquitous monkeys, fighting, lazing around, grooming each other, and looking for any opportunity to pinch some food from somewhere or someone.

We drove on and into the centre of Ipoh, checking into our hotel which, weirdly, was spread across four different blocks with a small back-street crossroads between them.  It was nothing special, but the rooms were a decent size and it was clean.

And so, a walk around Ipoh.  Well, we walked and we walked, thinking all the time that surely we must be missing something.  Had we skirted around the city centre without realising it?  Had we headed in the wrong direction?  Were the main attractions hiding just a block or two away?  No - none of those, we were in exactly the right place.  It's just that everyone had been right, there was nothing there!  A few run-of-the-mill shops were open, but many buildings had metal shutters covering their frontage.  Some may have been closed for the weekend, but some were clearly vacant.  And then there were those that obviously hadn't been occupied for some time.

We eventually stumbled upon the Tourist Information Centre, and went in, still feeling relatively optimistic that there might be something of interest to see.  But no.  We were given a couple of leaflets detailing the heritage of Ipoh, and pointing out the historic sites.  A good few of which we had been past, and looked - well, not dis-similar from the building pictured above!  

We wandered back to the hotel, and Alex went for a massage.  Big mistake!  They used some sort of cup suction technique on him (but wrongly, as it turned out), and when he returned to the room he looked like he was the victim of some sort of giant octopus attack.  Big red circles all over his back (which took more than a week to disappear completely).  He was not happy, and so we decided to go and find a bar and have a beer.  Or two.  Or three.

Nope, no bars in Ipoh, except one that looked extremely seedy, and those in the hotels.

We ended up in the hotel restaurant, where at least the food was good, even though the choice of drink was Carlsberg, Carlsberg or Carlsberg.  Fortunately, we had found an open off licence on the way back, and so Alex made a mercy dash to the room to fetch the bottles we had bought.  Things seemed much better after a drink or two!

Until the music started at some event the hotel was hosting.  And carried on, very loudly, into the early hours.  To give you an idea of just how loud it was, we both had earplugs in (an amazing piece of foresight by Alex when he was packing), and yet the music (if you could call it that) was still keeping us awake.

Tired and fed up, we checked out at 6am, and drove home.

Not the best weekend away we've ever had, but at least we gave Ipoh a go.  And in the future, when people query why we might want to go somewhere and tell us there is nothing there, we will pay more attention to them!

8 October 2012

Out of Africa....

....and into Manchester!

Before I regale you with Will's adventures, a profuse apology for going AWOL.  Life just got in the way, as it so often does.  I'll try harder, if only for the benefit of my Mum who said somewhat plaintively last week that she keeps checking my blog for new posts but there aren't any.

So - bearing in mind that the information we receive has been somewhat thin on the ground, here's a brief resume of Will's summer.

Once his A levels were over, he headed off to Kenya for a month, with a team of 24 other students from his school plus some teachers.  While there they helped to build classrooms and the furniture to put in them, and did a lot of digging - something to do with environmental work if I remember correctly.  Which is perhaps an unfair summary of the hard work they did there, but I think it is a reasonably summary.  No doubt Will will comment and correct me if not!  

And they climbed Mount Kenya - poor Will was suffering from a decidedly dodgy stomach on the way up, and altitude-based breathing problems and chest pains on the way down, but he still made it to the top.  He clearly really enjoyed the trip - he has an altruistic outlook on life (except towards his immediate family!) and found the work to be physically demanding but very rewarding.

They also saw loads of African wildlife - elephants, giraffes, all the usual suspects - and enjoyed a couple of days off by the sea.

Here's Will slapping some varnish on some school desks (look at the drips and splashes and you'll see my choice of words is pretty accurate! )

On his travels:
At the top of Mount Kenya:
And, I think, once they got back down from the mountain:

Make the most of these photos, because the ones of the rest of his summer, while plastered all over Facebook, are not the sort of photos I want to share with my friends and family!

Suffice to say that once back in the UK, and with us back in Malaysia, he enjoyed his freedom.  He went to Reading Rock Festival, spent time with various friends including hitchiking from Cheltenham to Scotland and back (as you do!), and then on to Manchester University, where he is now studying medicine.  Freshers' Week there seems to have been one huge party, but he is now knuckling down to some serious studying.  (By the way, he did really well in his A levels - A* in physics, A in chemistry, biology and maths - very proud Mum :)  )

Coming up - why it's not really worth going to Ipoh in Malaysia unless you're particularly fond of derelict Chinese shop houses....