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!

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