By Anand K. Pillai
The beauty of this quaint little town in north of Perak lies in its natural beauty and culinary delights.
Just three hours from Kuala Lumpur either on the road or via KTM’s ETS train service, beautiful cascading hills welcomes one to the town which was once the centre of the British Empire’s presence in the peninsula.
Taiping is the former capital of Perak and was the base from which the colonial masters controlled the state’s tin mining industry.
The precious ore moved through Taiping to Port Weld, on Malaysia’s first railway line, and on to Penang by sea before it is shipped to Great Britain.
Most of the town still has a rustic feel with buildings more than a hundred years old and shophouses built before World War 2.
The natural highlights of Taiping are the famous Bukit Larut. Previously known as Maxwell Hill, it is the first hill resort in Malaysia.
One can choose to hike up this 1.5km-high hill or take a special Land Rover service provided every two hours from 8.30am.
The view of the town and surrounding hills is breathtaking and the fresh air is a welcome change for city dwellers.
Just a short five minute ride from the foot of Bukit Larut is the Burmese Pool.
Though it is called a “pool”, the Burmese Pool is actually a fresh water creek. The water is from the Bukit Larut waterfalls that are not accessible to the public.
There is still a mini-waterfall surrounded by trees, through which the full glory of the morning sun makes for a beautiful sight.
However, as beautiful as these nature’s gift to the people may be, Taiping’s greatest natural heritage is the Taiping Lake Gardens and its famous raintrees.
On a sunny day, the lake glistens and with the hills in the background, it makes for some great photos.
Taking a walk around the lake may seem tiring under the morning or afternoon sun, but the beautiful raintrees surrounding the path make for great shade.
The raintrees of Taiping are a legacy that is the pride of the people.
So much so, each tree is insured for a million ringgit in the event of any accidents or bad weather causing any irreparable damage.
Now the food.
Situated between Ipoh and Penang, one would soon realise that the Chinese fare available in Taiping is as good if not better than these two bigger food paradise.
There are a number of food courts day and night and with prices a lot cheaper than the same fare in the major cities.
One popular destination in the heart of the city is the Casual Market, officially known as the Larut Matang Food Court.
There is just too much choice in this venue that’s nicely divided between halal and non-halal areas.
At night, the open-air Prima food court is equally enticing.
There are many stalls to the left and right of tables set in the middle of a road that’s closed for the benefit of diners.T
The fare here is more for those who favour non-halal meals, including the mouth-watering pork satay.
With all these and much on offer in Taiping, it’s no surprise that the town is also seen by many as a great place to retire.