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It’s Night Time in Ipoh

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I am not a god. I am not an assistant of creation. If I understood creation I would be close but I don’t understand it so I am not a god. That’s why my nature really surprises me. ‘You have dominion over everything in this world’, I was told. But I have never had any intention to get acquainted with a lot of these creatures. It calls for spontaneity and listening to the eloquently silent ‘gut feeling’. I am deaf though and to beat this beast, I have to bring my best, my A game.

The nights are full of terror, no wonder the eve of my departure was terrorizing my mind. I am walking to dinner, and suddenly this weird thought hits me: “What if I vanish into thin air right here? What if I just become a story in this little town?” Nobody knew exactly where I was, not my family, not my friends. It can be terrifying the idea of absence, lost or not belonging. And yet I was not. Bizarrely, it gave me satisfaction, this idea of disconnecting from the usual routine in a place that’s so, well, normal.

So there I was, fresh from the tranquility of Tanah Rata, ready to dive into the realms of Ipoh, the historical little town. Tanah Rata had given me peace and simplicity, and now Ipoh was whispering promises of its own special charm – and a bit of eerie quietness too.

The deal was to catch a bus at 9 AM, which meant setting the alarm right and getting my act together pretty fast. The Chinese host at the hostel, perhaps having seen more travelers than I’ve seen broken promises, didn’t bother with goodbyes. It stung a bit, but let’s face it, as a traveler, goodbyes are like those pesky flies you can’t quite shoo away.

Taylor, you remember her from my ‘Long Walk to Freedom,’ was also on that bus. She was off to Penang, my next stop after Ipoh. Part of me felt like, “Hey, this is cool!” but it was more like a delayed goodbye. Yet, my stubborn heart whispered we’d cross paths again in George Town, Penang.

Then there it is, Ipoh bus terminal; organized, clean – oh, the envy! Here in Africa, it’s like we’re dancing to a different tune. The moment I stepped in Ipoh, it was like Taylor’s words were playing out. It felt like a ghost town, and the humidity was its sidekick. The streets looked like they were stuck in a time warp, a bit eerie, really.

Here, the past seemed to come alive through the colonial-era buildings that lined the streets. The facades told tales of a bygone era, and as I walked, I could almost feel the echoes of footsteps from generations long past. And just when I thought I might start feeling comfortable, my Grab driver decided to take the town’s ‘quiet’ a bit too seriously, nearly giving us a taste of a not-so-fun rollercoaster.

Now, let me introduce you to my home for the Ipoh chapter – De’ Cafe and Rest House. These folks actually talked to me! One lady even cracked a joke – can you believe it? Trust me, after a week on this side of the world, that joke was like a drop of rain in a desert. I showed up before they officially opened, and they not only stored my luggage but also offered to fill my water bottles. I mean, seriously, when did the world become so greedy and self-centered that such a simple gesture almost brought tears to my eyes?

And then, my friends, there’s the matter of my black face in a sea of curious eyes. I was on the hunt for a place to eat, and cars were honking at me as if I were the main attraction at a carnival. A bit intimidating? Yeah, maybe. But for me, it was oddly fulfilling. I could practically hear the tales these folks would tell about the day they saw the elusive black man walking their streets – a moment of exoticism in their everyday lives.

Here’s a fun tidbit about Ipoh: family-run businesses are the real deal here. I stumbled upon this small restaurant that seemed to be run by the world’s most adorable elderly couple. And guess what? Their herbal chicken was like a symphony in my mouth – a taste that lingered long after the meal was done.

First sightings, the Ipoh Railway Station and the Birch Memorial Clock Tower, masterpieces of Moorish and Islamic architecture, stood as symbols of Ipoh’s colonial past. Its graceful arches and intricate details transported me to a time when train journeys were marked by elegance and sophistication. I watched as trains arrived and departed, a reminder that even as time moves forward, echoes of the past remain.

I wandered into Concubine Lane, where Bahulu, these Chinese cakes, stole my heart. I had to eat like a dozen of them just to feel like I did justice to their awesomeness. Now, about the Trick House – oh boy, that was an interesting way to spend some time and money. You know, someday the universe has to bless me with the power to not regret every spent dime. But hey, the lady showing me around was sweet, and that sort of compensated for the temporary remorse.

Mirror Lake, though not quite the magic I had in mind, did lead me to meet some young souls from Kuala Lumpur. It’s funny how a lackluster lake suddenly becomes intriguing when you’re trading stories with new friends. And here’s a shoutout to a Grab driver who basically gave me a crash course on budget-friendly dining in Ipoh.

As the sun sets and the streets come alive with the glow of lanterns, this bustling market emerges as a vibrant mosaic of culture, history, and culinary delights. Amidst the colonial-era facades of Ipoh Old Town, the market’s lively energy draws you into a world of sensory wonder. Street art adorns the lanes, reminiscent of the narratives that have played out within the historic walls.

The market’s lively spirit mirrors the elegance of the Ipoh Railway Station, where the graceful arches once ushered in travelers from distant lands. The culinary treasures of Tong Sui Kai find a stage here too, as the aroma of traditional desserts mingles with the scent of incense from nearby temples. Gerbang Malam, much like Ipoh itself, weaves together stories of bygone eras and present-day vitality, offering a night market experience that is as rich in history as it is in flavor.

I strolled through its shadowy streets, my skin camouflaging into the darkness. Even the racist dogs still saw me, but hey, it’s all part of the adventure, right? Oh, and guess what? My hostel had quite possibly the most inconspicuous back entrance ever.

Ipoh is a town that’s got its own rhythm – one that’s equal parts eerie, heartwarming, and just a tad bit offbeat. Who would’ve thought that a place so quiet could make such a loud impression? As I nestled into my bunk, I couldn’t help but wonder what new stories this quaint town had yet to reveal. The night was young, and so was my curiosity.

3 Responses
  • Anonymous
    August 27, 2023


  • Koo
    August 28, 2023

    And just like that I have gone to ipoh. Nice read. Though if you add kiambishi awali ‘ch’ we get back to Kenya

  • Sandagi
    November 1, 2023


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