Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ipoh Road Trip: Caves, Clubs and Glorious Food!: Day 1

My phone has been buzzing off the hook towards the closing days of November. Not that I am getting any popular with anything but rather, I have been receiving calls from 'concerned' individuals as to my seemingly 'suicidal' trip to Jelawang/Stong scheduled for the 27th to the 29th of November 2009. You see, it has been raining incessantly since the middle of the month and the newspapers are painting the picture as if the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia is submerged! The debut of yet another disaster movie, 2012, wasn't helping either. With images of earthquakes, crashing tsunamis and tumbling skyscrappers, some members of my team that were going there were getting a tad bit jittery, if not their parents! :p

Disaster on a Biblical Scale! Sums up my Stong plans as well :p

"Whatever happens, I support you dude..." says Linus, each time he finishes revealing his latest series of Nostradamus-like disaster scenarios ranging from sudden landslides in the narrow mountain roads of the Titiwangsa range sweeping our cars off into bottomless ravines to biblical inundations that would render the entire state of Kelantan completely submerged by water.
This the season to be 'swimming'... fa-la-la-la-la laa-la-la-la-la

Not very reassuring, I would say, bro. :p And to top of it off, I had to endure looking at Sum's ashen face each time we had a meeting to discuss the trip, a look that reminded me of a chicken just before the butcher's knife fell over it's neck.
The Prophecies of Linus-damus-froggus-afraid of angry parent if something happens in Stongmus... Tsunami!

This is not to mention the additional 'advice' from individuals (who never intended to come for the trip by the way :p) posting messages like 'Safety ABOVE all!' as their MSN status, finally drove me to make the difficult decision to postpone the trip to February, 2010, when hopefully sunny skies will reign over the dread clouds that hung above. I didn't need to wait too long though. A day after I informed everyone, including the guide, that the trip is to be postponed, the sun, made it's appearance, thumbed it's nose at me and stayed there for the entire weekend of 27th to 29th and more!

As Caeser once said, "Alea iacta est", the die has been cast. What am I to do now? The members that had more tougher nerves in the team were restless and with a very clear need of not wanting to have my 'reputation' sullied in the eyes of the ladies (yes, you heard it right. The nerves of steel were exclusive property of the GIRLS this time around! :)), I decided to head north for a trip to Ipoh instead. We left on Saturday afternoon, 28th November 2009, after gathering at Vincent's house in Bandar Utama, setting our sights for Kampar's famous chicken baked in bread (Mien Pao Kai). Bouts of rain somehow managed to break the otherwise clear skies framing most of the way north as Wei Han erred to the side of caution, taking his time driving his Vios and fraying Eric's nerves who was behind, unable to rev up his sleek Mazda 3 to it's full (racing) potential. ;) After about 2 1/2 hours of driving, with close to 1 hour navigating the small trunk (and speed trap prone)roads of rural Perak , we reached Yau Kee Chicken in Bread restaurant, located on the intersection of Jalan Balai and Jalan Idris in Kampar, Perak.
Yau Kee in Kampar

A life sized cut out of what I suspected to be the owner of the establishment greeted us as we went into the air conditioned section of the restaurant, devoid of customers aside from ourselves. Having been here before in my last great Perak adventure almost a year ago, I recommended and subsequently ordered one half serving of curry chicken in bread and one half serving of it's herbal cousin which was also wrapped in bread.
Curry Chicken in Bread. Supposed to be 'Yum' but it was served a tad bit too cold :p

The herbal version. When it's served cold, the look kinda reminds me of something else...

As it was pass 4pm, we didn't take up the offer to order the standard Chinese dishes to accompany the chicken, rather we kept our stomachs for the next culinary destination in Ipoh instead. Of the two choices of chicken, the signature curry one is the better although on that day it was served disappointingly cold, the herbal chicken likewise. Nevertheless we (or the ones that didn't have lunch before the trip), lapped up the food and after paying about RM28+ per chicken serving, left for Ipoh. Accomodation was found at the Impiana Casuarina Hotel, outwardly impressive and located close to the center of the city (next to the AM-NO building >p) on Jalan Raja Nazrin Shah (formerly Jalan Gopeng).
Impiana Casuarina: A text book example of never judging a book by it's cover. No underground parking and gravest injustice of all, no FREE Wifi!

On closer inspection, we found that the building lacks an underground parking lot; not good considering the darkening skies that greeted us on arrival in Ipoh. It took some time for us to check into our rooms, again surprising as it was already close to 6pm and the place doesn't look all that jam packed with people anyway.
Checking in is a study in the virtue of patience... Ohmmmmmm....

Still... my perpetual grin is always evident... ;)

We were given one room first while the staff prepared another. Naturally, gentlemen as we were, we gave the first room to the ladies. We got our rooms shortly after although not until we can gone through a few rounds of 'Chor Tai Tee', the result confirming the highest possiblity that I will end up with a barrel(/Genting signboard) to cover me body if I decide to try my luck in Genting.
Dark Business? ;) Actually we are playing cards ler... (despite Eric's very suspicious 'satisfied' looking features... rated 'U' ok! ;)

Hmmm... this one is kinda borderline 'U'. Can I be banned for this? ;) Looks like me but IT'S NOT ME!

The result also rendered me becoming the 'hot dog' between two sandwiches later in the night. :p :) We rested for about an hour and a half, refreshing ourselves with a shower and myself finding out that this fancy hotel doesn't have FREE WIFI! Apparently it's almost RM40 for 1 day's worth of internet access, daylight robbery if I would say! :p

Shortly after 7:30pm, we left the hotel for our dinner place which was none other than Ipoh's Famous 'Lou Wong' Chicken Rice.
Ipoh's Famous (if sometimes somewhat overated) Chicken Rice

An old establishment, this chicken rice shop has been in Ipoh for ages, feted by celebrities and tourists alike. Not surprisingly, when we arrived at the corner shop located at the intersection of Jalan Yau Tet Shin and Jalan Dato Tahwil Azar at Ipoh center, we were greeted by hordes of people savouring the oh so soft and tender meat of steamed chicken over your choice of fragrant rice or rice noodles (what the locals call 'hor fun'). There were also hordes of people standing seemingly in attendance over the savouring guest but they are not waiters, rather they are clients waiting for the aforementioned savourers to finish their food and vacate the table so that they themselves can have a seat! :) It's that good(isn't it?). Across the road, was Lou Wong's perpetual rival, Onn Kee, which was equally packed with people. (I was also told of another chicken rice shop located on Conway street which is no less good if not better but with less crowds :p) The sky had opened up again when we arrived, requiring everyone to cram themselves into the shop, with hardly any room to even walk much less stand. We did however, managed to get a table after staking out this family who were finishing their food. Ordering our chicken, a bowl of meatball soup and a dish of bean sprouts (taugeh), we chowed down ourselves. Dinner over with, our thoughts strayed towards dessert as the heavy rainfall reduced to a drizzle. The nearby 'Rabbit Tau Foo Fa' (actually called Funny Mountain Soya Bean and also listed as Lai Kei Tau Fu Fa on the GPS) appeared to be an option, but when we strolled down Jalan Dato Tahwil from Lou Wong to the shop, we found it closed! :p From across the road, CB Confectionary beckoned and like moths to a flaming candle, we were drawn to stock up our supplies of Tambun dragon balls, biscuits, sweets and other knick knacks. I had initially resisted the urge to fork out cash for this kinda stuff but seeing my other travellers uninhibitted, I was finally seduced, myself procuring two boxes of Tambun dragon balls, some 'buah pala' (nutmeg) products and a packet of orange 'Trebor' sweets. :p
Satisfied shoppers

Now it's time to check out the 'night' life... :) The place is called 'Houz' and it's located in what Wei Han mentioned as 'Lam Kwai Fong' (which sounds strangely familiar with another place in Hong Kong). More accurately, it's close to Ipoh's Jaya Jusco in a area filled with cafes and pubs along Jalan Medan Ipoh 4.
The R&B bar at Houz

When we came in at 9pm, the place appeared deserted. At that time I was beginning to doubt it's purported reputation of having one of the liveliest band in town but as the hours ticked by, more and more patrons streamed in and soon we found ourselves moved from the lonely R&B room upstairs to the crowded downstairs lounge where the band played.
The gang at Houz, minus Vincent who was holding the camera...

Buckets of Heineken (each costing RM58) provided soothing relief to our 'thirst' as our attention drifted between the band, the live match featuring Manchester United vs Portsmouth and this group of attractive looking ladies one table from ours. ;) (Ok, the company we were hanging out with was ALSO attractive! ;))
Fei and Ching Li. As you would notice, they appear slightly 'underdressed' for clubbing... ;)

Eric casted his 'lure' at the ladies by going over and offering a toast. The ladies bit his bait by accepting but sadly, our Mr. Eric failed to reel them in, ending his 'foray' at that point while other 'predators' moved in for the kill.
After failing to reel in the ladies, Eric decides to go for more 'easier' (and meatier) targets...

The band finished their gig at 12:00am. By then I had downed one mug of Kilkenny's courtesy of my Man Utd supporter buddies who thought it 'punishment' for my routing for Portsmouth against Man Utd. (Haha, thanks for the treat! I should lose more often ;)) The club was also packed full at this point. Thinking about our next morning trip to Gunung Tempurung, we decided to call it a night although not before we checked out the previously lonely R&B room upstairs. It was a changed place when we returned, with people filling the small space to the brim while music boomed in the background. We could have stayed longer but the fact that there is hardly any room to even stand convinced us that it was time to head back to the hotel. I turned in at close to 2:00am, taking my 'sandwich' position on the king size bed, the sounds of a different 'orchestra' (I was told later I contributed as well) echoing through the room as my lullaby. :p

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