Perak’s major cities are all about nostalgia and Taiping is no exception. As a town of many firsts, Taiping now is being overshadowed by state capital Ipoh, but what it lacks in buzz, it makes up with charm and a sense of timelessness.
Six Amazing Things to Do in Taiping
1. Stroll along Taiping Lake Gardens
Taiping’s brightest gem is an emerald in the form of the 100-year old Lake Gardens. It is a vast evergreen park designed around former tin mining ponds and surrounded by gorgeous rain trees as old as the park itself.
The Lake Gardens is one big community centre where all walks of life would congregate every evening, especially on weekends. I would join in the fun by renting a paddleboat and row around the lake before going on a long breezy stroll.
Photo Credit: @0wlskull
Photo Credit: @sunnycct
Keeping with the theme of nature, I highly recommend staying at Sentosa Villa. Neatly tucked in alongside a river at the foothills of the Bintang mountain range, this resort offers a variety of stays from cosy cottages to two-storey wooden family villas across a sprawling orchard.
2. Take a Hike up Bukit Larut
The backdrop of Lake Gardens is the mighty Bukit Larut, a former colonial hill station left relatively untouched. Visitors can take the jeep all the way to the top, but for those seeking a challenge like me, you can hike your way up along the 13 km single-track paved road.
The trek involves a change of flora as the jungle is slowly replaced with giant fern trees and thick bamboo. At the peak, the forest opens up to a bunch of cottages and an observation tower. Climb the tower to catch sweeping views of Taiping, and if it’s a really clear day, you may even be able to see the Straits of Melaka.
Photo Credit: @ilhamritzzney
3. Indulge in Taiping’s Hometown Food
I always have an affinity to Taiping’s food because most eateries are mom-and-pop shops still run by the same family to this day. I’ll be spoiled by hearty plates of soul-comforting food like Yut Sun’s Hainanese Chicken Chop and Ansari’s thirst-quenching bowl of Cendol.
My favourite place to go for evening bites is the Larut Matang Food Court, also known as Cashier Market by locals. It is home to more than 100 food stalls that serve up everything imaginable like Mee Combat’s Indian-Muslim fried noodles, Popiah Omar’s spring rolls and Ah Leng’s Char Kuey Teow.
4. Take a Day Trip to Kuala Sepetang
Twenty minutes away from Taiping is Kuala Sepetang, a quaint fishing village on the coast that has seen better days. However, it is gaining recognition from urbanites seeking an escape from the city life and an increase in ecotourism activities.
Start your day in Kuala Sepetang with a massive bowl of Mee Udang, or shrimp noodles followed by a visit to Chuah’s Charcoal Factory, the few places where local logs are baked in giant oval kilns. The second half of the day is best spent on a mangrove tour where you will visit a fish farm, sight local eagles and if you’re lucky, spot a few pink Irrawaddy dolphins!
Photo Credit: Pål Skeggs @pskeggs
Photo Credit: @baycy
The Happy 8 Retreat is the perfect accommodation to experience a glimpse of the rural life. It is recognisable by a giant eagle fronting the building and is situated right on the riverbank on top of a fishmonger’s warehouse. Hang out on the balcony of your individually decorated timber room and catch fishing boats passing by as the sun slowly sets over the horizon.
5. Get Brewing at Antong Coffee Mill
Antong Coffee Mill is the oldest coffee mill in the country, founded in 1933 and still in operation. I love the aroma of coffee beans that emanates through the compound and the traditional method of roasting using firewood sourced from Kuala Sepetang.
The coffee beans are double roasted whereby after the first roast, the beans are poured together with sugar and butter for further roasting. The result is a harden caramelised mixture that is left to cool before being crushed, blended and grounded into its final form of coffee powder.
Photo Credit: @_zixinh
Photo Credit: @anis_skramz
6. Go Back in Time on the Taiping Heritage Trail
Taiping is one of the few cities that sprung up during the colonial era, and it has a fair share of heritage buildings rightfully preserved up to this day. The Taiping Heritage Trail has more than 30 buildings on the list and covers many ethnic and religious landmarks of the city.
Western architecture is still prominent such as the Neo-Classical Perak Museum, the Neo-Romanesque King Edward VII School and the wood-and-cast iron structure of Central Market. Other buildings that are still pillars of the local community worth checking out include Hokkien Association Building, All-Saints Church and Masjid Melayu.
It’s only a matter of time before a town as pristine as Taiping garners the attention it deserves. In the meantime, enjoy all these hidden gems found in this rainy city like I do – by soaking it all in.