fbpx

 Ipoh, Malaysia – An Unexpected Gem

MALAYSIA

Heather Markel, Best Selling Author, TEDx Speaker, Traveler, Full Time Travel and Business Coach

As I mentioned in my last post, I chose to go to Ipoh to get off what I felt was the tourist circuit up to Langkawi and Koh Lipe. A short bus ride and a quick taxi later, I end up in Ipoh and almost immediately regret my decision.

My hotel seems fine, but it’s outside the city center and feels in the middle of…nothing. I’m starving, my room isn’t ready, so I grab a bite at the Japanese restaurant next door. When my room is ready, I grab a quick shower and head out to explore the town of Ipoh.

First Impressions

It’s daytime, and I feel uncomfortable. The streets to town are fairly empty. The buildings are dilapidated. I have to cross a river. It seems dirty and nobody is around. Am I stupid to walk here alone? When I make it into town, it seems like there are souvenirs, and a couple of museums, and I quickly find Concubine Lane. I snap some photos, and by 4pm, most of the shops are closed. I’m bored, I feel like I’ve seen everything, and I still have four nights here. It seems like a big mistake.

Durres port

The area near my hotel

Durres port

I return to my hotel and encounter a wild dog. It seems to be following me. I’m not sure if she wants to eat me, or hopes I will have food. I don’t have any on me, so I try to avoid her and run back to the hotel. When I arrive, I ask them what I should be seeing in Ipoh. I get a list of sites that I plan to Google. I ask them how I can get to Orangutan Island. For the umpteenth time, they don’t seem familiar with it. Since Penang, everyone I ask about Orangutan Island has no idea what I’m talking about. Pro Tip: Try asking for Bukit Merah instead, and you’ll get less vacant stares after your question.

From the research I’ve done so far, it looks like a tour will cost me about $300 which is way over my budget. The bus schedule would require me to take a taxi part of the way, and then stay over at Bukit Merah to catch the morning boat. Enormously less expensive than the tour, but still a pain, and I do’nt like double-paying for accomodation. Miraculously, they find me a taxi driver who can take me for about $60 which is even less expensive than the bus+taxi+hotel option. I make the booking for two days later and can’t wait!

Exploring More Of Ipoh

The next day, I have breakfast at the cafe adjacent to the hotel. It seems to be the only place open. I order an egg dish and it’s basically like egg yolk soup. The yolks are so rare I can’t eat them. The waitress is exceptionally lovely and asks if she’d like me to cook them more. I eagerly nod, and she cooks them to perfection. When I thank her, she insists she’s only doing her job.

After breakfast, I have no interest in returning to downtown Ipoh, so I call a Grab. I’ve decided to check out Qin Xing Lin Cultural Center and Village. I have no idea what to expect.

bari port

As soon as I arrive I feel…happy! There are houses placed around a lake, and groups of people riding on shared bikes and laughing, and there are so many colors. I get sucked in to the fun of the moment. With every step there’s either a burst of color, or some art on a building that makes me laugh, like the restrooms below.

What really captures my attention is the wishing tree. It’s covered in red ribbons. I soon discover I can buy one, write my wishes on the back, and put it on the tree. I choose one of the lower branches because they’re the only ones I can reach. I wonder how people have gotten ribbons on such high branches with no ladder in sight.

I soon learn from some lovely passerby that I’ve done it all wrong. I remove my ribbon, then do a wind up with it, like a softball pitch, and release! My ribbon lands on the ground nearby. The family who helped me is now cheering me on, again again! Once again, I hit the ground. I try again, and again, and, on the fifth try, my ribbon goes up and up and disappears at the top of the tree! (Watch the video below to get an idea what this was like.)

Kek Look Tong Temple is another unexpected  delight. The entrance is a limestone cave in which a temple has been created. The cave itself offers a nice respite from the humidity, as well as some beautiful buddhas and deities to smile at or pray to. After I have my fill of the inside of the cave, I find an exit and when I stand at the top of the staircase, I feel  like I’m gazing at paradise.

I walk around the beautiful garden and notice a stray dog. (I’ve started carrying food around after the last stray, realizing it could both protect me and nourish the dogs.) I get his attention and pour out some of the food. He looks at me, sniffs, then walks away. I walk to a nearby pagoda and sit down to enjoy the peaceful feeling. The dog comes back and eats all the food I left him.

Before leaving, I take a look at the lovely group of buddhas and the qualities they represent. I feel calm and serene and happy.

Perak Cave Temple is both a challenge, and a beauty. I find another limestone cave to walk through, with more buddhas and deities. I find a staircase up, and find myself outside in the heat. There’s a view of the city of Ipoh from the top that I want to see. I come to a pagoda and a lovely cluster of trees. But this isn’t the view. Walking up a bit more, I find an arrow pointing to the next staircase. It’s small and it’s steep. I take a deep breath. It’s hot, I have to give myself a pep talk to continue.

As I walk further up, I learn the staircase isn’t just steep and narrow, it’s two ways. I have to cling to the sides as other people make their way down. Happily, there aren’t too many of them. I finally make it to the top and I want to celebrate, but I’m too hot. Unfortunately, the top isn’t much. There’s a path to the right and to the left. I choose the left, and that’s when I find the view I’ve been looking for.

Bari castle
meeting Jessica

Orangutan Island, however, is the definite highlight of my trip. I’m so excited to go! My driver arrives propmptly, and gets me to the jetty in time for my 9:30am departure. Some helpful information. If you ask anyone where Orangutan Island is, you’ll be met with a blank stare. It seems like nobody knows about it in Malaysia. You may have better luck if you ask how to get to Bukit Merah. I hunted down their Facebook page (which wasn’t easy) and contacted them on WhatsApp to reserve a spot. I highly recommend that you use the WhatsApp if you want to be sure to find and reserve it.

What I didn’t expect, is to be the only tourist on the boat! I’m stunned. Maybe it’s because it’s Ramadan, or maybe I’m just lucky. Either way, I am thrilled! We arrive at the island, and a tour guide greets me and walks me to a play area, and we see five orangutan playing, including the surrogate mom and dad. The guide explains the work done by the sancturary, how they rescue the orangutan, and that the intention is, for the young ones, to rehabilitate them so they can return to Borneo. (See the video below for more!)

meeting Jessica
meeting Jessica

Heading back to Ipoh, we stop in Taiping for lunch and I find it’s a lovely city. When we get back to Ipoh, I’m in for a real treat. I finally get to see the Pet Soo museum and learn more about the tin mining industry, as well as the Hakka people. Our guide tells me to have dinner at Greenfield Hakka restaurant, and a coffee at a local cafe I’d never have gone on my own. I eat an egg custard fresh out of the oven, and it’s delicious. The hakka restaurant proves to be one of my best meals in Malaysia. It’s not only delicious, but the owners are kind and give me a tour and explanation of the restaurant, and their daughter sat with me and told me more about its history – you can see our interview in the video below.

Malaysia has continued to surprise me. Each time I arrive in a new city, I’m initially worried I will be disappointed, but then go on to discover an amazing richness and depth of landscapes and foods I didn’t expect. Ipoh is no different. By the time I have to leave, I regret not staying longer.

Want to Start Traveling Full Time?

This is an amazing lifestyle! If you're looking forward to ditching your desk and discovering your destiny through full time travel, let's chat!

Most of what’s keeping you from what you want – full-time travel, a new business idea, a radical career shift – are your excuses. After one session with Heather, you’ll understand which excuses are holding you back the most, how to get them out of the way, and you’ll leave with an action plan that helps you set the foundation to pivot into the life you want.

You know you don’t like your job, but you can’t figure out how to survive without it. Designed for frustrated professionals the program focuses on teaching you the key steps to shifting your work and money mindsets, and giving you the money and work strategies to pursue, leaving you empowered to quit with confidence and see that it really is possible to live happily without a stable job.

Whether traveling full time was your dream before the pandemic, or after, this session will help you understand how to prepare, what you need to know, and how to get your finances in order to make it happen. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the “How To Afford The Travel Life” eBook. You’ll also get an understanding of both what’s great about full-time travel and some of the challenges. You can also discuss planning help, and how to get the most out of your experience.

It’s always been essential to understand your money, but if you’ve lost your job due to the pandemic, now it’s even more important that you create financial empowerment. In this session, Heather will work with you to first understand your gaps in managing your money, then she’ll help you with the framework on how to ensure you can afford the life you dream of. You’ll get tips to save and budget, and also discuss ways to earn money that will shift you out of feeling like a victim of the times, to seeing the opportunities in front of you to begin making money in a different way.

You want to quit and travel full time, but when can you go? This eBook gives you all the formulas you need to calculate when you can quit and afford the travel lifestyle you want, in under and hour.

Thanks to the pandemic, we’ve all had a chance to ask the question, “what now?” If you’ve decided it’s time to quit your 9-to-5 to travel full time (or take it with you while you live nomadically), this program will help you address the core mindset, money, and planning gaps you have. This is the program that will help you acknowledge and overcome your fears about what’s next, figure out how to afford and sustain your travels, and feel confident about planning your adventure. Book your free session to see if you’re a fit!

You’re finally serious about traveling full time, but you cannot figure out how you’ll afford it. Or, you’re just curious whether it’s really even possible to afford the lifestyle. Bootcamp is for you! We’ll go dive deep into savings strategies before you go, how to save on the road, and how to sustain your travels, as well as look at lots of work opportunities if you want to work while you travel! Includes a 3-day build your budget challenge to get you thinking about how to replace dreams with real logical steps to make it happen.

You’ve dreamed about traveling full time for as long as you can remember, and now you’ve learned that it’s a little more challenging than you thought. Get help getting through the initial shock and changes when you realize you’re not on vacation. Learn how to manage those experiences where you meet parts of yourself long forgotten, and create a plan to help you have the best experience with your journey.

If you want to see every post I’ve written, starting with the most recent, this is the place to start!


If you need some tips on getting started, traveling safe, and saving money while traveling full time, go here! 

I’ve been traveling the globe solo, and many of my posts share thoughts and resources specifically for other solo travelers. If you’re a fellow solo traveler, or you’re thinking about solo travel, this is a collection you will find of interest.

If you’re looking to read blog posts about specific destinations, click the country of your interest below to go to it’s blog page and get country-specific reviews and thoughts.

Africa

Argentina

Australia

Brazil

Cambodia

Chile

Costa Rica

France

New Zealand

Peru

Portugal

Scotland

Singapore

Thailand

Uruguay

Vietnam

 

Sometimes I write posts where I give insider information on certain cities I’ve visited, which may be more along the lines of places to go, how to save money, etc. If that’s your main interest, check out this compilation of posts.

In 2020, I was traveling in New Zealand as the coronavirus pandemic brewed, and, got stuck there. If you want to read about what this time was like and traveling during this time, check out this page.

At the heart of international travel is learning about the many different cultures and ways of being around the world. The posts compiled on this page speak, specifically, about the cultural observations I’ve had.

Many of my blog posts are about things I’ve discovered about myself or about being, while I’ve traveled. If you’d like to focus on posts that only have self-discovery themes, click the button below.