A Travellerspoint blog

Majestic Melaka

October 2013

sunny

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Chinese Lanterns.

I think we first visited Melaka around 2001. For that visit we travelled to Melaka from Singapore. We stayed in the Renaissance Hotel which had a fabulous swimming pool. I remember trying to go for a swim during a thunder storm and being thrown out by the life­ guard. This hotel has now changed to the Ramada Plaza. We did not stay there on our second visit as we read refurbishment was being carried out and we were worried the pool may not be open, but we did visit for a meal for old time's sake. We both enjoyed Melaka on our first visit and have been talking for a while of going back some day. We noticed many changes on our second visit. Nowadays there is a river walkway, before there was not. Now there are tourist boats regularly rushing up and down the river. On our first visit it was more of a working river. Nowadays there are flower covered trishaws, blasting out loud music everywhere; before the trishaws were normal trishaws ­ no music, no decoration. Melaka was more crowded and more touristy than I remember it, but it was still well worth visiting.

This time we travelled to Melaka from Kuala Lumpur. We arrived at Melaka Sentral Bus Station, a new bus station which is far from the centre. If I remember correctly, the old one was quite central and near the river. I know we walked to it frequently on our first visit as we were unable to get a ticket back to Singapore. All the buses were booked solidly due to a Muslim holiday. In the end we bought tickets to Johor Bahru and travelled from there to Singapore. This visit there was also a Muslim holiday taking place, but we easily got tickets back to Kuala Lumpur and a very comfortable return journey it was, too. For our second visit we stayed in the Empire Hotel, just along the road from our first hotel. This time I had done more pre­-journey research and we saw a few new sights as well as revisiting ones we had enjoyed before.

Melaka has an interesting history. It has been occupied by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British and each of these cultures has left its mark on the city. It has also seen a mingling of the Malay and Chinese cultures. Melaka began life as a sleepy fishing village. Then in the fourteenth century Parameswara, a Hindu prince from Sumatra, fled here. Under Parameswara Melaka began to develop into an important port city due to its strategic position halfway between India and China. In 1405 the Chinese Muslim Admiral, Cheng Ho, arrived in Melaka offering the Melakan people protection from the Siamese. Chinese settlers followed and the intermarriage of the Chinese settlers and Malays created the Baba Nonya or Peranakan or Straits Chinese culture. In 1511 the Portuguese led by Alfonso de Albquerque conquered Melaka forcing the sultan to flee to Johor. The Portuguese build the fortress of A'Famosa and Portuguese missionaries, such as St Francis Xavier, introduced Catholicism to the area. In 1641 the Dutch seized control of Melaka after subjecting the city to an eight month siege. During their 150 year occupancy, they built many churches and public buildings. In 1795 when Holland was occupied by the French, the British gained control of Melaka. Melaka together with Penang and Singapore formed the Sraits Settlements - ­ three British settlements on the Malay Peninsula, but Melaka was always eclipsed in importance by Singapore and slowly became a sleepy backwater once more.

We arrived at Kuala Lumpur Airport early in the morning and wanted to take a bus to Melaka as soon as possible. We had read there are buses directly from the airport, but instead we went to the bus station to get one. To get there we took the train to Bandar Tasik Selatan Bus Station. The ticket cost 26.5RM. Basically there are two trains from the airport: an express train that goes straight to KL Sentral and a transit train from the opposite platform which also goes to KL Senral but stops at several stations on route. The transit train stops at Bandar Tasik Selatan. When we exited the train at Bandar Tasik Selatan, we got onto a walkway and walked left straight into the bus station. We queued up and bought a ticket to Melaka for 11RM. Returns were not available. The bus station was clean and modern with lots of free toilets, seats, food and drink shops. The company we travelled with was called Mayang Sari. We went through to the departure gate half an hour before departure. There were plenty of seats, free toilets and food shops there, too. We found the screen with departure information next to our gate. The bus should have left at 9am, it was an acceptable 5 minutes late. It was very comfortable. There were only 3 seats per row, so the seats were wide and there were not many rows so the seats had plenty of leg room. The bus was dark with space age internal lights on when we boarded. We had travelled overnight to KL and I was really tired. It was so comfy I was asleep before we left KL and only woke up 2 hours later when we pulled into Melaka Sentral Bus Station. A very comfortable and pleasant journey. We used the same company to get back to KL. It cost 12RM. Again it was on time and very comfortable.

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Getting to Melaka.

Melaka Sentral has lots of shops and places to eat. There are plenty of seats. Toilet trips cost 0.3RM if you bring your own tissue! It is a slightly confusing circular bus station. I read that bus 17 will take you to the historical centre of Melaka from here. I believe it stops near Dutch Square. We took a taxi which cost 15RM. We did not bother to bargain. Later I saw a price list saying taxis to the centre (Jonker Street) were around 7RM. You probably have to be good at bargaining to get that. We were just happy to have a home to go to, so did not care about the price too much.

On our first afternoon in Melaka we set out to explore Bukit China as it was not far from our hotel. In the middle of the 15th century the Sultan of Melaka decided to cement relations with China by marrying the Ming Emperor's daughter. When she arrived in Melaka, she brought her huge retinue with her and they built their residences on Bukit China, which has been a Chinese area ever since. Bukit China nowadays is covered with an extensive Chinese cemetery. As we climbed up the hill, we passed some miniatures of several of Melaka's famous sights. There were several large horseshoe shaped graves which are apparently the graves of former Kapitan China, the heads of the Chinese communities, during colonial times. Many of the graves were quite ornate with fine carvings and small lion statues standing guard over them. From the top of the hill there are pretty views over Melaka. The Bukit China area has several paths through the graves. These are often lined with colourful trees. People make use of this area as an exercise ground where they can go jogging or running. I found the area very tranquil and interesting. Po San Teng Temple. lies at the foot of Bukit China. It was built in 1795. It contains images of Kuan Yin, ­goddess of mercy. We were interested in a collection of newspaper articles displayed in the temple. These provided information about the local authorities trying to destroy parts of Bukit China in various road widening initiatives. They also described damage that had been done to several of the graves. The Cheng Hoon Teng Temple Association have so far thwarted all attempts to damage the cemetery. There were some rather sleepy looking fruit sellers outside the temple.

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Bukit China.

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Bukit China.

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Bukit China.

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Bukit China.

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Bukit China.

The Sultan's Well is right next to Poh San Teng Temple. It was constructed in the fifteenth century during the reign of Sultan Mansur Shah. He built it for his wife who is believed to have been a princess from China. The well is rumoured to never dry out even in the severest of droughts. During the Portuguese occupation the well served as the main source of drinking water for Melaka. However, during a siege in 1551, Johore forces poisoned the well, causing the deaths of over 200 Portuguese soldiers. During the Dutch occupation walls were built around the well. The square holes in the walls are for guns while the round ones are for transferring water outside the walls through chutes.

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Poh San Teng Temple.

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Poh San Teng Temple.

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Poh San Teng Temple.

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Poh San Teng Temple.

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The Sultan's Well.

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The Sultan's Well.

On our first evening we watched a lovely sunset over Melaka from the swimming pool of our hotel. I was quite pleased with how this photo turned out. Melaka is a beautiful city to visit and the sunsets can be very lovely here.

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Sunset.

We ate in The Emperor Hotel on the first night as they gave us a 28RM discount voucher on check in. We had a very tasty meal first sharing a chicken satay. Then I had roast chicken with rice and my husband had tuna sandwich. We had several bottles of carlsberg to wash it down. The bill was very cheap and the service was very pleasant and friendly.

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The Emperor Hotel .

Next day one of the first sights we visited was St Francis Xavier Church. St Francis Xavier Church was built by a French priest, Father P. Fabre, in 1849. It is dedicated to St. Francis Xavier who was one of the earliest missionaries to bring Catholicism to southeast Asia. The church is located on the site of an earlier Portuguese mission. We visited on a Sunday and a well-­attended service was taking place inside. We listened to the singing for a while and admired the colourful stain glass windows but did not wander round or take photos due to the service. Outside the church there were statues of Francis Xavier and his Japanese disciple. There was also a plaque pointing out that a time capsule was buried there and should be opened in 2049.

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St Francis Xavier Church.

Then we went to Dutch Square. Dutch Square is one of, if not the, most famous sight in Melaka. Both times I have visited it I have been a little disappointed. The first time because it was surrounded by so much traffic. This time it was surrounded by wall to wall trishaws and hundreds of tourists and roaring traffic. However, it is a must see place. Most of the buildings here are a striking bright shade of pink. There's the Stadthuys ­the former town hall, now a museum. This was being renovated and was covered up during our visit. There's the lovely old Christ Church. This was formerly the Dutch Reformed Church of Melaka. It is the oldest surviving Dutch church found outside the Netherlands. We peeked inside, but there was a service going on so we could not wander around. The inside was rather simple and plain as you would expect from a Dutch Protestant Church. The Youth and Art Museum is also located in this square. In the centre of the square there is a fountain built by the British to commemorate the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria. Her face adorns the fountain. There's also a clock tower which was built in 1886 in honor of a generous Chinese tycoon named Tan Beng Swee. Apparently the clock inside was replaced with a Japanese clock. There were lots of stalls in this area. Across the main road there was a windmill next to the river and the bridge leading to Jonker's Walk. There is also a new walkway along the river lined with cafes, restaurants and psychedelic buildings. There is also the remains of a fort or possibly part of the original city walls. It affords views over the river and towards the waterwheel and has several canons that are just crying out for someone to sit on them and get their photo taken. My husband willingly obliged.

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Queen Victoria Fountain.

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Christ Church.

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Statues outside the church.

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Christ Church and Youth Museum.

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Plaques.

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Clock Tower.

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My husband with the gun.

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windmill.

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Fort by the river.

From the little fort we walked past the huge water wheel, another photo opportunity, ­ along the waterfront to the Maritime Museum. Part of the museum is set inside a huge wooden ship and part of it is across the road. We did not go in, though I notice from the photos of our first visit that we went in on that occasion. My husband claims he remembers this visit. I am afraid I don't. Museums in Melaka are very cheap to visit. I personally seldom visit museums unless in the right mood. Admission 2RM. Open 9am to 5.30pm.

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Maritime Museum.

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Waterwheel.

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Maritime Museum.

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Maritime Museum.

Melaka is a pretty walkable place unless you want to go further out to places like St John's Fort or Portuguese Square. Everywhere you go though you will see highly decorated flower and butterfly festooned trishaws blasting out music. We did not use these, but found them entertaining to watch and listen to. Price would be dependent on distance and bargaining skills. You can do a day tour in one if you feel so inclined. A few people approached us and tried to persuade us to do a day tour with them, but we were happy to walk. They were not annoyingly persistent and disappeared on the word no.

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Trishaw.

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Trishaw.

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Trishaw.

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Trishaw.

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Trishaw.

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Trishaw.

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Trishaw.

After visiting the maritime museum, we retraced our steps and climbed up St Paul's Hill to the ruins of St. Paul's Church. There are good views over Melaka from here. St. Paul's Church started off as a small chapel called the Chapel of the Mother of God. The Chapel of the Mother of God was originally built by a Portuguese administrator called Duarte Coelho. He built it to give thanks to God after his miraculous escape from a tempest in the South China Sea. In 1548, the chapel was passed on to the Society of Jesus by the archbishop of Goa, Don Albuquerque. St Francis Xavier was given the title deeds on behalf of the Society. The Dutch later took over the chapel. They reconsecrated it into a Dutch Reformed Church and called it St. Paul's Church. For the following 112 years the Dutch worshiped here, until they built Christ Church at the foot of the hill. St. Paul's Church was then abandoned. When the British took over Melaka in 1824 the Church was used as a storehouse for British gun powder. In front of the church there is a Statue of St. Francis Xavier. This was placed here in 1954. The statue is missing one arm which is ironic as St Francis Xavier's body was buried in Goa, but his arm removed and taken to Rome as a holy relic. Inside the church there are many gravestones with interesting markings. When I arrived initially a tour group had just descended on the church. They were all posing for photos with the tombstones and it was pretty crowded and unpleasant. When they all left, I re-­entered and had a look at the tombstones. They were written in Dutch but with translations provided. Many had lovely carvings. There were no attendants looking after the church, but there were stall holders, buskers, a man carrying a cockatoo and a huge lizard and charging for photos with them. One guy who had made drawings of the tombstones started covering the stones with signs saying no­-one could take photos of the stones, taking photos was stealing and instead they had to pay him for a picture. I deliberately took photos right in front of him as I was disgusted by him sticking things all over the gravestones and by his pathetic attempt to make money. On the walk down the hill I visited the small Dutch cemetery, mercifully peaceful after the circus at the top of the hill.

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Flowers.

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Tomb Stones.

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View from the hill.

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In the church.

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In the church.

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Climbing up to St Paul's.

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View.

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Small Dutch Cemetery.

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Tomb Stones.

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They start learning guitar at an early age here.

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Tomb Stones.

At the bottom of the hill is Porta de Santiago Fortress. This was built by the Portuguese, under the command of Afonso de Albuquerque, in 1511. They had attacked Melaka and overthrown the sultan who fled to Johor. They built the fortress as a defensive structure. At its height the fortress was made up of several long ramparts and four major towers. Most of the village of Melaka was located inside the fortress walls. As the population grew, extensions had to be added to the fortress in around 1586. In 1641 the Dutch drove the Portuguese out of Melaka. The Dutch renovated the fortress gate in 1670, adding the logo ANNO 1670 and a bas ­relief logo of the Dutch East India Company to the gate's archway. In 1806 the fortress was given by the Dutch to the British when Holland was invaded by France. The British were fearful that the Dutch may try to reclaim Melaka and began destroying the fortress. The fortress would have been totally destroyed but for the intervention of Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of modern Singapore, who visited Melaka in 1810. He persuaded the British to stop the destruction and preserve the remains of the fort. He was able to save this beautiful gateway. When we visited there was a busker inside playing guitar and a cute little boy with a toy guitar playing next to him. There were several cannons arranged around the gate. Lots of people were having their photos taken with the remains, including two very cute little girls all done up in their finest dresses. There were flower festooned trishaws all around.

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walking down to the gate.

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The Gate.

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The Gate.

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All dressed up.

Near the Porta de Santiago there is a replica of a 15th century Melaka sultan's palace. The palace is wooden and built entirely without nails. Entry was only 2RM and the palace was open from 9am to 5.30pm. It looked lovely, but we did not go in. There were too many other things to see.

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Sultan's palace.

Near the palace we found the Malacca Club. The Malacca Club was built by the British in 1912. It is another example of the Moorish architectural style they often adopted here. The building is now the Independence Memorial Museum. Outside it was a posh limousine used by one of Melaka's governors and some armoured vehicles used in the struggle for independence from Britain.

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Armoured vehicles

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Governor's limousine.

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The Malacca Club.

On the walk back from Porta de Santiago near the architecture museum, we passed a park with old trains, aeroplanes and even a bullock cart. Lots of people were wandering around taking photos with the vehicles. I took a nice empty shot of the bullock cart, turned away then started to walk back and there were about twelve people on it. There were lots of photo opportunities here. People were also go­-karting and on the other side of the road there were dinosaurs, very strange!

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Transport park.

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Transport park.

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Transport park.

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Transport park.

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Transport park.

At this point we went to a restaurant not too far from Dutch Square to get out of the sun and have a refreshing drink. Service was pleasant. My husband had a beer. I had a lime juice served in a jug and a very good size, I thought. We were not very hungry as it was so hot, so just ordered some cheese and tomato topped bread to share. It was tasty and filling. This was a pleasant environment in which to sit for a while and cool down before resuming the non­-stop sightseeing.

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Bamboo Hut Bistro.

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Bamboo Hut Bistro.

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Bamboo Hut Bistro.

We eventually got back to Dutch Square and walked across the bridge over the river onto Jonker's Walk. This street is famous for shopping and has some lovely old Melakan buildings. There was a Chinese temple here with some lovely paintings. However, on our visit ­ a Sunday during a holiday, ­the whole area was incredibly busy and I was pleased to escape to the side streets. Apparently there is a night market here on Friday and Saturday nights.

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Jonker's Walk.

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Jonker's Walk.

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Jonker's Walk.

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Jonker's Walk.

We walked past a rather attractive Chinese Temple on Jonker Walk. Unfortunately it was closed, but we enjoyed looking at the beautiful art work on its elaborately painted doors.

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Chinese Temple.

Jonker Walk was so busy we were relieved to cut off onto a side street and visit Kampung Kling Mosque. Mosques in Melaka are unusual in shape due to Sumatran influences. The courtyard of this mosque had a shady seat for a bit of respite from the sun. The interior of the mosque was quite lavish. Address: Jalan Tokong Emas.

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Kampung Kling Mosque.

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Kampung Kling Mosque.

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Kampung Kling Mosque.

Nearby is Cheng Hoon Teng Temple. Cheng Hoon Teng Temple was founded in the 1600s by the Chinese Kapitan Tay Kie Ki. It is Malaysia's oldest traditional Chinese temple. The temple is dedicated to Kuan Yin, ­ goddess of mercy. All building materials used in constructing this temple were imported from China and it was Chinese artisans who carried out the building work. It is a very ornate and attractive temple with lots of beautiful wood carvings. The main temple hall is filled with reds, blacks and golds. Cheng Hoon Teng Temple is located at number 25 Jalan Tokong not far from the Kampong Kling Mosque. It is open from 7am to 7pm.

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Cheng Hoon Teng Temple.

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Cheng Hoon Teng Temple.

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Cheng Hoon Teng Temple.

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Cheng Hoon Teng Temple.

Across the street from Cheng Hoon Teng Temple is the relatively modern Buddhist Temple of Xianglin. This temple is very peaceful. It occupies two floors. As it is a Buddhist temple, you must take your shoes off before entering the temple building.

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Temple of Xianglin.

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Temple of Xianglin.

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Temple of Xianglin.

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Temple of Xianglin.

Next we went to Sri Poyyatha Vinayagar Moorthi. Sri Poyyatha Vinayagar Moorthi Temple is one of the oldest Hindu temples in Malaysia. It was built in 1781 and is dedicated to the Hindu deity Vinayagar. Unfortunately we could only view it from the outside as it was closed. It only opens at prayer times. Located on Jalan Tokong.

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Sri Poyyatha Vinayagar Moorthi.

The Sanduo Temple is also on Jalan Tokong. Jalan Tokong means Harmony Street because so many temples from different religions peacefully co-exist here. The Sanduo Temple entrance is guarded by two very impressive dragons. This temple is around 218 years old. It was built in 1795. Many utensils in the temple, such as incense burners and plaques date from the Chinese Manchu Dynasty and were placed in the temple in 1891.

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The Sanduo Temple.

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The Sanduo Temple.

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The Sanduo Temple.

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The Sanduo Temple.

Next we went to the Cheng Ho Cultural Museum. We walked past this museum and stopped to take some photos of the statues outside. The museum focuses on the life and voyages of Chinese Muslim Admiral Cheng Ho, also known as Zhenghe. From my guidebook description the museum sounds good but we did not have time to spare for a visit. The museum is open from 9am ­6pm Mon­ to Thurs and from 9am to 7pm Fri to Sun. Admission is 20 RM. It is located at 51 Lg Hang Jebat. Nearby the Cheng Ho Museum is the Orangatan House an arty shop which sells lots of interesting T-­shirts.

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Cheng Ho Cultural Museum.

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Orangatan House.

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Arty Shop.

Next we strolled along the riverside walkway. This riverside walkway did not exist on our first visit to Melaka. It is a great asset to the town as Melaka's nonstop traffic and frequent absence of pavements can get on your nerves. Here you can walk in peace and quiet watching the tourist boats hurrying up and down the river. There are several very pleasant cafes and restaurants here. We stopped in one for a much needed drink and noticed its food prices were very reasonable. On one side of the river the old warehouses have been painted with bright, colourful, psychedelic pictures. On the other side traditional wooden houses still exist. We saw a huge monitor lizard here. The walkway is also a good place to take a picture of St Francis Xavier Church minus traffic.

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Riverside walkway.

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Riverside walkway.

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Riverside walkway.

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Riverside walkway.

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Riverside walkway.

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Riverside walkway.

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Riverside walkway.

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Riverside walkway.

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Riverside walkway.

That evening we ate in the Olio Restaurant in the Ramada Plaza Hotel. On our first visit to Melaka we stayed at this hotel. It was then the Marriot Renaissance. It had one of the best pools we have ever experienced. This time we did not stay here, but decided to visit for dinner. There was an international buffet in the restaurant downstairs. On the first floor there was a Chinese and the Olio Italian Restaurant. We ate in the Olio. By Melaka standards it is quite expensive, but it was on a par with where we ate in Kuala Lumpur price wise. My husband opted for pizza, I had a chicken dish. We were given bread and dips as a starter. The food was tasty; the service was friendly and attentive. The surroundings were lovely. They had a promotion on their wine, but we stuck to beer.

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The Ramada Plaza.

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The Olio Restaurant.

During our stay we noticed that Melaka is very pretty at night when the lanterns suspended over many houses are lit up. It is charming to walk around the streets in the evening. You feel you have drifted back in time to a simpler and prettier age.

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Lanterns.

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Lanterns.

Another thing we liked were the colourful patterned tiles. When we visited Lisbon I noticed so many beautiful tiles decorating walls, floors etc. Melaka had several pretty tiles, too and I wonder if this is a legacy of the Portuguese occupation. I would imagine it is.

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Tiles.

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Tiles.

We also came across lots of beautiful cats on our visit.

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Cats.

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Cats.

On our final morning just before heading off to the bus station, we visited St Peter's Church which was quite near our hotel. It is very close to the Ramada Hotel. Outside the church there was a sculpture showing Jesus walking on water and Peter the apostle leaving his fishing boat to walk towards Jesus. St. Peter’s Church is the oldest functioning Roman Catholic Church in Malaysia. In 1641 when Melaka was captured by the Dutch there was a period of persecution of the Catholic population in Melaka by the Protestant Dutch. Churches were destroyed and Catholics were not permitted to have their own cemeteries or even to pray in their own homes. Priests could not preach or care for their flock. In 1703, the Portuguese and the Dutch formed an alliance in the war of the Spanish Succession, because of this alliance the Dutch began to adopt a softer approach towards the Portuguese Catholics in Melaka. Thus, in 1710 St. Peter’s Church was built on a piece of land donated by a Dutchman named Maryber Franz Amboer. One of St Peter's bells was cast in Goa in 1608. The church was wonderfully peaceful inside.

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St. Peter’s Church.

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St. Peter’s Church.

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St. Peter’s Church.

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St. Peter’s Church.

Posted by irenevt 20:02 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Ipoh

Malaysia - 2014.

sunny

Chinese Temple, Ipoh. - Ipoh

Chinese Temple, Ipoh. - Ipoh


Chinese Temple, Ipoh.

We visited Malaysia in October 2013 and were investigating whether or not buses ran from the airport straight to Melaka. We discovered there were buses straight from the airport to Ipoh, so thinking it might be easy to get to Ipoh on a future visit, but never having heard of the place, I looked it up. I discovered it was a town that owed its fortunes to tin and that it was Malaysia's third biggest city. I also discovered it had several colonial remains. We decided to note it down for a future visit and in February 2014 we went there.

After booking our trip, we discovered that Ipoh's bus station for intercity buses is quite a long way out of town, so we decided to get there by train from KL Sentral Station instead. This was fine, though the online timetable we were using proved to be out of date. We just missed the 3pm train to Ipoh and had to take the next one at 6pm. There are two types of train services: gold and silver. The train quality is the same for both. The journey time is a bit shorter on gold. It was a pleasant journey which took around 2 hours 20 minutes on the gold service. With three hours to kill in KL plus luggage, we just went to the KL Sentral food court and ate and ate!!!

We began our journey to Ipoh at KL Sentral Station. There are two types of train: gold service and silver service. Buy your ticket at the ETS counters. To get served you must go to the large table near the entrance and take a number. Then you have to wait for your number to be called before you can buy a ticket. Gold service costs 35 RM one way and takes two hours twenty minutes. Silver service costs 25RM one way and should take two hours thirty minutes though ours on the way back took two hours forty-five minutes.

The train is clean and comfortable. It has clean toilets and you can buy food and drink on board. Gold and silver trains are of the same standard. It is just that the silver stops more frequently. There can be several hours between trains. We just missed the 3pm from KL and the next one was 6pm. We bought our tickets for the way back in advance as we noticed some trains were sold out. We returned from Ipoh on the 3pm train. I believe the one before that was at 12pm. The train station in Ipoh is conveniently located in the heart of Ipoh's old town. When you buy a ticket for either service, you are automatically given a seat reservation.

We both really liked Ipoh. It was a relaxing place with friendly locals and not too many tourists. We wanted to have a holiday that was part sightseeing and part rest and relaxation; Ipoh was a perfect choice. The night we arrived we looked at the colourful fountains and lit up old colonial buildings around station square before going to the illuminated Kinta Riverfront tree walk. On our first full day we explored the old town, swam and read by the pool before finding a great place for dinner via the riverside walk and some parks. On our second full day we took a taxi to Kellie's Castle, swam and read by the pool before visiting Little India and more riverside walks, then dinner. I could have happily stayed another day. Ipoh is not an overwhelmingly exciting destination, but it has enough to do, good food and lovely people. I would happily go back. There are many cave temples in the area plus a theme park that includes tigers and hot springs. We did not visit either of these due to lack of time and not wanting to overfill each day and end up exhausted.

We stayed in the Kinta Riverfront Hotel. Check in was quick and friendly. We were given a room on the sixteenth floor. You must use your keycard in the lift to access your room. As soon as you put the keycard in, the floor will automatically light up. Our room was fine, though for a fairly new hotel the standard of workmanship could have been better. The bed was comfortable, though we only had one pillow each and I like to have two. We had tea/coffee making facilities and a room safe. We also had a fridge and four free bottles of mineral water daily. For our first two nights our room was very quiet at night. On the third night we had very noisy neighbours. On the first night we ate in the Tin Ore Bistro and Lounge at the hotel. This is the hotel bar/nightclub. The food was good, drink prices were reasonable, service was friendly and there was live music. After that we went for a walk along the river which is lined with artificial trees, which are lit up at night. It is very pretty and there were lots of people cycling and walking along the river. There is a convenience store in the suites part of the Kinta Riverfront Hotel. There was also one on the other side of the river. There were bars, cafes, restaurants here. Breakfast was served in the Palong Coffee House on the fourth floor. It was fairly good. I like Asian breakfasts so I was on nasi lemak or vegetable curry for breakfast. My husband prefers western. He would have freshly cooked eggs from the egg man, sausage, beef bacon. There were also cereals, a salad bar, bread, cheese, cold meat. you help yourself to tea, coffee or juices. There was a swimming pool and gym (open till 10pm) on the fifth floor. The pool was very good and we generally had it to ourselves. It was open till 8pm. One side of the pool was made of glass so you look strange as you swim as if your head and body are not joined together. Check out was efficient and friendly, too. Our main complaint about the hotel was that the free wifi did not work for the first two days of our stay. My husband was very annoyed about this. It was working on the day we left. All the sights of the old town are easy to walk to from this hotel. We would happily stay here again. Address: Jalan Lim Bo Seng, 30000.

(How to get there: This is how we got to the hotel from the train station. There are several ways. First, cross the main road which is called Club Road or Jalan Panglima Gantang Wahab (there is a green man crossing if you go left at the main road). Walk along Station Road, which is also called Jalan Dato Maharajalela. At the start of this road the magistrates court will be on your left, the town hall on your right. Continue straight to Belfield Road, also called Jalan Sultan Yussuf. At Jalan Sultan Yussuf go left. You will walk past the padang. Cross the road at the end of the padang. you will see St Michael's Institution and the Indian Mosque, go right. Walk past St Michael's Primary School. Cross the road, the hotel is on your right on the river.)

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Our Room.

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The Pool.

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Kinta Riverfront Walk.

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Kinta Riverfront Walk.

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Kinta Riverfront Walk.

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Kinta Riverfront Walk.

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Kinta Riverfront Walk.

We arrived in Ipoh at around 8.20pm. It was already dark and when we emerged from the railway station onto Railway Square we found lots of people sitting around enjoying the cooler evening temperature while watching the fountain show. The old colonial buildings around the square, such as the railway station itself, the town hall/former post office and magistrates court were beautifully illuminated.

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Station Square.

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Station Square.

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Station Square.

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Station Square.

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Station Square.

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Station Square.

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Ipoh Railway Station.

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Ipoh Railway Station.

We had booked into the Kinta Riverfront Hotel for three nights. When we arrived, we found the area in front of the hotel to be filled with colourfully illuminated trees. These are of course fake trees placed there by the hotel to beautify its surroundings. Still it was beautiful and the walkways by the river were lined with cafes and restaurants. The air was filled with live music from the restaurants/bars and the walkways were filled with people cycling or walking while enjoying the illuminations. It is possible to hire a bike here. There were also a couple of convenience stores and a tin mining museum.

Around the corner from our hotel there was a little Chinese temple. I don't even know its name, but it was housed in an attractive building and had some pretty shrines and plants. It is not worth going out of your way for, but worth a look if you are nearby.

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Chinese temple.

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Chinese temple.

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Chinese temple.

St Michael's School in Ipoh belongs to the La Salle Schools Group. The De La Salle Brothers are a Roman Catholic teaching congregation founded in France by Jean Baptiste de La Salle who lived from 1651 to 1719. There are two St Michael's Primary Schools and one secondary school in Ipoh. The secondary school is a beautiful building bordering one side of the Pedang. In 1912 Father J.B. Coppin of St. Michael's Church came up with the idea of building a school. The school opened on the 4th of December, 1912, with just 37 students. I enjoyed watching the children playing cricket in the playground.

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St Michael's School.

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St Michael's School.

The Indian Muslim Mosque is the little green and white mosque next door to St. Michael’s School. The mosque was built in 1908 by Sheik Adam a leading Indian Muslim businessman in Ipoh. We just looked at this building from the outside.

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The. Indian Muslim Mosque.

Like many Malaysian cities, Ipoh has a large grassy field at its centre. This is known as the padang. Padang is the Malay word for field. Ipoh's pedang was created by Ipoh's Chinese community in 1898 in order to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The padang cost over 43,000 pounds. Today Ipoh's padang is a peaceful place. During the heat of the day there may be a few people sleeping or relaxing in one of its shady corners. In the cooler, early evenings it is a frenzy of footballers, but the pedang has had an eventful history. During the Second World War when the Japanese occupied Ipoh, every morning at 8 o'clock all the staff of the government offices in Ipoh were forced to go to the pedang and participate in a bowing and allegiance ceremony. On October 1st, 1943, Subhas Chandra Bose, an Indian revolutionary leader, visited Ipoh and spoke to a large gathering of Indians on Ipoh's pedang. From here he was able to recruit hundreds of volunteers for his Army of Free India. On May 31st, 1962, the Sultan of Perak stood on the pedang to declare the formation of the Municipality of Ipoh. The town of Ipoh spent nearly RM1 million to celebrate this event with a huge parade. Around the pedang there are several interesting buildings. At one end you will find St Michael's School and the Indian Muslim Mosque. At another you can find the exclusive Royal Ipoh Club which dates from 1895. During colonial times this was a whites only club. During the Japanese occupation it was turned into a laundry. On the third side stand several old shophouses, the Ipoh Old Town White Coffee Cafe, the tourist office and Ipoh's old Hong Kong Shanghai Bank. On the fourth side you can see the FMS building. FMS means Federation of Malay states. It was once a rubber planters and tin miners bar. Now it is empty, unfortunately. Hopefully it will be restored rather than allowed to decline. There is a little fountain on one corner of the pedang near the HSBC.

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The Pedang.

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The Pedang.

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The Pedang.

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The Pedang.

The Royal Ipoh Club faces onto Ipoh's padang. It is a black and white striped mock Tudor building which dates from 1895. At first this was a whites only club, but during the Japanese occupation it was used as a laundry. The first non-white person to be invited to the club was the Sultan of Perak. When Malaysia gained independence in 1957 more Malaysians were admitted as members. The first Malaysian to become a member of the Club was Eu Tong Sen, a tin miner. Eu was also the donor of the present Long Bar, which was cut from a single tree. The previous long bar was destroyed by the Japanese.

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Royal Ipoh Club

The Birch Memorial Tower was built in memory of the first British Resident of Perak, J.W.W. Birch. Birch was speared to death by an angry Malay chief, Maharajalela, at Pasir Salak while he was bathing. This event sparked off a war which lasted three years before the British regained control. Birch himself was thought to have been a narrow-minded and difficult man who showed little or no respect for the local culture. He was replaced as resident by Hugh Low a botanist and a much better administrator/diplomat than Birch. The clock tower was built in 1909. The clock has the same chiming pattern as Big Ben. There are four statues on the clock tower which are meant to symbolize four good things about British rule: Loyalty, with a sword and shield, Justice, blind, carrying a sword and a pair of scales, Patience, unarmed, and Fortitude, with a calm face and bearing a spear. The friezes on the clock try to show the growth of civilisation and feature famous historical figures such as Moses, Buddha, Shakespeare, Charles Darwin. A figure thought to have been Mohammed has since been erased as it is offensive in Islam to depict the human form. The road on which this memorial stands was once called after Birch, but now it is called after Birch’s killer, Maharajalela. Maharajalela is now seen as a national hero. The tower is close to the town hall and the national mosque. J.W.W. Birch's eldest son later became the eighth British Resident of Perak.

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The Birch Memorial Clock Tower

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The Birch Memorial Clock Tower

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The Birch Memorial Clock Tower

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The Birch Memorial Clock Tower

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The Birch Memorial Clock Tower

The Perak State Mosque is located near the Birch Memorial. It is also known as the Sultan Idris Shah II Mosque. The mosque was completed in August 1968 and was opened by Sultan Idris Shah II. The mosque has one extremely tall minaret.

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The Perak State Mosque.

Ipoh Town Hall is an attractive old colonial building facing onto the railway station and the station square. At one time this building was also Ipoh's post office but this has moved to the other end of station square. Across the road from the town hall is Ipoh Magistrates court another lovely old colonial building.

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Town Hall Post Office.

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Town Hall Post Office.

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Town Hall Post Office.

There is a large open square in front of the train station in Ipoh. On one side is the lovely old station building; on another is the new post office behind which is the bus station. Directly across from the train station is the town hall and the magistrates court. Station Square has a large ipoh tree. Ipoh takes its name from these trees. It also has a war memorial with plaques commemorating those who died in both world wars, those who died building the death railway in Thailand and those who died fighting for Malaysian independence. The square also has a fountain which was all lit up at night when we arrived at Ipoh. During the day it was not usually operating. There were several plaques showing tin mining and train travel in Ipoh at the back of the fountain. At night this is a pleasant place with its illuminated dancing fountains and illuminated surrounding buildings. People come and sit here to enjoy the fountains and the cooler evening air.

When we arrived in Ipoh, we arrived at the train station. This attractive old colonial building was designed by A. B. Hubback. It was opened in 1935. The building also houses the Majestic Hotel with its station bar. Both hotel and bar were being renovated during our visit. On the platform side there was a little cafe called the monorail cafe. Ipoh locals have nicknamed the station the Taj Mahal of Ipoh. On the far side of the station we could see a Hindu temple. Trains run from here to Kuala Lumpur in around two and a half hours. There are also some trains to Butterworth for Penang.

Spreading out from the bus station and still part of the old town, you can find Little India. I loved this area with its shops selling garlands, brightly coloured saris, Indian DVDs. There were Bollywood type posters on display on some buildings. There were Indian restaurants. Little India was not very touristy. It was a colourful and interesting area to explore.

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Little India.

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Little India.

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Little India.

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Little India.

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Little India.

As we were wandering around Little India trying to follow the Ipoh heritage trail 2 map, we arrived at Paloh Khoo Miu Temple. This temple is also known as Ipoh Chinese Tai Pak Koong Temple. This temple is around 140 years. It is the temple of the god, Tai Pak Koong, god of prosperity. The god's image was first brought to this temple in 1872 from a temple in Hai Zhu Island, near Penang. The temple looked lovely but unfortunately when we visited it was closed. My photos are taken through railings. I would love to revisit when it was actually open.

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Paloh Khoo Miu Temple.

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Paloh Khoo Miu Temple.

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Paloh Khoo Miu Temple.

The Masjid Panglima Kinta Mosque is situated on the other side of the Kinta River from Little India. It was the first mosque ever built in Ipoh and was completed in 1898 by Dato' Panglima Kinta Mohamed Yusof in memory of his beloved wife.

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The Masjid Panglima Kinta Mosque.

St John's Anglican Church was not too far from our hotel. You can also get there by exiting the railway station and turning left. Initially Ipoh's Anglican community used to worship in the Ipoh Court House. As the congregation increased in size, they needed a more permanent site for their services. St John's church was built in 1910. Its construction cost $20,000. During the Japanese Invasion, this church was bombed causing damage to the high altar and bell tower. Later, during the Japanese Occupation, it was converted to a noodle factory. St John's reopened as a church at the end of the occupation on 23rd September 1945.

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St John's Anglican Church.

D.R. Seenivasagam Park is located on the opposite side of the river from the Kinta Riverfront Hotel. It looked quite pretty and pleasant, but I just had a quick look. I did not explore it fully due to lack of time.

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D.R. Seenivasagam.

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D.R. Seenivasagam.

Ipoh is famous for food we had some great meals here. We decided to eat in the Sports Bistro which faced onto the padang. It is near the Old Town White Coffee Cafe. We first noticed this place because of its complicated drink pricing system. As with many places in Ipoh it all depends on the time of day you want to eat. There is no drinks menu inside so you have to work it all out from the pictures displayed outside the front door. For the food on offer check out the backboard inside the restaurant. There are main meals and snack foods. I ordered a chicken dish; my husband had a pork burger porkis available because the restaurant is Chinese. The pork burger was more of a boneless pork chop in a bun. The food was very good and reasonably priced. Service was very friendly and attentive. We returned here for drinks and garlic bread when we were waiting to depart Ipoh by train. We noticed they did a great value 5 course lunch menu. Some other people ordered it and it looked really good, but we could not eat it having consumed a buffet breakfast at our hotel that morning. If you can eat in the heat of the day, this place is great value. Price Comparison: less expensive than average Price: less than US$10

Plan B restaurant looked pretty new. It was also quite nicely decorated. By Ipoh standards it seemed quite expensive and everything was plus 16%. There are two sections: the outside one has ceiling fans but no aircons, the inside one has ceiling fans and aircon and is unpleasantly cold. The food was of a good quality and very tasty. I had chicken; my husband had burger. PLAN B (porkfree). No. 75, Jalan Panglima, 30000 Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia. Business Hours : 9am – 10pm daily.

I like old places so when I read about Kellie's Castle and discovered it was only around 20 minutes drive away from Ipoh, I really wanted to go there. From reading up on up it, it seemed there was not much in the way of public transport to there, so we decided to take a taxi. I hate using taxis and will avoid them if possible. We made enquiries in the hotel to get a general idea of price, but they just said they did not know. Then we asked in the tourist office. They said 30RM one way. We asked how much for take us, wait for us and bring us back and they did not know. We had noticed a taxi rank outside Ipoh Station so we went there. The price started at 120RM to go there, wait an hour, come back. Eventually we got it for 90RM and one and a half hours there. As to whether that is good value, terrible value, I've no idea. Personally, I found the trip very enjoyable and our driver was a very pleasant Indian man who never rushed us and was also happy to take us to the little Hindu temple near Kellie's Castle. Entrance to Kellie's Castle is 10RM for non-Malaysians and 5RM for Malaysians. Outside the castle there is a little shop, cafe and toilets.

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Kellie's Castle.

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Kellie's Castle.

The castle was built by a Scottish man called William Kellie Smith. He was born in 1870 in Kellas, Scotland. In 1890 when he was 20 years old, he arrived in Malaya to work as a Civil Engineer. He worked in Charles Alma Baker's survey firm. This firm had won concessions from the state government to clear 9000 hectares of forests in Batu Gajah, Perak. Using the money he made working here, Kellie Smith bought 1000 acres of jungle land in the district of Kinta and started planting rubber trees. He also started working in the tin mining industry. Kellie Smith named his land Kinta Kellas after his home farm in Scotland which was called Easter Kellas. He also started up the Kinta Kellas Tin Dredging Company. Then he returned home to marry his Scottish sweetheart, Agnes. The couple came to live in Malaysia in 1903. The next year Agnes gave birth to a baby girl and they called her Helen. In 1909 Kellie Smith built his first mansion, Kellas House. This still stands next to and linked with Kellie's Castle but it was badly damaged in the war. Although the family wanted more children, it was difficult for Agnes to get pregnant. Eventually in 1915 she gave birth to a baby boy and they called him, Anthony. Now that he had a son and heir Kellie Smith started planning a huge castle with Scottish, Moorish and Indian architecture. He brought in 70 craftsmen from Madras India to help him realise his dream. All the bricks and marble for the castle were imported from India. Included in the plan for the castle's six story tower was Malaya's first elevator the empty shaft is still there, but the elevator never got installed. There was also a rooftop courtyard for entertaining guests.

One of the first things to go wrong during the construction of the castle was that the Indian construction workers who had been brought in to built the castle were struck down by a virulent strain of Spanish Flu. Several workers died, the others approached Kellie Smith to build a temple nearby to placate the gods and take away the bad luck. Kellie Smith readily agreed. In return for this act of kindness, the workers built a statue of Kellie Smith beside the gods and goddesses on top of the temple wall. It is believed that a tunnel was built to the temple from the castle. In 1926 William Kellie Smith went to Lisbon, Portugal. It is not known exactly why, but it is believed he may have been purchasing the elevator for his castle. While he was there he contracted pneumonia and died at the age of 56. William's wife, Agnes, was devastated and decided to leave Malaya and return to Scotland. She sold Kellas House and the unfinished Kellie's Castle to a British company called Harrisons and Crossfield. For a long period the castle was simply left to fall apart and the jungle began to grow over the ruins. Locals used to swim across the river and visit the ruins. They were creepy, so many ghost stories grew up around the castle.

The interior of Kellie's Castle is interesting. One room has been furnished to show how it may have looked if the castle had been finished. The rest is empty. There's a very,very dark wine cellar, lots of spiral staircases, hidden exits, secret tunnels. Not being an expert on history, I don't know how politically stable life was in Malaya at this time, but it certainly seemed as if Kellie Smith wanted to be able to spirit his family away at the first signs of any trouble. The castle has a tall tower where the elevator would have been. On the rooftop there is a flat area for entertaining guests. The plans for the castle are lost, but I watched a documentary online about the construction and history of the castle; experts reckon they may have intended to top the castle with domes like the popular Moghul style architecture that was found in many parts of British Malaya. Near the furnished room there were some photos of Kellie Smith and his family during their time in Malaya. I noticed as I read the information plaques in each room a bit of an obsession with ghostly occurrences at the castle. The castle is supposed to be haunted by Kellie Smith himself, his wife, his daughter as a child. Even the stables were described as haunted and filled with weird incense smells. I did not find the castle at all scary, though I may not say that if you locked me in there at night!!!! I think the ghost stories arise from the castle's sad history, the fact it was left as an overgrown ruin for a long time and the unusualness of such a building in Malaysia. Old buildings there would be temples, mosques or palaces. A castle is different and therefore may seem a little creepy. I even found a link online to a group of Malaysian ghost hunters who spent a night there.

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Kellie's Castle

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Kellie's Castle.

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Kellie's Castle.

I assumed the Hindu temple that Kellie Smith built for his Indian workers to appease the gods when the workers were all dying of Spanish flu would have been on the castle grounds, but it is not. To get to the temple exit the castle, cross the bridge, return to the main road and go left. You can see the temple in the distance from the top of the castle. We got our driver to take us there, though you could walk. The temple was closed when we got there, but we were able to see the statue of Kellie Smith on the roof of the temple.

Kellie's Castle - Hindu Temple.

Kellie's Castle - Hindu Temple.


Hindu Temple.

It is also worth taking a stroll around the castle grounds. One side is bordered by the river. Close to Kellie's castle there are the stables. There are large grassy areas and at the far end there is an arched doorway which may at one time have been the main entrance to the castle.

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Kellie's Castle.

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Kellie's Castle.

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Kellie's Castle.

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Kellie's Castle.

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Kellie's Castle.

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Kellie's Castle.

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Kellie's Castle.

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Kellie's Castle.

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Kellie's Castle.

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Kellie's Castle.

Posted by irenevt 03:26 Archived in Malaysia Comments (2)

Kuching - City of Cats.

Malaysia.

sunny

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Sunset over the Sarawak River.

Kuching is the state capital of Sarawak and is located in Malaysian Borneo. In my opinion, together with Malacca, it is one of Malaysia's most beautiful cities. Kuching supposedly sounds like the Malay word for cat and so Kuching is also known as cat city and as a result has many cat statues. The town is picturesquely located along the banks of the River Sarawak and it is possible to cross the river both by bridge and by boat. Kuching was once home to the Brooke family, the famous white rajahs of Sarawak.

Sarawak's History

Sarawak was under the control of the Sultan of Brunei for around 400 years until the early nineteenth century. Then it became the property of Sir James Brooke - the first white rajah of Sarawak. Brooke was wounded and resigned from the Bengal army, but instead of retiring gracefully, Brooke bought a boat, the Royalist, and set sail for Borneo. He arrived in 1839 and helped suppress a rebellion against the Sultan. As a token of gratitude the Sultan made Brooke rajah of Sarawak in 1842. When James Brooke died in 1868, his nephew Charles Brooke took control of Sarawak and increased the size of his kingdom. Charles Brooke's second son, Charles Vyner Brooke, was the third and last white rajah of Sarawak. He had to surrender his kingdom to the Japanese during the second world war. After the war Sarawak became a British colony, but was given to Malaysia in the 1960s.

Historical Kuching

In Kuching we stayed in the Holiday Inn Hotel. This hotel is right on the river and has a lovely pool. It is very central. There is a cat statue outside it. As well as its many cat statues, Kuching has lots of beautiful historical buildings, including a row of former warehouses located along the River Sarawak. These have now been restored and are mainly shops. There is always lots of activity on its banks. There is a wonderful white fortress named Fort Margherita. This was built by Charles Brooke and named after his wife. Kuching has an extremely colourful Chinatown with several beautiful Chinese temples. The beautiful former courthouse building dating from 1874 now houses Kuching's tourist office.

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Statue outside our hotel.

Our Hotel.

Our Hotel.

Our Hotel.

Our Hotel.

Our Hotel.

Our Hotel.

Our Hotel.

Our Hotel.

Fort Margherita was built in 1879 by Charles Brooke and named after his wife ­Margherita. It is a beautiful building and there are lovely views up and down the River Sarawak from its walls. Its original purpose was to protect Brooke and his family from river pirates. To reach the fort it is necessary to take a tambang or river ferry, which in itself is an interesting ride.

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Fort Margherita.

Fort Margherita.

Fort Margherita.

Fort Margherita.

Fort Margherita.

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Scenery on the way to the fort.

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View from the fort.

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A tambang or river ferry.

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Sunset, Kuching.

The city of Kuching is divided by the lovely Sarawak River. The banks of the river are filled with activity. A stroll here is very, very pleasant.

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Strolling the river.

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The River by night.

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The beautiful Sarawak River.

Kuching sounds like the Malaysian word for cat so it has several cat statues. The biggest and best is the great cat of Kuching which can be found at the eastern end of Jalan Padungan.

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The Great Cat of Kuching.

Kuching's Hindu temple is very colourful and has some interesting statues. it is located on Jalan Ban Hok. You must take your shoes off when wandering around inside. We had the whole temple to ourselves on our visit and it was very quiet and peaceful.

Hindu Temple.

Hindu Temple.

Hindu Temple.

Hindu Temple.

Hindu Temple.

Hindu Temple.

Hindu Temple.

Hindu Temple.

Hindu Temple.

Hindu Temple.

I'm not generally a museum fan but Sarawak Museum was pretty interesting and as with the other museums we found in Sarawak had free admission. Most of the exhibits related to Sarawak's tribes and cultural traditions, but there were also exhibits about its wildlife. Located on Jalan Tun Haji, open 9am ­5.30pm. Admission free. Well worth a look.

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Sarawak Museum.

Kuching had one of the loveliest China towns I've ever seen. It is entered through a traditional Chinese gateway and has lots of beautiful and ornate old Chinese temples. There are many Chinese owned shops.

Chinatown.

Chinatown.

Chinatown.

Chinatown.

Chinatown.

Chinatown.

Chinatown.

Chinatown.

Chinatown.

Chinatown.

Chinatown.

Chinatown.

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Historical Kuching.

Kuching had a colourful market by the waterfront across from the tourist office. There was also a large Friday market. Both were good venues for taking pictures. in fact when I tried to photograph a fish stall, the stall holder told me to stop. At first I thought he was telling me off, but it turned out he was just getting ready to pose.

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Friendly fish sellers at the market.

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The Market.

We later left Kuching and headed to the Damai Beach area. We stayed in the Damai Beach Resort. This hotel was beautiful, but its restaurant served the worst food we have ever, ever had. I complained about it but no-one cared. It was so bad, we ate there once, then as there was nowhere else to eat, choose to go hungry rather than eat there ever again. Seriously it was that bad.

Damai Beach Resort was on the sea and had a lovely pool. Sunsets here were breathtaking. Across from the hotel was the start of a jungle walk. We did it. It took us more than twice the estimated time. We enjoyed it, but it was hard work.

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Jungle Walk.

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Jungle Walk.

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Jungle Walk.

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Jungle Walk.

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Jungle Walk.

Jungle Walk.

Jungle Walk.

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Damai Beach.

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Sunset, Damai Beach.

Sunset, Damai Beach.

Sunset, Damai Beach.

Near the hotel was Sarawak Cultural Village. We spent hours here and loved it. The setting is stunning ­ a lake in the centre, mountains all round. The village has lots of houses in different cultural styles. You can visit them all. Some tribes put on dance shows: others demonstrate traditional crafts, such as making blow pipes; others sell traditional snacks. It's very interesting to have a look at. The different styles of houses are interesting, too. Plus you get to examine the interior at your leisure. The day ends with a dance show demonstrating traditional tribal dances. When we visited the performances were linked together to tell a long traditional story. The show ended with members of the audience, including me, being dragged up to dance. My husband was able to torture me with a video of me getting all the dance steps wrong for months after our visit. A lovely day out. Open from 9am to 5.15pm; entry was around RM45.

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Sarawak Cultural Village.

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Sarawak Cultural Village.

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Sarawak Cultural Village.

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Sarawak Cultural Village.

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Sarawak Cultural Village.

Sarawak Cultural Village.

Sarawak Cultural Village.

Sarawak Cultural Village.

Sarawak Cultural Village.

Sarawak Cultural Village.

Sarawak Cultural Village.

From Damai Beach we also went to Bako National Park. We booked an organized trip here through the tour desk at the Damai Beach Resort. We must have looked weak and weedy as the girl at the desk did not seem sure we would be able to cope with it. It turned out to be less strenuous than the jungle walk we had done the day before. Bako National Park was very enjoyable. We were taken by minibus from our resort, then caught a boat to the park. We passed by some interesting rock formations on the way. Our Chinese guide was knowledgeable and informative. At one point he stopped to show us a stock of grass which to our amazement turned out to be a snake. We saw several poisonous snakes, wild boar, macaque monkeys and, though I've no good photos to prove it, proboscis monkeys. The tour was very enjoyable and included lunch. Having a guide enabled us to see things we would probably have missed on our own.

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Bako National Park.

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Bako National Park.

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Bako National Park.

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Bako National Park.

Bako National Park.

Bako National Park.

Bako National Park.

Bako National Park.

Bako National Park.

Bako National Park.

Posted by irenevt 05:20 Archived in Malaysia Comments (2)

Kuala Lumpur - City on the Muddy Rivers.

Malaysia 2014

sunny

Bustling Capital of Malaysia

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Garland Seller.

We go to Kuala Lumpur a lot. Our most recent visit was Christmas 2018. I suppose it was our sixth visit. I know our first was on a free stopover on Malaysian Airlines from England. That trip involved a free sightseeing tour around Kuala Lumpur and to the Batu Caves.

History of Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur lies at the confluence of the Klang and Gombak rivers. Its name means muddy confluence. Kuala Lumpur was first settled in 1857 by Chinese tin prospectors. It started life as a rowdy wild west sort of town. In 1881 the centre of government was moved from Klang to Kuala Lumpur and in 1896 KL became the capital of the Federated Malay States. The Japanese overran Malaysia during World War II. After the war in 1957 Malaysia's independence from Britain was declared in Merdeka Square. Since then Kuala Lumpur has continued to develop rapidly.

KL Sights

The main sights in KL are: the old colonial style buildings around Merdeka Square, mosques, Chinese temples, Little India, Chinatown, the old Malay area of Kampung Baru and the beautiful and extensive Lake Gardens.

The Lake Gardens are close to central KL and are a peaceful spot to escape the bustle of the city. The gardens occupy 92 hectares. We went round on foot, but this was tiring in the heat. There is also a shuttle for getting round. If you do walk, wear a sun hat, sun screen and bring plenty of water with you. The gardens most famous site is the Bird Park. Open 9am to 7.30 pm. Adm Rm 28. There is also the Taman Rama Rama, the Butterfly Park. Open 9am to 6pm. Adm Rm 15. We did not actually visit either of these sights. Instead we visited the Taman Orkid, the Orchid Garden. Open 9am 6pm. Adm free. We also visited the Taman Bunga Raya, the Hibiscus Garden. Open 9am 6pm. Adm free. Both were beautifully laid out and filled with colourful flowers. The park also contains a lake, where it is possible to hire boats, the National Monument, which we visited on a previous trip, and the Hotel Carcosa Seri Negara, which was once the luxurious residence of British Government Representative, Frank Swettenham.

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Water lilies.

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Hibiscus Gardens.

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My husband in the gardens.

Malaysia's independence from Britain was proclaimed in Merdeka Square at midnight on August 31st 1957. Merdeka is the Malay word for independence. In the centre of Merdeka Square lies the Padang, a large grassy cricket field. Around the Padang lie a wealth of beautiful old buildings. These include the Royal Selangor Club, the lovely St Mary's Cathedral and the Sultan Abdul Samad Building.

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Merdeka Square.

The Sultan Abdul Samad Building dominates one side of Merdeka Square. This building dates from 1897 and was designed by British architect A.C.A. Norman. It is an example of K.L.'s famous Moghul style architecture. The building is two stories high and is dominated by a central clock tower which is 41metres high. The building is called after Sultan Abdul Samad, the fourth Sultan of Selangor. The Sultan Abdul Samad Building was the main British administrative building in K.L. until 1957. Then the building became the High Court, Federal Court, and Court of Appeals Complex for Malaysia. It continued in this role until 2007. Nowadays it is home to the Information, Communication and Culture Department. The Sultan Abdul Samad Building's clock tower chimed for the first time in 1897 to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. After the declaration of Malaysian independence on August 31st 1957, the clock has chimed at midnight on every Independence Day to commemorate the independence of Malaysia. This is a beautiful building and we were very fortunate on one visit as the busy road in front of it was temporarily closed to traffic, enabling us to approach it more easily and to photo it while standing in the middle of a normally traffic-filled road.

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The Sultan Abdul Samad Building.

The Old High Court Building is located on the Gombak River just across from the Sultan Abdul Samad Building. It is a striking looking building with cupolas and keyhole and ogee arches. Keyhole arches are shapes like keyholes and ogee arches are pointed at the top and have S shaped curves at the sides. It was designed by British architect A.B. Hubback in the Mughal architectural style. The towers of this building were originally dining chambers which had private tiffin or light snack rooms. This building dates from 1915. Personally, I find this building to be one of K.L.'s loveliest old buildings.

The Textile Museum is on the other side of the Sultan Abdul Samad building from the Old High Court Building. We did not go inside. We just admired the building from the outside. This building dates from 1896 and was designed by British architect, A.C.A. Norman. Originally it housed the Headquarters of the Federated Malay States Railway Department. Then in 1917, the building was given to the Selangor State Government and became the headquarters of the Selangor Public Works Department. Later the building was redeveloped as the Textile Museum, which was first opened to the public on the 9th of January 2010. The museum traces the development of textiles in Malaysia from prehistoric times up to the present day. It consists of four galleries.

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The Textile Museum.

The Queen Victoria Fountain is located on one of the corners of Merdeka Square, not far from the textile museum. It is an old ornamental fountain and drinking trough. It was imported into Kuala Lumpur from England then reassembled locally in 1897. The fountain was originally meant to be placed in Market Square, but the police objected to this plan on the grounds that it would obstruct the flow of traffic there. The fountain was built to celebrate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. The ornamental centre piece of the fountain consists of eight winged lions spouting water from their mouths. These represent courage. There is also a Queen Victoria Fountain in Melaka.

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Queen Victoria fountain.

The Royal Selangor Club is also on Merdeka Square. It was founded in 1884. The original club building was just a tiny wooden hut with a thatched roof. Later it was redesigned in traditional black and white Tudor style. The Club was granted a royal charter in 1984 and so became the Royal Selangor Club. Nowadays the club has more than 6,500 members. The Royal Selangor Club is where the Hash House Harriers originated. The Hash House was the nickname given to the Selangor Club, by the British civil servants and businessmen who dined there due to its predictable and boring food. In 1938 a group of British civil servants and workers in British Malaya formed a running club called the Hash House Harriers. Their aim was to work off the excesses of their boozy weekends. The first ever Hash House Harrier run took place starting from the Selangor Club in December 1938. The founding member of the club, G. Gisbert, was killed in action in Singapore during World War II. After the war the running club was continued as a tribute to him. The Royal Selangor Club is a members only club. Address: Dataran Merdeka.

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Royal Selangor Club.

St Mary's Cathedral is an Anglican Cathedral next to Merdeka Square. Around 1887 Anglicans in British Malaya worshipped in a wooden church on Bluff Road near the police headquarters. Frank Swettenham, the Resident General of the Federated Malay States and William Treacher, the British Resident of Selangor, were among the more famous members of the church. In 1894 William Treacher laid the foundation stone for a new Anglican Church building. Local philanthrophists, Yap Kwan Seng and Thamboosamy Pillay, contributed substantial sums of money to help fund the new church. The church was designed by British architect A.C. Norman. In 1895 the new church was finally consecrated by Bishop Hose. A pipe organ was installed in the church. This was built by the famous 19th century organ maker, Henry Willis. Henry Willis had also made organs for St. Paul's Cathedral and the Royal Albert Hall. During World War II the stained glass windows of the church were removed for safekeeping. However, after the war they remained missing, whereabouts unknown. In 1983 St Marys Chuch was upgraded to St Marys Cathedral. We entered the cathedral at the top near the bookshop. It is quite a plain building inside. During our visit there was a rehearsal for a musical performance going on. There is a pretty little garden at the rear of the cathedral. Near St Mary's Anglican Cathedral there is a little square which is filled with colourful flowers and a large fountain shaped like pitcher plants.

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St Mary's.

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Pitcher Plant Fountain.

The KL Railway Building and the Malayan Railway Administration Building face each other across a busy road. They are also close to Merdeka Square. Both buildings are in Moorish style and look like exotic multi-roofed palaces. The Railway Station was built in 1911 by AB Hubbock. The building has recently been restored and has a lovely atmospheric cafe inside. There is an underpass to cross to the Malayan Railway Administration Building. We took a peek inside and it was really beautiful.

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Railway Station.

The Masjid Jamek or Friday Mosque is a beautiful building. It lies at the confluence of the Klang and Gombak Rivers where KL started life and from which it took its name. The mosque was designed by AB Hubbock in 1907.

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The Friday Mosque.

As I said above Kuala Lumpur began life at the confluence of the Klang and Gombak Rivers when some Chinese tin miners settled there. The confluence lies behind Masjid Jamek and the old colonial heart of KL.

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The Confluence.

The Little India area is also well worth a stroll. It has some lovely old shop houses, market stalls and the Masjid India - India Mosque from which the area takes its name. We especially enjoyed visiting the Coliseum Hotel at the south end of Jalan TAR. This colonial era hotel was once frequented by Somerset Maughm. It was wondefully atmospheric inside; had an interesting British flavoured menu and although a bit run down was a joy to visit.

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Coliseum Hotel.

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Little India.

When we were travelling form KL Sentral to our hotel, we passed by a beautiful Chinese temple and a lovely Chinese clan house. We decided to come back and visit them the next day. They are located right next door to Maharajalela Monorail Station. We did not realise it at the time, but they are right on the edge of Chinatown. The temple is called the Wei Zhen Gong Guan Yin Si Temple and dates from the late 19th century. It is dedicated to Kuan Yin, Chinese goddess of mercy and is associated mainly with the Hokkien community. This temple is open from 7am to 5pm.

The Chan See Shu Yuen Clan Ancestral Hall is also close to the Maharajalela Monorail Station. This building dates from 1906. It was built to provide support to newly arrived immigrants from China, especially those from the extended Chan clan. Due to the green tiles which cover its exterior walls, this temple is sometimes called the green temple. The building was being renovated when we visited and inside was a mess. However, we enjoyed the detailed ornate carvings on the front of the building. These depict stories from Chinese legends. I loved the stone lions hiding among lanterns, too. The temple is open from 8am to 5pm normally, though currently closed for renovation.

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Art work at the Chinese temple.

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Chinese Temple Kuala Lumpur.

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Art Work

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Clan House.

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Clan House.

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Clan House.

The Sri Maha Mariamman Temple is located on Jalan Tun HS Lee. It is KL’s most important Hindu temple. A Sri Maha Mariamman Temple has stood on this site since 1883, but the current temple dates mainly from the late 1960s. The temple has a striking five tier tower. This is carved with 228 brightly coloured figures from the Indian epic, the Ramayana. To enter the temple you must take off your shoes. There were many worshippers inside the temple when we visited. Most were sitting down enjoying a meal. The inside of the temple was very ornate and interesting. The temple is open from 6am to 9pm.

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Sri Maha Mariamman Temple.

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Sri Maha Mariamman Temple.

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Sri Maha Mariamman Temple.

The Guanti Temple is just across the road from the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple on Jalan Tun HS Lee. This temple was completed in 1888 and is dedicated to the Chinese god of war. This temple was predominately red and had large coils of burning incense. It is open from 7am to 6pm.

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Guanti Temple.

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Guanti Temple.

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Guanti Temple.

The Lee Rubber Building is an Art Deco style building designed by A. O Coltman in the 1930s. It was founded by philanthropist and businessman, Lee Kong Chian. Lee was known as Southeast Asia's Pineapple and Rubber King. This building also has a slightly sinister history as it was once the headquarters of the Kempeitai, or Japanese secret service during World War Two. We did not go inside the building, but it is now a shopping centre, containing a popular book store on the ground floor and trendy Peter Hoe fashion in the loft.

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The Lee Rubber Building.

Petalang street is a street lined with market stalls in the centre of Chinatown. However, don't forget to explore Chinatown's side streets, too with their dragon lamposts, hanging umbrellas, shops, temples and cafes.

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Chinatown.

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Chinatown.

On one of our stays, our hotel was located near the huge Pavilion shopping mall. As well as having lots of shops, it also had a large number of restaurants selling a wide variety of international cuisines and drinks. We ate at one of the Italian restaurants here.

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Pavillion Shopping Mall.

Sri Kandaswamy Kovil is a Hindu Temple in the Brickfields area. We visited this temple after passing it on the monorail. It was a short walk from Tun Sambuthan Monorail Station along Scott Street and the Klang River. Unfortunately when we arrived there, the temple was closed, so we just viewed it from the outside. This temple is over a hundred years old. It is a Sri Lankan Hindu temple and it is based on the Nallur Kandaswamy temple in Jaffna. When Malaysia was under British rule, many Ceylonese Tamils were employed in the railway industry, They were mainly housed in Brickfields, because it is quite near the Administrative Centre of the Malayan Railway and the old Kuala Lumpur Railway Station. They had nowhere to worship, so built this temple to serve their religious needs.

The Petronas Twin Towers were once the tallest building in the world. These 88 story high steel towers dominate KL's skyline. We watched the sun set behind them on our first evening. The towers were opened in 1998. They are 451.9 m high and house the headquarters of the Petronas Oil Company. Visitors can go to the 41st floor Skybridge; open 9am - 1pm and 2.30pm - 4.45pm Tues to Sat. Inside the towers on the lower floors there is an attractive and busy shopping centre.

We revisited the Petronas Twin Towers at night. We walked there using the air conditioned walkway from outside the Pavillion Shopping Mall. The towers look beautiful and dramatic when lit up at night. There were lots of people around taking photos.

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Petronas Twin Towers .

On one trip we walked to China Town. The way took us past central market, which we had not visited before. It turned out to be well worth a visit. The market is mainly touristy, souvenir based with batik, elephants, antiques, fake antiques, clothes. The market was colourful and interesting. Upstairs there was a food court where we stopped for a coke float and a pineapple juice. We were not hungry at this point but there were plenty of places to eat. Next door to the food court there was a Thai restaurant that we might visit on a future trip.

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Central Market.

On one trip we stayed in the Renaissance Hotel, Kuala Lumpur just after Chinese New Year and were very pleased to watch lion dancing at the hotel. Lion dancing is a form of Chinese dancing used to welcome in the New Year or mark the start of a new business. The dance involves lots of noise from drums and firecrackers to frighten away bad luck.

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Lion Dancing.

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Lion Dancing.

We sometimes use the KLIA express to get from KL Sentral to the airport. It cost 35 RM one way and took around 25 minutes. It was comfortable and did not stop anywhere on route. It is an easy and quick way to travel. We would happily use it again.

On one trip we arrived at Kuala Lumpur Airport early in the morning and wanted to take a bus to Melaka as soon as possible. We went to the bus station to get one. To get there we took the train to Bandar Tasik Selatan Bus Station. The ticket cost 26.5RM. The KLIA transit goes all the way to Kuala Lumpur Sentral, but stops at several places on route such as the south bound bus station.

On one trip we took the monorail from KL Sentral to Raja Chulan. We realised that the monorail passed several interesting buildings so we used it for our next day's sightseeing. It is very easy to use. Buy your ticket from a machine. You can set it to telling you what to do in English. You will receive a token. Touch the token to the reader at the monorail entry barrier. Put it in the slot to be swallowed up and reused at the end of your trip. The monorail was fine but can be crowded.

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The Monorail.

The Old China Cafe - On one of our visits to KL we came here for a snack and a drink and loved the decor. This time we returned for dinner. Service was very friendly and the decor as charming as ever. We shared a starter of top hats which you assemble yourself. This was very good and I would recommend it. We then had a chicken dish and a pork dish. They both tasted delicious though the pork dish contained a lot of fat which I did not like. As always the beer was top notch and ice cold. Address: 11, Jalan Petaling,

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The Old China Cafe.

A popular day trip from Kuala Lumpur is a trip to the Batu Caves. We've only been there once and that was on our first ever trip to KL. The Batu Caves are located in a limestone hill approximately 11km north of KL. There are three main caves. The caves are home to Hindu temples filled with statues and paintings. To access the caves you have to climb over two hundred steps. There are lots of monkeys wandering around this area.

Climbing up to the caves.

Climbing up to the caves.

Climbing up to the caves.

Climbing up to the caves.

The Batu Caves.

The Batu Caves.

The Batu Caves.

The Batu Caves.

The Batu Caves.

The Batu Caves.

The Batu Caves.

The Batu Caves.

Posted by irenevt 06:11 Archived in Malaysia Comments (2)

Luang Prabang

Laos

sunny

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Monks leaving a wat.

This was our second trip to Laos. Previously we have crossed into Vientienne from Nong Khai in Thailand but just for a day trip. This time we flew into Luang Prabang from Bangkok. Recently we have travelled every single time we have a holiday and I must admit we were both really, really tired this holiday. Luang Prabang turned out to be perfect for the way we were feeling as it is a sleepy, relaxed and lovely town. We spent our time wandering the town, eating and drinking by the rivers and swimming.

We were in Luang Prabang at Chinese New Year. This is quite a busy time in Luang Prabang with many hotels and guest houses full. We stayed in two locations. First in a lovely hotel on the far side of the Nam Khan River called My Dream Boutique. This was a friendly hotel with beautiful, flower filled gardens and a very nice pool. Then we moved to the Chitchareune Moungluang Hotel which was a lovely old building, very handy for the sights and also had a lovely pool.

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The pool in our first hotel.

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Inside our second hotel.

Luang Prabang has wonderful old colonial architecture ­ beautiful old wooden houses with colourful shutters; two rivers: the Mekong and Nam Khan both lined with cafes and restaurants; lots of wonderfully ornate wats; a huge night market and a colourful morning market. Strolling along the rivers or down the main street was fantastic and wandering the side streets revealed many wonderful surprises. It is also possible to take a boat trip down the Mekong. There are certainly some really beautiful buildings in Luang Prabang. I liked the old wooden buildings with their colourful shutters. Many old buildings had been made into hotels, restaurants or guest houses.

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Architecture.

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Architecture.

The highest point in Luang Prabang is called Mount Phousi. People come here to watch the sunset. We climbed up Mount Phousi from the Nam Khan River side and came down near the royal palace. It costs 20,000 kip. On the way up we passed lots of shrines, Buddha statues in different positions and a large Buddha footprint. There was even a machine gun up near the top of the hill. The views from the top were lovely and made the climb well worth it. We went up during the day preferring to see the sunset from the river rather than from here.

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Mount Phousi .

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Mount Phousi .

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Mount Phousi .

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Mount Phousi .

Luang Prabang is home to many beautiful wats or temples. I will list some of the ones we visited here.

Wat Xiengthong means wat of the golden city. It is located near the end of the peninsula where the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers meet. Entry cost 20,000 kip. We entered on the Mekong side where the wat was protected by some fierce looking cat statues. For me the best thing about this wat was its beautiful wall decorations including the tree of life on the back wall of its main building ( I won't include a photo as it was being repaired and had scaffolding over it during our visit) and lots of other beautifully depicted everyday scenes. The wat dates from around 1560.

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Wat Xiengthong.

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Wat Xiengthong.

Wat Mai is located on Sisavongvang Road quite close to the royal palace (now the national museum). This wat dates from the early 19th century. Entry is 10,000 kip. The best thing about the wat is the gold panels depicting the life of Buddha on its facade. It also had beautiful ceilings and a pretty garden with statues and (right up the back) the temple boat.

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The Royal Palace.

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Wat Mai.

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Wat Mai.

Wat That Noi And Wat Hor Xieng are right next to each other which is why I include them together. They are located near the post office on the other side of the road. Entry to these wats is free. Entry to Wat Hor Xieng is protected by a fierce looking snake and to Wat That Noi by a many headed nga. The wall paintings on Wat Hor Xieng depicted many gruesome, hellish punishment scenes. I saw exactly the same scenes depicted on other wats, too.

That Makmo is a watermelon shaped stupa located on the grounds by Wat Visoun and Wat Aham. This area is worth a wander. At this point in our trip we had no kip and I paid $US3 to go in Wat Visoun. It would have been cheaper to pay in kip at 20,000kip. For me the grounds were more interesting than the inside which housed a large Buddha surrounded by smaller Buddhas in a variety of different positions.

Wat Meun Na is located near the old bridge across the river. I especially liked its three wise monkey statues on the grounds: see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil. Entry to Wat Meun Na is free.

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Wat Meun Na.

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Wat Meun Na.

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Wat Meun Na.

There were lots of beautiful wats one after another on Sakkarine Road. All were free entry and all are worth a visit. Sakkarine Road is a continuation of the main road as it heads towards the end of the peninsula.

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Wats on Sakkarine Road.

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Wats on Sakkarine Road.

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Sunset over a wat.

With so many wats monks are of course everywhere in Luang Prabang. I particularly enjoyed listening to the evening chanting sessions in the wats as sunset approached. I did not go inside or bother them, I just listened from a distance. I really enjoyed watching monks tend their garden near where the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers meet. Monks must get fed up with tourists like me taking so many photos of them as they try to go about their everyday business, but they do look very colourful and exotic so it is hard to resist. OK, I know I am just being weird here, but I was also quite fascinated by monks' washing lines. Just the fact that absolutely everything, and I do mean everything, was orange. Guess I'm just easily amused. The only thing about monks I did not really like was the morning alms giving ceremony. I know it is famous and it is why people come here, but when we went there were more tourists than monks. It was a bit of a tourist trap.

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Working the land.

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Farming Monks.

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Farming Monks.

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Monks.

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Monks.

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Monks.

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Monks' Washing.

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Monks' Washing.

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Morning alms giving ceremony.

It is fun to stroll across one of luang Prabang's bamboo bridges. I believe this is only possible in the dry season. There are two bamboo bridges across the Nam Khan River. The one near where the Nam Khan and Mekong meet costs 5000kip there and back. We just crossed and viewed the Mekong and Nam Khan but I read you can walk from here to a pottery village. The other bamboo bridge was also interesting. Another great thing about the rivers is the fishermen. I was incredibly fascinated by the many fishermen who waded into the Nam Khan to fish or fished off small boats in the Mekong. How come it's so relaxing to watch other people do all the hard, hard work?

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Stroll across a bamboo bridge.

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Stroll across a bamboo bridge.

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Stroll across a bamboo bridge.

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Fishing.

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Fishing.

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River Views.

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River Views.

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River Views.

Luang Prabang had great food and drinks. There are wonderful restaurants along the rivers. A relaxing drink by the river is wonderful. Laos makes its own beer. The most famous is beer Lao available in light or dark. We only tried the light and it was very good. It is not available in draft in Luang Prabang only bottles and cans. We also found Nam Khan beer in some restaurants along the Mekong. This was also good but tasted more like a bitter than a lager. Most restaurants also sell delicious coconut milk shakes mixed with a variety of juices such as pineapple, papaya, banana, mango. I even tried mint. For some reason they are dearer if you have them without ice.The best place to view the sunset in my opinion is from a restaurant overlooking the Mekong. There are lots of people offering sunset cruises too. You will encounter them as you stroll along the Mekong. Apparent disinterest gets the price down.

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Sunset over the Mekong.

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Sunset over the Mekong.

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Sunset over the Mekong.

We were really spoilt for choice for restaurants in Luang Prabang there were so many located along the sides of the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers. It was wonderful to sit next to the river at sunset and watch the sun go down while sipping a cold beer Lao or coconut milk fruity shake. Food was tasty and cheap everywhere we went. There were local Lao dishes, Thai dishes, baguette sandwiches, pizzas. Going to the toilet was a little strange as it involved using the toilet in the restaurant owner's house. You just stroll into their front room, walk past family members reclining on the floor, pass the kitchens where they are making your meal and ask to be pointed in the direction of the loo. Every restaurant we visited on the river provided an excellent location and great value.

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Enjoying a coconut drink.

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Coconut Milk Shakes.

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Relaxing on the river.

We also enjoyed eating in the Bel Air Hotel. This hotel is located right next to the far side of the old bridge. We went here for a meal as it was close to our first hotel. It is located on the banks of the Nam Khan River and is a bit more upmarket than many of the other restaurants as it is part of a hotel. We had excellent food. My husband had a baguette sandwich. I had a local stir fry meal. The beer Lao was lovely and cold. The setting was relaxing and peaceful, service was friendly and pleasant. The price was still very cheap.

As you wander around Luang Prabang you will most certainly see some wonderful river views and lots of river activity. The rivers and the wats are what really make Luang Prabang special. The main areas for wandering are the riverbanks and the main street, but also take some time to wander down side streets where you just might find food drying in the sun and people preparing food or making things. Luang Prabang lends itself perfectly to the aimless stroll.

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Explore the side streets.

Luang Prabang is not noted for its nightlife, but it does have a huge night market which takes over a large area of the town every evening. It begins near the post office and stretches down the main street and into some side streets. There are food and drink stalls as well as lots of handicraft stalls. Among other things we saw colourful sarongs, bags, T-­shirts, silver jewellery, some interesting lamps, paintings, bottles of spirits with snakes and other creatures inside.

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Shopping for local handicrafts.

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Shopping for local handicrafts.

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Shopping for local handicrafts.

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Shop fronts.

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Shop fronts.

If you prefer shopping in the daytime then try the morning market. We visited the morning market after watching the alms giving ceremony. It starts early. I don't know how long it lasts. It was wonderfully colourful and great for photos. Most stalls sell fruit and vegetables, but there was also meat and fish. There were also some marigold sellers. Directions: The morning market was located on two streets one led off the main street, the other ran parallel to the main street stretching towards the royal palace.

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The Morning Market.

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The Morning Market.

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The Morning Market.

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The Morning Market.

Other shopping opportunities include Dara. This is an indoor market hall located on Kitsalat Road. It had some lovely sarongs and silver jewellery. I'm not much into shopping, but it was worth having a look here especially at the brightly coloured cloth. We noticed some stalls selling local paintings along the Mekong near the entrance to Wat Xienthong. Such pictures were also on sale in the night market. I did not buy any but they were interesting to have a look at.

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Dara Market.

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Dara Market.

Sadly Laos is one of the most bombed and land mined countries in the world having been blanket bombed by the Americans during the Vietnam War. Remains of these sad times can be found all around town. Some War Memorobilia has even been put to practical use.

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War Memorobilia.

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War Memorobilia.

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War Memorobilia.

There is no need to pack the alarm clock for Luang Prabang.In the mornings it is possible to wake up as God intended us to do. Roosters and chickens abounded in Laos. I like to get up early on holiday to maximise daylight sightseeing time so they were fine for me.

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Waking up.

The local currency in Laos is the kip. 10,000 kip is $US1. There was an ATM at the airport and there were lots of ATMs and money exchanges in town especially on the main street. It is better value to pay for sights in kip rather than US. It is easy to change US and Thai currency.Notes should be in good condition, though. We frequently changed small amounts at the money exchange as we needed it. You cannot change it back if you take out too much.

Posted by irenevt 03:39 Archived in Laos Comments (2)

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