Butterworth and Ipoh

There are some nights when you just can’t get to sleep. Or when you do, you’re woken by something very quickly. All you want to do the next day is sleep. But on a day when you’re moving on, that’s not really an option.

Liesel and Jyoti went out for breakfast while I took an extra snooze and they brought me some breakfast back. The bread was like a bagel, only without the hole. But it did come with cream cheese. Unusually, we didn’t have to check out of this place until noon: normally it’s 10.00am, so packing was a little more leisurely and I had time to catch up with my writing.

The plan was to catch a train from Butterworth to Ipoh. Even though we checked out later than usual, we still had plenty of time to kill at Butterworth railway station, after a long taxi ride there, including over the Penang Bridge. Our train didn’t depart at 14:30 as we thought, but at 4:30.

Purple Mosque on Penang Island

J&L chose to stay in the waiting room while I went for a quick walk. Arbitrarily, I headed for Wellesley Residences: maybe there was something historical there, relating to the Duke of Wellington. But no: it really is just a block of flats.

Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Butterworth

Getting there involved crossing a couple of busy roads. I found a pedestrian crossing, pressed the button, waited for the green man to appear, then waited for two cars and a motorobike to ignore their stop light before I was able to cross the road.

Whereas on a western shopping street you might see clothes shop after clothes shop, or a number of coffee bars close together, here, it seems every third one was a motosikal repair shop. Piles of tyres and engine components spilling out onto the pavement. Well, I say pavement, in the sense of footpath, but this area of real estate is used as a motosikal parking area too.

Motorcycles on the pavement
One large kerb for a man

Outside one restaurant, they’d even set up the kitchen on the sidewalk, so to walk by, you either walked through the premises or along the road.


These cages of stones are the local bollards and to be honest, I think they look much more attractive than big lumps of concrete.

But even motor bikes can’t park everywhere on the pavements. I reported this hole to the authorities. They said they’d send someone to look into it.

A hole in the pavement

Off the main road, I came across a very cute little shrine. Very red, very pretty.

Chinese Shrine, Butterworth

I bought a large bottle of water for RM2.20, that’s about 44p in English money. I also found some cough sweets for Liesel and a snack box of mini poppadoms. My knowledge of the Malay language is slowly improving. Or so I thought. The Malay word for ‘water’ is ‘air’. I think. Either that, or there’s a big conspiracy to confuse this monoglot English person.

Back at the railway station, we continued waiting, walking around, watching the other people. So what an anticlimax the train ride itself was. Comfortable and cool enough, the scenery that we passed was OK, nothing special. I read for a while. Napped.

We took a cab from the station to our hotel in Ipoh. Yes, an actual hotel, even though booked through Airbnb.

Street art, Ipoh

We were on the 9th floor this time. The view over the city towards the hills was enhanced by a thunderstorm. Indeed, it rained for a while although we were inside at the time.

Down came the rain

In an outrageous turn of events, the Infinity Pool down on the 7th floor is closed for repairs. We might not have used it anyway, but who knows?

The closed Infinity Pool

We went for a walk and found a nice restaurant for our evening meal then walked back the long way.

While in the bathroom preparing for bed, I was entertained both by a rubbish singer in the karaoke bar just over the road and by the muezzin’s call to prayer from the nearby mosque. The sounds complemented each other beautifully and, oh, alright, humorously.

In the morning, we took a cab to a place for breakfast only to realise on arrival that we could have walked it. But cabs are so cheap, and when you book one using the Grab app, the driver often turns up before you’re quite ready.

The second cab ride of the day took us to the caves. Welcome to Gua Tempurung Geosite Showcave Tours.

Welcome to Gua Tempurung

Regular readers may recall the photos from the previous post. All SRN of course. Here are a few more interesting and better pictures. There was much more to our cave experience than posing for pictures.

In the vegetation outside, we spotted some of the ‘tomatoes’ we’d seen from the Tree Top Walk. Unfortunately, they were still too high to get a close look.

Where are the tomatoes?

Although there are many signs telling us not to, some people had climbed over the rail to make their marks on the cave wall.

Recent grafitti

It would have been far more interesting to see some genuine pre-historic cave art, but carbon-dating confirms this effort to be just two years old.

There was some slightly older artwork available, made by the communist insurgents in the 1950s and ’60s, while they hid in this cave system. Big cars seems to be the main theme.

Communists like big cars

Today wasn’t the right day, but once or twice a year, the Sun shines in through this gap at exactly the right angle and it appears as a really solid beam of sunlight.

A small gap for the Sun to peep through

The path is concrete, designed and built by an Aussie. All the noise and vibrations of the building work caused no damage to the cave itself, according to our guide.

The start of a very long stairway

We climbed up and up and, unlike the glowworm cave in New Zealand, this one is illuminated all the way through.

During its nearly 2 million year history, the floor has collapsed a few times, revealing different levels and strata on the walls. The stream that flows through the caves was quiet today, but after a couple of days heavy rain, it can become torrential, even bringing in snakes, which don’t otherwise live in the caves.

Stratified cave walls

Stalagmites and stalactites are the main feature here, although our guide, Roslan, did point out some others.

Stalagmite and stalactite will eventually meet in the middle
Wonderful formations
Golden Flowstone

The Golden Flowstone must be an amazing sight when it’s been raining and water flows down into the stream. Even then, the cave never closes to the public, except for Chinese and Malay New Years.

Amazing formation
This could be the start of a beautiful stalactite

We reached the end of our Dry Tour and looked down on those who had chosen a Wet Tour, walking in the water. But against all the rules, we were strongly encouraged to touch the roof just because we could reach. And I think to provide another photo opportunity. Our grins were pretty rigid by now.

On the way back, we spent a few minutes enjoying the breeze through the ‘Wind Tunnel’. It wasn’t that hot in the cave, but neither was it refreshingly cool.

Back in the real world, we tried to book a cab using the Grab app. Can’t find a driver, it said. Computer says ‘no’.

Fortunately, the lady in the shop had a number which Chris (who we’d met on the tour) called, and a cab arrived for us after about 40 minutes. While waiting, we were entertained by a cat having a snooze on one of the café seats. Suddenly, it woke up, leapt across the path and picked up a lizard with which it played for a while. Sometimes, nature’s not so cool.

Cat v lizard

On our return to Ipoh, we walked around looking for coffee and refreshments and ended up in Concubine Lane.

Concubine Lane

In the evening, Jyoti and I went out for another quick walk and came across the Heritage Trail.

Heritage Trail

We didn’t follow it as we didn’t want to end up too far from our hotel. Plus, we came across the evening market: the stalls were being set up including one where an elderly gent was using an elderly Singer sewing machine, presumably some ad hoc tailoring and mending.

Other places we didn’t visit include the Body Alignment Warehouse Gym (we forgot our kits) and the Playboy Club (we forgot our bunny ears).

Body Alignment Warehouse Gym
Gentlemen’s Night at the Playboy Club – in 2019
Jyoti with a leaning tree in Ipoh

We visited the Roof Garden of our hotel on the 21st floor. I beg your pardon? I never promised you a roof garden. No, there were a couple of plants, but it was a mini concrete jungle. If you leaned over the edge, though, you could just see the sunset.

Sunset over Ipoh
Ipoh at sunset

Apparently, the largest ethnic group in Ipoh now is Chinese, although we didn’t particularly notice while we were here. During one of our cab rides, we did hear the driver say it’s hard enough to use one phone, he wasn’t going to use two at the same time. Well, thanks for that!

Author: mickandlieselsantics

We are a married couple, one American, one Brit, one male, one female, neither of us as fit as we would like to be, well over 100 years old altogether.

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