With a team of food lovers, our department's team building is always food centric. We headed down south to Ipoh last week to sample some of its finest delicacies and since our manager grew up there, he was roped in to be our local tour guide ;)
We started super duper early - 5.30am to be exact so we could be on the North South expressway with minimal traffic jam. I did my makeup half asleep guided with only a tiny night light to avoid waking up Hubs and Bubs and I realised that I couldn't even see what colour or how heavy I'd applied my makeup!
Our first stop was a dim sum breakfast at a quiet shop. We were starving by then after the long drive and couldn't stop devouring little steamed baskets of goodies.
To stretch our legs and burn off calories from breakfast, our boss drove us to Sam Poh Tong. I think I might have been there decades ago with my family so I wasn't expecting much ... until I saw those gorgeous limestone caves against a backdrop of lush greenary. I don't know if it was the morning chill, the peaceful still waters of the pond occasionally broken with schools of carp swimming gracefully or the tiny drops of water slowly making its path down from the mountains - I just drank in all the sights hungrily and savoured deep breaths of the fresh air.
Don't miss the outdoor tortoise pen at the back while you are there. It is housed in a quiet garden straight at the back that just radiated tranquility to me, though it had mixed feedback from my colleagues, some said they just felt slightly eerie there. Tortoise and fish food are available for sale at the front entrance and I found the tortoise area to be clean and quite well kept.
A must do in Ipoh: Funny Mountain tau foo fah. Priced at RM1 for a a bowl of the softest and smoothest soybean curd, there were lines of people patiently waiting for their fix. I may or may not had more than just a bowl *shifty looking eyes* Colleagues actually brought along tiffin carriers just to tah pao bowlfuls of it back to Penang. It was seriously that amazing.
You can't go to Ipoh without stopping to buy some freshly baked pastries. My colleague found this tiny little store that still makes them the traditional way and the uncle that owned the store was so warm and welcoming to us. When I first tried to take a photo, he stopped me and said something in Cantonese which my colleagues translated for me: please wait, I'll be bringing out a full batch of pastries for you so it'll look much better in your photo. That was so nice of him! :) Plus they don't follow you around the shop urging you to buy, they just let the aroma of their goodies do all the persuading. I couldn't resist getting a big box of their famous kaya puffs which were deliciously flaky. If anyone's interested, here are the contact details:
Sin Eng Heong 05-2439659
No. 64 - 66, Jalan Mustapha Al-Bakri, Jalan Clare, 30300 Ipoh,
Lunchtime was at a coffee shop that serves a decent beansprout chicken rice, another famous Ipoh dish. If you look closely at the photo, you'll see that Ipoh beansprouts are plumper than those grown in other states and they have a nice crunch to it. My manager told us it's because of the famed almost-magical qualities of Ipoh water, apparently even the girls in Ipoh are prettier because of the quality of the water ;)
Our detour before we headed back to Penang was the Gunung Lang Recreational Park. Initially, I wasn't that keen on rambling about in a park right under the hot sun after so much food. I was whining that I'd be sitting comfortably under the shade of a huge tree while the rest of them can do what they wanted there. I'd to eat my words when we reached there.
Feast your eyes on these beauties. More majestic limestone rocks with tiny little paths sluiced through by water droplets, I'm told there's an artificial fountain turned on everywhere now and then. A deep green lake with quiet waters and lots of fishes that you could again buy fish food to feed them with. And the beautiful, unspoiled greenery everywhere. For a moment, I just stood at the jetty and feasted my eyes on how perfect nature can be, it was almost like balm for a jaded soul :) There were little boats to ferry people across the lake to a tiny island but unfortunately, it was closed for lunch.
We then headed back to Penang heavily laden with biscuits, pomelos and salt baked chickens. Ipoh, thanks for showing me that there is more to this grand old dame. I'll definitely be back :)