Indulge in nostalgia in Ipoh
To Malaysians, Malaysia can seem too familiar to be an exciting holiday destination. Yet, familiarity can be a boon. The food is known, the weather is a predictable sunny, and communication is easy. That leaves us free to get to know our country’s backyard.
For this holiday season, try some of Malaysia’s short getaways.
Ipoh: Remembering childhood
Once a step-sister to the hip George Town, Ipoh is now the pick of holiday-makers who want to avoid the crowds and still revel in nostalgia.
The whole of Ipoh’s old town centre is great for a walk down memory lane, with old tradesmen still plying their craft in the prewar shophouses.
For a more polished-up version of nostalgia, visit the Sekeping Kong Heng redevelopment which has brought life back to the old shophouses with a quirky touch. The shophouses have been restored to be fun cafés and chic shops, set around the iconic Kong Heng coffeeshop which locals say still sell the best hawker food in town.
Take a walk back into your childhood at the Hopscotch newsagents where you’d find old-school enamel mugs and other items to bring you back in time.
Then, go next door to the tiny Bits & Bobs shop where you can remind your tastebuds of the taste of childhood with ice balls in different flavours and old-school sweets, and coo over the collection of chocolate tins, books and even hub caps of decades gone by.
Sekeping Kong Heng and the adjoining The Old Block offer quirky and unusual accommodation suitable for groups and families. There’s lots of space to chill out and a rooftop swimming pool as well.
Setiu: Live like a king
A magnificent old Malay house in Terengganu
Take another kind of walk down nostalgic lane of a posher kind, and spend a night or two at Terrapuri Resort in Setiu, Terengganu. The resort is made up of 20 old wooden Malay houses collected from around Terengganu, and reassembled on this seafront land an hour from Kuala Terengganu.
The houses come from different villages, and were rebuilt faithfully according to old beliefs including placing pieces of cloth at the top of the main pillar to protect the inhabitants.
The bigger houses can accommodate small groups.
Spread out on a large piece of land, the sound of waves can be heard all day long as the beach is just steps away. Other nearby sights include the fishing villages of Penarik and Mangkuk, and the fireflies.
There is also a swimming pool.
Terrapuri was inspired by the 17th century Terengganu palace grounds.
Terengganu may be famed for its islands but its long coastline of coconut trees and white sand can be as alluring – with the bonus of nostalgic accommodation at Terrapuri.
Kota Kinabalu: Play with the fishes
Tranquil clean rivers in Sabah
Kota Kinabalu is popular with many Malaysians for its beautiful islands and scenic mountain landscape. But for something different, make a visit to its rivers too.
Not far from the city, in the nearby Penampang district, are pristine rivers perfect for picnicking and frolicking with the fish. Yes, in some rivers, it’s possible to play with the fish and get a fish spa as well.
These river stretches had been rejuvenated through a community-based system called tagal. Some popular sites easily accessible are the Babagon or Notoruss villages, about 45 minutes from Kota Kinabalu.
At Notoruss village, visitors can feed the fish, and those who aren’t squeamish can let the harmless fish nibble the dead skin on their feet. Swimming is allowed at the shallow rock pools of this crystal clear river.
At the nearby Babagon village, fishing is allowed but only catch-and-release is allowed.
Children are welcomed as well, with supervision.
Sabah is known as a state of magnificent islands, a mighty mountain and mysterious forests. Now, add its rivers to this mix.