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  • Writer's pictureRick

West Malaysia Day 18: Finding Peace in Taiping

Since the ferry to Langkawi was not in operation, I decided to head to Taiping, similar to what I did 7 years ago. I would spend the morning in Penang and then made the move to Taiping around noon.

I went back to Toh Soon Cafe (多春茶室), queue for about 10 minutes before getting a table. I wanted to try their nasi lemak but it was sold out for the “moment”. I ordered a polo bun, a set of egg on toast and a cup of kopi-o kosong.

My orders came and while eating, two big baskets of nasi lemak were delivered and a number of diners got up from their tables to take it. It must be very good. I finished what I had before deciding whether to go for the nasi lemak too. Since I would be setting off to Butterworth around noon, I decided to eat the nasi lemak and go for light bites for lunch or just skip it. I did not regret the decision. It was very nice and despite the red chilli, was not too spicy.

The sun was at full force this day. I retreated back to the hotel to get ready for check-out. I would want to stay in the room till 12pm check-out time but felt like wasting time. So I searched for a nearby cafe, found one just outside the hotel and took off at 11am.

I came to Coffee Lane Cafe, which served light bites and had a range of roasted coffee beans for sales. I tried their own blend of coffee beans named “New Wave Sweet” for hand-brew coffee. It was mellow with some traces of fruitiness. The barista let me sampled another fruitier coffee from the Sumatra Gayo green honey beans.

I had a pistachio rum brownie too, which was not too sweet and with rum flavour but had a strong taste which made the coffee taste even lighter. I had to make sure to keep to light-tasting cakes when having hand-brew coffee next time.

Before leaving the cafe, I bought a bag of Panama Eleta Chiriqui coffee beans for self-brewing at home. Finally, I started buying things since I would be back home in about a week’s time. I got two additional drip coffee packs as free samplers.

At 12:30pm, I walked to the nearest bus stop, waited just 1 minute and Bus 201 came along. The fare was RM1.40 to Pangkalan Raja Tun Uda Ferry Terminal — couldn’t the name be shorter? The journey was less than 10 minutes to the jetty.

Similarly, the ferry ticket to Butterworth was RM2, no cash. During off-peak hours, ferry interval was 30 minutes, so the next ferry would be at 1pm. Boarding started 5 mins to 1pm, departed at 1:05pm, took 10 minutes, and it reached Pangkalan Sultan Abdul Halim Ferry Terminal. Penang Sentral, where I would be taking the bus to Taiping, was just beside the ferry terminal.

I did a self-checkin on Easybook app but no QR code was shown for my booking. A message told me to pay at the terminal even though I had paid for the ticket online. I went to the ticketing counter and was told to pay RM1 for the boarding QR. Why didn’t Easybook include the RM1 and issue me a direct-boarding QR like it did for the bus from KL to Ipoh?

Left with about RM120 in cash — with RM50 reserved as deposit for hotels — I decided to do a cash withdrawal. There were 3 ATMs (RHB, Maybank and MEPS) at Penang Sentral Level 2 that supported Cirrus and Maestro. I tried the MEPS ATM first, it required a fee of RM15 per transaction, I declined. Maybank ATM did not mention any fees and I proceeded to withdraw RM300 using my YouTrip card. A check on the YouTrip app showed that cash withdrawal fee was waived for amount up to S$400 per calendar month. Hooray!

The night before, when booking transport to Taiping, I had the options of the 12:45pm train for RM26 or 2:30pm express bus for RM14.10. I chose the later since “Taiping Terminal” was in the old town and nearer to the hotel I booked.

The less-than-half-filled KLIA-bound Starmart bus departed at 2:35pm and arrived at Taiping at 3:45pm. But it was not the “Taiping” I was expecting. It stopped at Kamunting Express Bus Terminal, about 6Km from Taiping old town. The Taiping Terminal in the old town was actually a domestic bus terminal. To some express bus companies, “Taiping” meant Kamunting Express Bus Terminal. Then, it dawned on me that both Taiping and Ipoh were in Perak, Penang was another state.

It was raining and the hotel I booked was 6Km away, so I e-hailed a Grab car for RM10. That made my total transport cost around RM24. I should have taken the train, like I did 7 years back.

I checked into Knight Alley Hotel, which was a new hotel about 2 years old. The standard double room was large and nicely decorated. In the center of the hotel was a big slide where kids could slide from the third floor to second floor. Seemed like the hotel was a kid-friendly family hotel. There was a kitchen, a communal area on every floor, vending machines, etc. Despite the wooden walls and poor soundproofing, it was actually a better hotel.

I needed laundry service again. The hotel did provide laundry services for free but the one washer and two dryers were in used. Unwilling to wait, I took my laundry out to wash since there was a laundry shop nearby.

The laundry shop, called Dr. Dobi, used tokens for the machines, similar to Cleanpro Express in Ipoh. Total cost was RM11 to wash and dry, detergent was included. But when I exchanged for the tokens, it shortchanged me by giving me one token less. I had to use another RM1 to get two more tokens. In the end, I spent RM12 and left with an extra token that was of no use to me, so I put it in the coin machine dispenser for whoever needed it.

In conclusion, it would be better to use self-service laundry services that used 50-sen coins instead of tokens. Laundry shops should go cashless if security was a concern.

Instead of heading back to the hotel, I went to look for food as it had been nearly 7 hours after eating a brownie in Georgetown.

Using Google Maps, I came to the temporary site of Siang Malam, which means “Day & Night”, also known as “不夜城”. The hawkers were originally housed in a historical structure, which was undergoing refurbishment, so they shifted to the temporary site to continue their business. The refurbishment work was still in progress.

At Siang Malam (temporary), I had char kway teow and two dim sums dishes from two separate stalls. I did not go for the mini nasi lemak, a typical fare in Taiping, since I ate something similar at Toh Soon in the morning and also not much space in the stomach after the char kway teow.

After dinner, I went back to the hotel and hang up my clothes, which were still warm from the dryer.

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