“Greetings from Taiping,” writes Intrepid Correspondent Vicki Terhorst this morning.
“This place is an historical and hidden gem in Malaysia. So few Westerners visit the ‘town of everlasting peace’ that Paul and I attract attention wherever we go. Young folks yell ‘Welcome to Malaysia’ from car windows, school bus windows, and motorcycles. Older folks come up to us when we are eating or out walking, to greet us and to ask where we are from.
“The other day I walked by a huge convent school that teaches in English, and their motto caught my attention: Simple in Virtue, Steadfast in Duty. Sounds good to me. This quiet haven certainly has that kind of feeling.
“As I walked by, the kids were out on the street waiting to be picked up to go home. A uniformed young teen greeted me, and, much to her surprise, I stopped to chat a bit with her. Her friend giggled with embarrassment, but the girl answered my questions as best she could. Then a uniformed boy, a bit farther down, shouted out a greeting from across the street, and I asked him how he was doing at school. Fine. A bit farther along, a young Indian girl shouted out, ‘Hello, Auntie’ (an informal and endearing Indian greeting).
“We smile all the time as we walk down the street, in response to everyone smiling at us. Everyone is a mix, rather than a blend, of ethnic Malays, Chinese Malays, and Indian Malays. The population of the greater metropolitan area of Taiping is around 200,000, while the charming, colonial downtown area, where we stay, has fewer than 10,000 residents.
“We have been living in Taiping for about six weeks. We stay in a clean, well-maintained, comfortable budget hotel (Furama) with spacious rooms, wifi, and a caring staff. The cost is about US$22 a night. The hotel’s central location, tucked between the expansive Lake Gardens park and the charming downtown, makes it easy to walk to just about everyplace we want to go.
“We like staying in hotels. Which is just as well as we haven’t found any rental real estate offices, at least not ones with a sign in English, where we could inquire about a rental. I’m sure it would be possible to rent with a little bit of creativity and chatting with the friendly locals. One afternoon, while shopping in an Indian sundries store, the owner asked me about my accommodation. When I said we were living in a hotel, he replied that, next time I come to Taiping with plans to stay awhile, he could find me a reasonable rental.
“Living without a kitchen in Taiping has been incredibly easy. We find something fun, different, and delicious to try every night. Malays eat out regularly at low-priced local food courts (hawker stalls) or in simple restaurants. Many of these stalls and restaurants, whether they are Chinese, Malay, or Indian, have prepared food set out buffet style.
“You usually serve yourself what you want to eat. Then you show your filled plate to the cashier, who looks over your selection, makes a calculation, and tells you the cost–usually between US$1 and US$2. I eat only vegetarian food and have been astounded at the wide selection and variety available here. For a change of pace, Taiping also offers fancier, higher-end restaurants with menus.
“Most Malaysians speak several languages. Everyone speaks Bahasa Malay, and, then, if they are Indian or Chinese, they speak their family’s native language(s), as well, along with English. We appreciate the ease of being able to communicate with others in English in Malaysia but have decided that it would be worth the effort to learn a bit of Bahasa Malay for our next stay. And there will be a next stay!”
Kathleen Peddicord www.liveandinvestoverseas.com