Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Thousands at riverfront project launch to see Michelle Yeoh - Star

IPOH: Oct 28, 2008

Thousands thronged the launch of the Kinta Riverfront project here mainly to catch a glimpse of international star Datuk Michelle Yeoh.

The arrival of the Ipoh-born former Bond girl sparked off a chain of bright flashes from cameras as Yeoh was escorted to the grand event held on Deepavali eve.

Welcoming her were Morubina Group of Companies managing director Ting Sing Yiew and state senior executive councillor Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham.

Yeoh, who launched the project with Ngeh, lauded the project, adding that she hoped more people would come forward to develop the state together with the Government.

She said the days when tin miners were the main economic force for Perak were long gone and the tourism industry should be the foremost for the growth of the state.

Grand entrance: Yeoh walking to the stage at the launch of the project in Ipoh on the eve of Deepavali. With her are her father Datuk Yeoh Kian Teik (in front of her), mother Datin Janet Yeoh (behind her), and Morubina Group of Companies managing director Ting Sing Yiew (behind Kian Teik).

Yeoh said there should be more proper facilities like five-star hotels to accommodate tourists, adding: “When we bring our friends here, we need proper five-star hotels to accommodate them.

“We can’t just ask them to visit for the day and go off somewhere else. We want them to stay and enjoy because there’s so much to do in Ipoh,” she said.

Ngeh stressed that the state government would welcome local investors who want to bring prosperity to the state.

The RM200mil Kinta Riverfront project, which runs along 1.2km stretch on both sides of the Kinta River, will feature the city’s first five-star hotel and service suites.

Replicas of the world’s famous bridges, bazaars, shops and mini theme parks were also planned in the project, which is expected to be completed within two years.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Putting the roar back in Ipoh - Star


With hidden treasures such as food, interesting sites and colourful goings-on, Ipoh promises to be a place you just want to stop at a bit longer.

Ipoh seems to have it all. Yet somehow it doesn’t quite make it on everyone’s “must-visit’’ list.

There has been talk of revitalising the city for some time now. But until things get up and going, Ipoh is like a race-horse that keeps running but never crosses the finish line.

In synch: Dragon dance is an integral part of the Nine Emperor Gods festival which is celebrated with gusto in Ipoh. – CHING TECK HUAT

The problem can’t be the food. I asked my doctor, who’s from Ipoh, about the town specialty? He drew me a rough map to two exceptional “makan” shops - Lou Wong and Foh San.

Taugeh (bean sprouts) chicken is a favourite of Chinese cuisine connoisseurs and Restoran Lou Wong Taugeh Ayam Kuetiau in the town centre serves the real McCoy. Lou, (pronounced “Lo” which means “old”, an affectionate reference to Mr. Wong’s restaurant which has stood the test of time. The outlet which has been around for 51 years and dispatches something like 140 chickens a day is practically an institution in itself. Half a chicken, a heaping plate of succulent bean sprouts (taugeh) drizzled with aromatic black sesame oil and a steaming bowl of soup with fish and pork balls cost only RM17.

Just a stone’s throw away is Foh San, a venerable dim sum restaurant set in an old building which also houses the Perak Chinese Amateur Dramatic (sic) Association. People tell us their dim sum is sold out before noon.

Then there is the legendary Ipoh White Coffee, which has as many taste variations to it as there are coffee shops who serve it. But there’s no mistaking who’s the king of the coffee bean hill there. Only the grubby-looking Sin Yuan Loong pulls them in like no other.

Nevertheless, we still get the impression that Ipoh is more for Ipohites and that taugeh chicken and white coffee may have brought Ipoh to the rest of Malaysia but not the rest of Malaysia to Ipoh.

A must-try: Lou Wong Taugeh chicken.

Shopping isn’t a problem. You have the landmark Ipoh Parade, Greentown Mall, Yik Foong Complex and The Store. Hotels are good, clean and cheap. We stayed at the Regalodge, which has all the trappings of a three-star hotel - free Wifi access, stocked-up fridge, long bath and get this - a 37” Sharp LCD TV in every cosy room. A double room set us back by only RM116, with local buffet breakfast thrown in. There are also at least four hospitals, 12 schools, three colleges including a medical college, a library, two museums and a lovely park (Seenivasagam Park).

Then there are the cave temples Sam Poh Tong and Kek Lok Tong, which have been tour highlights for decades.

Despite it all, there’s definitely something missing. Ipoh, the third largest city in Malaysia (after KL and Penang) falls behind even Johor Baru in terms of dynamism and visitor traffic.

So what’s there in Ipoh to keep them coming?

Maybe it needs a good shot in the arm. like the parade of the Nine Emperor Gods festival. We arrived just in time to witness it.

There were prancing Chinese lions, serpentine mythical dragons slicing through the air, processions of flower and lantern-bedecked floats with participants throwing sweets or handing out “tortoise” buns (red buns shaped like tortoises) to spectators, traditional dances and marching brass bands.

There were wildly rocking sedan chairs upon which were seated “dieties”. The weight of their spiritual power was said to be so great that the sedan bearers were swinging and swaying as though the chairs themselves had come alive.

There were Chingay performers struggling to balance massive flagpoles alternatively on foreheads and open jaws and Indian drummers. There was also a Hindu devotee pulling a chariot with hooks enmeshed in his back. Call it what you will. A parade. A procession. A carnival even. It was spectacular.

If it carries on in this scale every year, it could become an international tourist event.

The festival culminated in the fire-walk on the night of the ninth day. Only devotees who were spiritually cleansed - strict vegetarian diet, no smoking, drinking and gambling for nine days - could undertake the bare-footed walk over the pit of smouldering coal. If your tootsies get burnt, it means you’ve been cheating. (That’s the spiritual explanation of the day.)

The Birch Memorial Clock Tower built at the turn of the century.

Meanwhile, between now and the next Kow Wong Yeh or Nine Emperor Gods festival, perhaps the town council could place historical attractions under its protection. We visited Birch Memorial Clock Tower at Jalan Datoh Sagor. I read somewhere that Datoh Sagor was among a trio who assassinated Birch in 1875. Birch may have been a nasty fellow and asked for it but I think the memorial tower in his name deserves better.

None of the four faces of the clock was working and someone had dumped a broken deckchair on the platform. Unveiled in 1909, the Victorian clock tower, with its captivating murals is history worth preserving.

Other colonial buildings fared a little better. The front half of the City Hall building has just been repainted. The Railway Station cum Heritage Hotel could do with a little more work. The grounds on which the war memorial is situated, however, is picturesque and perfectly kept.

The city road signs too are uni-directional at T-junctions and crossroads. Guessing or taking a blind shot at what the other road is can be a wearisome game for outsiders. Ipoh has a historical past. It is a shame to let it fade away. The old names of city roads if shown alongside the new ones, would certainly stir interest in Ipoh’s beginnings. Appreciation starts with knowing the city’s roots.

I believe Ipoh has the right ingredients for a revival, it just has to work on its formula.

The article is written in the spirit of Visit Malaysia every year. The writer believes unbiased, constructive comments will only spur Ipoh and its town council to greater heights.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Fine dining in cosy ambience - Star


IF you have a penchant for fine dining, you will be delighted with Impiana Casuarina hotel’s newest outlet in Ipoh.

Called The Bistro, it offers fine dining in a casual and relaxed atmosphere, complete with excellent service, live music and most of all, excellent food.

It is a place where anyone would feel comfortable and at home, whether you are dressed casually in smart attire or ready for a wild party or an elegant and romantic dinner. It is the place to indulge in a full course meal or just to sip refreshing drinks, mocktails and wine.

As for the menu, you will find it is a delectable and delightful combination of the best of Asian and Western cuisine €“ now popularly known in the culinary world as fusion.

As for their full four-course meal, you can start with the masterpiece called Angel Hair Crispy Tiger Prawn. But before that, there is chicken with mayo salsa.

The prawns are fried in crispy batter and surrounded by a myriad of tastes including mayo ginger, creamy and rich avocado salsa, wasabi dressing and tobikko caviar. Sounds confusing, but the combination of tastes is something you simply have to experience to understand.

The second course is wild mushroom soup topped with coconut snow, namely a dollop of coconut cream, which somehow lent a special aftertaste to the creamy soup which is also complemented by sprigs of coriander.

For fish lovers: Teriyaki Glazed Salmon Fillet.

Already more than half full and with the experience of a fusion of tantalising tastes, there is still the main course to come. For this, you can choose a medium chargrilled fillet mignon steak. The meal comes dressed with a rich sauce, with a side of garlic potato gnocchi, asparagus spears and herb glaze.

The potato gnocchi is simply mouth-wateringly rich and creamy and the meat done to perfection with its juices intact to give you that original flavour enhanced by the sauce.

And of course, no four course meal is complete without desert which is in the form of a chocolate truffle blakey with sabayon sauce, berry compote and tuille.

Their signature concoction €“ Dragon Frizz €“ is an award winning mocktail at the prestigious Salon Culinaire Malaysia 2007 competition.

Other tantalising dishes from the menu include Cutlet of Lamb Rack, Glazed Salmon Fillet and Prune and Pistachio Pudding.

Although an upmarket higher end dining outlet, the prices are nevertheless considered reasonable, especially for a hotel-based eatery.

The Bistro is open from Mondays to Saturdays with lunch hours from 12pm to 3pm, and dinner is served between 7pm to 11pm.

For reservation, call the hotel at 05-2555555.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Lailatul’s kuih bahulu going like hot cakes - Star


Housewife Lailatul Mohd Noor’s kuih bahulu is in such great demand that she has been forced to stop accepting orders for Hari Raya.

Since last Sunday, she has been churning out 3,000 pieces of the Raya favourite daily — an astounding feat for one person. She uses 300 eggs, and 10kg each of flour and sugar in a day.

“I start at 4am and finish at around midnight each day, resting only during buka puasa times, all for the sake of making some extra money for Raya.

“Sometimes, my son and daughter help me with the packing,” she said while removing trays of freshly baked kuih bahulu from a modest-looking oven in her home in Jelapang here.

Hot demand: Lailatul packing the freshly baked kuih bahulu at her home in Jelapang yesterday

Lailatul’s customers come from as far as Kuala Kangsar and Kuala Lumpur.

“They are mostly regulars who have been buying from me the seven years I’ve been baking at home,” said Lailatul, 42, who had been making the cake since she was a teenager.

Sold as Laili World Bahulu, her kuih bahulu are also available at selected shops in the city on normal days.

Asked what was so special about her kuih bahulu, Lailatul said:

“I’ve been told by customers that my kuih bahulu is more traditional compared with others and that they like it because I do not use any baking powder.”

Lailatul can be contacted at 019-3759449.