There are times when I obtain the resolve to go somewhere just because of a picture that I’ve seen. That pretty much led me to Taiping, Malaysia; a seemingly nondescript town in between Penang and Ipoh. Taiping – translated in Chinese as “Everlasting peace” – is not a tourist town, with its claim to fame being the rainiest city in Peninsular Malaysia. This has benefited the town with an extremely verdant vegetation, the kind that even others from the tropics would envy over. As for me, all it took was one picture of the beguiling Taiping Lake Gardens, with its lush greenery and calm waters with almost perfect reflection for me to get smitten.
the spectacular raintrees which taiping is known for
Coming from Singapore, there is actually a direct 10-hour bus to Taiping but I came here from Ipoh, where I arrived by air. From Ipoh, Taiping is a manageable 1-hour drive through some of the most breathtaking highway scenery in Peninsular Malaysia.
just the perfect scene i was looking for… the kind that made me want to come
Like many of Malaysia’s cities, Taiping is pretty much spread out with a compact center filled with heritage buildings. This is owing to its past as the capital of Perak from 1876 to 1937. Similar to Ipoh, most of the people here are Chinese, with a Malay and Indian minority so signs in Chinese were everywhere. If Ipoh is already considered a sleepy town, Taiping is even quieter though it draws a lot of domestic tourists during the weekends due to a zoo and night safari.
a lone bench in taman tasik taiping
The Taiping Lake Gardens is situated east of the city center. It originated as a mining ground before being transformed into a park in 1880. At the time, it was the only public garden in Malaya. Up to this day, it is one of the biggest and arguably, most impressive. The Lake Gardens are particularly known for the raintrees planted by the roadside that branch out so precariously low, almost touching the lake. It really is a special sight especially in the cool early morning when the waters would be still, creating an almost perfect reflection of the outstanding foliage. Seeing it with my own eyes for the first time, I couldn’t help but think that I’d just found my favorite spot in Malaysia!
trees branching out so low, almost touching the lake
such a calm reflection – there’s also a view of bukit larut (maxwell hill) from behind
view of the northern part of the lake
All in all, there are 10 man-made lakes scattered throughout the gardens. Parts of it – particularly the northern side, have become quite commercialized due to its proximity with the zoo and night safari. But the southern side is charmingly serene.
taiping land office
Aside from the Lake Gardens, Taiping is also home to some other interesting attractions. Walking around the city center, I encountered many spectacular Victorian-era buildings – some that looked too ostentatious for a city this small. The Perak Museum is also situated here, in another grand building in the northern part of town. For those seeking to escape the heat, a trip up to Maxwell Hill or Bukit Larut is certainly worth the climb.
in front of the majestic perak museum
Overall, I found Taiping to be a very relaxing town. It’s a paradise for nature lovers and those seeking to escape the monotony of large-scale commerce. Thankfully,there are no large shopping malls here. While admittedly there are not many sights here, I was totally bowled over by the Lake Gardens. That alone is more than enough reason to come here. I wouldn’t have mind staying the whole morning there, if it were not for our departure for Kuala Kangsar later that day.
I will be back, hopefully – to see the Lake Gardens. Again and again.
How to go to Taiping:
Taiping is about 1.5 hours drive from Penang and about 4 hours from Kuala Lumpur. There are direct buses to this town from the likes of Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur, Penang and even Singapore.