Tindakon Dazang Beach Longhouse, Kudat, Sabah

On the return leg of my trip to the Tip of Borneo I turned off the main highway in search of that perfect beach.

After a bumpy ride on a gravel track which tested my rented Honda Jazz I ended up at Tindakon Dazang Beach.

Tindakon Dazang Beach

For the adventurous traveller who wants to get away from it all and does not mind roughing it, accommodation is available in a longhouse built by the indigenous Rungus people.

Rungus Longhouse at Tindakon Dazang Beach

Individual rooms open up into a communal hall running the full length of the longhouse. Toilet and shower facilities are found in a separate concrete block nearby.

Entrance to the longhouse

This is the entrance to the longhouse with sleeping rooms on the right and the common hall on the left. Room rates and meals are, as you would imagine, very reasonably priced and for large groups they can arrange for traditional music and dancing to be performed by the Rungus tribe.

Restaurant at Tindakon Dazang Beach Longhouse

The resort’s restaurant is built on stilts above a lake.

Beach at Tindakon Dazang

As for the beach, it is not bad at all. The sand is soft and clean while the sea is thick with vivid green seaweed. This might be off-putting for some but people who pay a fortune for seaweed beauty treatments can come here instead and get the same results for free.

The longhouse has a Facebook page for anybody wishing to make a booking or enquire about rates.

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Kudat Town

Continuing on from my last post, the closest settlement of any size to the Tip of Borneo is Kudat, a town of modest charms.

Old wooden shophouses in Kudat Town

Old wooden shophouses in Kudat Town

Difficult to imagine, but this place was once the capital of North Borneo, indeed the first capital, established in 1881. K.G. Tregonning, in his book Under Chartered Company Rule writes of Kudat:

Great hopes were held of it … These high hopes did not eventuate…A small town grew there, but it was always a sleepy hollow and in 1883 (the capital) moved to bustling Sandakan.

Sleepy hollow is probably still a fair description. There are signs of life around the fish and vegetable market but otherwise this town remains pretty sleep-inducing (but maybe I’m being unfair).

Kudat Clocktower

Kudat Clocktower

One of the reasons why Kudat and the surrounding area never took off under British North Borneo (Chartered) Company (BNBCC) rule was due to a lack of workers. The indigenous Rungus people were far too smart to take on the back-breaking hard labour that the British had in mind. BNBCC tried importing Hakka workers from southern China and offered them free passage, tools and plots of land. This was partly successful and many went on to establish coconut and other plantations but others preferred to open shops.

Chinese Temple in Kudat

Chinese Temple in Kudat

Less well-remembered these days were attempts by the British to bring in Filipino workers and, in 1892, Philippine national hero Jose Rizal visited Sandakan to discuss establishing a Filipino rice-growing colony in Borneo of some 5,000 families. Due to opposition from the Spanish authorities in Manila and other reasons this proposal never came to fruition.

Jollibee Logo on Malaysian Fishing Boat

This Jollibee logo on a Malaysian fishing boat in Kudat is evidence of Filipino influence.

Rizal’s scheme might have failed but today Filipinos are in Sabah in vast numbers – between 800,000 and 1.4 million depending on whom you listen to. Many of these are undocumented (illegal) migrants who arrived by short boat trips from the southernmost Philippine islands which are only a stone’s throw away.

Aerial view of one of Sabah's many water villages, many of which are home to undocumented migrants.

Aerial view of one of Sabah’s many water villages, many of which are home to undocumented migrants. This one is in Kudat town.

Many of these illegals have settled in water villages (ramshackle huts on stilts above the sea) which cling to the coasts of Sabah like iron filings to a magnet.

I digress. What other attractions are there in Kudat which I can tell you about?

Town centre, Kudat

Town centre, Kudat

There is a golf club said to be oldest in Borneo, there’s a clock tower, a fish market and the Esplanade where seafood restaurants attract the locals in the evening.

View of fishing boats at Kudat Esplanade

View of fishing boats at Kudat Esplanade

On the outskirts of town is the airport, built on the old airfield which was constructed by the Japanese during WWII using forced labour from Java and locally. The airfield was heavily bombed by the Americans towards the end of the war.

Kudat Airport

A sleepy airport for a sleepy town. It is served by MAS Wings flights from Kota Kinabalu.

About 11km north of Kudat town is Bak Bak beach. It is not great for sand but has some interesting rock formations to explore.

Bak Bak Beach, Kudat

Bak Bak Beach, Kudat

Kudat Town is nice and peaceful and the people are friendly but if I were to return to this corner of Malaysia again I would concentrate on the Tip of Borneo and Simpang Mengayau beach.

Bak Bak Beach, Kudat

Bak Bak Beach on a weekday.

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Long Drive to the Tip of Borneo

Tip of Borneo Map

I was in Sabah last month to explore some more places in Malaysian Borneo. I wanted to visit the Tip of Borneo, the northern-most point of the island of Borneo, and the most northerly point of Malaysia, excluding some outlying islands.

It is located just over 200km from Kota Kinabalu airport from where I rented a car. Here are some of the points of interest I found along the way.

Rumah Terbalik

The first stop-off was to see Rumah Terbalik, the upside down house near the small town of Tamparuli.

Rumah Terbalik, Tamparuli, Sabah

Rumah Terbalik, Tamparuli, Sabah

You might wonder why anyone would go to the expense of building an upside down house and not even be able to live in it. There are actually quite a few of them in the world (Germany, Austria, Poland among other places). There’s even another one in Malaysia, in Melaka, which I guess I should go and see one of these days.

Rumah Terbalik seems to be on the itinerary of many Sabah tours and draws in a steady flow of visitors paying RM10 per person (for Malaysians) and RM18 (for foreigners) so presumably it is a profitable venture. It’s quite well organised with guided tours, a gift shop and restaurant. Unfortunately photography is not allowed inside the house otherwise I could show you all the household items stuck to the ceiling (the owners might want to review this policy in this selfie-obsessed age).

Rumah Terbalik, Tamparuli, Sabah

Even the car and pot plants are upside down.

Tamparuli Suspension Bridge

Next I stopped to walk across the pedestrian suspension bridge crossing the Tamparuli River in this colourful market town.

Tamparuli Suspension Bridge

The pedestrian suspension bridge is on the right while the single lane road bridge is on the left.

The suspension bridge (or hanging bridge as they are called in Malaysia) is in constant use by school kids and other pedestrians. Although it sways and bounces underfoot, its structure is quite solid but you need to keep an eye out for missing planks. More precarious looking is the road bridge, just a few feet above the river level. Bridges in Sabah have a habit of being washed away in the rainy season.

Tamparuli Suspension Bridge

At the far end of the bridge is a small memorial to two British soldiers, Private JWN Hall and Driver DC Cooper who drowned here in May 1960 while trying to negotiate this bridge in a Land Rover during a flood.

Ling San Temple, Tuaran

The next settlement of any size on this road in thinly-populated Sabah is the town of Tuaran. The population here are mostly ethnic Dusans and Bajau but the sizeable Chinese community have built themselves a very fine temple with an ornate 9 storey pagoda.

Ling San Temple and Pagoda, Tuaran

Ling San Temple and Pagoda, Tuaran

According to the plaque outside, construction of the pagoda began in 1990 and was completed in 2005.

Journey to the West character at Tuaran

A character from ‘Journey to the West’ at Ling San Pagoda.

Kampung Tenghilan

In need of some water, I stopped off at the village of Tenghilan where there is a row of half-century old wooden shops of a sort seldom seen these days.

Wooden shophouses at Kg Tenghilan, Sabah

Wooden shophouses at Kg Tenghilan, Sabah

There is a small monument here with the markings 1881-1981 and a map of Sabah, appearing to commemorate a centenary. The monument is built above a small menhir which once bore a plaque but that has been removed so its significance is unknown.

Snooker match at Tenghilan, Sabah

Rustic billiard saloon at Kg. Tenghilan

Simpang Mengayau Beach

Almost at the Tip of Borneo is a magnificent white sandy beach which must be one of the best in Malaysia and a well-kept secret.

Simpang Mengayau Beach, Tip of Borneo, Kudat, Sabah

Simpang Mengayau Beach (sometimes called Kalampunian Beach), Tip of Borneo, Kudat, Sabah

As you can see from the photo, it is not too crowded. There are no lifeguards and no facilities but there are a few places to stay (Borneo Tip Beach Lodge, Tommy’s Place etc). If you want to get away from it all you should consider this gorgeous 5km long beach which is reckoned to have the best sunsets in Borneo.

Simpang Mengayau Beach, Tip of Borneo, Kudat, Sabah

Simpang Mengayau Beach seen from the Tip of Borneo.

Tip of Borneo

Finally I reached my destination.

Tip of Borneo marker

Tip of Borneo marker.

The vegetation on this windswept headland is not typical for Malaysia.

Approach to the Tip of Borneo

Path leading to the Tip of Borneo.

Some of the sheltered coves here look more like Cornwall than the Tropics.

Sheltered Cove at Tip of Borneo

Sheltered Cove at Tip of Borneo

And here, below, is the actual Tip of Borneo with the South China Sea to the left and the Sulu Sea to the right.

Tip Of Borneo

Tip Of Borneo. Visitors are asked not to go beyond the barrier for safety reasons.

In my next post, I’ll share a few more places that I covered on my Borneo trip.

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Banking in Yemen

Rich Tea Biscuits

Rich Tea Biscuits

When I started my banking career back in the 1970’s, banking was still seen as a genteel, if somewhat unexciting, occupation and bankers were regarded as decent, honest and well respected members of the community like Captain Mainwaring and Sergeant Wilson in Dad’s Army. A banking crisis was something which happened when you were getting low on Rich Tea biscuits. As for bankers’ bonuses, these meant a month’s extra pay at Christmas, which we regarded as most generous.

Captain Mainwaring, Private Pike and Sergeant Wilson dressed in their  banking attire.

Captain Mainwaring, Private Pike and Sergeant Wilson dressed in their banking attire.

That might have been the case in UK but overseas, the reality was rather different and when I found myself transferred to my bank’s branch in Taiz, Yemen in 1983 I was often faced with situations which were far from routine.

Handling Complaints – English Dog

At the time Yemen was always teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and the country had a chronic shortage of foreign currency . There was an official exchange rate for US$ against the Yemeni Rial, which nobody used, and there was the unofficial, black market rate which made dollars much more expensive.

Yemeni 20 Rial banknote 1983

Yemeni 20 Rial banknote 1983

Yemen also had a shortage of local teachers and the Ministry of Education employed hundreds of Egyptian and Sudanese teachers, promising them salaries in US$. Since the Ministry did not have dollars they paid the teachers the Rial equivalent and on salary day the teachers descended on the bank en masse expecting to send their money home at the official exchange rate. One month, since there were no dollars available in the country at the official rate, it was my job, as manager of the branch’s day-to-day operations, to explain to dozens of angry teachers that we were unable to sell them dollars. Heated exchanges ensued. The Sudanese on the whole were more understanding but the Egyptians were most irate. Their ring leader hurled verbal abuse at me and shouted across the banking hall that I was an “Inglizi kalb bin kalb” (an English dog, son of a dog). Charming!

The following month they tried new tactics, and the Ministry of Education sent us a letter, endorsed by the Central Bank of Yemen, instructing us to pay the teachers listed in US$ cash, and enclosing a cheque for the Rial equivalent, using the official exchange rate. Sensing victory, the hordes of teachers massed expectantly in the banking hall, only to be informed by yours truly that unless the Central Bank were able to supply us with US$ at their official rate we would be unable to comply. The usual mayhem ensued and my Egyptian friend this time accused me, at the top of his voice, of being an Israeli spy! Needless to say, the unfortunate teachers never received the dollars from us.

David the Hebrew

Not long after that episode I went round to the house of a junior colleague to drop off some papers. If I was the Sergeant Wilson of the branch, and my boss was the Capt. Mainwaring, this guy was Pike, although he was certainly not a “stupid boy”. He had different interests to me and sometimes had some surprising friends. On this occasion, there were two young Arab men sitting in his living room. They were Palestinian PLO members being trained as pilots by the Yemenis in some ancient MIGs. Now back in those days, before Camp David and Yasser Arafat’s Nobel Peace Prize, the PLO was still regarded by many as a terrorist organisation, similar to Al Qaida today; they had done some pretty dastardly deeds and it was rather disconcerting to see a couple of their guys sitting in bank property. I didn’t hang around but on my way out, one of the Palestinians fixed me with his steely eyes and asked accusingly  ” David – that’s a Jewish name isn’t it?”. I stuttered out a reply ” it’s also Welsh, you know, St. David, the patron saint. And it’s an Arabic name too – Daoud”.

MIG 21 in Yemen in the 1980's

Part of a MIG 21 in Yemen in the 1980’s, similar to the type used by the PLO.

Some time afterwards I learned that a PLO pilot had crashed his plane at Taiz airport and died. Poor maintenance? Pilot error? Or maybe sabotage. Perhaps there really were Israeli spies operating in Yemen at that time. But I certainly wasn’t one of them!

The Case of the Shredded Travellers Cheques

Thomas Cook Deutsche Mark Travellers Cheques

Thomas Cook Deutsche Mark Travellers Cheques

I always tried to be conscientious in my banking career but one of my weaknesses was to be too trusting. In general I think it is a virtue to be trusting and unsuspicious of people but in a banking environment, when handling other people’s money, it is a bit of a liability.

When the bank finally decided to close down in Yemen we had to dispose of a lot of stuff, including a large stock of unissued Thomas Cook travellers cheques. We were instructed to shred them. We had two paper shredders in the branch, both useless, capable of shredding only one piece of paper at a time and prone to jamming and overheating. Shredding these stacks of Sterling, US Dollar and Deutsche Mark travellers cheques was taking forever. My boss took half and got his ferrash (messenger) to feed them one by one into the shredder in his office while he carried on working. Likewise, my  ferrash shredded the other half in my office, in my presence, but I guess not in my line of sight the whole time.  Mistake! Having these valuable cheques in his hands must have been too much temptation for one of these impoverished ferrashes. Some months later my manager called me to say that some of those travellers cheques had just been cashed in Germany even though he and I had certified that they had already been destroyed. Whoops! A bit of a black mark on both of our files but fortunately our employer was forgiving of our lapse.

Yemen certainly left an impression on me. On the whole it was an interesting experience. Could have done with some of those Rich Tea biscuits though.

Bulk cash withdrawal, Yemeni style. The bank sold off this safe (empty!) to a customer at the time of closing down the branch

Bulk cash withdrawal, Yemeni style. The bank sold off this safe (empty!) to a customer at the time of closing down the branch

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Darkie Toothpaste and Other Offensive Products

When I visited Han Chin Pet Soo recently there was a display of a 1960’s room which included a tube of Darkie toothpaste, along with a very unpleasant looking toothbrush.

Darkie ToothpasteI remember this product from my early days in Hong Kong. It was made by Hawley & Hazel and was one of the top-selling toothpaste brands in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. After Hawley & Hazel was acquired by US giant Colgate Palmolive in 1985 the name was changed to Darlie and the character in the top hat was given a makeover.

Darlie toothpaste

Darlie remains a market leader in this region. Interestingly its name in Chinese still translates as Black Man Toothpaste.

This got me to wondering what other brands and products have had to be withdrawn or modified due to changing attitudes.

Golden Shred Golly Advert

Growing up in Britain, our jam and marmalade jars used to be decorated with a gollywog character and if you collected enough labels from these jam jars you could send away for enamelled gollywog badges which were highly collectable. Golliwogs had been used to advertise these products since 1910 but by the 1980’s the ‘wog’ suffix, a racial slur against dark-skinned people, was dropped and the character became just Golly.

Racial minorities and others in Britain continued to regard Golly as a demeaning depiction of blacks and the manufacturers shelved Golly completely in 2001.

KiwiDarkTanPolish

The description of this boot polish seems shocking to modern eyes. It is hardly surprising that Kiwi renamed this colour ‘Dark Tan’.

More recently, in 1999, the crayon manufacturer Crayola dropped the colour Indian Red from its range and renamed it Chestnut. They feared that people would mistakenly associate it with Red Indians (a term now deemed politically incorrect) whereas in fact it referred to a red clay found in India.

Indian Red Chestnut crayons

When I was a kid, a programme that was often on TV in our house and at my Grandma’s was The Black & White Minstrel Show featuring men with blacked-up faces doing corny old song and dance routines.  This show was accused of being racist and was finally axed by the BBC in 1978, after a run of 20 years.

The Black & White Minstrel Show

During the early years the show was broadcast in black and white. The black face make-up was actually red because black did not film well.

Gender equality has made great strides over recent decades. This Delmonte ketchup advert from 1953 would no not go down well in this day and age!

1953 Delmonte Advert

Yet it seems we still have a long way to go in this regard. These washing instructions printed on a sports shirt were reported in the press just this week. They say ‘Give this jersey to your woman – it’s her job’.

sexist washing instructions

 

Smoking is another area where public opinion has shifted (for the better).

Ronald Reagan Endorsing Chesterfield Cigarettes

A youthful Ronald Reagan endorsing cigarettes. When he later became President he banned smoking on aircraft, but only for domestic flights of less than 2 hours.

 

In my youth I was exposed to a lot of cigarette advertising. Marlboro told me their ciggies would make me rugged and tough and a good horseman. Consulate Menthols were apparently like breathing fresh mountain air and Craven A were recommended by doctors to prevent sore throats.

Consulate Cigarettes - Cool as a mountain stream

 

Craven A Cigarette advert

Luckily I could not stand the smell of cigarettes and never took up the vile habit.

Cigarette advertising is no more (in Western countries) and it is only a matter of time before cigarettes are classified as dangerous drugs and banned completely. Tobacco companies won’t mind because they have already shifted their attention to the much larger markets of China, Indonesia, Vietnam and other less developed countries.

I am sure there are many other examples of brands and advertising that have had to be dropped or amended due to shifting public opinions or political correctness. Let me know if you know of any good ones.

 

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Ipoh’s Limestone Mountains Turning to Dust

Ipoh Postcard 1970Ipoh is one of Malaysia’s most attractive towns. It has expanded enormously since this postcard photo was taken 45 years ago but it still has a pleasant feel to it with wide tree-lined avenues, grand historic buildings and friendly people.

Limestone hills south of IpohBest of all, Ipoh is ringed with scenic hills and studded with distinctive limestone karst towers, many of which contain caves and cave temples. The limestone filters and purifies the city’s water supply which in turn waters the fruit and vegetable farms and is said to enhance the flavour of the area’s famed cuisine.

Ipoh's limestone hills seen from afar.

Ipoh is sometimes called Little Guilin, referring to the Chinese region famed for its spectacular hills, pictured below (source:Wikipedia).

20090503_6305_GuilinGiven the tourism value of this scenery you would think that Ipoh’s local government would do all in its power to preserve and protect these 400 million year old hills, especially since Perak Tourism has just launched a campaign to promote the state as an eco-tourism destination. So it is rather surprising and disturbing that a number of the area’s mountains are being quarried and turned into cement and marble like this one:

Quarrying activity near Ipoh

And this one:

Quarrying activity near Ipoh

These are not isolated cases as this Google satellite image of  Simpang Pulai shows:

Google image showing quarrying activity at Simpang Pulai

The French cement giant Lafarge (which has a local Malaysian subsidiary) attracts a lot of negative media coverage for its quarrying of Ipoh’s eco-sensitive areas but it is far from the only company involved. Of course the world needs cement but there must be other, less conspicuous sources. Lafarge’s website says its goal is to create a better world by providing cement to build hospitals, schools and so on, but is it essential to demolish Ipoh’s most distinctive geographical features in the process?  How would the French public react if an Asian company were to start digging up the French Alps?

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Ipoh Revisited

I was in Ipoh last week to explore a few sights which I had missed on previous trips.

Han Chin Pet Soo

The first stop was Han Chin Pet Soo, an interesting exhibition in the beautifully restored Hakka Miner’s Club building at No.3 Jalan Bijeh Timah. All sorts of mischievous comings and goings took place in this club during the heydays of Ipoh’s tin boom. Miners spent their spare cash and free time on the ‘Four Evils'; gambling, opium, prostitutes and secret societies (triads), all of which are described in some detail at Han Chin Pet Soo. I have posted a full write-up on my Malaysia Traveller website.

Big Johns Music Shack, Ipoh

Big Johns Music Shack, Second Concubine Lane, Ipoh

The narrow alley opposite Han Chin Pet Soo is Panglima Lane, or Second Concubine Lane which I have written about before on this blog. Since my first visit in 2011, some of the crumbling shophouses have collapsed completely but I was pleased to see that there has been some effort to regenerate the street, including a new retro-style bar called Big John’s Music Shack which I gather has been opened by a Brit – good for him!

Plan B, Ipoh

Talking of regeneration, around the corner at No.75 Jalan Panglima, is an architectural innovation where the designers have incorporated remnants of ruined and overgrown shophouses into a stylish modern development housing a restaurant, some arty and other shops (one even sells made-in-Ipoh handicrafts) and a cosy barbers. The restaurant (if not the whole development)  is called Plan B and describes itself as ‘edgy Aussie meets NY deli’.

FMS Bar & Restaurant, Ipoh

FMS Bar & Restaurant – Still Closed After All These Years

Next, I strolled past the FMS Bar & Restaurant  to see if there has been any progress in reopening this famous old watering hole since my last visit. Unfortunately there hasn’t. Looks like I’m never going to be able to enjoy a stengah in this place.

IpohRailwayStation

The former Majestic Station Hotel above Ipoh Station is reflected in the Great War Memorial.

In a similar vein, I walked along to Ipoh’s beautiful railway station to see what, if anything, is happening with the former Majestic Station Hotel premises which closed down just after my first visit in 2011. Again there doesn’t seem to have been any progress in finding a new role for the upper floor of this iconic building.

Gunung Lang Recreational Park

Five minutes drive away, but still within city limits, is the attractive Gunung Lang Recreational Park. The main attraction here is a boat ride to see the landscaped gardens across the lake. Since there was a big queue for the boat (very unusual to see crowds in a Malaysian park in the heat of the day) I decided to save that pleasure for another time and I watched people feeding the huge freshwater turtles instead.

Loong Thow Ngau Temple, Ipoh

Loong Thow Ngau Temple, Gunung Lang, Ipoh

Next door to the park, builders were adding the finishing touches to the newly refurbished Loong Thow Ngau Temple which looks as though it might back onto a cave under Gunung Lang.

Kuil Sri Raja Muneeswarar, Jalan Lang, Ipoh

Kuil Sri Raja Muneeswarar, Jalan Lang, Ipoh

Kuil Sri Raja Muneeswarar, Jalan Lang, Ipoh

Kuil Sri Raja Muneeswarar, Jalan Lang, Ipoh

While looking for another cave at Gunung Lang, I came across this Hindu temple called Kuil Sri Raja Muneeswarar at Jalan Lang.

Japanese Garden, Ipoh

Japanese Garden, Ipoh (now looking forlorn).

I had been meaning for some time to visit Ipoh’s Japanese Garden on Jalan Raja Dihilir. It seems I left it too late because it is now padlocked and neglected with its lawns overgrown and koi ponds drained of water. It belongs to the Perak Turf Club who were quoted in the press last year as saying they have not decided what to do with it. Given its prime location, it would not be surprising if it is earmarked for redevelopment.

Gua Tambun Cave Paintings

Gua Tambun Cave Paintings

Next, after some effort, I managed to locate the Gua Tambun Cave Paintings. This Neolithic rock art site is not well publicised but is quite impressive if you like that sort of thing. You can read details and find directions on my Malaysia Traveller website.

Go Chin Pomelo Nature Park

Ipoh is famous for its pomelos and in the suburb of Tambun I popped into the Go Chin Pomelo Nature Park where I was invited to look around their orchard and to sample a few varieties in the shop. The local pomelos are prized for their sweetness but I purchased the sourer Thai-style pomelo which is more to my taste. I also bought star fruit and chikoos (sapodilla).

Enlightened Heart Tibetan Temple, Ipoh

Enlightened Heart Tibetan Temple, Ipoh

My final stop was the Enlightened Heart Tibetan Temple, an extraordinary Buddhist Temple with a giant statue of Buddha gazing out from an opening on the eighth floor of a giant pagoda hidden away in a secluded valley.

Enlightened Heart Tibetan Temple, Ipoh

The Interior of the Pagoda at Enlightened Heart Tibetan Temple, Ipoh

Since this was quite an interesting place I might write about this in more detail in a later blog.

The climb up and down the pagoda concluded a busy and tiring day, which also included a 500km round trip drive. There’s a lot to see in Ipoh. I’ll have to go again soon.

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