Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Day 1, Ipoh

It's been a few days since we were able to write a post, so we will be playing catch up for the next couple of days.

As Mark mentioned on Friday, we were off to see the family in Ipoh, Malaysia. Six of us met at Xiamen airport including the cousin, Chong Hua, and her daughter. We had a four hour flight, followed by a 3 hour bus ride to Ipoh. We arrived around 11pm.

Some of the family were already in bed, and we quickly met the rest that were still up. When Siew first mentioned that her family had a big house and that it wasn't a problem for us to visit, she wasn't kidding. The living room was at least 70 feet long with a nice baby grand at the end. There were two kitchens, a formal dining room, two t.v rooms, a study, along with assorted bathrooms, and bedrooms.

Mark and I had expected to have a very low key weekend, according to Siew Yih, except for Mom's birthday party that was held on Saturday night. Also, per Siew Yih, there's nothing to do in Ipoh, so we should be able to catch up on sleep. So you can imagine when we sat down catching up Siew, enjoying a glass of wine, when this itinerary landed on our laps. Prepared by Alex, one of the brothers, who, just also happened to be our tour guide during our stay in Ipoh.

Mark and I looked at each other, thinking what happened to catching up on our zzz's? After a glass of wine, we went to bed, so we could wake up early to be punctual. After all, we had to make a good impression on the family.

Our room was large and quiet with our own bathroom. It would have been nice to sleep in and enjoy the solitude, but alas, that was not to be. Realizing we would not be catching up on our sleep, we were quite excited to be touring around Ipoh. This is not necessarily on the top 10 list of places to visit in Asia, unless you know someone, so we were quite excited about seeing something other than Kuala Lumpur and Penang.

After the first initial meeting of the family members who were still awake the previous night, we met the rest and reviewed the names again. There were the parents, brothers, sisters, in-law's, nephews and nieces, gardener, a few maids, the driver, and four dogs. Allen, Siew Yih's husband told us it took him about 3 times before he remembered everyone's names. The sister's all have the name Siew, so the eldest is Siew Min, Siew Ying, Siew Hong, and Siew Yih. So calling someone by the name of Siew in this family, will result in four heads turning towards you.

We started off at Ipoh Garden, to have breakfast with most of the crew, though the children pretty much stayed behind, except for Daniel and Ben.
The White Coffee, which is the speciality in Ipoh was very good. Apparently, people from Kuala Lumpur drive up here to have it along with a noodle dish. The name escapes me, but it was also very good. Again, for those back home, many Asian countries, the breakfast is pretty much the same as lunch and dinner. Noodles, or dim sum etc. There are places that will serve you eggs, french toast etc., but it's not the norm in Asia.

A little about Ipoh. It was the second city during the British rule. It sits in a valley and is surrounded by limestone mountains. It's quite picturesque and you can tell the city is rather old. There are approximately 2.5 million residents, and like most of Malaysia, it comprises of the three main ethnicity's. Malay's, Indian's and Chinese. This area is known for their cuisine.

Our first stop after breakfast, was at the Gua tempurung (The Wondrous Cave). There were two tours, the wet tour or the dry tour. We opted for the dry tour as Chong Hua was wearing heels. This particular cave was larger than the the cave we saw in Halong Bay, Vietnam. The tour was over an hour and was quite spectacular. We tried to capture the magnitude of this cave, but it was rather dark so we have only a handful of decent pictures.

Alex, the tour guide in front

After lunch, the sisters, including yours truly, had to go to the hairdresser to have our hair washed and blow dried for the evening event. I tried to explain that I can wash my own hair, but they weren't having anything to do with that. So, off we go while Mark got to stay behind and watch t.v. Mmm, pays to be a man sometimes.

This is the first time since being over here in Asia, that I stepped into a hair salon. The salons work a little differently in Malaysia, than back home. Back home,
they will take you to the back where the wash basins are, tilt your head, and start washing your hair, first wetting, then applying shampoo, and then conditioner, before rinsing your hair again. Here, they plop you in the chair, as if you were getting a hair cut, place towels and plastic wrap around your neck, then add the shampoo to your head, and massaging the shampoo into your hair. They also give you a mini back massage without ever getting your clothes wet. Never did figure out how they did that, but I digress. The hairdresser, continually adds shampoo to your dry hair massaging the shampoo creating lots and lots of suds. After awhile, the remove the suds from your hair and place in the basin.

Okay, so my question is, why wouldn't you just have us sit by the basin, so, a) I could be more comfortable, and b) you could save time walking back and forth and saving yourself from making a mess in the shop? This process takes approximately 45 minutes. They finish with rinsing your hair by the basin, followed by a blow dry. Approximately 90 minutes you are finished.

We came back to the house, where we primped before the party. Afterall, that's why we flew to Malaysia.

Tomorrow, Mom's birthday bash.

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