Malaysia / Singapore Trip Part II - cities

I played the game Scrabble for the first time in Penang. Addictive game! Then we set off to Ipoh, where Elvin went to school.

I liked Ipoh a great deal. It reminds me so much of Tainan. The street houses, the flame trees, the slow pace, and most importantly the excellent food, the kind that takes time for the chef to prepare and for the customer to enjoy. Since we were late arriving Ipoh, we rushed to 3 eateries within an hour! We wouldn't have stopped there if not for the pouring rain. One snake-chess game and a film on VCD later, we were out eating again. We went to the one and only happening place in Ipoh that night. At the beginning we thought it was a gay bar – it'd be quite sad if the only happening place in Ipoh is such. The bar has remixed Chinese pop dance music, and weight-lifting competitions etc. Liping and I got treated drinks by Uncle Max too, ha.

The food we had in Ipoh was all so terrific and 'authentic'. Later when we went to Melaka, we found that the food was still good, (Liping and Elvin would say, "the chilli is still good...") but the more popular (with tourists, in that case) a place is, the less authentic its food is. Less spicy, less unique, to cater for tourist taste.

It's funny to think back and recall that when I was in university, I honestly thought trade (small business in particular) and tourism is the only solution to revitalise an old city centre and to preserve the traditional workmanship. My graduation project included remodeling of a third generation winter gourd tea (冬瓜茶) workshop, a B & B, and a tourist centre in Tainan, nearby the Guan'gong Temple. The idea was that small businesses and tourism would bring pedestrian traffic, thus bringing life to an old city centre. It'd also give incentive for people to keep the traditional processes as their selling points. It didn't really occur to me that the owners might trade in quality for swiftness to serve large number of customers. In some cases there are delighting innovations, but in others the traditional specialties just turn contemporarily ordinary. Dilemma.

After Ipoh we drove to KL. Driving through KL can be really stressful especially that we had a map published a year and a half ago and were trying to meet people in limited amount of time. I couldn't appreciate the way the city was built and expanded... did some reading and was glad to find the "Kuala Lumpur Structure Plan 2020" . In it under Road Infrastructure, current issues were recognised:

ii. Issue

419. Discontinuities in the old city street layout have resulted in a lack of direct routes being available for traffic entering or leaving the City Centre, specifically from the south along Jalan Syed Putra and from the east along Jalan Kuching. Access to Bukit Bintang from these directions require through traffic to pass along narrow streets within the old city precinct.

• Constraints in expanding existing routes for traffic entering or leaving the City Centre.

it's true!!! We were at Bukit Bintang and Jalan Kuching!!!

Met Elvin's colleague and family in KL. The girls are so cute and you see the bubbliness run in the family. We went to a happening club at night. What was more fun was that Liping and I went into a Tamil club where we two were the only Chinese. One of the songs that the band was singing was a Mandarin love song, remixed, in Tamil style Mandarin. People were all very good and enthusiatic dancers.

Melaka has beautiful architecture, blending a fusion of spaces and times. I'll visit the antique shops again if I'm ever furnishing my own place - they've got beautiful retro tiles.

FURTHER READING: Reassessment of Urban Planning and Development Regulations in Asian Cities (published in around 1996)
material is a bit dated but has a fairly good coverage on the national context and background of urban planning policy development. Review on 4 Asian cities: Shanghai, KL, Bangkok, and Delhi.
Malaysia / Singapore Trip Part I - beaches