Malaysia: Ipoh & Taiping Kid-Friendly Trip 2017
(Day 3: Breakfast at Lian Thong Restaurant, Kuala Sepetang Charcoal Factory, Port Weld town, roadside tauhuay beancurd dessert, Xin Lee Wee Kuala Sepetang River Cruise to mangrove swamp, eagle-sighting & fish farm, Matang Mangrove Boardwalk, lunch at Pizza Hut, dessert at Ansari Famous Cendol, Taiping Lake Gardens Ride and Cruise, Taiping Lake Gardens playground, Taiping Aeon Mall)
After a long day yesterday, we woke up a bit later to have breakfast at Lian Thong restaurant, which is famous for its Bomb Mee (crispy noodles) and Toast & Eggs.
We added a plate of Mee Jawa which is like mee goreng. It was a satisfying breakfast and I would recommend it if you’re there.
We took a half hour drive to Kuala Sepetang Charcoal Factory, where I’ve previously made an appointment in advance with Mr Chuah (whatsapp +60 12-573 9563) to meet his bro Ah Soon who would take us around on a short walking tour of the factory (RM5 per adult).
We also informed him that we would like to take the river cruise, which he recommended Ah Huat (+60 12 463 1845) from Xin Lee Wee River Cruises, who met us at the charcoal factory.
At the charcoal factory, Ah Soon gave us a brief overview of the factory. It was set up in 1930s. Mr Chuah and Ah Soon are the third generation to run it.
The wood used for the charcoal comes from 30 year old mangrove tree trunks. For every tree cut, there will be a new one planted so it’s sustainable.
Mangrove trees have high water content (80%) and are very dense and heavy. The logs are debarked by hand using a sort of sharp, flat tool (locals are paid 20 Malaysian cents per debarked log and 2 locals working together can debark 200 logs a day).
The debarked mangrove logs (to be made into charcoal) are placed upright in a kiln and a fire is set for 8 days with a large hole.
There are small, shorter logs (for burning only) to create a fire at the hole opening to prevent oxygen from entering the kiln, and must be replaced with fresh logs every few hours.
The water from the large mangrove logs is burnt out as steam, which then condenses into “smoke” water droplets and escapes out of the kiln at two holes on the sides of the kiln.
By smelling the “smoke” and feeling its temperature, Ah Soon can tell when the kiln is ready for the next stage, which is to make the hole smaller and continue the burning for another 10+? days.
Thereafter, the fire is put out, the hole is completely sealed and the mangrove logs are left to cool inside the kiln for 8 days.
The entire process takes about a month. The charcoal mangrove logs are then taken out, packed and shipped in the afternoon via small boats when high tide lets water enter a narrow channel in the middle of the factory grounds.
60% of this factory’s customers are from Japan, and the rest from Malaysia. There are about 100+ staff on the factory grounds and the whole area is pretty dusty (so take along a mask if you’re sensitive to dust).
Even though it’s dusty, this factory is a good place to take your family to see how charcoal is made. The tour lasted about half an hour.
Ah Huat came at the end of the tour, and we followed his motorcycle to Port Weld, a small town bustling with various activities.
According to Ah Huat, immigrants from different dialect groups came to Port Weld in the 1880s to set up different trades. The Hokkien and Teochew were fishermen, Hainanese set up restaurants, some others set up barber shops etc.
This uncle above sells amazing tauhuay at his roadside mobile stall, which he took over from his parents. He has been running it for 40 years already! His stall is open Tuesday to Sunday in the mornings till 1-2pm. We bought the tauhuay with black syrup for RM 1.30 a bowl and it is easily one of the best tauhuay I’ve ever tasted in my life.
Port Weld also has a few homestays, eateries, grocery stores and roadside hawkers selling fried local products. There used to be a railway branch line running from Port Weld to Taiping, but that has since been demolished and paved over to become a carpark.
Check out the scenic bridge somewhere across the road and further down from the landmark Port Weld KTM sign, the entrance to the bridge is obscure as it’s in between houses.
We visited a cockle processing shop which uses a rotating drum with different sized gaps to first filter out small trash particles, then empty shells, then smaller cockles before the rest of the larger cockles are packed into sacks.
There’s also a high class restaurant at Port Weld in a big building with an eagle statue, but we didn’t eat there, just took photos below.
We went on a river cruise with another couple, so as the whole boat cost RM100, we only paid half i.e. RM50 which started with a short boat ride into the mangrove river area to see Port Weld riverside houses on stilts, a boat-repair area and wildlife.
The boat would then U-turn and ride to an island where the tour guide would throw food into the water, horn and the eagles would come and swoop down to the water to catch the food. It’s quite a sight.
After that, we visited a fish farm where we fed fish and got to take photos with live crabs and a baby pufferfish.It may sound really touristy, but we really had a good time!
Going out on a boat, feeling the wind against your face, seeing wildlife, the life of a fishing town, locals carrying on the traditional trades passed down from their parents, watching people bustling by while enjoying tauhuay in the shade…
After the boat ride, we drove to Matang Mangrove Boardwalk (there’s an entrance fee of RM5/adult, RM2/child, RM2/car, RM15/foreigner). The boardwalk takes about 30 min to complete per way (if you don’t stop).
You can also camp, stay in a chalet or dorm, or plan activities there.
Famished from the walking, we headed back to Taiping to take away Pizza Hut, which has the exact same promotion as Singapore except its prices are in Ringgit i.e. RM5 for pan, RM10 for regular pizza etc.
Source: Pizza Hut Malaysia
We had a short rest, then headed out eat Ansari Famous Cendol. “Biasa” or normal with green strips only RM1.60; with beans RM1.70; with pulut (apparently recommended) a bit more expensive. The pulut was sold out (sadly).
We drove to Taiping Lake Gardens to paddle boat in the lake. There’s a big playground near a McDonald’s with 2 really old school huge slides! There’s parking nearby both places.
Here’s the price list for the paddle boat ride. Choose the 4 seater, it’s more worth it.
To finish off a great day, we had a relaxed dinner and spent time playing at the arcade at Aeon Mall Taiping. The food court food sucks so you might as well go to a restaurant or eat at a local coffee shop/hawker centre.
Next to the arcade is a big kids indoor playground that I would be crazy over, if I were still a kid.
If you ever go to Taiping, please go get your own transport, you can go to so many places on your own using Google maps as navigator.
Also published on Medium.