CHAPTER 116 “Go East, Young Man”1

I spent the year-end holidays with my entire family, plus two new grandkids in tow, on a nostalgic “balik kampong” trip to Ipoh (my hometown), the state capital of Perak, Malaysia. Our target was the Banjaran, a new resort and spa perched at the foot of limestone hills and caves in Tambun (world famous for its pomelos) outside Ipoh. It’s a world-class hot-springs retreat with only 25 villas (each with its own hot-spring Jacuzzi and swimming pool). It’s an eco-friendly resort with lots of green (even a spice garden) and picture-perfect surroundings. It comes with a fantastic wine cellar set inside natural high-ceiling limestone caves, complete with Malaysian-style Bali-Thai-type spa that provides complete relaxation. It also has a pool of garra rufa fishes that love to chew up dead and excess hard cells your feet may spare. This venture is the brainchild of Tan Sri Jeffrey Cheah (of Sunway Group), who must be congratulated for creating a visionary retreat, using to the maximum all that nature has endowed around the scenic caves. It’s a treat.


Ipoh was built on the riches of tin mining. With tin now a distant memory, Ipoh is at the heart of a thriving industry of small and medium-size businesses besides nearby palm oil plantations, thriving E&E foundries and chip makers, and small farms growing groundnuts (world-famous Menglembu), pomelos, star fruits, and seedless guava. Ipoh has always been famous for its food, especially hawker food, ...

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