Travel Diary (Part 5) – Kuala Kangsar, Perak

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We continue our journey to Kuala Kangsar – the royal town of Perak. This is my first visit ever and I’m keen to check out its historical buildings, but first stop is Restoran Yat Lai, a well known and loved local coffee shop, aka kopitiam, that’s been around for 70 years.

Kopitiam in Kuala Kangsar famous for its paus.

I need to point out that when People Express’s Diana contacted the eatery after my trip to follow up on some facts, they requested we keep their coverage to a minimum, and just mention they’re a small family-owned business famous for their paus ie. steamed buns.  They’ve got a massive 4.5 star rating on Tripadvisor, so I should mention at least a couple of lines about their food (I hope they don’t mind).

Anyhow this family-run kopitiam not only do Chinese paus but also nostalgic pseudo-Western dishes like beef steak and Hainanese chicken chop, and everything is pork-free, which, to me, is as close to gourmet heaven as it gets – I love my Chinese food but I don’t eat pork.

Amidst all the glorious food, my favourite turns out to be a plate of plain-looking noodles – Mee Hailam – I take one bite and promise myself I’m going to learn how to replicate this when I’m back in Australia.

Hailam Noodles.

Hailam Noodles. O.M.G.

We take in the sights at Kuala Kangsar, taking lots of photos of the royal palace, the royal mosque and other majestic, old buildings with great history behind them.

Shaukani mentions he hasn’t been to Kuala Kangsar for over a year (may have been much longer – I forget) and yet he remembers exactly the best vantage points from which I should take my photos – using trees and other markers he’s committed to memory. I’m thinking at this point that tour guides must be like the London black cab drivers of yesteryear (ie. pre-GPS) who had to memorise maps and routes in detail in order to do their job well.  

Former residence of the Sultan of Perak's second wife.

Former residence of the Sultan of Perak’s second wife.

Aspaliza had told me that Laksa Kuala Kangsar is not to be missed, and sure enough this dish is so iconic there’s an entire food court in town that is dedicated to it.

Entrance to the Cendol and Laksa food court in Kuala Kangsar.

Entrance to the Cendol and Laksa food court in Kuala Kangsar.

Every stall features laksa Kuala Kangsar on their menu, and not much else. Despite being still full from lunch, I take Aspaliza’s advice and we order some. It looks and tastes actually quite similar to Penang Asam Laksa, minus the prawn paste.

The famous Laksa Kuala Kangsar

The famous Laksa Kuala Kangsar

Then it’s off to visit to the Sultan of Perak’s official keris maker – Pak Mazin, the Pandai Besi (blacksmith). The keris (for those who don’t know) is a curved weapon used in the ancient martial art of silat. Now in his 60s, Pak Mazin has been practising the craft learned from his late father since he was 15 and when we drop into his very modest hut and workshop he looks to be training his own son in this very specialised skill. Pak Mazin relays many intriguing and mysterious facts about the workings of the keris and ends with a demonstration of how it’s made.

Royal keris maker, Pak Mazin

Royal keris maker, Pak Mazin

We next check out Labu Sayong – a traditional water holder made of clay but in the shape of a gourd (labu). Sayong refers to the name of the village that this cottage industry is located in. The Labu Sayong workshop we visit is called Win Kraf; when we arrive there’s a group of local school children having the time of their life on what I presume is a school excursion. They take turns at the potter’s wheel attempting to make their own labu sayong and teasing each other (well, more like the girls teasing the boys) for their failed efforts.

Kids having fun trying their hand at making labu sayong - traditional clay water pitchers.

Kids having fun trying their hand at making labu sayong – traditional clay water pitchers.

We drive 20 minutes to our accommodation for the next 2 nights – Sukasuka Lake Retreat – in what will turn out to be a 180-degree shift in thinking for me as far as travelling is concerned.
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Tour guide – Mr. Shaukani Abbas (two-time winner of Tourism Malaysia’s Tour Guide of the Year Award) Some photos in this series are courtesy of Mr. Shaukani.

Tour Designer – S. Diana Nasution

Tour Company – People Express Travel, KL

Tour Package – 6D/5N Culture, Heritage and Nature Delight

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