15 Mar 2019 - 5 min read
We can’t get enough of Taiping since it recently won 3rd most sustainable city in the world! ( technically speaking, with less than 500,000 population, Taiping is still considered a town and not yet a city!)
Taiping is an underrated gem for tourists because it contains such a rich history of the country, good food, and scenic views of mountains, lakes and centuries-old rain trees. All that within walking distance of one another!
Like many towns along the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia, Taiping used to be a thriving tin- mining town that lost its lustre with the rise of Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur as cities. It’s hard to believe that the sleepy and laid-back Taiping we know today, was the first capital of the Federated Malay States (Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Pahang), before Kuala Lumpur took over!
That is why, Taiping has the country’s largest collection of “firsts” including the first zoo, railway, museum, hospital and prison, just to name a few. Another thing Taiping is well-known for — it is the wettest town in Peninsular Malaysia. The average annual rainfall here is about 4,000mm, twice the amount of Peninsular Malaysia’s average rainfall.
So, remember to bring an umbrella along as you use our guide on the must-sees of this quaint town.
When in Taiping, do what the locals do — take a stroll, jog or cycle at the Lake Gardens. This former mining site was turned into a public garden during the British rule in 1880. Sprawled over a 64-hectare piece of land, it was tastefully landscaped with tropical plants and huge, angsana rain trees (many of them still standing tall today), by Lady Swettenham (read your history books if you find this name familiar, people!)
The first zoo in the country, the Taiping Zoo is reputed to be very well-maintained, reasonably-priced and is a popular spot among families. Located inside the Lake Gardens, Taiping Zoo is home to more than 1,000 animals or 180 species of amphibians, mammals and reptiles.
We’d recommend going for its night safari, as most animals are nocturnal and they will be active and moving about at night. Listen to the majestic sound of a lion’s roar, get an “invitation” by the otters to swim with them, and chuckle at the macaws squabble at each other.
Credit: Tourism Malaysia
Work up a sweat through a hike up Bukit Larut or better known as the Maxwell Hill. At 1,250m above sea level, Maxwell Hill has a cool temperature of 10℃ – 15℃ in the mornings and evenings, making it an ideal getaway from the hot and humid weather. Fun fact: The hill was supposed to be a tea plantation, but the tea plants didn’t grow very well here, so the British planters moved to Cameron Highlands instead. A hike would take about three hours or if you’re not up for it, you could hire a jeep to take you up the hill in a fun, bumpy ride.
Located on the way to Maxwell Hill, the Taiping War Cemetery is the final resting place for the fallen soldiers that fought against the Japanese during World War II. The cemetery commemorates more than 850 World War II casualties, out of which more than 500 soldiers remain unidentified. Look out for various symbols on the tombstones to identify the soldiers according to their respective religions — Christianity and Islam — or if they were the Gurkhas.
If you grew up in Malaysia, you’re probably familiar with the Spritzer mineral water. Did you know that this bottled water manufacturer had its first bottling plant in Taiping? Opened in 2015, the Spritzer EcoPark has a mini-golf course, and a rainforest walk with scenic views of the park. Learn more about the company through the Discovery Tunnel and its operations in the the water bottling plant. Entry to both the EcoPark and the bottling plant is free.
Spritzer Natural Mineral Water Bottling Plant
Opening hours: 11.00am and 3.00pm (Monday to Friday) and 11.00am (Saturday). Close on Sundays and public holidays.
Kuala Sepetang, previously known as Port Weld, is a vibrant fishing village about half an hour’s drive from Taiping. Here, you’ll find the country’s first railway line and station, to transport tin deposits to and fro Taiping and Port Weld. The railway line was dismantled in 1980s, but visitors could still check out the ticketing booth which has been turned into a Chinese coffee shop, and the shop owner still keeps the original railway sign board!
While you’re here, enjoy a river cruise and you just might catch a glimpse of monitor lizards, monkeys, snakes and even crocodiles. We’d recommend taking the river cruise in the late evening, to catch the twinkling fireflies as well.
Another spot where you could catch fireflies is Kampung Dew, a 20-minute drive away, in north of Taiping. Getting to the firefly colonies is half the fun, as you’ll have to survive the bumpy boat ride first! The boat ride takes about 15 minutes and the experienced boatman will guide you to where the firefly colonies are. The best time to see the fireflies is between 7.00pm to 11.00pm, and on moonless and clear nights. While you’re there, be sure to grab a bite at the famous crab noodles stall!
With such beautiful scenery and plenty of delicious food to try, it’s high time you explore Taiping! Who knows, you might just fall in love with this town, for we know we have.