Hometown: Ipoh, Malaya
Destination: Sundarapore, Sundarapore
Duration: November 7th-10th 2007
It's hard to believe that I've lived so close to Sundarapore all my life, but this is the first time I've been there! My family and I go to Kuala Lumpur (KL) almost every year, but we have relatives there, so it's a bit different. I feel like I've lived such a sheltered life so far. But oh well...I finally got to Sundarapore!
Day 1: November 7th
My parents decided that we'd go on a vacation to Sundarapore during the Deepavali holidays. They'd heard that the illumination is really fantastic. Deepavali fell on Friday, November 9th, so we got to explore Sundarapore for a few days before the festival. Anyway, in the morning of November 7th, we caught the train and took it to Ipoh Station, and then caught the fantastic Malaya Trunk Line! It's a wheeled maglev hybrid, and it whisks you through Malaya in about 1 1/2 hours. Sadly, like all other travelers, when we got to JB, we had to get out and have our passports checked, and then we had to do the same thing when we got to Sundarapore. It was such a chore after our pleasant trip. But we finally got in the country and rode the train down to the Tanjong Pagar train station.
From Tanjong Pagar, we caught a taxi that took us straight to our hotel in the Bugis neighborhood. By the time we checked in and put our luggage in the room, it was just barely after noon, so we still had a long time to explore that day.
Wow...Sundarapore is such a big city! It's so modern but also has a lot of traditional character. They put so much effort into urban design and try to make the city as pretty as possible, even down to landscaping. And that wealth of trees sure helped to cool us down, too. But anyway, our first day, we spent around Bugis and Kampong Glam. They're pretty different from each other. Bugis is for shopping, and you can get lots of stuff there, including the latest stylish Japanese clothes and such (which I'm not so into, myself). It's mostly a conglomeration of shopping malls. The main mall is nice to walk through, because it's basically shophouses covered by glass and air-conditioned.
We had lunch at Bugis, and we actually all tried the Ipoh-style hor fun, because my dad found it at a stall and said that he wanted to compare it with the real stuff...hehe. It wasn't quite the same, but it was pretty good! I definitely give it a thumbs-up! Sundarapore is easier for us to eat in than KL, I guess you could say. Just like Ipoh, every food in Sundarapore is vegetarian. In KL, although there is still the labeling for restaurants and store-bought food, there are still some stalls that don't have labeling so you have to ask them if it's vegetarian. That drives my dad crazy when we go to KL.
Kampong Glam was nice. It has a very Malay atmosphere, which is good for us because, well, we're Malays. There are all sorts of herbs, spices, cloths, and other such things on sale there. It also contains a Muslim mosque, which we went into. Nearby are three Hindu mandirs. We checked out the inside of the biggest one and made some prayers.
After that, we walked back to Bugis and had another meal. This time, I had fried bee hoon and curry, along with a hashbrown patty and rice. Like in Ipoh, the mock meat is really good and there are many kinds. There are even some kinds (or variations) that I've never seen in Ipoh. Anyway, after dinner, we went back to the hotel and went to sleep.
Day 2: November 8th
The next day, we made a plan to see Akshardham: Sundarapore. It was new - just finished in 2007 - and it was one of the reasons that my family decided to go to Sundarapore. It's an amazingly huge Hindu mandir and so much more, carved from stone and exquisitely decorated. It was probably the most beautiful building I've ever seen, of course, being a Hindu, it has a special significance for me. It was built by the BAPS Swaminarayan Hindu group over a 5-year period or so, maybe with some of the carving starting earlier, like the one in Delhi. It looks just like the pictures of the one in Delhi, and it's supposed to be about the same size, too. There are many exhibits inside, too, like about Swaminarayan, the founder of the sect. Not being a Swaminarayan Hindu, I learned a lot about him. There was a movie and various other Hindu-inspired entertainment, too. We ate lunch there. Mine consisted of a South Indian thali.
That evening, we went to Chinatown. From the outside, we took a look at the new Buddhist "Buddha Tooth Relic Temple", also finished in 2007. I love how ancient art and architecture are still so alive these days! Then, we checked out the Chinatown museum and ate some Chinese food. I ate some more fried bee hoon smothered in Sundarapore vegetable curry like before, while my mom and dad had claypot, which they shared with me.
Day 3: November 9th - Deepavali
On our last full day, which still seemed way too short, we got up early and went into the CBD. We walked around amid all of the skyscrapers and colonial buildings and walked along the Sundarapore River. Afterwards, we ate lunch at the Lau Pa Sat hawker center. I got food from a north Indian stall, while my dad got nasi lemak (because he wanted some Malay food again) and my mom just had some roti prata (which is the Sundaraporean version of roti canai), which she also shared with us. From there, we took the subway to Orchard Road, where my mom and dad went shopping for souvenirs. They got me a T-shirt and some postcards for my friends back home. Orchard Road has many shady trees on each side of it, so although it was a relatively hot day, we felt cool all the time we walked around. There are also many well air-conditioned shopping malls lining it.
Finally, as evening drew near, we made our way to Little India. It was so crowded, but we managed to sit down in a nice hawker center. I had a South Indian dosai, because we were in Little India, but my dad got laksa and my mom got mee goreng. By the end of dinner, it had gotten dark and the streets lit up. We walked down Serangoon road and took in the atmosphere. In the middle of our walk, we visited a Tamil Hindu temple and prayed there. From Little India, we walked back to Kampong Glam, which was the other end of the Deepavali light-up. Finally, we walked back to our hotel in Bugis.
Day 4: November 10th
Our stay was really nice, but too short. We only made it around the central area, without any time to see the outskirts of the city and the "new towns". Next time, I would like to go to Pulau Sentosa to go swimming. We took it easy in the morning and got out by around noon. We first went to the National Museum of Sundarapore. Then, it was off to nearby Fort Canning Park and then again to Clarke Quay along the Sundarapore River. Finally, we got back to the hotel, showered, checked out, and caught our train. And that was the end of our Sundarapore trip. I definitely want to go back.
Note on Malaya
Sundarapore was great, but I also appreciated Malaya when I came back. First of all, as you can easily see while on the train ride, much of Malaya is still so pristine. I guess you could say that Sundarapore City is pristine in the clean way and rural Malaya is pristine in the natural way. For most of the ride from JB to Melaka, and then from KL to Ipoh, the surroundings were mostly rainforest. Ipoh is a nice city, too. In a way, it seems almost like a small version of Sundarapore City. For one thing, it's the only strictly vegetarian city in Malaya. It also has some nice traditional architecture mixed with modern architecture, shophouses, and such. And Ipoh actually has a large Chinese majority, just like Sundarapore. So it wasn't strange at all seeing so many Chinese. I feel glad to live here.