Ipoh’s Iconic Polo Ground
Tucked in a secluded corner of the suburbs of Ipoh, at the corner of Brash Road and Golf Club Road, is a vast and majestic-looking park cum playground which caters to the approximately 600,000 residents of this old-fashioned city. Officially known as the Sultan Abdul Aziz Recreation Park after a former ruler of the state of Perak of which Ipoh is the capital city, this park is better known to the locals as the Polo Ground. Apparently, in times past, the playing field was where royalty and the upper echelons of society indulged in their favourite pastime, polo, a sport that was a source of entertainment and recreation to the upper classes then.
Besides the large field that sits squarely in the centre of the park, the Polo Ground is also famous for its fitness trail or par course, with roughly 23 exercise stations of workouts with varying levels of difficulty, placed at strategic points round the park. One is given a choice of exercise, be it step-ups, push-ups, stretches or body-bends, among others, which come with easy-to-read instructions specified on big boards.
Big, colourful slides, swings and see-saws make up the children’s playground which take up the front section of the park, clearly visible from Brash Road. This corner is always teeming with children especially in the evenings and school holidays.
And if foot reflexology is your thing, kick off your shoes and get some foot therapy on a reflexology path built at the front end of the park. Stones and pebbles of varying shapes set closely together massage and apply pressure on your feet to stimulate them in order to benefit different organs in the body. Walking on this path in your bare feet is certainly no walk in the park!
Towards the far end of the grounds is a small lake, fringed by short flower shrubs and rocks, enticing all with its calm and tranquil waters. After a round of exercise in the morning or evening, it is pleasant to just sit around this pleasant, garden-like lake and enjoy the serene and peaceful atmosphere.
The Polo Ground comes to life very early in the morning with loads of people coming in for their morning workout on the vast grounds. Most are regulars. Though comprising mainly middle-aged and senior citizens, these people show energy and vigour in their daily routine. Some will be jogging or brisk-walking along a jogging track that circles the entire field. Elsewhere, little pockets of people are seen clustering in their favourite spots in the park to perform exercises of their liking, be it Tai Chi or line-dancing. The sound of music is ever present in the air and body movements that synchronise with rhythmical melodies show the flexibility and energy of these enthusiastic and committed aficionados.
Even the Perak Sultan, Sultan Azlan Shah, is a frequent visitor here, and the sight of outriders and bodyguards signals his royal presence. His Royal Highness has no qualms about joining Ipohites on their daily, morning jaunt. Likewise, his subjects are equally at home walking along the same track with His Majesty.
When the sun rises higher in the sky late morning, and heat permeates the surroundings, the Polo Ground slowly becomes deserted. By mid-morning it is almost empty and quiet. But this is just a momentary lull in the day in anticipation of the evening crowd.
As evening draws near, hordes of people return to the park. The difference is that, this time, besides joggers and walkers, young adults and children make up the throng. There to take advantage of the park facilities after work and school, they come just as frequently as the morning visitors.
The playground gives the children an avenue to release pent-up energy, and a chance to exercise their lungs! Their infectious screams and laughter permeate the air and punctuate the sky like balloons bursting on a sunny day, as they play on the swings and slides. Older children have no qualms about rushing all over the place, tugging at one another or even quarrelling amongst themselves. They are watched apprehensively by parents and grandparents who sit patiently on the benches in the shade of the many trees there, keeping an eagle eye on their young charges.
The field is usually monopolised by young male adults furiously engaged in a vigorous game of football. So engrossed are these energetic young men in their game that they are quite oblivious to the other goings-on in the park! And during windy days, it is not unusual to see a spot of kite-flying, with vivid, multi-coloured kites dotting the clear skies and families preoccupied with this skill-demanding sport.
As the sky darkens to signal the end of daylight and the tired joggers, sportsmen and children reluctantly prepare to leave the park, the sounds of people slowly filter off and tranquillity and silence descends upon the area. The day’s chapter may have drawn to a close, but the anticipation of yet another day at the Polo Ground surely lingers in tired and relaxed minds.
Ipoh’s Polo Ground may be unknown to outsiders but the park has become a landmark of sorts to Ipoh residents and is really an enduring facet of Ipoh’s landscape now and perhaps more so in years to come.