Ask anyone about Ipoh and 99% of them will say it is a boring place. How can the scene of political struggles, of nature at one’s doorstep, of a place where the people can still find time for you, be termed boring? Maybe the young and dynamic crave better shopping malls, or a meaningful outlet for their creative energy. Maybe these people need the cities, for jobs or opportunities which are unavailable here. Ipoh boring? No. Laid back? Yes.
‘Boring Ipoh’ is the least of our problems. But, to be bored is a state of mind, just like happiness. You make the best of what you have and Ipoh can sometimes appear as a cultural desert, a place lacking taste, with too much kitsch and no style.
A Landfill Site?
Certainly, a travel brochure for Ipoh could describe it as the holiday equivalent of visiting a landfill site.
One need not visit Ipoh to notice the dirty sights, horrendous smells and nerve wracking sounds. One only has to read the Ipoh Echo for the readers’ views about how this once beautiful city has become a big rubbish dump.
We may moan about the choked roads during peak hours, or the state of the football team or the lack of a good transport system, but how will Ipoh compare in a ranking of Malaysian towns or cities in which to live?
Ipohites are proud folk and would react angrily if we were ranked somewhere at the bottom of this fictitious list. Haven’t we the best and cheapest food in the country? Our roads are not incessantly clogged like the urban areas elsewhere, and isn’t our atmosphere relatively unpolluted?
We may grumble about migrant labour, unemployment and the lack of culture (plays, theatre groups, etc.), Or get annoyed with suggestions that the big white ‘IPOH’ sign at two exits on the north-south highway is the closest we’ll ever get to Hollywood. But hang on; we have our very own Bond Girl, Michelle Yeoh and another budding actress, Christy Yow. And we’ve been fortunate to welcome foreign stars like Jodie Foster and Catherine Deneuve.
We probably have more colonial buildings in use and our shopping malls may not be as fantastic as Kuala Lumpur’s. A sprinkling of small shops, such as the rotan shops, or shops that make the heads for the lions in the lion dance, still fascinate many a visitor. A sizeable number of typical groceries (kedai runcit) exhibit an air of authenticity (just like in our granny’s day), though they are fast disappearing. The gentleman barber shops manage to snip men’s hair just like in our grandfather’s time. And our wet markets continue to have the same smells, sounds and sights.
Just like any other city, Ipoh is lovely in many parts but it has its downsides. Litter is a massive problem, as the Ipoh Echo never tires to reveal. Wouldn’t we love to blame our council entirely but half the problem is our own apathy. This paper too has revealed that the inhabitants of certain parts of town have no pride in their surrounding areas and are responsible for rubbish piles that mushroom overnight.
Shape Up or Ship Out
But why? This city has a lot going for it and it has some of the friendliest people in the country. We’d all love to say to those people who want to sully our good name – get a life!
Ipoh has got everything anyone would need from a city and we love it here. So if you want to be part of this great place, you’ll just have to shape up.