|I had planned to go straight from Kuala Lumpur to the Cameron Highlands, but I met a nice guy named Adrian in Malacca who invited me to visit his hometown of Ipoh for a day. Adrian was in Malacca looking at antiques (another person with an interest in interior design) and we happened to sit down together at breakfast at the Hotel Puri. It is funny how randomly you meet people when traveling.
Well, Adrian turned out to be a very interesting guy. After studying finance in Australia and business at the London School of Economics, he went to Harvard to do graduate work in the field of health policy. Now Adrian is the executive director of a private hospital in his hometown of Ipoh. Adrian has also been working on an anti-smoking campaign aimed at young people. In recognition of this work, Arian was named one of the "Outstanding Young People of Malaysia" for 2006, winning the award for the field of public health.
Ipoh was referred to as the "City of Millionaires" since many Chinese people who came here became rich mining tin. Adrian's family was in the tin-mining business for three generations before diversifying into other areas. The small city center still has evidence of the city's prosperous history, but a lot of the more interesting places to visit are in the surrounding area.
Adrian took me to visit a local cave temple that was formed under one of the many limstone hills in the area. These caves were first used as meditation grottoes, and over the years they became large-scale temples. We walked quite a while in the Gua Tempurung cave and didn't even get halfway into it.
Another stop for us was a site called Kellie's Castle, which is an old unfinished colonial home. Wealthy British rubber plantation owner William Kellie Smith started building this elaborate six-story Moorish-style home in an attempt to lure his wife to Malaysia. He brought seventy Hindu artisans from Madras to work on the project, although half died during an outbreak of Spanish fever. Then Smith died in 1926 on a trip home to England and the house was never completed.
Adrian and I had lunch at one of his favorite Chinese seafood restaurants, and then I was back at the bus station for my ride to the Cameron Highlands.