04 December 2012


Kellie's Castle in profile
I know that many people would say they want a job with no work to do and a decent enough pay packet to have a good time with.
Yeah, perhaps we all want a job that doesn't throw out our backs.
The lift tower
I am at present, rarely at work. I have nothing to do! I do not ask to be this way. It's anyone's guess that I would much rather be up in the air than be stuck on the ground.
Yes, there are times when even work gets to be this way. Utter doldrums, boundless limbo and I hear the clamourings of nonchalant optimism that we will be off the ground soon in a decibular battle against the industry prophets of doom who insist that the end is not yet in sight.

The Peoples' Car, with currently valid road tax!!!
I believe that this hiatus is granted to me for a reason. I know that when I am on the work cycle, days melt into each other in a seamless conglomerate of sectors, month-end summaries, check rides and days off. There is the hunt for a breather to work out the outstanding chores, repairs in waiting and the loyalty to a fitness programme that each day slips further out of enforcement's reach. Since the words of the prophets say that there is no end in sight, I proposed, unchallenged by recognisably violent objections, a road trip to Taiping.
And they were each assigned very hazardous duties
Now, I know that being on the east coast means we stand many hours away from Taiping, a rough figure of 7 hours' drive on the best of days. But it's the one place that seems to have slipped past as a touristy seaside resort or favourite holiday destination, therefore we would be circumnavigating those hordes that soil our beaches after the industrial effluents have. I did grow up partly in Taiping, for the first 3 years of education at least, and I remembered vaguely as it may be, a Zoological garden and a museum. The kind of people who plugged up her hotels the last time I checked on the occupancy rates would be the kind who sought history, as Taiping is a heritage town. So Taiping it was!
The front view of the castle, with Mammoiselle Rue on the bridge
Brenda had for some time, even from the days of our courtship on the saddle of a Suzuki, asked for a visit to Kellie's Castle. It was time to sniff out this location, as my daughters were agog with their mother's thrilling suggestion. As the 1.8 litre Nu engine was fired up on the gloom of Tuesday morning, the relic's destination was acquired on the GPS. 
The view must have been much better in Smith's time
We made Kellie's Castle at about 1400H, and looking at its structure, I felt immediate awe and respect for this man who laboured for the ones he loved amidst much tragedy. The castle was beautiful, set atop a knoll which in its time would have overlooked the lush countryside towards the west and the limestone bluffs of the silver state towards its eastern gaze, with the spine of the Titiwangsa as its backdrop.
The stairs to the upper rooms. Lovely wooden balustrade
As I strode through the corridors and looked upon the lifeless dressing-rooms and dining halls, I mused at what so enrapt Mr Smith so as to make him choose this place as his abode. You would not have set off on such a task as our own Taj Mahal on a whimsy and then take off back to Blighty.
The girls in Helen's room
This would have been a magnificient home. The estate was well-thought, with linen rooms, wine cellars, a rooftop courtyard for parties and underground and underwater tunnels so that the family could get to the Hindu temple Kellie Smith had built across the river in gratitude to the Hindu deity whom he believed blessed him with his long awaited son Anthony.
The Corridor
It is heartbreaking to follow the tragic story of this obviously successful planter's endeavour to build his family home which ended in ruin and abandon till the government takeover to mint its tourist potential. I concur that perhaps it should be seen to its opulent completion, and thereby set the Smith family's souls to eternal rest instead of  sentencing them to ceaselessly wander the corridors till kingdom come.
Down to the dungeon!!!
The next item was to shoot directly for Sentosa Villa. The hours were advancing well past lunchtime, and the sandwiches and grapes we had stuffed our faces with over the past seven hours would not hold indefinitely. We smacked into the middle of Taiping and I felt quite lost. I couldn't orient myself to figure out where the old bus-stop was, and realising that decades had past since I was here, I abandoned all thought of smart-assing my way to the good eateries.
The walkway through the Villa
Instead, we chanced a loop around the town's perplexing streets and spied an empty parking lot which turned out be right where a good kopitiam stood. Here we stopped to the encounter of smalltown-friendly staff and food that did not disappoint the impression given by the blackened interior decor. I am sure the locals would shred my appraisal to bits, but to a visitor, Prima served decent dishes for not too much dosh. With our hunger sated, we returned to the car and resumed faith in the voice navigation of Papago's baffling directions to Sentosa Villa.
I surmise that  Hyundai's "Fluidic Sculpture" has a lineage: the senior Elantra spotted outside Prima
The light in the sky was fading with the last sighings of evening as we finally checked in at Sentosa Villa. The air was laden with the enticing aroma of durians and jackfruits hanging from the trees, with trapeze nets suspended under them to safeguard the unwary. I was grateful that the management had thought of this, as I see a descending durian as more of a spiked anvil in freefall.
Ducks amidst the pandan
I love the place. Reasonably priced and tucked well away from the centre of town, the hotel sat close to the foothill of Maxwell. From the room we could gaze up at the rainclouds cascading down the slopes, here, at the wettest region in the country. Or, we could look  down at the grass pathways and watch the ducks and geese and turkeys quack and honk and gobble in daily business fashion as they waddled to and fro in their quaint surroundings.
Absolutely darling
There stood an air of serenity here, in the Villa. All around the hotel grounds, a stream ran, babbling cheerfully, aerating the still pools where various kinds of fish were being bred. There were walkways to invigorate the guests, uphill, downhill and always lush and green. The poultry walked about with the kind of confidence that comes from knowing nobody would hurt them. The grounds belonged to them as much as they did to the proprietor. The room was gorgeous too, carefully conceived as the place you bathe and set your head down to sleep. No fridge, no in-room broadband, small television, lovely shower and minimalist cabinetry. I am definitely staying here if ever I am in town next.
That is a mighty hunk of beef, but he has such sweet grey eyes
So the agenda over the next day was to make it to the zoo and the Perak Museum. Both destinations were preloaded on the GPS, so finding our way was a no-brainer. I do not personally love zoos. The reason for it was revisited upon me as we sat lazily in the safari train, and later, as we walked for a bit to look at the big cats and the gaur.
Antonio's endowed cousins
I always feel sad for the beasts, not so much just for the captivity, but more for their sad state of health. The ostriches had poor plumage, looking like they had been sitting in boiling water all day, nigh feathered for Rowan Atkinson's Christmas roasting. The camels looked as if they were begging to get shot, their hides all mangy like threadbare carpets, crouched so despiritedly on the ground as to be unable to muster up an insulting spit shot at passers-by. But the big cats were fun to watch, reminding us of Antonio 7 hours drive away, and how he would be contending with mean-spirited monkeys and unspayed (read as territorial) cats swarming his driveway.
And yes, here is Lopez De Squirrel doing the commando descent
As the one who suggested this hare-brained scheme of a roadtrip to Taiping, the girls decided to reward me with an Indian breakfast as the thought of the long drive home on Thursday morning made me ravenous the minute I woke up. And yes, I did in fact feel rewarded because the food at Annapurna was OMG sumptuous. Yes, perhaps the locals would draw my blood for saying that, but Indian food is Indian food for me. I would gobble it down by nosing in a trough if that were the way it presented itsef to me.
Redefining Sugar Loaf Hill
My girls will testify to the truth in that statement.


  1. The castle..scary isn't it? Err you shud bring them to Kuala Kangsar, pekena laksa tepi sungai...:)

    1. I loved the castle Lady Windsor. It wasn't scary.
      Even as I looked at the rooms, I felt like I was back in the old military quarters, picturing the place as I would my own home, with the kids running through the rooms. The poor man died while procuring the lift for the tower, miss. The arrested completion of this home got to me somehow.
      I shall remember your recommendation if I am cruising through KK next time. The foodie in me will ensure that following my nose will be a good navigational aid.

  2. Hi hobbit1964
    Sounds like you all had an awesome holiday. But 7 hours drive..wow that's like forever but then again it was worth it yes.
    Kellie's Castle is like a dream or from a fairy tale, surreal beautiful where only princes and princesses live. Sad though that it was not complete. Gosh, what stories or legends it would have hold.
    Hey, your girls are stunning! :)

    Enjoy your hiatus. :p

    1. Thanks for the sweet compliment Angie. I always allude, to my longevity, that their looks are from their maternal side.
      There are enough rural legends on Kellie's castle being haunted, and I trust it was featured on My Asian Ghost Story. It doesn't creep me out, I just feel sad for this father who strove to no avail to build this pristine piece of real estate.
      But the road trip was definitely worth the 7 hour drive, as Sentosa Villa is really where your soul can drink from clear waters. The ducks will concur.