We booked our hostel for 3 nights. Apparently not many people do that because when the hostel owner, Ken, asked me if I have relatives in Taiping and I gave a negative reply, he sort of gave me an incredulous look and a weird smile, at the same time repeating what I just said: "Three nights?"
Only my wife knew and accepted my travel style: always take it slow and easy, based on a loose or imaginary itinerary. Most people come here on a day trip, notably for the food or a short tour of the lake. For me, I was never going to rush through my acquaintance of Taiping or Perak after driving over six hours from the south. To be honest, I was rather ambitious when drawing up the itinerary for this trip, but after the first day and realising my family moves to a slower beat, I had to whittle down the list. In the end, it was just two side trips. Forget about Royal Belum National Park, or try the handmade fishballs of Lenggong, or take the kids to the Lost World of Tambun.
I wanted to explore places of interest that mostly only locals go to. There is always this unique and special charm to a local attraction----it could be the quirks and the chinks, the imperfections or the infectious desire to please but just falling short of meeting the standard, or a surprising element that cannot be found at home. We settled for Trong Duck Farm and Kuala Sepetang.
I have seen how a chicken farm, goat farm, ostrich farm, durian farm, crocodile farm etc look like, but I have never been to a duck farm in all my 40 odd years. If you are like me, then it is a worthy eye-opener, for your children if not for yourself. :) Trong Duck Farm is about 20km southwest of Taiping, accessible via 2-lane paved road.
One ticket allows each person to paddle boats, feed the ducks and tour the farm. We paddled boats in a man-made lake, upon the behest of the kids, and went around picking up real duck eggs in the bushes. We trudged on duck shit, fed the ducks, chased the ducks, and stopped short of eating them (even though the last is an option as there is a restaurant in the farm).
You can choose to be dainty, or go all out dirty, depending on your level of tolerance. Surprisingly, my daughter fared better than my son, who basically just stood rooted to one spot, afraid of stepping on the droppings (which is everywhere).
Another place worth visiting is Kuala Sepetang, formerly known as Port Weld, famous for its charcoal production, super fresh and cheap seafood, eagle feeding and fireflies gazing. It was also my first time visiting a charcoal-production facility. I think one can call and sign up for a factory tour, but we went there past 5pm on our own. There was no guide around, but we were allowed to roam freely and watch. There was also some newspaper articles on the wall that explain the history and the process.
Kuala Sepetang also boasts one of Malaysia's biggest mangrove forests, in which live a myriad of animals. It is a fishing village that is slowly reinventing itself as a ecotourism destination. There are boats that take tourists out to "feed" the eagles, or more accurately, kites that have become semi-wild. The guide confessed that it was not really the correct thing to do, but when villagers who are fighting a hollowing-out of the primary industry and trying their best to "stay afloat" , it is hard for animal conservationists to remain on the moral high horse.
Basically, the boatmen would signal the kites with loud beeps, and proceed to toss chicken fat/skin to the sea for the kites to feed on.
The firefly light show was also magical. They looked like Christmas trees draped in fairy lights, except that they were more intense than the ones we witnessed before in Sabah and Kota Tinggi. I had no pictures for that because it was too dark.
Lastly, the seafood dinner. Words are unnecessary.