Buckle up: we’ve got some history, politics, nature, and of course food.

Last Sunday we took a day trip to Ipoh, Perak, to visit my father-in-law’s hometown. About a two-hour journey from KL, Ipoh is a historic town for the tin-mining and rubber industries. The hills of the Kinta Valley, in which Ipoh is nestled, are significant for the anti-colonial history of Malaysia, at the time known as Malaya which included Singapore. Part 1: Caught in the middle of two empires at war, the folks of Perak and the rest of the peninsula suffered the Japanese invasion during WWII from 1941-1945 to get at the British Empire. They rode through the jungle on bicycles (yup, bicycles), right through Perak, capturing towns and villages, and of course, leaving thousands dead in their wake.

Part 2. After  Britain reclaimed their rule of Malaya at the end of the war, the folks who were fighting the Japanese invaders just years prior turned their anti-colonial energy toward the British. Since the British were the ones that trained the Malayans to fight the Japanese in the previous war, they wanted their guns and manpower back, so the ones who said “no, thanks” were forced into hiding. Let’s face it: colonization is colonization no matter what how you disguise it, and the British weren’t any better than the Japanese. The movement came to a head in a decade of guerrilla warfare, which the colonists called the Emergency, but the communist guerrillas preferred to call the Anti-British National Liberation War, because that’s what it was–a fight to decolonize. Btw, the British strategically used the term “emergency” rather than “war” because otherwise their losses in the tin and rubber industries wouldn’t be covered by their insurance back home. Eventually, the communists lost out largely because of the sheer number of British troops (40,000 vs. 8,000 Malayans), and their leader Chin Peng was exiled. Britain was found to have committed war crimes, specifically torturing villagers who they suspected to have been hiding guerrillas, and during the course of the movement Malaya gained independence from the British in 1957.

Here is the point of all of this history. Last week Tuesday, Trump was elected the next US president. I hate the sound of those words in the same sentence. I stared on from my computer screen in Singapore (stay tuned for this post) as the results came in like molasses, by then already Wednesday afternoon local time. I was in denial, disgusted, numb with rage. Because I am on the side of the oppressed. I will always stand with the forgotten and silenced, the ones who are marginalized, forced into hiding, and those whose histories are erased and revised to benefit the empire. I can already hear the voices asking “Like wow, did she really just defend those communists? Doesn’t she know that the reds–” ERP. Stop right there, yes I did. US imperialism + civic responsibility in electing a leader is complex since the US is already in so deep in claiming that it’s the “greatest nation in the world”, and we’ve really eaten up this exceptionalist BS with a silver spoon. I maintain that regardless the leader, the US will have continued to annihilate whole communities around the world, just like the British at the height of their empire. And normalize it. And call it necessary for the sake of the Queen or the White House or the Land of the Free. And justify it saying if you’re not for “us” you must be against “us”. You see, the US has a really keen way of demonizing whole groups of people if it means furthering their imperialistic agenda and perpetuating really problematic rhetoric to each generation from young. My plea to the reader is this: Compassion. Humanity. Solidarity. That you would think twice before you consider yourself a little bit better off because of the passport that you hold or the embassy that will get your back abroad, or because you don’t think something is a problem because it’s not a problem to you personally.

Now, rewind back to our little trip. We started with a visit to Gua Tempurung, one of the largest caves in Malaysia, and just south of Ipoh. We hiked through the belly of this limestone mountain, first down, and then up. Waaaay up. This is one of the sites where communist guerrillas were believed to be living during those 12 years.

After exploring for a few hours we worked up a decent hunger, so we ate some. Ok a lot, we ate a lot.

And walked around Ipoh’s Old Town and New Town. FYI after tin-mining was phased out, Ipoh became somewhat of a ghost town. Notice the many abandoned buildings reminiscent of what used to be a booming industrial city in its heyday.

And some revitalization by Plan B, a coffee shop + restaurant + public space + boutique craft shops.

And a visit to Chemor where my father-in-law’s childhood home used to be on a rubber plantation. “Just one house in the middle of rubber trees. Nothing but trees… and mosquitoes.”

 

tl;dr: Fight the power. Eat good food.

 

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4 thoughts on “Here we go, Ipoh!

    1. Thank you! I try to hold on to the stories that you have told me and also do some reading up on my own. Thanks also for the link; I really enjoyed it. I have great respect for Noam Chomsky–how lucky that you got to take a course with him!

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