NOT many people are aware that there is more to Tapah than a little town with bustling day activities and quiet nights.
Within its vicinity are numerous places of interest that are both alluring and exciting.
Waterfalls, recreational parks, jungle trails, mountain peaks, hot springs and even the traditional route to Cameron Highlands, are all close to this town, which is about 67km south of Ipoh and 160km north of Kuala Lumpur.
It’s a laid-back town with several streets, mostly filled with sundry and trading shops, textile centres, local restaurants, a market square and several banks.
Steamy attraction: The Sungai Klah hot spring park in Sungkai is fast becoming a
popular haunt for families and tour groups from all over the country.
You may look for some local snacks or try some popular Malay cuisine unique to Perak at several restaurants here.
Alternatively, head for the recreational parks that promise more than just soothing green and blue mountain views.
Hidden from a distance by the rugged rainforest, these parks comprise several waterfalls and crystal clear streams amongst the hills. The parks are well equipped with facilities for day-trippers and picnickers.
One such waterfall retreat that is popular yet not too crowded is the Kuala Woh recreational park where a large, swift, clear water stream flows through.
What makes this spot interesting and different is its stream.
It has both icy cool and close-to-boililng water flowing in different parts of it.
A unique work of nature, one could take a warm bath with the added benefit of natural minerals to invigorate the skin and rejuvenate the body and mind.
There are jungle trails here too and close by is the trailhead to Batu Puteh mountain, which is over 2,000m high.
Splashing time: Picnickers having fun in this icy cool stream at the Kuala Woh recreational park.
There are also several villages belonging to the orang asli or the indigenous people of the area and one can get a brief insight into their lives here.
Kuala Woh is 20km from Tapah town and some 20km further up towards Cameron Highlands is the lovely Lata Iskandar falls.
Visitors driving up to Cameron Highlands using the traditional route will not miss this waterfall located very close to the road.
The water is a little chilly for bathing but people do stop to take photographs or look for souvenirs along the road dotted on both sides with little stalls.
Local crafts, some jungle products and wild honey are sold here.
Not far from Tapah and clearly seen from the North-South Expressway is the Lata Kinjang waterfall. It is about 25km away and vies for the top spot among Malaysia’s highest waterfalls.
The waterfall is spectacular and has some basic facilities at its base.
It is a picture-perfect spot and you can get there by driving north along the old trunk road.
Drive 20km south of Tapah and another pristine haven unfolds.
Popular corner: The Nasi Kandar Capati Corner in Temoh near Tapah. Travellers attest to the delicious and soft capati served by the restaurant located along the Ipoh-Tapah trunk road.
It’s the Sungai Klah hot spring park in Sungkai, a spot that is fast becoming popular among families and tour groups from all over the country.
The attraction is its hot spring, which is said to have therapeutic values that help heal skin ailments, arthritis and other illnesses. Its setting is also picturesque with forested foothills of the Titiwangsa Range straddling the area.
This spot attracts some 5,000 visitors monthly and they come here to enjoy facilities such as a one-metre deep swimming pool, three other small soaking pools, a reflexology path and four indoor saunas.
The area is also located close to several orang asli villages and it is interesting to see these people carrying out their daily activities by the stream that flows through the area.
From the park entrance, a 202m boardwalk takes visitors through lush greenery and fantastic close-up views of natural springs emitting hot vapour clouds.
The park also boasts two man-made waterfalls and is beautifully landscaped with herbal and medicinal plants such as tongkat ali, kacip fatimah, jerangau, mata pelanduk and pegaga.
Traditional massage services are also available here.
While city-weary folks increasingly seek natural adventure and relaxation, food and eating out is another form of adventure here.
Along the Sungai Batang Padang riverbank in the middle of the town is Restauran Kualiti.
Sizzling: Grilled freshwater fish is among the mouth-watering dishes served at Restoran Kualiti. There are also grilled squid, prawns and chicken that are served with assam gravy or black sauce dips.
Though it is a humble-looking restaurant, you will be surprised to find over 100 types of favourite Perak and Northern Malay food served here.
Some of the mouth-watering fare include chicken, beef, quail, seafood, mutton and vegetables, prepared in different styles of kampung (Malay village) cooking such as gulai tempoyak, curry, assam pedas, masak lemak, gulai, kerabu and rendang.
The most popular item on the menu here is the ikan patin masak tempoyak (a type of freshwater fish cooked in fermented durian gravy) – a native delicacy in northern Perak.
Restaurant owner Hashim Jani, 70, believes in treating his customers like “kings”.
“We ensure the quality of our food and service is always up to mark, hence the name of our restaurant,” says the ex-army man who started the business with his wife in 1982 to supplement income following his retirement.
There are also assam and curry fish head as well as grilled squids, stingrays, and freshwater fish from Tapah and Teluk Intan that come served with assam gravy or black sauce dips.
The restaurant also serves over 15 types of ulam (fresh herbs and vegetables) with a variety of sambal and beef, oxtail, cow’s tripe, and chicken soups – all prepared in traditional Malay cooking style.
If you like Chinese food, Hainanese specialities are served at the Keng Chong Restaurant at Jalan Station in Tapah town.
A migrant from China started the outlet and it has been a popular eating place here for the last 100 years.
Hot pau: Wong Chee Hong, 66, serving a customer at his Keng Chong Restaurant.
Its owner, Wong Chee Hong, 66, says his grandfather started the restaurant, and it is most popular for its Hainan dumplings (pau) with various sweet and meat fillings.
Wong makes the dumplings using recipes passed down by his forefathers.
“I am the third generation making the pau. I can assure customers that the taste and quality has not changed,” he says.
Also sought after at his restaurant is the ‘lo mai kai” or glutinous rice steamed in bamboo leaves and cooked with chicken, mushroom and meat.
Other items are fried eel with dried chillies and stir-fried frog with ginger.
About 6km north of the town along the old road to Ipoh is the Nasi Kandar Capati Corner.
It’s in the little town of Temoh, just by the junction to Chenderiang.
The stall is famous for what it is named after – capati, the staple north Indian toasted flatbread.
Its proprietor, Mohd Yazid Mohamed Ashraf says people just love his capati as it is soft, thin and tasty.
“It goes well with the sardine or mutton curry. People can also request for chicken and fish head curry,” says Mohd Yazid who has been running the restaurant for 22 years.
There are many other places to eat here, including a fast food restaurant if you are not into local cuisine.
The variety of food here will certainly complement the wonderful and fulfilling experience visitors to this delightful place will have from its natural surroundings.