Leung Honsmann’s first encounter with Teh Tarik Aircon was an incident he would never forget. Recalling that evening with a smile, he shared, “I was at a mamak stall and saw from the corner of my eye this chap at the next table who was served a teh tarik on a saucer full of ice cubes. I thought it was a novel idea of not having to wait too long for the drink to cool or have its taste diluted from melted ice. However, since I can’t speak Bahasa Malaysia, I would have a difficult time placing an order next time. I was speechless for a moment when the shop owner told me that it is called Teh Tarik Aircon!”
Leung, 28, a German citizen with a father from Hong Kong and a Malaysian mother, has spent the past five years living in Ipoh, his mother’s hometown. Even as he is trying to learn Bahasa Malaysia, he has already gotten used to the lifestyle here. One of life’s pleasures for Leung, who now works in the real estate industry, is to sit at a mamak stall on a rainy night eating a plate of mee goreng, washed down with a glass of teh tarik. Due to his hectic work day, lunch is usually just a bowl of pork noodles while dinner is the time to spoil himself with the many choices available at the food courts.
Growing up, Leung and his brother used to spend their summer holidays in Ipoh. According to him, the breaks were just two short weeks before they had to return to Germany. He said, “Time just flew by quickly and I don’t really remember those younger days, or how Ipoh was like back then.”
Five years ago, Leung decided to reside in Ipoh to be closer to his mother’s family. “I felt that it would be a good city to live in and I was not wrong,” he said. Besides, Ipoh is also the hometown of his wife, Jennifer Low, whom he met during one of his annual trips to visit relatives. The couple has been blessed with a son and a daughter.
Relocating to Ipoh, the local people have left a deep impression on Leung. He said, “Not long after my arrival, I was involved in an automobile accident. I was in shock and felt quite lost but suddenly, a great number of people came over to help me, to ask if I was all right. When they found out that I am a foreigner, they explained to me what I should do, which police station to go to file a report; they basically gave me all the information I needed. There are just so many helpful people around.
“I love it that Ipoh is a small city and everything is available here, unless we are talking about high-end items. Living expenses is kept low and it is not as crowded as Kuala Lumpur or Penang. The natural and beautiful landscape greets me every morning when I leave for work, giving me a refreshing start to the day.
“What could help Ipoh improve is a proper recycling system. There is too much trash around and nobody seems to be concerned about the problem. I also noticed a lack of recreational parks or activity-based facilities for families with young children. If we don’t want to travel to another city, we don’t have too many choices during weekends except for the Lost World of Tambun but after the fifth trip there, it gets boring as well. It amuses me that locals think that driving more than twenty minutes is considered far. Therefore, we do need more activities to occupy our time in Ipoh besides eating, clubbing or shopping.”
Note: An edited version of this article [Ipoh Feels Like Home] was published on 25th June, 2016 in the now-defunct The Malay Mail.