“When I was offered a posting in Ipoh, I accepted it straight away without hesitation,” declared Lebanese Jean Michel Baradei.

Having spent a month in Ipoh previously due to work, Jean enjoyed the lifestyle here so much he didn’t think twice about leaving hectic Bangkok, where he was working at that time.

The 42-year-old father of two young children, the General Manager of Best Western Premier The Haven Ipoh, said, “Ipoh is a family-centric city, yet has a rather vibrant nightlife. It has a lovely environment and one could enjoy greenery everywhere. It gives a sense of freshness, be it in the morning or evening.”

Jean Michel Baradei at work

Jean Michel Baradei at work

Despite hailing from a Mediterranean country with four seasons, Jean loves the climate here. He added, “It’s never too warm or too wet in Ipoh. It’s just right for me.”

Being in the hospitality industry for 24 years now, since coming to Ipoh Jean has observed a positive growth in that particular sector. “We are seeing different nationalities coming to Ipoh, with a significant number returning for repeat visits. Local tourism agencies should really put in more effort in attracting tourists via international promotions and intensive media coverage. Ipoh has everything and the food is superb!

“Really, more people should know about this city and enjoy what it has to offer. We can achieve this when people talk about Ipoh. At the same time, it’s a pity when visitors come here but are not aware of the attractions. And even if they know what to do or where to go, they have difficulty locating them or reaching these destinations.

“The architecture of Ipoh’s colonial buildings reminds me of European architect style, where I used to live. I get a similar feel. No doubt, Ipoh cannot compare to Beirut, where I come from, but this small city has its own charm that needs to be experienced first hand.”

Indeed, friendly Ipohites have won over Jean’s heart, as he said, “I am very comfortable with the people here. There is no communication barrier as almost everyone speaks English. They are helpful and welcoming. I don’t feel the gap between the locals and myself.

“I also noticed a huge number of people working past retirement age, and yet, they still find joy in their work. They always have a smile on their faces.

“However, it is difficult to accept that many front-liners in the service industry are not trained to do their job. In Europe, even servers hold at least a certificate in hospitality, hence they know what to do when serving customers.”

lunch break

lunch break

Jean’s eyes lighted up at the mention of food. Most of his weekends have been spent exploring the local fare at the suggestion of his colleagues. “I have heard about Ipoh’s food haven reputation before my trip but now I am discovering the delicacies myself. I love my food spicy and my favourite is laksa, washed down with Ipoh white coffee, hot or cold! Ipoh kuey teow and Hainanese chicken rice are also high up on my list of must-try food in Ipoh!”

When one day Jean’s job takes him somewhere else, he will be leaving a part of himself behind, and taking memories along with him. “Ipoh has a positive future judging from the growth in FIT (Free Independent Traveller) sector, and I am grateful for the opportunity to get to know this gem of a city,” he concluded.

Note: An edited version of this article [Ipoh has it all] was published on 9th May, 2015, in the now-defunct The Malay Mail.

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