Old World Charm

Coming to Ipoh as a 23-year-old rugby player representing the Royal Navy in a tournament hosted at the Ipoh Padang in 1962, and enjoying the sausages and mash at a local institution called FMS Bar opposite the field after his matches, little did Ian Keith Anderson imagined that he would one day retire in this quaint city.

The septuagenarian, born in the village of Aberfoyle, Scotland, in 1939, decided to relocate to the hometown of his wife, Meng Wai, in 1999 after working in Kuala Lumpur for ten years, where he was the Managing Director of a British company, following a successful thirty-year career in the Royal Navy.

Today, the retired Naval Commander cuts a familiar figure in the city and is well-known among those who are interested in the heritage and social history of Kinta Valley. His rich archive of history of the district and its people, since the heydays of the tin mining boom and earlier, are all curated at the digital site, ipohWorld, since 2004.

Ian with a replica of the Ho Yan Hor tea counter
Ian with a replica of the Ho Yan Hor tea counter

It is ironic that it takes a foreigner to preserve Kinta Valley’s diverse history for the benefit of the generations to come. Anderson said, “It saddens me to note the general lack of pride in the local people for their city. What began as a curious hobby for me upon my arrival in Ipoh as a new resident has turned into a full-time pursuit. This legacy is my gift to Ipohites.”

In fact, Anderson’s love for Ipoh is so great that he tirelessly compiled and edited the book, ‘Ipoh, My Home Town’, a unique record of 45 people growing up in Ipoh over the last ninety years. Published in September of 2011 and still selling regularly, the hardcover book is considered by many to be a collector’s item.

 Ian explains about Ho Kai Cheong peddling Ho Yan Hor herbal tea
Ian explains about Ho Kai Cheong peddling Ho Yan Hor herbal tea

These days, when funds are available, Anderson busies himself with the restoration of old buildings, under the ipohWorld banner. His two most recent projects, Han Chin Pet Soo and Ho Yan Hor Museum, two neighbouring buildings along Jalan Bijeh Timah in Ipoh Old Town, have been well-received. Over the past year since its opening, Han Chin Pet Soo has received 15,000 visitors and counting. Meanwhile, Ho Yan Hor Museum which just opened its doors to the public on January 16, is looking to be just as popular among locals and tourists alike.

in the kitchen of Ho Yan Hor Museum
in the kitchen of Ho Yan Hor Museum

Having spent about sixteen years in Ipoh now, Anderson, a Permanent Resident who has gotten over the initial cultural shock of life in Malaysia, has no regrets making the move from the faster-paced capital city of Kuala Lumpur. He explained, “Ipoh is still shaped by a low-rise skyline and there is also less pollution. Besides, it is only about two hours from Kuala Lumpur or Penang.

“The city still sports an old world charm to draw tourists who are looking for something other than shopping and food. However, the rubbish in the streets and the non-maintenance of facilities in the city give off a sense of apparent lack of council control and a tourism board which doesn’t welcome tourists.”

at the photo corner of Ho Yan Hor Museum
at the photo corner of Ho Yan Hor Museum

But that’s not a death sentence for the city as according to Anderson, Ipoh can improve with “better government control and planning.”

At the end of the interview, Anderson posed a puzzle for us to solve: “Why is it that those who have left Ipoh still love the place while those who live here just couldn’t care less?”

Note: An edited version of this article [Old World Charm] was published on 20th Feb, 2016 in the now-defunct The Malay Mail.

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With love

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