Leaving Dnepropetrovsk in Ukraine almost eight thousand kilometres away for her husband’s hometown of Ipoh three years ago is still a memory fresh in the mind of Julia Barathi, now 29.
According to Julia, Ipoh has changed a lot since then. She said, “I can see more foreigners coming to Ipoh compared to when I first arrived. I can understand why. There are so many interesting aspects of Ipoh to be discovered. This modest city is a melting pot of Asian culture. There’s Little India, pasar malam (night markets), a water theme park, cave temples and above average shopping malls. I also love the food court concept where I could just go under one roof and try the various kinds of food and drinks.”
Now a freelance wedding photographer, Julia has had the opportunity to immerse herself in the multi-culture and traditions of different communities. She explained, “My job actually forces me to research on the local culture in-depth as I need to know and understand every aspect and significance of the tradition and rites performed during a wedding that I am shooting. So far, I am lucky to have experienced shooting Malay, Indian, Chinese and even Punjabi weddings.
“I have shot many weddings but I still remember my very first professional assignment which was for an Indian couple. I remember the adrenaline rush where I had to capture the vast number of traditions and rites in an Indian wedding. All the moments seemed important!
“But of all the weddings, the most unforgettable is my own traditional Indian wedding, even though it was quite overwhelming.”
Now three years in Ipoh, Julia has visited almost all parts of Peninsular Malaysia. “Travelling to big cities and small towns, I always return to Ipoh. It is home now. It is such a comfortable city to live in. We are so close to nature and surrounded by breathtaking limestone hills, yet we can find everything we need here, such as good shopping deals, interesting places to spend our evenings, caves to explore, parks to jog in and hiking trails when we want a work out a sweat with friends. Most of all, we will never get stuck in traffic jams!” she exclaimed.
Before arriving in Ipoh, Julia was told that the best place for food is Penang. She opined, “If you ask me, I would say Ipoh easily beats Penang when it comes to food! After three years here, I have a huge list of favourite dishes and the list doesn’t seem to end as I continuously discover the delicacies of local cuisine and street food.”
To Julia, the strongest asset of Ipoh is her people. She said, “They are so friendly, respectful and very helpful. I feel safe here. I love that the people here have the greatest respect for elders and the family institution. And in spite of modernity and external influences, the unique cultures and traditions are still being kept very much alive.
“However, one thing about Ipoh that I do not like is that people do not think twice about littering, especially in places like public parks and waterfalls. Perhaps more civic education and consistent awareness campaigns about our shared surroundings might change this habit in time to come.”
Note: An edited version of this article [Shots of perfection] was published on 19th September, 2015, in the now-defunct The Malay Mail.
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