Day Trip Adventures: Sitiawan, Perak
Photo credit: Hishgraphics
When people think of Perak, the one go-to place would always be Ipoh. I’d disagree. Ipoh has become more commercialised, and getting more and more congested and filled with tourists as time goes by, with mainstream places piling with long queues.
So I’d tell them to go to Sitiawan instead. If you’re travelling from the Klang Valley, Sitiawan is just about the same distance as Ipoh, but more towards the west. It’s a small, quiet town with lots to offer, especially for a simple day trip.
The Main Attraction: FOOD
Honestly, even after working in the bustling city life of Kuala Lumpur, I find myself always wanting to go back to Sitiawan for none other than its food. I’m going to introduce to you to all the more popular choices before delving into the local favourites.
Ang Jiu Mee Sua (Red Rice Wine Noodle)
This is one of the more popular dishes, and a definite must-have when visiting. There are two different ways to make this, where you either use the liquid part of the red wine, or the paste. Generally, making it with the paste would lead to a thicker, more flavourful soup, but if you find it too overpowering, the more liquid version would suit you better. The soup itself is made with chicken and ginger, usually stir-fried with some sesame oil before being boiled.
You can get it at most family-style restaurants, or if you want to opt for the thick version, there is a little shop behind a house in Kampung Sitiawan that sells them. But they’re not open every day of the week.
Gong Pian (Hokchiew Biscuit)
You’ll often see people leaving Sitiawan with bags full of these. It’s sort of a flatbread, often filled with onion and topped with sesame seeds, cooked inside a clay oven. Some varieties of it may include pork meat cooked with it, but they mostly serve it as it is, without any filling. While I wouldn’t say it’s amazing, I’d say that it just taste addictive, like you always want more of it. It’s just a really nice comfort food.
The popular store is called Cheong Cia Gong Pian, which is located right next to an iconic building for locals called Wisma Ganda. Go early, especially on weekends, if you want to have any hope of getting some.
Seafood in general
The beauty of this small town is that there are several fishing villages as well as seafood farms, so the seafood is often as fresh as it can get. We’d cook most of them alive, especially crabs. The best way to eat most shellfish is to steam and eat it as it is, maybe with some chopped chili padi and soy sauce if you fancy that. That way, you taste the true taste of the meat itself, rather than the sauces. It’s pure bliss.
My advice is to go directly to fishing villages and buy the seafood fresh. If you have an Airbnb, steam it there, or if not, some restaurants wouldn’t mind helping you cook.
I know, I know, Penang cendol is the best, Melaka durian cendol is the best. I hear that all the time, I get it. So I’d like to start by saying no, I don’t think Sitiawan cendol is the best. It’s really good, that’s what I’m saying. The cendol itself is made fresh every day, and they use real gula melaka as the syrup. It’s wholesome and delicious.
My favourite place to get it would be at a stall that used to be operated by an this sweet indian lady, but is now taken over by her sons. It’s located behind Wisma Ganda, just a small stall with stools put around it. You normally don’t have to wait more than 10 minutes for your order.
Again, don’t go all out “Penang laksa is the best!” on me. I do love Penang laksa, but Pangkor laksa is made a little differently. For one, the sambal is added to your own spice-level preference, because the soup itself, on its own, is not spicy. It’s made with lots and lots of flesh from ikan kembung and onions, where we would cook and peel the flesh before making the soup. Alternatively, some may use crab or mantis prawn as the base. The sambal is generally made with prawns (belacan) and onions. The noodle typically comes in two sizes, thin or flat.
You can get it at Pangkor Kopitiam, or in most places in Pulau Pangkor, which is accessible through a ferry ride through Lumut, just 10 minutes from Sitiawan.
Roti Canai Tepi Sungai (Roti Canai by the river)
This is a nice change of scene for people from the city. This place sells only 3 variants of roti canai, namely roti kosong, roti telur, and roti bawang. The appeal is in its location, which is a wooden shop build by the river, with some parts actually built on the river. The roti canai itself is one of the best I’ve had in terms of texture, because there are no parts where the flour is too thick, so it’s always light. I used to love eating roti kosong with condensed milk as a kid.
This place is closed on Fridays, and you’ll find that it’s completely packed by 8.30 to 9 am on weekends, but I assure you, it is worth the trip. The place is actually called Roti Canai Pak Tam, but many refer it to as Roti Canai Tepi Sungai.
Places to visit
There are limited places to visit, which actually makes it better for a day trip. If you fancy visiting Chinese temples, there’s one that’s quite popular, which is the Tua Pek Kong Temple, which directly translates to “Oldest Grand Uncle”, but in actuality it refers to the god that we pray to. The temple has been expanding in the past few years, and every statue or attraction there has a story behind it. My personal favourite: Enter through the mouth of a dragon and you’ll be enlightened with the many levels of hell based on the sins you commit.
Sitiawan is also located by the seaside, and Teluk Batik offers a more unique beach experience, mostly because of the sand. I’m not sure if other people share the same sentiment, but I’ve been to maybe more than 10 beaches around Malaysia, and Teluk Batik has this unique type of sea sand that feels different against your feet.
At night, you can head over to Marina Island (Nowhere near Marina Bay, okay) for some family time. Sometimes they do have bicycle or rollerblade rentals, if not, you can just enjoy the cool breeze, the beautiful scenery and some food that you can find there.
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, you can head over to Pulau Pangkor (not to be confused with Pangkor Laut, the more atas place). There, you can go snorkelling or play some water sports, or perhaps go for a simple barbecue session. You can head over on a ferry, either from Marina Island, or from the Lumut Jetty.
For those who are looking for a relaxing time, to do something a little unconventional, you can perhaps go fishing. There are restaurants that offer pond-fishing, or you can go all natural at Kampung Sitiawan, a small fishing village where you can rent a boat and some fishing equipment, buy some bait and just go all out.