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Archive for July, 2012

Early last year, I made a trip back to Ipoh for three weeks to take some photos of the city I was born and grew up in. Among my first stop was at Cowan Street. The once famous Jubilee Park was located on this street. Jubilee Park to Ipoh was what BB Park was to Kuala Lumpur and New World to Singapore in those good old days. These were the happening places then – the places for old and young to go for some entertainments. Sad to say, all three were now history.

On the right side you can see two windows where cinema goers used to queue up to buy tickets for a show (there were cinemas inside Jubilee Park). Have you queue up here before to buy tickets?

I remember along this corridor, there were some Nepalese gemstones traders selling their wares here at night. Their products were laid on the floor and curious onlookers hassle for the correct prices. Rubies, emeralds, sapphires…they were glittering and sparkling to my young eyes.  Dad often took me here when I was a mere kid. From this, a lifetime love affair was born – I simply loved colorful gemstones, even to this day!

Watch out for the inside of Jubilee Park and you will be sadden how this site, once the most popular entertainment spot in Ipoh, had turned into an eerie and abandoned place…..

Do you have childhood memories of this place to share too?

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My husband immediately contacted his mother to enlist her help in hunting for an old female duck for us. Meanwhile, my parents went back to Ipoh and I got back to work again. Things began to fall back into places. I could eat and sleep well, just like before. But the methimazole I was taking gave me some unpleasant side-effects. I told myself that I must really search for that old female duck!

 

A month later, after much searching and asking around, mother-in-law called up and said she had finally found that old female duck at a friend’s house in Kuala Selangor. It was timely as my medication was running out , down to the last tablet. The poor animal was almost twenty years old, had seen better times and its days are numbered. It was my good fortune and its misfortune, I guess! Mother-in-law gave the owner one hundred dollars as a token and had it slaughtered, skinned and cut into halves.

“Now, get ten pieces of dried baby abalones from any Chinese medical hall and finally, a bottle of Guinness Stout, only Guinness Stout and no Carlsberg or Anglia or Anchor!” Yoke Cheh instructed us.

We got them all in a jiffy.

“Put the duck together with the baby abalones into a small ceramic pot. Do not add any water to it and sealed the lid to prevent any water from getting inside. Next, put this small pot into a big metal pot filled with water. Light up a charcoal stove and bring the metal pot to boil for about 10 hours. Don’t let the boiling stop but just add water to the metal pot and charcoal to the stove during the process,” the old lady instructed further.

“When the boiling has been done, remove the small pot and open the lid. You can see the duck and abalone extract. It tastes and looks like chicken essence. Pour the liquid into a porcelain bowl and discard the meats. When the liquid became lukewarm, drink it in ONE BIG GULP WITHOUT ANY PAUSE and then immediately followed by the bottle of Guinness Stout. Yes, finish both items in one gulp without any pause. Only this way, it will work. The same night, you will begin to burp non-stop. All the pent-up air inside your body will be released. Guarantee you will not have hyperthyroidism again for the rest of your life!” Yoke Cheh vouched on her magic portion.

We did as she instructed, right to the last dot. The duck and abalone essence was simply awesome but the Guinness Stout part was yuck! I have to hold my nose tightly and swallow everything in one single gulp. That night, true enough, I burped many times and after each time, I feel better than before, in fact so much better than when I took those methimazole!

You see, the Chinese have a very different approach to treating hyperthyroidism. While the westerners blamed the overactive thyroid glands, the Chinese attributed this to a build-up of anger, frustrations and stress over a period of time – things I got plenty from my work place.

Since mother-in-law got me such a big duck, it made two portions and I consumed them all within the same week. A week later, I went back to Tung Shin Hospital for the same blood test –for TSH, T4 and T3. Armed with the result, I went to see Dr. Cheong again.

Of course he was amazed and utterly speechless when he saw my blood test result. My TSH had increased manifold while T4 and T3 had decreased to the normal level. Shaking his head in total disbelief, he asked curiously, “What have you consumed lately? This is incredible, just unbelievable!” The poor old chap almost fell from his chair.

I just smiled and kept quiet. I don’t think he will believe in the power of that old female duck, a handful of dried abalones and of course, that bottle of bitter Guinness Stout as he was a western medical practitioner.

“You’re indeed a special patient. I never expect to see this kind of result from you until a year or two later,” he said.

“So, that means I don’t have to take those methimazole anymore?” I asked him.

“No, I don’t think so but you still have to come back yearly for your blood test, at least for a few years consecutively,” he advised.

“Back to my question just now, how did you get well so fast and so completely?” he was persistent to know.

“Well, just say it is a miracle!” I said smilingly as I got up to leave.

He threw up his hands and gave out a roaring laugh that vibrated through the corridor of the hospital.

“And thank you for finding out my problem for me……” I said to him as I closed the door behind me and walked down the stairs, very glad that my ordeal was finally over.

As a token of appreciation for dear old Yoke Cheh, I gave her a big fat ang pow.

It’s been almost thirteen years now and I have never been better!

Last night, my husband read the first part of this story. “We can easily buy dried abalones and a bottle of Guinness Stout, but the star of the day was that poor old female duck. She was the one that actually saved you from having to take methimazole. She got killed so that you can be cured permanently. So, shouldn’t the title of your story focus more on her contribution and also the ordeal you’ve gone through?” he pointed out to me.

I think he was right. I’ve been to hell and back. And the duck died for me.

Therefore, I decided to change the title for the first part to something like “To hell and back….” in order to reflect the ordeal I’ve been through.

The title for this second part is “An old female duck that saved my life” and I am sure the poor old girl (God bless her dainty little soul) will agree too. 🙂

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Today’s post is a very long story (that’s why I broke them up into two parts) but by the time you have finished reading it, you will learn a thing or two that can be very useful.

One day, in late November 1999, I was typing the year-end report for my boss when suddenly, I felt a very sharp pain in my forehead and momentarily, the room became dark.

Later that day, I went to see the company doctor. “I think your migraine has come back,” Dr. Ting said while flipping over my medical record. “Take some medication I’ve prescribed here and have the rest of the day off, then you should be okay by tomorrow,” she said before dismissing me off.

Three days later, the pain was still there. I could not sleep properly and I also lost my appetite to eat. Whatever little food that managed to pass down my throat could not stay long in my stomach. They all went up in the end.

So I went to see the company doctor again. “Yes, the medication I’ve prescribed the other day was rather mild,” she admitted. “Don’t worry, this time I’ll give you stronger ones and another two days off and that will do the trick!” she said, giving me a comforting pat on the shoulder.

Another three days later, I was back at her clinic again. This time, the pain was getting even more intense. It had traveled to the back of my head and heading towards the neck region. “That was the strongest medication for migraine that I could possibly prescribe. I think it is better you go for a brain scan,” she offered. She then wrote a reference letter for me. “Go now, no time to lose,” she advised me.

With letter in hand, I went straight to Tung Shin Hospital (Western Medicine Department) at once and got the scan done. The two hours wait for the result was the longest in my life. I silently prayed for the best. When the nurse called my name, I almost jumped up.

Dr. Ng’s nurse beckoned me into his office. “Don’t worry, there is no growth inside your brain,” he said as he showed me the scan. I gave out a loud sigh of relief.

“Are you working in a very stressful environment?” he asked. “Sometimes, stress can lead to pain in the head and neck,” he said.

“Yes, I’ve been working for fifteen years in an office that at times resembled a war-zone,” I told him. “And I have to take care of two young babies at night for this past one year,” I went on.

“Hmm, that adds up why you’re in this state. Why don’t you consider going for some alternative treatments at Tung Shin Chinese Medicine Department?” he suggested.

That was a good idea but the problem is, my company does not endorse traditional treatments. It won’t stop us from seeking such treatments but it will not pay the medical bills nor recognized the medical certificates issued by such establishments. We have to pay ourselves and take our annual leave to seek such treatments. In my present condition, I really have no other choice but to give it a try.

By then, all my sick and annual leaves were exhausted. I went to see my boss for two weeks of unpaid leave. My workload was piling high on the desk after one week’s absence, the phone ringing non-stop and nobody bothers to pick it up. My desk was a total mess.

How about his face? Well, his face was as black as charcoal and he gave me the “if you don’t come back soon, I’ll take another person to replace you” type of look. In the end, he grudgingly gave me one week instead of the two I asked for. On the way to the lift, a colleague I met at the lobby purposely told me that there was a retrenchment exercise going on. It did not bother me the way she hoped it did; all I ever care was to get this terrible pain out of my head! So, I just gave her a light smile and walked into the lift without a word…….

Mom and Dad locked up their house in Ipoh and came to stay with me. Mom does all the cooking and washing. Every day, my husband sent the babies to a babysitter next door before he went to work. I spend the whole week seeking acupuncture treatments at Tung Shin Hospital. Besides having needles all over my head and neck and electricity current connected to each of these needles, I was given specially brew herbal concoction. The specialist from China who treated me told me to try this treatment for a week or two.

The prickling sensations from the needles did managed to numb my pain but the relief lasted only a few hours each day. By nightfall, the pain came back in full force. It was like having some sharp knives poking hard into the core of the brain. The pain was even sharper when I lie down; so I could only sit until morning came.

My mom was from the older generation. When western medicine could not do a job, she will turn to other methods. She suspected that I had “offended” some spirits lurking somewhere because my condition worsen at night. In the end, out of desperation, she bought piles and piles of hell bank notes and burnt them every night outside the road in front of my house, much to the amusement of my neighbors.

One morning, I looked into the mirror. I was horrified by what I saw. I was no longer the person I knew. I was like a zombie. I was like a walking skeleton. I broke down and cried and cried. I knew something was wrong inside me but I just don’t know what it was. I was determined to find out. I just want this ugly pain to go away, I just want to get back my health, and I just want to take care of my young children again. I just want to live on……there is so much to live for.

That night, when everyone was asleep, I laid awake on the sofa, unable to sleep. I noticed both my hands were trembling and I could feel my heart beating faster than usual. The pain in my head had reached a bursting point and I just can’t hold on anymore. My husband who was sitting beside me asked gently, “Why don’t you go for a medical examination tomorrow? Get a blood test to see what is actually wrong.” We had both ruled out migraine and stress by now. I just nodded my head for I was too weak to think further. I have not slept or eat properly for the last three weeks and I was on the verge of a breakdown.

Seeing the acupuncture treatment is not that effective as I had hope for, I went back to the company doctor and asked her to give me another reference letter for a blood test. She obliged and I went for a blood test at Tung Shin Hospital again since it was the nearest to my house. I was too weak to travel far.

I waited for another two hours before I was taken into the office of Dr. Cheong who was a senior physician at the hospital. He gave me a concerned look and gestured me to sit down.

“Your TSH is extremely low but your T4 and T3 is, on the other hand, sky-high. From your blood test result here, I can conclude very positively that you’re suffering from hyperthyroidism and your extreme heart beats confirmed my suspicion.”

It was like a bomb had just landed on my ears but ironically, I was glad I have finally found the answer to my misery.

“Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid glands make too much thyroid hormone. These hormones control your metabolism and too much of them will put your entire system upside down. Everything just went haywire,” he explained to me in layman’s term.

Yes, I got it now.

“Luckily you came today. A few days late and you’ll suffer a major heart attack because your heart is beating as fast as that of a marathon runner who’s running a 24 hour race non-stop,” he said. “You’ve to be admit at once for me to administer the medications to slow down your heart beats and your thyroid gland’s production,” the doctor advised me and I consented immediately. I was in a daze.

I was admitted to the ward at once and given the relevant treatment. That night, for the first time in three weeks, I could sleep and also eat some light porridge. I could feel the hand’s trembling and heart beats lessen substantially. I felt much better and I could see smiles on the faces of my parents and husband for their lives were equally affected by my strange illness.

But my problem was far from over. When I was discharged a few days later, Dr. Cheong told me that I have to be on medication for at least a year or two. He prescribed a medication called “methimazole” and they are rather expensive. As a non-executive, I was not entitled to such medication which had exceeded the amount I was entitled to.

“Is there any other options for me?” I asked him. I had earlier turned down the other two – a surgery to remove the thyroid glands or the radiation treatment which really scared me off.

“I’m afraid no,” the doctor said quietly.

“Okay, I go for a month’s medication first and see how I progress from there,” I told him and got myself discharged.

“Come back for a blood test as soon as you have finished the whole month’s medication,” he reminded me.

Back home, I went straight to the babysitter to visit my children whom I have not seen for days and I missed them terribly.

I told the babysitter about my condition.

“Oh, so it is ‘tai gang pow’ that you’re having all these while, why didn’t you tell me about your symptoms, I used to have it too when I was your age!” Yoke Cheh, the babysitter, exclaimed.

“Oh really, what medication did you take?” I asked excitedly, hoping she will have some secret remedy to share with me.

“Of course I did not seek western treatment like you did – they’re so expensive. A friend told me about a secret remedy, so I tried it out and I was cured!” she shared enthusiastically.

I felt I have come to a full circle. I was searching high and low for a cure and here she is – my children’s babysitter who shared the same suffering years ago and now, held the key to end my pain.

“Get me a very old female duck and I’ll tell you the rest of the secret remedy!” she challenged me.

I knew it is quite difficult to get a female duck in a big metropolitan like Kuala Lumpur and one that is old enough but I still need to try, right?

Watch out for part 2 which will appear tomorrow.

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We all love our children or we won’t be having them in the first place, right? Parenting is a tough job (hey, nobody say it is easy) but we must know where to draw the line between love and discipline. Unfortunately, many parents could not and often, they ended up with their children having the upper hand.

Read on to see whether you have committed any of these “crimes”:-

  1.  Simply ask and you shall have it! – Very often, parents have to play fairy godmothers, either to avoid a ruckus in public or as a way to make up for not spending enough time with them at home. From an innocent packet of marshmallows at the candy store, demands can gradually become more sophisticated as the child’s age increases. Soon, they will demand for a mobile phone and later, an ipad because their friends have these and they do not want to be left out.
  2. I see nothing wrong what! – There are parents who chose to remain silent or feigned indifference when their children uses obscene languages or throw terrible tantrums around. Refusal to reprimand them on the spot or simply turning a blind eye will allow this practice to grow into a habit which will follow them into adulthood.
  3.  Let the maid do it! – Many families have maids now, so their children do not have to lift a finger at home. As a result, a lot of children actually do not know how to tidy up their beds, sweep the floor, wash their plates, button their own shirts or tie their own shoelaces. Later when they go to college, it will be a daily struggle to prepare their own breakfast or wash their own clothes if they stay far away from home.
  4.  It’s their rights! – I have a relative whose children do not like to say “thank you” or “please.” When asked why he did not teach them to do so, he answered, “ I have taught them before but they just don’t listen, so I won’t force them as it is their right not to do things they don’t like!”   
  5.  Never mind, mommy will tidy up for you! – Children are not born with the instinct to pick after themselves, hence you will see their toys and books lying everywhere. Picking after them is reasonable when they are still toddlers but it is no longer acceptable to do it for them once they have learned to run and jump! Train them from young to put their own things away properly after use and you will save yourself a lot of unnecessary work later on.
  6.  Eat all you can! – Children’s obesity is on the rise and it’s partly because parents could not bring themselves to stop their children’s eating binge. It is easy to say, “Yes darling, you can have all the chips and nuggets” but you are actually piling empty calories onto your children’s bodies which will harm their health in the long run.
  7.  You’re their walking ATM – Many children do not realize how tough it is for their parents to make a decent living. All they ever knew is that whenever they need money, daddy and mommy will be always be there to provide. Not only they do not value what was given to them, they will take it for granted because they thought you owned them this obligation.
  8.  I’m always on your side, my dear! – When your child came home and told you he just had a fight or quarrel with his friends, you immediately sympathized with him and blamed the other side without finding out the truth. He could be the one who started the fire, you know!
  9.  Up to you! – When you know it is impossible to argue further with your child, you raised the white flag as a short cut and let the case closed. In the end, you let him have his way.
  10.  You’re a spoilt-brat yourself! – One spoilt brat will raise another spoilt-brat. As they said, like father like son or like mother like daughter. That’s how you were raised up and that’s how you will raise up your children too.

These are what I read in a parenting book and would like to share. Any more that you could think of that can help turned your little angels into little Frankenstein?

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“Why don’t you open up your blog?” Marcus asked one night when I had just finished writing another post.

I have the habit of writing diaries since my schooldays. I simply loved to write down my memories and thoughts.

Of course nobody write diaries anymore. Now, people blogs.

“Do you think anyone out there will read my writings?” I asked with doubts.

“If you don’t try, you won’t know!” he replied.

“Okay, I’ll give it a try then!” I told him.

Actually, I have been blogging for my own reading pleasure since April 2010 but it was six months later that I finally opened it up to share with the rest of the world.

Before long, the first reader dropped in, then the next and the next…..and soon, I could see the hits growing steadily as days turned into weeks and weeks into months.

Just now, around 10 p.m., I had finally reached my first 100,000 hits! It was a milestone of sorts for me.

Thank you so much, my dear readers! I hope to write on and for your continued support.

Please pardon me if my writings or comments offended any of you in one way or another.

Good night, have a pleasant weekend and once again, my heartfelt gratitude to all of you who dropped by!

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These two photos showed Foong Seong building along Jalan Laxamana in Ipoh, just behind the New Town Market. It was built by a rich tin miner called Foong Seong, hence the name of this building.

My maternal grandfather used to work  for his elder brothers in a fruit shop called Chow Hung Kee which was situated at the ground floor of this building (next to Jayasama). This shop is still in operation.

I heard from my parents that during the Japanese Occupation (1941-1945), this building was one of their military bases. Before that, it was a small Chinese school and my mom attended night classes here as a young girl. Then the war came and the school was closed.

Today, a dental clinic, Chow Hung Kee, Jayasama which was a shoe shop and a few eating shops still occupies this building. Hopefully, Foong Seong Building, which had witnessed some of the sadder days in the history of this city, will still be around.

Further down from Foong Seong Building is the Lam Looking Bazaar, built by another rich man called Lam Look Ing. It was a classical Art Deco building, also designed by BM Iversen who designed those beautiful cinemas in Ipoh.

It had just undergone some renovations. Good, at least they did not tear the whole building down liked what they did to Majestic Cinema but the orange color is a bit out-of-place, don’t you think so? Anyway, this building is now very safe under the hands of Sew Cheong Group which had brought it over.

The first departmental store in Ipoh, the Perak Emporium, used to occupy this building back in the 1970s. There was much excitement for Ipoh folks back then as they made their way to a new style of shopping. Not to be left out of the fun, Mom brought us there one night after dinner. Although we did not buy anything but it was an eye-opener for us then to find so many things all under one roof!

Not only that, the first night market or pasar malam in Ipoh was to be found right in front of this building. It was another experience too, finding so many cheap and economical stuffs ranging from clothes to shoes and accessories in one place. It was packed with people, especially when Chinese New Year is on the way.

Oh yes, now we have bigger and better supermarkets and night markets all over Ipoh but this place is where it all started. We have indeed came a long way, haven’t we?

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I am sure anyone who has been to Ipoh will instantly recognize this majestic white building facing the junction of Clare Street and Osbourne Street.

Foh San Dim Sum Restaurant used to serve their famous Hong Kong dim sum at the ground floor of this building for more than five decades before finally moving to their own premise at Leong Sin Nam Street some three years ago.

In those good old days, this is the place people went for some of the best dim sum in Ipoh. Their mouth-watering fares are served in an old-fashioned way – in small rattan baskets, still piping hot and came in trolleys pushed by grumpy looking aunties with a ” take it or leave it” look on their faces. Sorry, no pretty cheongsam clad waitresses to serve dim sum here.

To eat dim sum at Foh San, you can go as early as four o’clock in the morning and by seven, most of their favorites were sold out, especially their much sought after “Foh San Tai Pau” – the big white dumpling with delicious steamed chicken, sweet turnips, eggs and mushroom as fillings. This dumpling came in extra big size and you will feel full just by eating this alone.

At Foh San, you have to look for a table on your own and many used to stand around to wait for a table. Many customers who had finished eating their food do not vacate their seats immediately to make way for others. Instead, they will linger on to down cups and cups of Chinese tea. Some even read their newspapers to their heart’s content before taking their leave. So to see some customers fighting among themselves for a table is not something unusual in this dim sum restaurant. This is especially true during public holidays and weekends.

Although eating dim sum is something to be taken for granted by many, for my family, it was a luxury we could only think of but could not afford. Dim sum does not come cheap.

My father was always struggling to make ends meet and thus, I only got to eat here after I have finally finished my studies and got myself a steady job! The memory of bringing my parents here for the first time in 1988 to celebrate Mother’s Day remained vivid in my mind. I ordered so much dim sum we could not finished them and have to pack the remaining to bring home. We spent the next two days eating them. Speak of taking revenge on food!

Foh San is not only famous for its Hong Kong dim sum but its mooncakes too. Each year, you have to buy them early to avoid appointments as Foh San’s mooncakes made excellent gifts to friends and relatives during the Mooncake Festival.

In 1959, my maternal grandfather was accidentally hit by fireworks hung from the window on the second floor of this building as he was on his way to play mahjong at the Perak Dramatic Association. It happened one night on the second day of Chinese New Year and as a result of this unfortunate event, he was blinded on both eyes.

It was outside this white building too, many years later, that my father used to bring me on some nights  to watch those monkeys and snakes performed for the roadside medicine men. This is part of Durian Street which I wrote about on Father’s Day.

No, I have not been to the new Foh San at Leong Sin Nam Street. According to my sister, the dim sum at this new place is not so tasty anymore and getting more expensive too, so I did not bother to try. I still missed the experience of eating dim sum at the old place.

The second picture here is another famous eating place – Hung Kee Rice Shop near Cowan Street and Clare Street. This is the side entrance to the shop.

Note its old-fashioned signboard. I think this is the only one left in the whole city! Just below the signboard were bougainvilleas plants growing abundantly.

Hung Kee still serves its famous roasted chicken and roasted pork rice with salted vegetable and duck soup but it was closed for a few days when I was back, so we could not get to eat here. I remember one time my mother packed roasted char siew and siew yoke rice for me  from this shop but it was so long ago that I have forgotten the taste.

This is the front portion of the shop. Still oozing with old world charm and refusing to yield to modernization!

Do you have happy memories of eating either at Foh San or Hung Kee or both to share too?

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This is the 103 years old Ipoh New Town Market. It was built in 1909 by a rich tin miner called Yau Tet Shin who was developing Ipoh’s New Town at that time.

It was to replace the old one found along the banks of Kinta River. With its front facing Jalan Cockman and its back facing Jalan Laxamana, this old heritage building still remained solid and intact. It is operational even to this day. But given the rate of which the old buildings in Ipoh were being demolished, do not be surprise to see it gone sooner than later.

This market was made up of  several complexes back then but now, only a few were left. Sometime in the mid 1970s, a big fire broke out one night and gutted part of this old market. My aunt who stayed at Jalan Clare which is nearby, came to alert us and took my siblings and me to watch the fire being put out. Many fire engines were there and a big crowd of spectators stood around for hours to watch as firemen battled to put out the flames.

When I was young I used to follow my mom to this market during weekends or school holidays to do our marketing. Such trips were not complete without a breakfast of wanton mee, chee cheong fun, fried kway teow with eggs and cockles and of course our favorite pig’s offal porridge. I really missed those days.

Do you, like me too, remember the fire and eating your favorite hawker’s fare in this old market?

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Majestic was reduced to a heap of bricks and stones a forthnight ago.

However,  there are a few left – Odeon, Rex, Star, Cathay, Ruby and Lido. But they are no longer the glorious cinema halls of yesteryear.

Odeon was abandoned. Rex and Ruby are furniture stores. Lido is now a dim sum restaurant. Cathay was turned into a departmental store while Star is a night club.

We used to have Sun, Capitol and Hoover too. Sun and Capitol was demolished many years ago to make way for car parks.

I could not locate Hoover Cinema any more. It used to be located along the banks of Kinta River. Anyone knew what happened to this cinema?

I do wonder for how long these heritage buildings will stay in the landscape of Ipoh. Why don’t the local authorities protect them the way old buildings are protected in Penang and Malacca?

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