FOR for the first time both Perak and its capital Ipoh have made it to two highly significant lists published by the Lonely Planet travel guide.
In July, the world’s largest travel guide book publisher named Ipoh as one of the 10 best Asian destinations to visit.
More recently, the silver state was ranked number nine on Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2017 list, after Choquequirao in Peru, Taranaki in New Zealand, The Azores in Portugal, North Wales in United Kingdom, South Australia, Aysen in Chile, The Tuamotus in French Polynesia, and Coastal Georgia in the United States. The Skellig Ring in Ireland is ranked the 10th.
Thanks to its rich treasure trove of green landscapes and beaches, Perak is also the only Asian destination featured among the top 10 “offbeat destinations demanding our attention” next year the travel guide states.
The listing comes with Visit Perak Year 2017 just around the corner.
The state government launched the campaign to promote Visit Perak 2017 on Dec 31, 2015, as part of efforts to retain its position as one of the country’s top domestic tourist destinations while promoting it as a destination among foreign tourists.
With two nods from the internationally-renowned travel guide publisher within the span of three months, several Perakians as well as tourists have chipped in on what the state can do in better preparation to face the travel spotlight.
Web developer R. Arvind, 26, said Perak has a lot of potential to become the attractive tourist destination it is touted to be.
“But much more needs to be done to ensure that the state and its capital are on par with its equally impressive competitors like Penang and Malacca.
“I think the state needs to be a little more competitive and do what is needed to be done to live up to its name as a ‘must-visit’ region,” he told MetroPerak.
Citing the prehistoric Tambun Cave as an example, Arvind said it is sad to see that not much action has been taken by the state government, especially the tourism organisations, to maintain the ancient cave drawings there.
“The place remains badly vandalised and there is graffiti on the cave wall.
“It tarnishes the reputation of the cave and in a way, it also affects the reputation of the state government because nothing is being done to combat this problem.
“Even though they have mentioned that they will improve the place, they haven’t done much yet and this is quite disappointing especially since we’re going all out to promote Perak as the place to visit in Malaysia next year,” he said, adding that the Tambun Cave can be part of the “Ipoh experience.”
Arvind also brought up Tasik Raban in Lenggong, saying that the Lenggong Municipal Council could tap the lake’s potential and beautify the site.
“The chalets there are quite rundown already as well,” he said.
Media relations executive Shafiq Danial Ishak, 29, said he wants to see more public washrooms being built and properly maintained in tourist destinations, not only in Ipoh, but throughout the state as well.
“To me, people won’t judge us by the attractions we have. Instead, it is by our toilets.
“A place does not speak well to me if the public washrooms aren’t clean and well taken care of.
“The ones I see in the city are dirty, and they aren’t widely available especially in the Old Town area where Lonely Planet has highlighted our chic cafes and old world charms,” he said.
Shafiq Danial also said more should be done to improve public transportation, especially routes that connect tourists to other tourist attractions outside of Ipoh such as the Royal Belum State Park and Gua Tempurung.
“So far, I think the authorities are doing a good job with our improved bus service myBAS in the city, but the same can’t be said for buses that take us to other parts of Perak like Manjung, Grik, and Teluk Intan.
“These places have attractions that are worth visiting too, and it would be great if new, modern buses took locals and tourists there instead of old, rundown buses,” he said.
Likewise, shopkeeper Helen Heng, in her 50s, said there are not enough public washrooms in the town area where tourists love to flock during weekends and holiday season.
“When there’s very few toilet available with so many people using them, the toilets end up being very dirty.
“This hardly sets a good impression for tourists. Maintenance is important,” she said.
Heng also wants the authorities to focus on public hygiene, especially around all food outlets.
Cleanliness is also a concern for student Syed Amri Hakim, 20, who was on a holiday trip in the city with his friends.
“Cleanliness of the streets and alleys must be well taken care of. I’m saying this because I’ve been to visit the murals in Ipoh and the rubbish at some of these places is an eyesore.
“There’s lots of cigarette butts and stagnant water. Ipoh is a nice place, and I think the authorities should step up their efforts to keep the city clean now that it’s been listed by Lonely Planet,” he said.
Syed Amri’s friend, who wanted to be known only as Huzai, 20, said the state should make room for price regulation as well.
“I think there should be government bodies responsible for observing the prices of food and products sold at popular places.
“Traders simply raise prices just because they are operating at a place tourists love to go and they cash in on that.
“For things that are normally priced at RM3, suddenly I find myself paying RM7 at tourist hotspots,” he said.
Huzai pointed out that parking is another issue that the authorities should pay close attention to.
“Whether it is the lack of parking bays or illegal parking attendants collecting fees from people, something needs to be done because it’s quite damaging to the international reputation Ipoh has now as one of the top destinations to visit,” he said.