Ipoh traders revel in horde of foodie tourists
Published on December 29, 2020 | by nst.com.my
IPOH: The long stretch of year-end holidays has led Malaysians to venture on a food-hunting spree in Perak’s capital city.
For the local traders here, the merrymakers are a boon to their businesses that were battered by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Helen Loo Gin Heok, 60, who runs a tau fu fah (tofu pudding) eatery at Ipoh’s famous Concubine Lane, hoped to welcome more tourists in the next few days.
Her business, which had largely relied on foreign tourists from Hong Kong, Taiwan and China, had been in the doldrums since the government closed the borders in March.
“My income dropped by 40 per cent when I reopened my business in June, but due to the current Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO), I lost almost 90 per cent of my income in
the last two months. So seeing tourists returning here is a huge relief,” she said.
When asked if the influx of visitors worried her, Loo said she tried her best to ensure her customers practised physical distancing by limiting dine-in to 14 people.
Checks by the New Straits Times found visitors crowding eateries, traditional cafes and hipster cafes in Concubine Lane as early as 11am yesterday.
The Yong Suan Coffee Shop, which sells Ipoh’s famous nasi ganja, had a queue snaking down the alley beside the shop.
Mohamed Nihmathullah, 57, who managed the business, gave his assurance that he would not compromise on health and safety measures for any customer.
“We have reduced our dine-in capacity to comply with the physical-distancing rule.
“Now, we allow only six people to sit at a table that could fit 10 people previously, and only four people are allowed to sit at a table for six. We prohibit customers without face masks from entering the shop.”
Since his business depended primarily on tourists, Mohamed said that interstate travel was vital to keep the fourth-generation business going.
“Previously, we received customers from countries like the United Kingdom and Thailand. We had even hosted several Singaporean ministers.
“So we are very disappointed that they cannot visit our country now. But the domestic tourists from other states are helping to boost our business.
“After AirAsia introduced direct flights to Ipoh from Langkawi recently, we had people flying in from Langkawi just to enjoy our nasi ganja dish,” he said.
Ipoh was no longer a red zone as of yesterday, after authorities ended the CMCO in the capital and Chemor.
However, in Penang, the hive of activity brought on by the year-end holidays raised concerns among the residents there.
Lee Shi Ying, 25, said she was worried about the arrival of visitors from the other states, which could lead to a sea of red zones in her home state.
“The Queensbay Mall was so crowded on Christmas, as people took selfies with the Christmas decorations and the Santa Claus there.
“Restaurants also allowed people to sit close to each other at large tables. People were not practising physical distancing at all.
“With the standard operating procedures being relaxed and
the government encouraging people to go for domestic travels, Malaysians are forgetting the ‘stay at home’ message.
“This really worries me, because cases in Penang are already high, and the tourists could further aggravate the crisis.”
>>> Han Chin Pet Soo
>>> Arlene Terrace