Ipoh Travel Guide — Malaysia
Historically, Ipoh was the centre of the world for the tin industry. Being the capital city of the state of Perak, this is one of Malaysia’s biggest cities with three quarters of a million inhabitants. It is the gateway to some of the most amazing natural sights such as the Cameroon Highlands and the city itself is often the first stop for many travelers. What you will find in the Old Town are gorgeous shop houses giving the city a unique feel, mixing with local cafes and street art. Further out, you will encounter temples and caves and even an old castle in the countryside. Ipoh is a great place to start exploring the cultural, culinary and historical mixes of Malaysia. Here are my top picks for the Ipoh area!
Most people would start a city by checking out the centre of town, but why not begin with a short trip around the edges for some of the best views and cultural sights. Perak Cave Temple was originally founded in 1926 when Chong Sen Yee and his wife came from China. The temple was soon commissioned to be built inside the cave and took around 50 years to complete. Inside the cave entrance, you will see a large Buddha statue with bright colours and areas for prayer and contemplation.
Head to the back and the stairs will take you up to a clearing at the top of the cave.
Another short climb and you will be at the top with the best view of Ipoh. Its always nice to be at the top looking down at flat land, reminding me of the views at Leith Hill!
Sam Poh Tong Temple
This temple is slightly different to any other I have been to. It is the biggest cave temple in Malaysia and was originally discovered in 1890 by a monk from China. He then went on and lived there for 20 years until his death. After the initial entrance you will immediately see a large building structure with quite a few levels, reminding me of classic Chinese legendary movies!
What is so unique about this place is the turtle area that contains quite a few turtles walking around. This goes along the idea of releasing turtles into the turtle pond as a form of balancing one’s karma. You can purchase ingredients to feed the turtles and it is quite a weird sight seeing turtles run so fast for a bit of tomato. Not entirely sure whether tomatoes are actually good for turtles!
Something completely different is Kellie’s Castle, a grand mansion sitting on a mini hill. It was built by Scotsman William Kellie Smith in 1915 after coming to Perak to work in surveying, planting rubber trees and in the tin mining industry. The castle was meant to be his home but it was never completed and the castle now is an unfinished brick ruin with a mix of styles.
You will be able to have a look at some of the interiors from that period of time.
Although very different and something you would never expect, it is a nice place to stop by and see the impact that expats brought to this area. The story of Kellie is also quite interesting!
Once you enter the main areas of the centre of Ipoh, you would immediately notice all the low buildings and the intricate styles and classy architecture. Mixes of French colonial buildings and old Chinese style shop houses make this an interesting place to visit.
Explore the history of Ipoh with their self guided heritage walk and make stops to the old school train station, Birch Memorial, High court, war memorial and others. The walk is a nice one and you get to see some really colonial buildings.
Next, head over to the main street of action at Concubine lane, where it dates all the way back to 1892. The lane was part of the rebuild after a fire, by a mining tycoon who gave away houses to his three wives. This is where the name comes from. Nowadays, the area is a small lane between houses, full of people selling local products and delicious delicacies.
Street Art and Muriel’s Art Lane
One of the highly anticipated things I was looking forward to during this Malaysia trip was street art! My trip started at Ipoh before heading to Penang, the mecca of street art. But even at Ipoh, there were a large amount of creativity dotted around the mini streets and side roads. Although nothing compared to the street art of Penang (blog to come), some of the works were pretty impressive. This is a perfect afternoon activity, to walk around the main areas or heading to Muriel’s Art lane to appreciate some of the local artists’ work!
We had already sampled plenty of Malaysian dishes while in Kuala Lumpur, so hawker houses were well and truly something we loved. As a pit stop between KL and Ipoh, we stopped at Pun Chun, a rather famous local restaurant according to the internet. The wait was really long and it seemed like a popular stop for others who also made their way to Penang. Their duck soup was pretty awesome though!
In Ipoh, a special mention goes to Lou Wang, a specialist in beansprouts and chicken. The chicken was lovely and the beansprouts also delicious!
As we did this trip during Christmas, we had Christmas Eve celebrations at STG Old Town. This was quite a westernized place and offered a three course meal of salmon, beef and others. This was completely different to the food we had eaten all trip and was a refreshing option.
All in All
Ipoh offers some amazing temples and the city’s low flying Chinese shop houses and the mix of French and British colonial buildings really add a bit of variety and change to the city. A great start to a trip in Malaysia!
Originally published at Out Of Office London.