Guide to IPOH

So here comes a Guide to Ipoh, Malaysia’s third largest city and a two-hours-train ride north of the capital. However, it is mostly considered a gateway: To the Cameron Highlands in the east or to the Pangkor Island in the west.

Railway Station of Ipoh
Ipoh welcomes its visitors at a colonial building – the railway station, opened in 1917.

Still, Ipoh’s own attractions should not be underestimated: The Hakka Chinese heritage, mysterious cave temples, and bustling Asian city life.

A Bit of History

Ipoh is the capital of Perak on the west coast north of Kuala Lumpur.

In the 19th century, the city began booming due to the tin-mining industry and gave the city its nickname City of Millionaires. Then, end of the 1950s, the glory was over as the prices for tin dropped dramatically.

Ipoh's British colonial town hall building.
Those were the days: Ipoh’s British colonial town hall building.

70 % of Ipoh’s more than 650,000 inhabitants are  Ethnically Chinese. Their ancestors were mostly Hakka and moved here to work in the tin mines.

Today, however, most of the Chinese speak Cantonese. Actually, my driver’s Bahasa was so limited that when we got stuck in our conversation, he had to call his sister and she translated for him into Chinese.

I guess this shows how much the individual ethnicities stick with their own people.

Colonial Chinese architecture in Ipoh
Colonial Chinese architecture.

Obviously, Chinese also had a strong impact on the city center’s architecture. Traditional shop houses as well as impressive historical buildings from the British Colonial era are characterizing the city’s appearance.


I came to Ipoh by train from Kuala Lumpur which allowed me to admire the most imposing buildings right away: The Railway Station, the Town Hall, and the Court House as well as the Negeri Perak Mosque.

Negeri Perak Mosque in Ipoh
Negeri Perak Mosque under a dramatic sky.

Past the Birch Memorial Clock Tower right at the Padang Ipoh Park is the Tourist Information. They called a driver for me who brought me to the cave temples in the city’s southeast.

building in Ipoh
A house wrapped around a cave temple.
Buddha Statue at the Kek Look Tong Cave Temple.
Buddha Statue at the Kek Look Tong Cave Temple.
Sam Poh Tong - Ipoh's oldest and most famous Buddhist Temple in Ipoh
Sam Poh Tong – Ipoh’s oldest and most famous Buddhist Temple.
Turtle Pond at Sam Poh Tong in Ipoh
Turtle Pond at Sam Poh Tong.

To get to the famous Perak Cave Temple in the north, I took a cab. Without being asked for it, the driver made sure that I visited also the Mekprasit Buddhist Temple.

Kind of a disclaimer: I don’t claim that introducing this handful of temples makes the guide complete. But just type temple and ipoh on google maps – and the result will make your head spin. Nevertheless, if you are very, very, very much into temples, call Ipoh your Cockaigne!

Mekprasit Buddhist Temple in Ipoh
Entrance to the Mekprasit Buddhist Temple.
Mekprasit Buddhist Temple in Ipoh
I was not bye:myself at all.

Besides all these temples and a couple of museums dealing with Ipoh’s forefathers and grand past, it’s an excellent place to just walk around and taking it easy.

Checking out the mysterious Chinese health stores, sampling exotic fruits. Ipoh is famous for incredibly succulent pomelos, wasting hours at coffee shops and fascinating tea stores.

I even went to the hairdresser and got a great haircut. Read in this post how I get hair cuts around the world.

Ipoh will relax and ground you – before you continue to wherever you go next.

Humongous Pomelos are one of Ipoh’s culinary specialties.

Practical Information

How to Get There and Around

Until not long ago, there was an old bus station just a stone throw from the train station. It was just perfect for one day. I got there by train and left my big luggage with the stationmaster. Actually, at his office, even not in a locker. Then I took only what I needed for the night with me.
The next day, I picked it up and took the bus to Tanah Rata.

Today, you have to go to the Terminal Amanjaya all the way in the north.

Best Place to Sleep

The reason I picked the Regalodge Hotel* was the excellent price-service-ratio.

It actually is located in the outskirts of the very city center, however within walking distance.

Since I spent only one night, I left my big luggage at the train station and took only a daypack with me.

Check out availability and their current rates.*

Best Place to Eat

There are many nice places in Ipoh. However I liked the Purple Cane Tea House best: Seated between tea specialties, some of them at the price of a small car – they serve all kinds of fancy tea-based drinks and cocktails, foods – also on the basis of tea, and – yes, hot tea.

Tea Shop in Ipoh
Seated amidst luxury: Everything you see on the shelves is pressed tea – some as expensive as a small car.

Ipoh was only one stop of my exciting Malaysia road trip. Go to the main post to check out all the other destinations.

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2 Replies to “Guide to IPOH”

  1. I have visited Penang but would love to visit Ipoh on my return to check out the street art. I believe it is on a smaller scale than George Town but still very good. Did you see much of it? I would also love to see the Sam Poh temple, it looks beautiful.

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