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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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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