The fourth largest city in the country, Ipoh is full of gorgeous buildings, great food and even a water park!
The main reason we wanted to visit was because it was accessible easily by train from Kuala Lumpur, and was a great place for a day trip to the Cameron Highlands. However I was also excited to see the historic colonial buildings, of which there are a number of in superb condition.
There was also one more reason…we wanted to go to a water park! Lost World Of Tambun was a few kilometres away by taxi, and was relatively cheap at 45 MYR (£8.50) for a day ticket.
It wasn’t quite the thrilling waterpark we were expecting – there were only 4 slides and you could only ride in pairs which is a problem when there are 3 of you! There were also lame charges for the lazy river and the rollercoaster (it’s a theme park too) was closed.
It did have an awesome petting zoo though, which was less goats and bunnies and more snakes, lizards and cool birds. All in all we had a good day though we all got really burnt!
So back to the town. There was a self guided heritage walk that I was quite desperate to do, Katy and Alex less so. And since our 2 days were taken up by the Highlands and the waterpark, my only choice was to get up super early the day we were due to leave. That did at least mean I was spared from the intense sun for a few hours.
After a rather long walk from our hotel, I arrived at F.M.S Bar & Restaurant, which has been in it’s current premises since 1923 and is apparently the oldest restaurant in Malaysia. It was a lovely building but looked rather closed down despite what the sign said.
I next saw the Town Padang Mosque, which was beautiful like most Mosques in Malaysia.
Next I sort of saw St Michael’s institution, though being a school it was hard to get anywhere close and thus take photos. The building was stunning though. The Royal Ipoh club was similarly difficult, being a private members club.
The train station was beautiful, as we had seen when we arrived at it a few days previous. Sadly it was almost impossible to get a decent picture because I couldn’t cross the road! I’ll be covering Malaysia’s infuriating apparent contempt for pedestrians in another post…
I soon reached the area where all the banks are gathered. While most buildings are now used for other things, the banks are still in the same premises they were in the 1930’s.
There was also the wonderful Birch Memorial.
As well as the buildings, there is also loads of street art in Ipoh, celebrating the history and culture of the city. While I concentrated on the heritage walk, I did happen to see quite a few.
I finished the walk with Concubine Lane, which is not it’s official name, but gives an indication on what it used to be. As well as the home of concubines, it also used to be full of opium dens and gambling. These days it is a crumbling alleyway, but the few art galleries there seem to hint at an up and coming trendy area.
There is one more thing Ipoh is famous for, and that is food. Sadly though, this didn’t go as well as planned. The city was quite sleepy, and as such it was actually quite hard to find anywhere actually open, let alone the recommended places. That said, we did eat some amazing chicken rice, and also managed to try one of Ipoh’s specialities – Dim Sum.
No menu, they just brought around trays full and you chose what you wanted. Most were good choices and it was some of the best dim sum we’ve ever had, though not the most relaxing atmosphere as we were stared at incessantly by locals – the restaurant, and Ipoh in general, doesn’t get a lot of western tourists.
And that is a shame, because while not the most exciting city in Malaysia, Ipoh is a friendly and fascinating place to spend a few days.
We reached Ipoh via the ETS (electric train) service from KL Sentral. It is one of the newest services in the country and in theory should get you to Ipoh in 2.5 hours. In reality it was more like 3.5 since our train inexplicably stopped for an hour in the middle of nowhere.
I’d also recommend booking the tickets in advance, or arriving at KL Sentral quite early. We wanted to get the 11am train, and I reached the ticket office 10.40 only to be told the train was sold out so we had to wait until 1pm.
If coming by bus, be warned the new bus terminal is helpfully 16km away from the city.
I obtained the map of the Heritage Walk from here
Where We Stayed
Ipoh Boutique Hotel is where we stayed for our 3 nights in the city. While not really boutique, it had been renovated very well and our triple room was modern and comfortable, although it didn’t have a window. Location was ok as it was near a taxi rank, but the city is quite spread out so not sure there is a perfect location to stay in.