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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Ipoh – The Untold Story


This post was long overdue. We had been to Ipoh, Perak in Malaysia way back, but I couldn’t write about it. We were intrigued with a fact that Lonely Planet rated this Malaysian old quaint city to be one of their favourite travel destinations in Asia and we really found out that indeed, it needs a proper stop-over.


Ipoh- streets 

We didn’t put Ipoh over a pedestal, when we were visiting this city. We went there with open mind. We took one of the easiest transport medium, those coach buses from Kuala Lumpur central bus stations. The journey was relaxing. The bus took its detour passing through Cameron Highland Valley and the view was very refreshing with clouds hanging over lush green mountains.

We checked into our apart-hotel, we call these apart-hotel as ‘home-stays’ over here in Malaysia. And it had all the facilities of being in a home away from home. So one can cook, watch TV and sleep aimlessly.
Ipoh- view from our home-stay 

Ipoh has so many untold stories, stories from far away unknown lands. Stories about Chinese Hakka immigrants in search of better prospects in a foreign land. Immigration is not a new age thing, it has been going on for many centuries. People have flocked to new places in search of better livelihood.
Chinese Hakka immigrants brought varied food habits with them as well. 

The food that we eat today, we just generalize them as Chinese food specially Indo-Chinese food, but we have so many variations from Chinese cuisines. Hakka cuisine is different from Cantonese style recipes. And then we have Malaysian-Chinese cuisine, which again is modified version of food from Hakka immigrants here in Ipoh. 
These people settled here, married in to local people and laid path-ways for many new innovations in food habits. The tin industry in this region slowly started showing much progress and with that came wealth for these immigrants here in Ipoh region.

Inside Han Chin Pet Soo museum

For this in-depth and many untold stories, one should visit Ipoh’s Han Chin Pet Soo museum which 
harbours Chinese Hakka tin mining history located near Kinta river. 


Ho Yan Hor and Han Chin Pet Soo museum - history of Ipoh 


And also Ho Yan Hor museum lying just beside Han Chin Pet Soo museum. Both had some history lessons for all, if one has interest in knowing history of Ipoh.

Take a walk in the old downtown of Ipoh, it will take you to the colonial era with explicit buildings and great architecture to look upon, but don’t forget to take an umbrella with you, weather here in this part is tropical, so one can find themselves all wet, if you don’t keep an umbrella.


Ipoh - street art 



There are some maps available from Ipoh tourist centre and also maps of walking trails. We took the Ipoh Art trail covering many wall paintings. The downtown Ipoh has its fair share of history and heritage. 

Ipoh- Art Murals 

Old town white coffee company in collaboration with Lithuanian artist Ernst Zacharevic has come up with 8 mural artwork on the building walls located in old town of Ipoh. We came across couple of them while strolling in downtown Ipoh.


Ipoh- Street art 

We started this walk in the late afternoon, when the weather was little pleasant. We passed through the Birch memorial clock tower which represents British colonial era in Ipoh, Malaysia.

Birch memorial Clock tower 

This memorial clock tower was constructed to commemorate James W W Birch, first British resident of Perak.

Birch Memorial clock tower 


There is a beautiful mosque at opposite side of Birch memorial clock tower. Sultan Idris Shah Mosque is the state mosque of Perak. This mosque was completed in 1968 and was officially opened in September 1978 by Sultan Idris Shah II of Perak. There is a food court also in the adjoining area.

Sultan Idris Shah Mosque- Perak state mosque

When we went there the food court was closed. I asked one of the lady who was cleaning the area and probably was running a food-joint there, informed us to come early in the morning at 7 a.m. to have delicious breakfast and also the food joints are famous for dinner. My entire conversation with her was with sign language, as she doesn’t understand English and I can’t speak proper Malaya language. Two words she knew were ‘dinner’ and’ breakfast’. So, I have to put up my fingers to point the time. This may sound rude but believe me, we both were laughing when we were doing this by sign language. A warm smile can shatter those barriers, where words can’t penetrate. These food-joints remain closed in the afternoon, just like a sleepy old town should be, where every afternoon people have an afternoon siesta. 

We were still exploring those art- work, when we were caught up in a heavy downpour. 
We took refuge in a fabulous eating joint in downtown Ipoh, where food was reasonably priced and delicious.
Ipoh- downtown 

We had a scrumptious lunch of Udon noodles and Soba noodles with cold Milo shake and watermelon juice. 

We finished our late lunch and headed towards other parts of this old city. 

Train station- Ipoh 

We came across Ipoh train station. The building reminded us of a bygone colonial era depicting Victorian style architecture. 
This railway station is fondly called as ‘’Tajmahal of Ipoh’’ by locals.

Concubine lane - Ipoh 

We passed through Concubine lane - one of the oldest lane in Ipoh where all sorts of souvenirs are on display.Some great street art displays can also be seen there.This is a very colourful and cheerful street. 

A walk through- displays in Concubine lane 

One entire day was reserved for Gua Tumpurung, as it took us time to reach there and explore. By the time we came out from Gua Tumporong, we were exhausted and sweaty. One can imagine these caves to be very dark and humid. 

Inside Gua Tempurung 

Please carry water bottles and a torch with you. Gua Tempurung is the longest limestone cave in Perak, Malaysia. These looks so beautiful inside with giant stalagmites and stalactites. There are two tours available – wet and dry tour. Wet tour requires bit more time and one needs a pair of clothes and shoes for a change. 
We took the dry tour and when we came out of the dark cave, we were thirsty and exhausted. Not that we didn’t like those gorgeous limestone rock formations, but the humidity inside the cave was unbearable. One can identify with the adventure it gives inside a dark cave and also those rock formations. I was intrigued to see the stalagmites and stalactites formations that I only read in text books while growing up.


An old city is incomplete if there is no mention of a castle. And yes Ipoh has its share as well. Kellie’s castle stands in its full glory in Ipoh. Like each castle, it has a very interesting story as well. The castle was built by a Scottish planter William Kellie Smith for his beloved wife just like our very own Taj Mahal. 
The only difference was, he was making it so that his family can live there elegantly. Tragedy struck hard, many of the skilled labourers contracted flu and were taken ill. The castle was planned to host many parties, one indoor tennis court and first elevator of its kind in Malaysia. Many at that time have never heard of these things, so leave alone the imagination it required to formulate.

Inside Kellie's castle - some displays as well


Kellie’s castle despite all of this innovative ideas was never completed. In 1926 William Kellie Smith died of pneumonia, leaving behind his incomplete legacy. This castle is now a tourist destination. The castle has nice views far across with lots of banana plantation in the adjoining areas.

After the cuisine, culture and history, it was time for some spirituality. We visited three beautiful and peaceful Buddhist temples in Ipoh, Perak.

Ling Sen Tong Taoist cave temple is located in the foothills of limestone rocks. The temple compound is very attractive with many statues and designs from Chinese folklore like Guan Yin, Monkey King and other deities. 


Guan Yin - Ling Sen Tong temple


The other adjoining temples are more peaceful and calm in case you want to pray and meditate.

Inside Ling Sen Tong temple

Kek Lok Tong cave temple is located in southern Ipoh. The cave temple leaves you with a serene effect, the moment you step inside. 

Enterance of Kek LOng Tong Cave temple

There is a Zen garden inside the temple premise which unfortunately was closed the day we visited it, due to some refurbishing work going on there. One can spend time relaxing and walking in that garden. 


Inside - Kek Lok Tong cave temple


The cave temple has many limestone rock formations and amidst that back drop there are Buddha statues and idols, where one can pray and meditate.


Inside Perak cave temple

Perak cave temple is another beautiful cave temple in Ipoh. The cave temple has a huge Buddha statue and the inside is very calm and cool. 

Perak cave temple - Buddha 

Some paintings from Chinese folklores also caught our attention. The time spent there felt like an era gone by. Perak Cave temple has some of the great limestone rock formations- stalagmites and stalactites. 

Limestone rock formations

The art work keeps you engaged for a while also. And then the magnificent view when you make your way through the stairs to the top of the temple also adds to the glory.

Prayer candles 

Our visit to this quaint city made us crave us for more. We couldn’t visit ‘Lost world of Tambun’ and also geological museum due to time crunch, may be its due for our next visit.

Ipoh sky-view



Our verdict- Ipoh is a laidback and quaint city as compared to Penang and has that old world charm.  One can spend time exploring cuisine and culture both. It deserves worth a visit for two-three days.

Ipoh streets in evening


See you all next week ..take care friends ..

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