After the British withdrew from Malaysia and tin-mining came to an end, the charming colonial city of Ipoh faded. It was not until recently that the city is popping up more and more on tourists’ radar, thanks to its great accessibility from Kuala Lumpur, booming contemporary art and culinary scene, and extensive restorations of its colonial heritage houses. Known as the starting point for trips to Cameron Highlands, you’ll surely find a huge range of experiences. With our 3-day suggested itinerary, you would have a real taste of this captivating city and you will be introduced to its best attractions. You can absolutely make any changes you like, to adapt the tour to your preferences and create your own itinerary.
Things to consider before traveling to Ipoh, Malaysia:
Language – Bahasa Melayu (Malay) is the national and official language of Malaysia. English is taught in schools and is widely used in Malaysian cities, so do not worry about not knowing local phrases or words. It is, however, recommended to learn some Malay if you are heading towards rural areas.
Money and costs – Malaysian Ringgit (RM) is the official currency of Malaysia. Exchanging money is easy and follows the same standard to elsewhere in Asia. You can exchange currency at the airport, hotels, malls, local banks, and money changers throughout Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh. ATMs are plentiful, all accepting international credit cards and debit cards, so it’s easy to withdraw your money in Ringgit. Credits cards are commonly accepted in most mid-range to high-end restaurants and hotels.
Etiquette – Despite being open to foreign influences, Malaysia remains a fairly conservative nation. Handshakes are common when meeting someone. Avoid touching someone’s head as the head is considered sacred in eastern culture. When visiting mosques and temples, it is recommended to dress modestly. Removing your shoes is also required before entering. Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter a mosque during prayer time although it is okay to stand outside and look around. Chinese and Hindu temples are open to visitors but it is also required to remove your shoes.
Where to stay – Due to its popularity among local visitors, Ipoh has heaps of accommodation to suit every pocket, from budget hostels to luxury hotels. To help you decide on the best place to stay, it is recommended to do a bit of prior research so you will get the best bang for your buck. Staying at one of the attractive colonial houses turned hotels in the city is one of those quintessential Ipoh experience which can’t be skipped. Backpackers hostel and budget guesthouses are also aplenty which you can use as your base for your excursions and activities.
Hotels to consider in Ipoh:
Getting around – Traveling around the beautiful Ipoh is very easy. All destinations in and around the city are easily accessible and well connected. Buses are reliable and navigable as as they operate on a scheduled timetable and set routes. Another affordable option is taking taxis, which are regulated and charge a standard rate. If you are on a luxury vacation, consider hiring a driver to take you around the city. This option is expensive but will give you complete control of the trip.
Detailed itinerary: Discover Ipoh, Malaysia in 3 days
Today starts your Ipoh adventure! If you haven’t had breakfast yet, find the infamous Tong Sui Kai (Jln Sultan Ekram, Taman Jubilee)! Cheong Kee Beef Noodles is a famous dish in Ipoh, usually made up of Koay Teow noodles, beef and chili sauce. They can be difficult to find for first time visitors as the vendors are getting older and they do not operate the stalls as often as before. If you can’t still find them, try the “Golden Noodles” at Sin Lean Li (Jalan Bandar Timah) in Old Town instead.
After breakfast, there’s no better way to get acquainted with the city than visiting the Old Town, the heart of Ipoh. This is where you will find the city’s most famous attractions like the iconic Ipoh Railway Station, nicknamed the “Taj Mahal of Ipoh,” Ipoh Town Hall and Old Post Office, the Birch Memorial Clock Tower, and Ipoh Court House. Don’t forget to make a quick stop at the Instagram-worthy Wall Art Murals in the old town!
In the midst of the historic old town you will find Lorong Panglima (Yi Lai Hong). More popularly known as the Concubine Lane, it is said that it was where the rich Chinese merchants and British officials used to hide their mistresses. Today, it has become a popular tourist attraction where you will find a plethora of bars, cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops, which makes it a perfect spot for people watching. After your walking tour, make your way back to your chosen accommodation.
After having a filling breakfast, dive deeper into local experience by paying a visit to the Kek Lok Tong Cave Temple and Zen Gardens, a limestone cave temple surrounded by a beautiful garden located in Gunung Rapat in Southern Ipoh. One of the most laid-back attractions in the city, the area is an oasis of well-kept temple, gardens and lovely ponds. It’s a great place to people watch as the park is famous among locals.
Then, you may visit one or two of Ipoh’s best-loved museums like the Ipoh World at Han Chin Pet Soo and Ho Yan Hor Museum. The former is a museum dedicated to Ipoh’s past as a tin-mining city. It provides an insight into the mining techniques used in the city as well as the “Four Evils” which tempted the tin miners – Prostitution, Gambling, Opium and Triads. The latter, on the other hand, is a museum dedicated to Dr. Ho Kai Cheong and his creation Ho Yan Hor, the famous household brand of Chinese herbal tea.
Once you’ve done your share of exploring the old town, it’s time for some pampering at the Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat, spectacular geothermal hot springs where you can see amazing view which is like a scene straight out of fairy-tale. This luxury resort is located in the northern part of Ipoh which is surrounded by stunning limestone hills, lush forests and captivating caves.
Today marks the end of your adventure in Ipoh. But before you say good bye to the city, join a food tour to learn more about Malaysian Cuisine. It also can be spent on last-minute shopping and seeing those attractions that you haven’t yet had time for. Do not miss to experience Ipoh coffee culture by having a cup of Kopi putih at Lim Ko Pi, the city’s signature white coffee.
Have you been to Ipoh or anywhere else in Malaysia? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.
Featured image: Sunrise near Ipoh Town, Perak Malaysia (Awan Media / Shutterstock)