Tucked between KL and Penang, Ipoh packs in many nice surprises but is often overlooked as a weekend stay. I was determined to do Ipoh some justice during our recent trip. For our short weekend getaway, we decided to take the electronic train, ETS. We booked online, turned up at the station and our train was there at the dot! What a breeze. The train was air-conditioned and clean. Before we realised it, we were at the magnificent Ipoh railway station.
We stayed at The Haven, a beautiful luxury resort about 15 minutes away from the city. After checking-in, we could not resist having a dip in the pool overlooking a stunning rocky outcrop, dated over 250 million years ago (the Triassic period informs my 8 year old!) and even managed a quick game of badminton before heading for dinner.
Ipoh Heritage Trail
The next morning, we made it to the Ipoh Heritage Trail which starts at Concubine Lane. It’s a narrow road that used to house the concubines of rich miners.
We took a slow stroll down the many shops and even managed to buy some Ipoh biscuits and snacks.
Our trail took us straight to Han Chin Pet Soo, a beautifully restored Hakka miners’ club. Don’t underestimate the rather unassuming building. It really takes you back in time when Ipoh and Kinta Valley in particular were the world’s largest producer of tin. Rich Hakka tin miners were members of this famous and mysterious club – and were consumed by the evils of opium, gambling, prostitution, on top of being triad members. The children didn’t ask me details of what these were – they seemed more engrossed with the engineering equipment used for mining!
We spent an entertaining two hours here, including watching an old documentary about Malaya of yore and the evolution of the tin mining industry. Bookings can be made via the website or by calling at the door. The maximum number of guests at any one time is limited to 40. Check online for timing of the tours as it is only open during specific times. Admission is free, but they welcome donations that go to the upkeep of this historic building. This stop was definitely one the highlights of our trip.
Architecture in Ipoh
Ipoh boasts some interesting murals and wall art around town. A fun look-see activity with many photo opportunities is guaranteed whilst looking for murals!
The varied buildings and architectural styles bear testimony to Ipoh’s rich culture and history. St Michael’s school in Jalan SP Seenivasagam harkens back to Ipoh’s colonial heritage. Standing next to it is the Masjid India Muslim (Indian Muslim Mosque), which is a delightful symphony of Moghul and local heritage.
Next stop – the famous limestone cave temples. Full of mythical tales of heroism and the battle of good versus evil, they were definitely awe inspiring and something new for the children. We spent some time at Sam Poh Tong, Ling Sen Tong and Nam Thean Tong.
Don’t forget to get some pomelos when you are in Jalan Tambun (we didn’t manage to buy a whole fruit as we did not want to lug it around on the train journey back). For ideas of what to do with pomelo, check out this pomelo salad.
In Gunung Cheroh, we visited the beautiful Hindu temple set at the foothill of the sprawling limestone hills. If you are lucky, you may even catch a traditional Hindu wedding in progress.
Of course, the grande old dame is the Ipoh railway station. At once serene and cacophonic, it is a beautiful building that is reflective of Ipoh’s Anglo-Asian heritage. Many years ago people drove all the way here to see the making of the Hollywood movie Anna and the King as well as to catch glimpses of American actress Jodie Forster having coffee at the railway station. Now, in the evenings, it is a nice place for a slow stroll before heading out to dinner and sample some of the amazing food that Ipoh has to offer.
Horse riding in Ipoh
If you are in Ipoh over the weekend, the Perak Turf Club offers pony rides for kids (when there is no race). This is a nice way to spend some time, especially with very young children. Price for the ride was RM20 for 20 minutes.
Food in Ipoh
There’s a lot to do and see but the food is definitely a show stopper! Generally, our must-do favourites: Start with the original old town white coffee, go on for Char Kueh Teow at Woolley, chicken rice with signature bean sprout and ho fun at New Hollywood and cool down with some silken tau foo fa at Ipoh Garden. Do not worry about over eating – take it as a chance to savour authentic Malaysian fare.
We didn’t manage to cover everything during this quick trip – there’s a lot more to do in Ipoh by way of culture and nature: Gunung Lang, the Tambun hot springs and especially the caves of Gua Tempurung. That will warrant another trip and another post!