On our way to Kuala Lumpur we made a short stop in Ipoh and enjoyed every bit of it. Surrounded by gorgeous mountains it contains fine examples of colonial heritage, but unlike George Town in Penang it is mostly overlooked by tourists. We felt like the whole city was ours! Walking about empty alleys of Ipoh looking for street art was such a treat. Plus we discovered some cool garden cafés to relax in. Of course, interacting with friendly Malays was the most memorable experience. It seems that Ipoh attracts the young and creative and that is reflected in the city’s eateries and cafes as well as its street art. Ipoh is a perfect off the beaten track destination in Malaysia!
Approaching Ipoh we realized there was something special about it. From the bus we could see the city tucked between monumental Karst Mountains. Once there, we walked to our hotel and couldn’t believe our luck. The views from our top floor room took our breath away. We saw some locals playing cricket in the nearby Padang Park. Even more, we run into a group of people telling jokes by the train station. Though we didn’t understand a thing, the laughter was completely contagious! Everything seemed relaxed and slow paced. Ipoh is such a contradictory mix. The atmospheric center seems stuck back in time. On the other hand, it definitively has a young vibe with modern street art at every corner. There’s also a river perfect to relax and soak up the atmosphere.
Ipoh Street Art
The idea was to stop in Ipoh to shorten our trip to Kuala Lumpur. Nevertheless, it turned out to be more than just a stopover city. The place is full of nice historical houses and colonial palaces. I reckon that tones of artists live in Ipoh; that would explain the abundance of street art. In 2014 the City Council of Ipoh launched The Mural Art Trail and hired celebrated Lithuanian street artist Ernest Zacharevic. He finished his work in George Town, went to Ipoh and completed 7 outstanding large pieces. All of them are in the center, especially around Sultan Yusof, Bandar Timah and Bijeh Timah streets.
Some of Ipoh’s best coffee shops are also within the colonial city center. They interact beautifully with colorful street art. Plan B serves delicious coffee and food in a large refurbished building. Their coffee is premium and their cakes superb. Go for the delicious Red Velvet Cake and have some Elderflower Mint Lemonade. The Happy 8 Café is another place that offers great cakes, but this time in a fantastic jungle like space. Don’t forget to try their handmade dumplings. Finally if you are into ‘haute cuisine’ head over to Jeff’s Cellar. Located inside a real cave it offers first class Malaysian and International food. That’s probably the thing we loved the most about Ipoh: all you have to do is walk admiring street art and pause to eat delicious food and cakes.
In the city center you’ll stumble upon the Birch Memorial Clock Tower built in honor of the first British resident of Perak who was murdered in Ipoh. The contemporary Sultan Idris Shah II Mosque is on the other side of the road. For a glimpse of colonial architecture visit the nearby Ipoh Train Station, the Ipoh Town Hall and the High Courts. The city has several temples. The most interesting ones were built inside caves. Look for the Ling Sen Tong, the Nam Thean Tong and the Sam Poh Tong temples on the corner of Raja Musa Mahadi and Raja Dr. Nazrin Shah Streets.
Where to Stay in Ipoh
Unlike George Town which has plenty of hotels in all categories, Ipoh’s hotel offer is a bit more limited. Even more so regarding hotels within the colonial city center. Our Cititel Express Hotel is the only nice hotel adjacent to the city center. It’s a modern simple tower with comfortable rooms, professional service, and fantastic views. Hence, don’t forget to ask for a top floor room! Nevertheless, you can find good hotels just a step away. The MU Hotel offers sleek design and bike rentals. The WEIL Hotel has a swimming pool on its rooftop; great views guaranteed! If you rather soak up nature, stay in THE HAVEN RESORT, a great hotel amongst nearby imposing Karst Mountains. If you want to indulge more, go ahead and stay at the spectacular Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat.
How to Get to Ipoh
Ipoh is conveniently located halfway between Kuala Lumpur and George Town. Not only the train is the most comfortable way to get to Ipoh, but also the least damaging to the environment. Several trains from Kuala Lumpur depart each day and reach Ipoh in 2 to 3 hours. Trains from George Town take less than 2 hours. Please take note that George Town’s Butterworth Train Station is across the sea so you have to take a ferry to get to and from the city.
Buses to Kuala Lumpur and George Town are equally fast and cost roughly the same. If you are coming from Singapore or Johor Bahru you can fly to nearby Sultan Azlan Shah Airport. However, why would you? A much better option is to take a bus from either Singapore or Johor Bahru and stop in Malacca and Kuala Lumpur. In that way, you get to relax, see one or two fantastic cities, and not damage our planet so much.
Book a bus or a train from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh
Book a bus or a train from George Town to Ipoh