Posted by: Richard Marshall | February 20, 2018

Ipoh

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Entrance to a cave temple

I visited the town of Ipoh, 150 km southeast of Penang, twice, once with Luke and Emily in August 2016 and once with Kiyo, a friend from my China days, in February 2017. Although I only went overnight on each occasion, I was really taken with the city. In fact, Lonely Planet also discovered it and Ipoh, and the state of Perak generally, was one of their top recommendations for 2017.

Ipoh was a tin-mining boom town from the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries. After that it fell on hard times (though it’s beginning to prosper again),but has some spectacular colonial buildings left from that period. The railway station, city hall and law courts are particularly impressive. Like most Malaysian cities it was overwhelmingly Chinese until the mid-twentieth century so also has a charming old town of Chinese shophouses and temples. Parts of the town are becoming very touristy – the most famous street is the narrow Concubine’s Lane, where rich businessmen would house their mistresses. The lane is now the tourist epicenter of the town and has the usual tacky souvenir stalls but the city as a whole still feels fairly sleepy. It felt as I imagine Penang must have done 20 years before.

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Ipoh City Hall

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Shophouses

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Concubine’s Lane

Ipoh’s other great claim to fame is it’s food, which truly was spectacular. The city’s most iconic dish is salted chicken which is nice but not amazing. Luke, Emily and I, though, found a dim sum restaurant, Ming Court, which was the best I’ve ever had. It was an amazing meal even despite a terrible hangover. Ipoh has a surprisingly lively nightlife, and on both occasions I only made it back to the hotel pretty late. The other meals we had were less memorable but still excellent. Similarly to Penang, I’m sure spending more time in Ipoh and really exploring it’s food scene would be really rewarding.

Luke, Emily and I rented a car on the first occasion (Kiyo and I took the train), so we had the chance to head a little out of town to visit some old Chinese temples built into the karst hills nearby. The temple complexes were huge, a reflection of more prosperous days, but although slightly neglected were very impressive, and extended deep into caves in the limestone. We only managed to visit a couple as we had to head back to Penang, but if I had the chance I’d love to head back to Ipoh to do some more exploring.

Thanks so much to Emily for sharing her photos with me!

 

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Beautiful Temple Garden

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Temple inside a karst


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