For the March school hols this year, we couldn’t escape to Japan to see cherry blossoms because I was involved in a major work event. So our Japan trip has moved to June and we decided to go Ipoh in March. I was intrigued by Ipoh because it is not only historical but also very rustic and eclectic – totally my kind of place…
Day 1: We took the afternoon flight out of Singapore so only dinner was planned for our first day after checking in.
- The ‘must-eat’ pitstop was the famous beansprout chicken at the Old Town side – Restoran Tauge Ayam Lou Wong
Day 2: Prior to coming here, I booked a day tour to bring us around the city. We booked our tour from Ipoh Secrets, which was highly recommended by my colleagues who have been to Ipoh.
What was initially a small group tour of 8-9 people became a ‘private’ one with only the two of us and our guide, John!
Here’s where we went in summary. The sites in the heritage trail are very near each other so they’re very walkable even without a guide.
Ipoh Heritage Trail – we started with the former Ipoh Town Hall aka the Taj Mahal of Ipoh.
The Town Hall is opposite the Ipoh Railway Station, which is still in operation. It used to have a hotel on the second level but the hotel has ceased operation for more than a decade. John also shared with us about the “Ipoh” tree, that collapsed in the 1990s. It apparently has poisonous sap, which was used to kill someone before. True or false – I think we won’t really know.
Nearby is the Birch Memorial Clock Tower where our guide told us the history of the first resident of Perak and how he was resented by the locals and eventually assassinated. The memorial was subsequently erected by his son, Ernest Birch, the 8th resident of Perak.
As a History educator, it was very interesting to see how certain versions of history are celebrated while others are purposely erased by something as simple as the renaming of street names.
Then we walked through some of the old streets, in particular, the Concubine Lanes. What was formerly a street for the second and third wives of wealthy men is now a tourist lane with small shops.
Before lunch, John drove us to a house selling handmade charcoal-baked pastries. Sadly, the coal oven isn’t fired up as often anymore because the owner is going to retire soon.
Post-lunch, we made a trip to the first cave temple – Sam Poh Tong. It’s an active place of worship and extremely tranquil. It also had a Japanese pond with koi fishes and turtles. I personally like to visit temples that have elements of nature like the relics in Siem Reap and those in Japan, that are surrounded by gardens.
Next up was the famous and supposedly haunted Kellie’s Castle, which was my main place of interest. It’s a 25-30min drive out of Ipoh town so one can also go without a tour guide.
I can now conclude that I’m a castle-junkie because every trip thus far that has castles to see, they have appeared on my itinerary. UK in 2014, Germany in 2015, Japan in 2011 and 2017 and now Ipoh.
Our last stop of the afternoon was another cave temple – Kek Lok Tong. It had started to rain but that turned out to be a blessing in disguise because during wet weather, water will drip down the stalagmites inside the limestone caves.
After the tour ended, we headed to Plan B, a cafe/bar that was formerly an opera house for a late afternoon snack.
At night, we cabbed to the New Town side to shop at Ipoh Parade mall because shops at the Old Town close by 5pm.
Day 3: We had half a day to sight-see before flying back so we reserved a tour at Han Chin Pet Soo – the Hakka Miners’ Club, the oldest Chinese club in Ipoh.
Interesting fact we found out about our hotel – Sarang Paloh Heritage Stay & Event Hall…. it was the former OCBC bank!
This is one main reasons why we had such a fulfilling trip to Ipoh…everything around the Old Town is so rich in history and I personally prefer the slower pace of the place compared to Penang.
I highly recommend our hotel, it’s so eclectic and filled with antique furniture that I wished my home had more of. The staff are also very welcoming and helpful.
Ipoh, you were simply amazing.
And now, I need to get over my travel withdrawal because I have to go back to work tomorrow.