Ipoh, The Idyl­lic

You don’t have to go far for a great week­end away. Hit up the cap­i­tal city of Perak for good food, re­lax­ation and his­tory

Expatriate Lifestyle - - Northern Special - Words by Karin Chan Photo by Karin Chan & is­tock­photo

Nes­tled be­tween the renowned foodie haven of Pe­nang and the bustling me­trop­o­lis of Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh doesn’t al­ways make the must-visit list of Malaysian tourism hotspots. How­ever, since mak­ing sixth place on Lonely Planet’s 2016 ‘Best in Asia’ list, the cap­i­tal city of Perak has en­joyed a surge in pop­u­lar­ity as vis­i­tors dis­cover its great food, his­toric ar­chi­tec­ture and nat­u­ral beauty. GET­TING THERE By far the most pop­u­lar mode of trans­porta­tion to Ipoh is self-driv­ing, as the jour­ney only takes two hours via the North-south Ex­press­way from KL. How­ever, this is on a good day; on pub­lic hol­i­days and fes­ti­vals, travel time can take up to six hours or more as you’ll be joined by other drivers us­ing the same road to head to Pe­nang. If you have no choice, I can’t stress this enough: leave early!

Al­ter­na­tively, you can reach Ipoh by bus, train or plane. Many pre­fer to take the Elec­tric Train Ser­vice (ETS) which runs from KL Sen­tral to Ipoh and back every day in two and a half hours. The car­riage is com­fort­able and tick­ets are very rea­son­ably priced from RM25 to RM40. While you won’t have to worry about the traf­fic, book early dur­ing the fes­tive pe­riod as tick­ets sell out fast.

OUT AND ABOUT Most peo­ple come to Ipoh to es­cape the fast pace of city life, so don’t ex­pect to find a par­tic­u­larly vi­brant night scene here. In­stead, take a trip back in time with the self-guided Ipoh Her­itage Walk, a two-hour ac­tiv­ity that will take you around his­tor­i­cal land­marks in the Old Town. High­lights in­clude the Ipoh Rail­way Sta­tion (where the trail starts), Han Chin Pet Soo (the coun­try’s first Hakka tin min­ing mu­seum) and the Birch Memo­rial. You can even down­load Maps One and Two on­line here (www.ipo­hworld.org/2011/01/07/her­itage-trail-map-1st-map).

Ipoh is also famed for the beau­ti­ful cave tem­ples scat­tered through­out the lime­stone hills sur­round­ing the city. While Perak Tong is renowned for its 40-foot-tall golden Bud­dha statue, Kek Lok Tong is our top pick for the man­i­cured gar­dens on the other side of the cave sur­round­ing a lo­tus-filled lake. Closer to the city, Sam Poh Tong’s gar­dens are a pho­tog­ra­pher’s dream, boast­ing an abun­dance of in­ter­est­ing rock for­ma­tions and green­ery rem­i­nis­cent of a Chinese fan­tasy paint­ing.

For some­thing more ad­ven­tur­ous (or if you have kids in tow), head to the Lost World

of Tam­bun. By day, you can ex­plore six theme parks to watch tiger feed­ing ses­sions, learn about tin min­ing and go on thrilling rides; by night, kick back and re­lax in the hot springs and spa, watch the man-made Geyser of Tam­bun shoot high and visit noc­tur­nal crea­tures in the pet­ting zoo. There are also plenty of shows to mark your sched­ule for like the Awe­some Pool Party, Tin Story, Flam­ing Per­cus­sions and Tales of the Tribe.

FOODIE HAVEN You know the food is good when Malaysians are will­ing to travel for it, and with Ipoh just two hours away from the city cen­tre, it isn’t un­com­mon for Klites to head up to Ipoh for the day just to sight­see and, more im­por­tantly, in­dulge in good food be­fore re­turn­ing home in the evening.

Top­ping this list has to be the renowned Ipoh chicken rice, which tra­di­tion­ally com­prises poached chicken driz­zled with a com­bi­na­tion of soy sauce, shal­lot oil and se­same oil with rice. The dish’s crowning glory are the bean sprouts ( taugeh), said to be par­tic­u­larly crunchy in Ipoh be­cause of the hard wa­ter from the sur­round­ing lime­stone hills. Though there are plenty of chicken rice out­lets in Ipoh, we can’t get enough of the of­fer­ings at

Lou Wong, which has sev­eral out­lets in the city in­clud­ing one on Jalan Ban­dar Timah.

Head for Tong Sui Kai (Dessert Street), where lo­cals and tourists alike go for their street food fix. Liv­ing up to its name, the most pop­u­lar dishes here are the icy desserts, in­clud­ing the mixed fruits ABC (shaved ice with syrup and fruits) and Hong Kong-style sago-based desserts. How­ever, there’s plenty of savoury fare to be found here as well such as curry mee, ro­jak, grilled squid, chee cheong fun and more for those look­ing for some­thing more sub­stan­tial. Other must-try del­i­ca­cies in Ipoh in­clude tau foo fah (soya bean pud­ding), and Funny

Moun­tain Soya Bean serves up some of the silki­est ex­am­ples around; char­coal-baked heong peng (fra­grant bis­cuit) with a savoury-sweet malt and shal­lot fill­ing en­cased in flaky pas­try; rich ‘white’ cof­fee, which is pro­duced when cof­fee beans are roasted, then mixed with mar­garine and sugar; kai si hor fun (shred­ded chicken rice noo­dles in a flavour­ful broth)…the list goes on. Are you hun­gry yet?

With all that Ipoh has to of­fer, it’s a won­der it hasn’t made larger waves ear­lier, but the Lonely Planet list­ing means that its trea­sures won’t stay se­cret for­ever. So why wait to dis­cover the next star of Malaysian tourism? Get your­self down to Ipoh and im­merse your­self in a part of Malaysia that still of­fers a tran­quil­lity not eas­ily found these days. EL

It isn’t un­com­mon for Klites to head up to Ipoh for a day of sight­see­ing ( but mostly makan) be­fore go­ing home”


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.