Wandering through Ipoh
Ipoh is fast becoming a mustvisit city, packed with things to do, see and eat. Nawaf Rahman discovers there’s so much more to this once sleepy historic town
After three hours on the train from KL (or two by car), we arrived in Ipoh and checked into the Container Hotel (89-91 Jalan Sultan Yusuff. +605 243 3311/www.
containerhotel.my), where we were pleasantly surprised by its cosy interior and unique design. The hotel has everything you need for a comfortable stay, offers incredible value for money, and best of all, is centrally located within walking distance of some great eateries. Look out for the slide that takes you from the first floor to the ground floor.
Café-hopping after dark Ipoh after dark is the perfect
time to café hop. Our first stop was Karat Café (137 Jalan Sultan Abdul Jalil.
+6013 506 5677), a low-key kampung house filled with vintage décor and art. Known for its mélange of Western and local dishes, this cafe is the kind of place you come to for comfort food. Dessert was at a little café amusingly called Hello Elvis (124 Jalan Sultan Iskandar. +6017 634 7720/Facebook: Hello-Elvis-Ipoh). The café’s friendly staff and Instagramworthy interior with simple but fun decorations on the walls make it a really cool place to hang out. On the menu is a wide selection of soft serves, snacks and waffles. Their churros with chocolate sauce was one of the best we’ve ever had.
Whitewater rafting on Sungai Kampar
The next day we headed to Gopeng, an easy half hour drive from the city, where we signed up for a whitewater rafting and caving expedition with Nomad Adventure (+603 7958 5152/www.
nomadadventure.com). I had butterflies in my stomach as I’d never been rafting, didn’t know what to expect. Heck, I can’t even swim! Our experienced guides, Moose and Ozzy, were composed, informative and gave us precise instructions. They exuded calm, which helped settle my nerves. And thank goodness for lifejackets!
The alternating peaks and valleys of calm water and crazy rapids made for an exhilarating experience. As chance had it, the rapids were especially strong that day. There were moments in between the excitement when we could relax and enjoy the gorgeous scenery along Sungai
Caving in Gua Kandu
Next up was Gua Kandu;
Nomad has set up an 80m long zipline inside the cave – the only one in Malaysia. The multi-levelled and multi-chambered cave is ideal for advanced caving
activities. After strapping on helmets and harnesses, we entered and noticed some graffiti on the walls left by Communist rebels who used the cave as a hideout during the Malayan Emergency.
The trail started off easy, but soon became challenging. We had to duck-walk and rappel down into a large cavern where we came face-to-face with a curious stalagmite formation. According to local legend, a local boy disappeared into the cave and turned to stone. His name was Kandu, which later became the name of the cave.
In the final chamber, we had to launch ourselves from a 20m cliff on a 100m-long flying fox to another ledge on a limestone outcrop. From here, the fastest way down was to climb down the via
ferrata on the vertical cliff face.
Ending the night
We checked into the charming Sekeping Kong Heng (75 Jalan Panglima. +605 241 8977/www.
sekeping.com) back in Ipoh, a neo-classical building once used as a hostel for theatre players who performed in the theatre building next door that burnt down in ’50s. Sekeping Kong Heng has preserved much of the existing building, and the result is hip and edgy yet respectful to its history. You’re likely to be awoken by the chatter on the street than your alarm, but this just adds to the authenticity of staying within a buzzing community.
Sunday mornings in Ipoh
Sunday mornings see the city’s Old Town coming to life. A typical Ipoh breakfast can be had at Nam Heong (2 Jalan Bandar Timah. +6012 588 8766/+6011 264
33642), the origin of the much lauded of Ipoh white coffee – the iced white coffee here puts Starbucks to shame. Nam Heong is also famous for its delicate egg tarts (weekends only) and other Ipoh street fare. It can get very crowded so if the queues overwhelm you, head across the road to local-favourite Sin Yoon Long (15A Jalan Bandar Timah. +605 241 4601), where a traditional breakfast of white
If Ipoh was a person, she’d be that hip grandmother with a thousand stories
coffee, and butter and kaya toast with half-boiled eggs awaits.
After breakfast, a leisurely stroll down the heritage street Concubine Lane is in order. Here is where you can head to
Ding Feng Tau Fu Fa (8 Jalan Panglima. +6012
527 1028) for silky smooth tau fu fah and fresh soybean milk. And to combat the heat, there is the famous ais kepal (ice ball) at Bits and Bobs (99 Jalan Sultan Yusuff. +6016 521 1283/ fb.com/bitsandbobsmalaysia)
across the road at Kong Heng Square. This nostalgic dessert of our (and our parents’) childhood is basically shaved ice packed tightly into fist-sized
snowballs with different flavoured syrups generously drizzled onto them.
Nearby is the Yasmin Ahmad Museum (Lorong Panglima. fb.com/yasminatkongheng), a modest gallery celebrating her greatest works, tucked inside one of the Old Block Apartments (behind Container Hotel). There’s a Zen-like quality to the space with the walls decorated with framed photographs and her famous heart-wrenching commercials playing on a loop in a corner.
A hip grandmother of a city
This short trip made us realise how communal Ipoh is. We may not remember the names of the hidden lanes or streets, but they were all crammed in with timeworn buildings holding ghosts of a bygone era. They say good things come in small packages, and this certainly stands true for this city.
If Ipoh was a person, she’d be that hip grandmother with a thousand stories you’d want to hear over and over again.
Ding Feng Tau Fu Fa
Yasmin Ahmad Museum
Egg tarts from Nam Heong