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

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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

Kam­par.

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.

Karat Café

White­wa­ter raft­ing

Gua Kandu

Ding Feng Tau Fu Fa

Yas­min Ah­mad Mu­seum

Egg tarts from Nam Heong

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