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Ipoh, Malaysia Travel Guide: Best Things to Do & Travel Tips

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This Ipoh Travel Guide is your ultimate resource for discovering the best things to do in Ipoh and essential Ipoh travel tips. Nestled in the heart of Malaysia, Ipoh is a vibrant city that offers a perfect blend of rich cultural heritage, natural beauty, and modern amenities. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you on a journey through the top attractions, transportation options, and insider tips to make your visit to Ipoh truly unforgettable.

Ipoh Overview

Ipoh, the capital of Malaysia’s Perak state, is a city renowned for its rich history, culture, and culinary delights. Originally a quiet village, it experienced rapid growth in the 1880s when substantial tin deposits were discovered, transforming it into a major center of the tin mining industry. Today, Ipoh’s colonial-era architecture, influenced by its British heritage, graces the cityscape with landmarks like the Ipoh railway station and the Birch Memorial Clock Tower. Traditional shophouses adorned with colorful murals add to its charm, earning it nicknames like the City of Millionaires and the Silver Valley.

Ipoh is a gastronomic paradise, offering a delectable array of local dishes such as Ipoh white coffee, bean sprouts chicken, and curry mee. The city also boasts natural wonders, including limestone hills, caves, hot springs, waterfalls, and parks. The Lost World of Tambun, a renowned theme park, features attractions like a water park, amusement park, and petting zoo, making Ipoh a captivating destination for both culture and nature enthusiasts.

Ipoh Concubine Lane
Ipoh Concubine Lane

Top Things to Do in Ipoh

1. Kok Lok Tong Cave Temple: Malaysia’s Serene Gem

The Kok Lok Tong Cave Temple, located 5 kilometers south of Ipoh, is a serene Malaysian cave temple founded in 1920. Its centerpiece is a majestic cave chamber adorned with statues of Buddhist and Chinese deities like Guanyin, Amitabha, and Ksitigarbha, set against natural stalactites and stalagmites. Outside, a meticulously maintained Zen garden, complete with a pond, bridge, and pavilion, awaits. A reflexology footpath is also available for enhanced well-being. The temple welcomes visitors daily from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., with no admission fee.

2. Lost World of Tambun: Ipoh’s All-Ages Theme Park

The Lost World of Tambun, 15 kilometers from Ipoh’s center, offers a diverse theme park experience. It features six zones, including the Water Park with slides and pools, the Amusement Park with thrilling rides, Tiger Valley where you can safely observe Siberian tigers, the Petting Zoo with 90+ animal species, Tin Valley showcasing Ipoh’s tin mining history, and the Hot Springs and Spa for relaxation. The park operates daily from 10 am to 6 pm (except Tuesdays), with separate hours for the Hot Springs and Spa. Ticket prices vary by age and zone.

3. Birch Memorial Clock Tower: Ipoh’s Historic Icon

The Birch Memorial Clock Tower, built in 1909 in Ipoh, stands as a historic landmark. Constructed by James W.W. Birch, son of J.W.W. Birch, the first British Resident of Perak, it features four clocks, a bell, and four panels depicting the evolution of civilization in Malaya. Figures like Buddha, Confucius, Moses, and Muhammad are showcased. Surrounding the tower, a garden with a fountain and J.W.W. Birch’s statue add to its significance, symbolizing the colonial era and Malaysia’s quest for independence.

4. Ipoh’s Street Art: A Vibrant Heritage Showcase

Ipoh’s vibrant street art and murals in the old town, lanes, and Kong Heng Square creatively represent the city’s heritage. Artists like Ernest Zacharevic, Eric Lai, and Artmis Art have contributed iconic pieces like “Old Uncle with Coffee Cup,” “Paper Plane,” “Hummingbird,” and “Evolution.” These artworks depict Ipoh’s history, from tin mining to coffee culture, traditional trades, and daily life, bringing vibrancy to the cityscape and attracting visitors and photographers.

5. Ipoh’s Culinary Delights: A Flavorful Journey

Ipoh’s renowned cuisine blends Malay, Chinese, and Indian influences, offering must-try dishes like dim sum, white coffee, bean sprouts chicken, salted chicken, and tau fu fah. Dim sum features a variety of dumplings and pastries served with tea. White coffee, a local specialty, combines palm oil-roasted coffee with condensed milk. Bean sprouts chicken pairs poached chicken with crispy bean sprouts and spicy sauce. Salted chicken involves marinating, wrapping, and clay pot baking. Lastly, tau fu fah is a silky soybean pudding dessert. These dishes are readily available at Ipoh’s restaurants, cafes, and hawker stalls, with nighttime dessert options at Tong Sui Kai (Dessert Street).

Malaysia Ipoh Birch Memorial Clock Tower
Langkawi Sky Bridge

Where to Stay in Ipoh

Here are some recommendations for different neighborhoods and hotels in Ipoh:

1. Old Town:

Old Town serves as the historical and cultural heart of Ipoh, boasting numerous colonial-era buildings, street art, museums, and charming cafes. This area is perfect for travelers interested in exploring Ipoh’s rich heritage. Consider staying at these top-notch hotels:

  • Heritage Stay at Sarang Paloh: This boutique hotel resides within a beautifully restored colonial building. Its rooms are spacious and tastefully adorned with antique furnishings and local art pieces. Additionally, the hotel features a café, library, and a rooftop garden.
  • Le Metrotel: A contemporary hotel offering comfortable and budget-friendly rooms equipped with air-conditioning, flat-screen TVs, and complimentary Wi-Fi. Conveniently located near the Ipoh Railway Station and the Concubine Lane.
  • De Cafe & Rest House: An excellent choice for backpackers and solo travelers on a budget. This hotel provides dormitory beds and private rooms with shared bathrooms, along with a café, lounge, and terrace.

2. Gunung Rapat:

Located slightly away from the city center, Gunung Rapat is still within easy reach of popular Ipoh attractions such as Sam Poh Tong Cave Temple, Kek Lok Tong Cave Temple, and Qing Xin Ling Leisure and Cultural Village. This area is ideal for travelers seeking natural beauty and tranquility. Here are some great hotels in Gunung Rapat:

  • MyKampung Chalet: A distinctive hotel offering traditional Malay-style wooden chalets set amidst lush green surroundings. These cozy chalets feature air-conditioning, TVs, and private bathrooms. The hotel also boasts a restaurant, playground, and barbecue area.
  • Grayhaus Soho: A minimalist hotel with clean and straightforward rooms featuring air-conditioning, free Wi-Fi, and shared bathrooms. Located near local eateries and shops.
  • Hotel Zamburger Ban Loong: A budget-friendly hotel providing basic yet comfortable rooms with air-conditioning, flat-screen TVs, and private bathrooms. Situated close to Gunung Rapat Market and Ipoh Stadium.

3. Tambun:

Renowned for its natural hot springs, limestone hills, and theme parks, Tambun is the perfect destination for travelers looking to unwind and have fun in Ipoh. Check out these top hotels in Tambun:

  • The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat: A luxurious resort offering spacious villas with private pools, jacuzzis, and outdoor rain showers. The resort also features a spa, restaurant, wine cellar, and a meditation cave.
  • The Haven All Suites Resort:A resort with condo-style suites featuring balconies, kitchenettes, living rooms, and dining areas. On-site amenities include a pool, gym, restaurant, and a jogging track.
  • Sunway Lost World Hotel: A family-friendly hotel offering colorful rooms with air-conditioning, flat-screen TVs, and complimentary Wi-Fi. The hotel also has an outdoor pool, restaurant, and direct access to the Sunway Lost World of Tambun theme park.
Ipoh Heritage Stay at Sarang Paloh
Heritage Stay at Sarang Paloh in Old Town

How Many Days to Stay in Ipoh

Depending on your interests and what suits you best, your stay in Ipoh can vary in duration. Here are some recommendations based on information found online:

For a Quick Day Trip:

If you’re planning a day trip to Ipoh, there are several exciting places you can explore. Head to the Perak region to visit beautiful cave temples like Kek Lok Tong Cave Temple, Zen Gardens, Sam Poh Tong Temple, or Perak Tong Cave Temple. While in Ipoh, don’t miss the chance to wander through the Old Town and New Town, where you can appreciate street art murals, take a leisurely walk along Concubine Lane, and admire the charming colonial architecture of the Ipoh Railway Station. Be sure to savor some local specialties such as Ipoh white coffee, bean sprout chicken, and salted chicken.

A 2 or 3-Day Stay:

With a bit more time on your hands, you can explore Ipoh’s attractions at a more relaxed pace. Dive into the history of tin mining at the Han Chin Pet Soo Museum, discover the story behind the famous herbal tea brand at the Ho Yan Hor Museum, or have some fun taking photos at the Funtasy House Trick Art Museum. Consider venturing out of the city for a day trip to the picturesque Cameron Highlands, where you can enjoy breathtaking views of tea plantations and visit strawberry farms. Alternatively, explore Tempurung Cave, the largest limestone cave in Peninsular Malaysia.

A 4-Day or Longer Getaway:

For a truly luxurious and unhurried experience in Ipoh, you can extend your stay. Consider booking a room at The Haven All Suite Resort, where you’ll enjoy stunning vistas of limestone hills and a natural lake. Pamper yourself with a spa day at Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat, where you can soak in mineral-rich hot springs surrounded by natural beauty. Another option is to visit the Sunway Lost World of Tambun Theme Park, offering a full day of excitement with water rides, encounters with animals, hot springs, and more.

Ipoh Sunway Lost World of Tambun Theme Park
Sunway Lost World of Tambun Theme Park

Ipoh Weather & Best Time to Visit Ipoh

Ipoh experiences a tropical climate characterized by hot and humid conditions throughout the year, with occasional rain showers. The ideal time to plan your trip to Ipoh depends on your interests and activities. Here are some general recommendations:

Exploring the Outdoors (December – February):

To enjoy Ipoh’s outdoor attractions like cave temples, parks, and limestone hills, avoid the monsoon season from August to November. Opt for December to February when it’s drier and cooler, with temperatures ranging from 22°C to 33°C.

Cultural and Historical Exploration (all year round):

Ipoh’s cultural and historical sites, like the old town and museums, are open year-round. However, steer clear of crowded periods like Chinese New Year in January or February and school holidays in March, June, and December.

Relaxation and Rejuvenation (all year round):

For a relaxing visit to spas, hot springs, and wellness centers in Ipoh, any time of the year works. Just remember to book accommodations and services in advance, especially during weekends and holidays when it gets busy.

See also Best Time to Visit Malaysia

Ipoh Transportation: How to Get to and Travel around

How to Get to

There are no direct international flights to Ipoh, Malaysia. However, you can reach Ipoh by flying into Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) or Penang International Airport (PEN) and then taking various transportation options to reach your destination.

By Train:

Take the KTM ETS train from Kuala Lumpur, Butterworth, or Gemas to Ipoh. It’s fast and comfy, about 2.5 hours from Kuala Lumpur, with prices ranging from RM25 to RM46. Tickets can be booked online or at the station, and you’ll arrive at Ipoh Railway Station, an iconic landmark.

By Bus:

Catch a bus from Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS) in Kuala Lumpur or other major Malaysian cities to Ipoh. It’s budget-friendly but subject to traffic, taking around 3 to 4 hours from Kuala Lumpur, with fares from RM16 to RM35. Tickets can be booked online or at the terminal, and you’ll disembark at Terminal Meru Raya, roughly 10 km from the city center.

By Car:

Drive from Kuala Lumpur or other Malaysian cities to Ipoh via the North-South Expressway (NSE). It’s a scenic 2-hour journey with tolls and fuel costs totaling about RM40 to RM60 from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh.

ETS Train from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh
ETS Train from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh

How to Travel around

Walking:

Explore both old and new Ipoh by walking. Most attractions like heritage buildings, mural art, temples, and museums are within walking distance. Get a map from Ipoh Tourist Information Centre or use Google Maps on your phone for easy navigation.

Bus:

Opt for the convenience of Ipoh’s buses. The main station is Medan Kidd Bus Station near the railway station. myBas public buses by PerakTransit are budget-friendly, with fares typically under RM4. Weekend visitors can hop on the Hop-On Hop-Off (HOHO) Bus for RM15 (adults) or RM7 (children).

Grab or Taxi:

For comfort and ease, use Grab or taxis in Ipoh. Grab is cost-effective and quick, offering fare estimates and convenient booking via an app. Alternatively, flag down a taxi or book one at the station, with fares based on the meter or negotiated upfront.

Car or Motorcycle Rental:

Renting a car or motorcycle in Ipoh offers flexibility. Find rental agencies online or at transport hubs. Prices vary but generally range from RM50 to RM200 per day for cars and RM20 to RM50 per day for motorcycles. Ideal for exploring nearby spots like Cameron Highlands or Kellie’s Castle.

Bicycle:

For adventure and eco-friendliness, consider bicycle rentals. Rentals, available at various locations, cost about RM10 per hour or RM30 per day.

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