Nestled within steep limestone hills on the west coast of peninsular Malaysia, Ipoh has the proud heritage of a former tin mining boom town. While the current state capital of Perak had bigger heydays during the early 20th century, it is now better known amongst Malaysians for its excellent restaurants, hawkers, and famous local dishes. The country's third largest city is also a gateway to the Cameron Highlands.
Ipoh was the city that tin built, developing into one of Malaysia's major cities after rich alluvial tin deposits were discovered in the Kinta Valley in 1876. Its location as the furthest navigable point on the Kinta River at that time made it a prime spot for the centre of all trading activities, an upstart little village bypassing the already established towns at nearby Gopeng and Papan. Waves of starry-eyed prospectors, many of them Chinese immigrants, came to find their fortunes working the mines and providing support services to the industry. It rapidly grew into Malaya's second commercial and administrative centre after Kuala Lumpur (the Straits Settlements of Singapore, Penang and Malacca were administered separately during the British colonial era), overtaking Taiping, the then state capital.
World War II hit Ipoh hard, with all mines shut down and left to flood. Even after their reopening, demand for tin continued to drop steadily over the years and production costs rose. It culminated in the debilitating crash of tin prices in October 1985 from cartel meddling which then became the final nail in the coffin for the mines, just slightly over one hundred years after the very first tin rush. Many residents of Ipoh finally left for greener pastures elsewhere, as their forefathers did before them, though the city has been slowly reclaiming its stature since. Food, and not tin, is now the word most synonymous with Ipoh.
The post-independence economic decline let the city escape the Brutalist towers of concrete that represent 1970s ideas of progress and its colonial importance still shines in the grand old buildings, such as the railway station and the town hall, which complement the rows of shophouses. There are surprisingly few tall buildings for a city of its size due to height restrictions for the local airport, hence inadvertently maintaining its sleepy old town charm. However, this is soon to change after a push by the state government for more development projects.
For most visitors from elsewhere, the most practical option for getting to Ipoh would be to fly into either Kuala Lumpur or Penang, which have larger and better served airports, and make your way to Ipoh by road.
From Ipoh Railway Station, trains head as far north as Butterworth and as far south as Singapore via Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru. Kuala Lumpur is predictably well served by several trains per day. To KL, prices for the old diesel trains (3h) range from RM12 to RM30 depending on class. New electric trains (2h) cost from RM25 (stopping service) to RM45 (express non-stop).
The main bus terminal is at Terminal Amanjaya, from where buses run to most of Peninsular Malaysia. Taxi fare will be at least RM20. Most frequent routes are to and from Kuala Lumpur (Pudu Sentral), Singapore and Penang. Larger bus companies like Transnational, Plusliner, Konsortium and Sri Maju provide the most frequent, reliable and safe services. For Taiping and the Cameron Highlands, the local bus station (see Get around) is more convenient.
Some bus companies also operate from more convenient locations in the town: mainly Jalan Bendahara. Choice is limited but for KL, Singapore, Penang or Butterworth, they represent a better option than a trip out of town.
- Sri Maju 2, 4 & 6 Jalan Bendahara, +60 5 2535367, fairly decent selection of destinations, including Hat Yai in Thailand.
- Lapan Lapan (88 brand), +65 63922188 (Singapore number) has services from Jalan Bendahara to Singapore (RM55).
- Grassland Express, Singapore based company, also serves Jalan Bendahara.
Starshuttle runs to Kuala Lumpur International Airport from Jalan Bercham (about RM40 one way).
Ipoh is well connected to the North-South Expressway. You can get into Ipoh via Exit 137: Simpang Pulai or Exit 139: Ipoh Selatan.
Ipoh is split into half by the River Kinta: Old Town on the west side and New Town on the east. Old Town is walkable, New Town less so. City outskirts are reachable by taxis or public buses in a pinch, and your own wheels are best for further outlying areas. Streets were renamed in the 1980s. This can still be confusing as many locals still refer to the former colonial road names. The following list showing the old and new names is useful: Ipoh road names - old and new. Jalan Bijih Timah, for example, used to be known as Treacher Street.
The city centre grid layout contains mainly one-way streets. Road maps are available in bookstores, tourist centres and online. Traffic is not as heavy as in other cities such as Kuala Lumpur but the rush hours are usually congested. There is adequate parking but finding a space may require some patience. Car rentals are available.
Local buses run around the city and its suburbs and have a hub called Ipoh Bus Terminal, Jalan Raja Bendahara (or also bas stesen), which is actually on Jalan Tun Abdul Razak in the old town (follow the road south from the railway station and past the post office, the bus station is on the right of the first big junction). This is not to be confused with Jalan Bendahara which is in the new town and has long distance services by some bus companies.
Local bus information is not well published but there is a helpful information desk at the bus station. Visitors may find this bus station useful for its services to the Cameron Highlands and Taiping. Useful to look out for is local bus number 94, which heads from the bas stesen through the old and new towns to the Sam Poh Tong Cave Temples. It calls at the following bus stops in the new town: Tingat Pasar, on the south side of Pasar Besar; at the junction of Jalan Raja Musa Aziz and Jalan Theatre; and on Jalan CM Yusuf, near the Grand Park Hotel and Sri Maju Bus Terminal.
Most roads have pavements and marked crossings, which makes strolling around the old streets a pleasant experience.
There are no hard and fast rules for cyclists, but you are expected to observe road rules at all times. Cyclists are forbidden from riding on the sidewalk but often do. Helmets are optional but not common.
Prices are by negotiation. It is possible to take the taxi all the way up to Pengkelan Hulu (near the Thailand border, ~RM170 one way, ~RM300 return). Rides within the city should cost around RM5 to RM10.
As in the rest of Malaysia, Malay is the lingua franca, However, most of the ethnic Chinese, who form the majority in Ipoh, speak Cantonese as their first language, and many are also able to speak Mandarin. Most of the Indians speak Tamil as their first language, and quite a few others speak Urdu. While English is not as widespread as in Kuala Lumpur or Penang, tourists should still not have any major problems getting by with English. Most locals would be able to communicate in broken English, supplemented by non-verbal forms of communication such as pointing and gesturing.
The heart of Ipoh Old Town lies on the west banks of the Kinta River and is vaguely bounded by the train tracks. A two to three hour guided tour of the Ipoh heritage trail starts at the Railway Station at 8AM every Saturday (as of 2015 RM 30 per person). Rejuvenated Kong Heng Square on Jalan Sultan Yussuf houses buzzing small cafes and shops. Seven wall murals have also been painted by Ernest Zacharevic, the same Lithuanian artist that took Penang by storm. The one on Jalan Bijih Timah (literally Tin Ore Road) proudly showcases the once-important tin mining industry that made Ipoh. Pick up a map from the Ipoh Padang Old Town White Coffee branch, or just wander around the old town streets.
- Birch Memorial Clocktower, Jalan Dato Segor. Dedicated to the first British Resident Minister of Perak who was murdered by a local Malay chief. The chief's profitable trade in Orang Asli, indigenous tribal folk, was curtailed by the British abolition of slavery. By all accounts he wasn't well-liked personally and the road passing the tower's north side is now named in the killer's honour. It hosts friezes representing the progress of civilization and depicts various religious and secular worthies but the Prophet Muhammed was painted out as a respect to local sensitivities.
- Ipoh Railway Station, Jalan Sultan Iskandar. One of the three grand British-built stations on the former Malayan network. ETS trains connect this station, fondly dubbed "Taj Mahal of Ipoh", to KL's colonial beauty, Kuala Lumpur Railway Station (one stop before KL Sentral). Singapore's now disused Tanjong Pagar station is the third installment of the trilogy.
- Ipoh Town Hall and Law Courts. The two buildings opposite the Railway Station, in neoclassical style.
- Muzium Darul Ridzuan, Jalan Panglima Bukit Gantang. An interesting historical museum of Perak, located in a former tin-mining tycoon's pretty mansion.
- Padang Ipoh (Ipoh Green). The only thing missing is a cricket match on this immaculate lawn near Jalan S.P. Seenivasagam. The surrounding historic buildings include the mock-Tudor style Ipoh Club, FMS Bar, HSBC Building and the magnificent St Michael's Institution secondary school.
- Han Chin Pet Soo (Ipoh World), 3 Jalan Bijih Timah. Appointment only, closed M. A painstakingly restored Hakka Miners' Club that documents the activities of tin miners far away from home with cash to spend. Opium smoking, gambling and prostitution were some favourite vices and are shown in all their glory through the use of carefully curated antique items. The history of tin mining in Perak is also exhibited with old mining equipment and photographs of the big towkays (bosses). Free but donations welcome.
- Kinta Riverfront Walk. Come here at night, as trees are beautifully lighted up, making it a romantic riverside walk. There's a small hut with an interesting exhibit depicting the rise and fall of Ipoh's tin mining industry. It's also possible to hire bicycles for a more vigorous workout.
Thousands of miles away from their motherlands, religion remained a touchstone for the Chinese and Indian communities. Cave temples abound in the karst limestone hills north and south of Ipoh, although only the richest and most famous are properly looked after and not forgotten.
- Perak Tong (Perak Cave), Gunung Tasek. 8AM-5PM. Houses over 40 Buddha statues and many murals. There is a steep, tall staircase in the interior of the cave rising up to the top of its hill, where one is greeted by a beautiful and panoramic view of Ipoh and its surroundings. The statue of Buddha in Perak Tong is the tallest and largest of its kind in Malaysia. Perak Tong was built in 1926 by a Buddhist priest from China.
- Sam Poh Tong (Cavern of Triple Gems). Actually a cluster of three Chinese temples in Gunung Rapat. The first temple, Ling Sen Tong is shrouded in the smokey haze of hundreds of joss sticks. Its neighbour, Nam Thean Tong, has hundreds of stairs that climb right through the mountain to high up on the other side, providing great views. Sam Poh Tong itself is the third of the row, just after the small coffee shop, where you should relax after climbing all the stairs of Nam Thean Tong. By this temple's entrance is a charming landscaped bonsai garden and fish pond; inside, a tunnel leads right through the rocks to the sanctuary of the temple and its tortoise pond. On the road leading to the temples are stalls selling pomelos, a local speciality. Local bus 94 continues to right next to these temples after passing the former Medan Gopeng Bus Terminal. RM10 in a taxi from the city should be enough, and regional buses will also get you there quickly from the centre of town.
- Kek Lok Tong (Cavern of Ultimate Bliss). Calm Chinese cave temple with good views on the other side of the same limestone hill as Sam Poh Tong. Being newer and a little richer than the other cave temples, the place feels much airier and cleaner. Monkeys can be found here. Accessible through Gunung Rapat housing area. Taxi from Ipoh town should cost RM10.
- Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, Jalan Sungai Pari, Buntong (just before the bridge on the river). An old Tamil temple. Not only is it religious in nature but also a place for discourses, and on Sundays, children are given an introduction to verses in Tamil.
Peaceful Batu Gajah was initially the planned European centre for Kinta Valley in the Federated Malay States, but the rough and tumble Ipoh quickly stole its crown. The areas surrounding Ipoh were similarly diminished by the tin mining crash, and may yet be absorbed into Ipoh proper.
- Kellie's Castle. The deserted mansion of an eccentric Scottish planter, located in Batu Gajah, is half an hour's drive from Ipoh city center. Its main appeal lies in the belief that it is haunted and that secret passages leading to hidden chambers exist. A taxi will cost you around RM 50 - 60 and they will usually wait for an hour (which is long enough to look around). MYR5 for adults, MYR3 for kids 3-12.
- Tanjung Tualang Tin Dredge Ship, 9th Km, Jalan Tanjung Tualang, Batu Gajah. The last tin dredge that has not been dismantled from its old workspace is an example of how easy it was to extract alluvial deposits from the river by merely scooping up tin-bearing soil on an industrial scale and filtering out the ore. There is a small museum and tours are available for both the outside and inside of the dredge depending on pricing. MYR5-15.
- Papan. A century-old half-deserted mining town built on a rich deposit of tin that was due to be dug up before the price of the metallic ore halved in the 1980s. In the war years, resistance fighters based themselves here as the last outpost before the inhospitable jungle terrain, even setting up an invaluable free clinic and dispensary. Nowadays nature is slowly taking its own course, with caved-in roofs and overgrown houses, though the odd elderly resident seems content in their familiar surroundings.
- Caving at Gua Tempurung. Gua Tempurung is the largest limestone cave in Peninsular Malaysia. Located close to the North South Highway's Gopeng Exit, it provides the opportunity to explore in detail the insides of a limestone cave. You can choose to experience a short tour of the cave or adventure into the far end of the cave by walking off the walkways and in the cave river. The wet adventures have you wading in the cold underground water, squeezing through holes and sliding over smooth rocks, but require at least 8 people to start. MYR6-22.
- White Water Rafting. Get up close and personal with nature, experience an exotic and mystifying rainforest where the fastest butterflies swarm by the riverbank while you enjoy swimming in the river or jump from trees or just glide down the river on a raft.
- Bukit Kledang, Menglembu. Trek up one of the many trails up the Menglembu-Kledang Hills (these are the hills you can see to the west of Ipoh with the radio-TV masts on the top) to enjoy the awe-inspiring view of the limestone outcrops that surround Ipoh. If unsure of how to get to these trails, just ask the many locals who trek up daily in the early mornings and late evenings. If you have a GPS hikes can either start from 101° 1.813'E/4° 34.577'N or at 101° 1.638'E/ 4° 34.312'N where the paved road to the summit begins. Most trails are open and hot (take a hat and water) but much of Trail 4.9 is through shady forest. There are interesting plants and some wildlife (long-tailed macaques, pig-tailed macaques, leaf monkeys, and siamang) to be seen if you are lucky.
- Ulu Geroh. Be an ecotourist and experience the rainforest here. This is an Orang Asli kampung about one hour's drive into the hills east of Gopeng. The last half of the ride is along a rough road (4x4 preferred) through rubber, durian and oil palm plantations to the village on the edge of the rainforest. Guides from the Orang Asli community take visitors to see the parasitic Rafflesia flower (the largest flower in the world) and the Raja Brooke's Birdwing butterfly as well as other forest bugs, plants, etc. There's also a small but beautiful waterfall. You will need your IC or passport number for the visitor log book. Basic accommodation is available at Ulu Geroh itself or in a rural setting at three nearby eco-resorts: (My Gopeng Resort, Rumah Rehat Adeline and Gopeng Rainforest Resort).
- The Lost World of Tambun. Ipoh's only water theme park provides great rides and entertainment for families and also organizes tours into the nearby limestone caves for those interested in eco-tourism. It recently opened a Petting Zoo that allows children the opportunity to feed and pet a variety of animals. Tambun has been traditionally known for its juicy pomelo fruit and the Tambun Hot Springs (now known as the Lost World Hot Springs and Spa). Soaking in these hot springs is said to bring health benefits to the body because of the high sulfur content in the water. MYR40-50.
- Gunung Lang. A general recreational park with a man-made waterfall and a long waterfront boardwalk. The serene 80 foot deep lake, like many others in the region, hides the deep scars tin mining made on the landscape. There's a mini zoo and playground for the kids and campsites for overnight stays. A boat ride is required to get across the lake to the park. MYR3.
- Golf. The Perak Royal Golf Club is the oldest of the golf courses located close to the city centre but there are also great golf courses at Clearwater Sanctuary in Batu Gajah and Meru Valley in Jelapang. Both Clearwater Sanctuary and Meru Valley provide accommodation that make a golfing holiday all the more convenient.
Ipoh is inexpensive by Malaysian standards. Most tourists will better appreciate the offerings of KL or Bangkok but Ipoh offers some interesting specialties including, Ipoh Fragrant Biscuits “香饼” - traditional flaky biscuits containing a sweet paste. Hand made examples are rare - Pottery - Ipoh produces pottery for export. If pots are your bag, try Jalan Kuala Kangsar - and Ipoh White Coffee - coffee beans specially roasted with palm-oil margarine.
- Pasar Malam - night markets, stalls selling a variety of food, groceries, toys, clothes and household items. They move to various locations throughout the week:
- Monday: Taman Menglembu, Taman Ipoh Jaya (near Gunung Rapat)
- Tuesday: Ipoh Garden East
- Wednesday: Ipoh Garden (near Perak stadium), Bercham (Taman Pakatan
- Thursday: Taman SPPK
- Friday: Taman Pertama; Pekan Razaki (near Taman Ipoh Jaya)
- Saturday: Taman Rasi
- Sunday: Taman Cempaka (6PM-10PM only)
- Memory Lane is a flea market along Jalan Lim Bo Seng that takes places every Sunday morning. It is a good place to find imitation goods, antiques and other interesting local souvenirs. Be ready to bargain for the best price and be conscious of the fact that some stuff sold are probably stolen goods.
- Shopping Malls. The Kinta City Shopping Centre and Ipoh Parade are the two best malls within the city. Both have a fair range of branded stores, with good bargains during sale periods that could be of interest to keen shoppers.
- For a stretch of quaint boutiques, visit Ipoh Garden South.
Like everywhere in Malaysia, the local food is dirt cheap and sublime. Some local specialities to look out for include chicken and beansprouts (芽菜雞) - chicken with boiled bean sprouts served with soy sauce, sesame oil and either rice or noodles; Ipoh sar hor fun (怡保沙河粉) - flat rice noodles in clear chicken and prawn soup with chicken shreds, prawns and spring onions; salted chicken (盐锔鸡) - whole chickens wrapped in "paper" and then baked in large woks filled with heated salt; and pomelos (柚) - a citrus fruit with massive rind and mild taste; Malaysia's best are reputedly from Tambun, about 10km north of the city centre.
- Thean Chun, 73 Jalan Bandar Timah (Next to Kong Heng), ☎ . 8AM-4.30PM, closed Thurs. Classic Chinese coffee shop with a variety of hawkers. Noted best for their Ipoh Sar Hor Fun and egg caramel custard. Located next to equally renown Kong Heng, one can be seated in Thean Chun and still order food from hawkers in Kong Heng. Meals from RM4.
- Kong Heng, 75 Jalan Bandar Timah (Next to Thean Chun). 8AM-4.30PM, closed on Wednesdays. Also known as the "hall of mirrors" for the large mirrors adorning the walls of the coffee shop, it is famous for its pork satay and Ipoh Sar Hor Fun. Located next to Thean Chun, one can be order food from any hawker in either coffee shop. The satay man might plonk a whole bunch of sticks on your table, but you're only obliged to pay for the ones you eat (he'll count the empty sticks), and the rest are returned back to the grill. Meals from RM4.
- Aun Kheng Lim, 24 Jalan Theatre, ☎ . 11AM-10PM. The place for local speciality salt baked chicken. Whole chicken, RM16.
- Restoran Li Heng Fatt, 14 Jalan Panglima. 11AM-10PM. Known for their "Hor Hee," a fishball noodle soup dish. RM3-4.
- Funny Mountain Soybean and Traditional Tau Fu Fah, 49 Jalan Theatre. 10:30AM onwards. A little stall that serves creamy soy milk and silky soybean curd, "Tau Fu Fah." They will serve you curbside, so you don't even have to get out of your car. They usually run out by about 2PM. About RM1 for either product.
- Choy Kee Confectionary & Bakery, Kampung Simee & 218 Lebuh 3, Kampung Simee. 5AM onwards. Chinese breakfast pastries like prawn fritters, pork buns. They are best known for their custard egg tarts. Operates from a stall in the market from 5AM-11AM, after which, they operate from their bakery at Lebuh 3. About RM1 each.
- Dai Shu Geok (Big Tree Foot), 652 Jalan King, Pasir Pinji, ☎ . 8:30AM-5:30PM. Sells a variety of noodles accompanied by a large selection of "Yong Tau Foo," vegetables stuffed with fish paste. The stall is set up underneath the shade of a few big trees. RM3-RM5.
- Nam Chau Coffee Shop, 54 Jalan Bandar Timah. 7AM-3PM, Closed on Saturdays. Known for their curry noodles topped with roast pork, chicken and prawns. Also, their "white coffee" is among the best. RM5-RM7.
- Medan Aneka Selera/Gourmet Square (Tung Koo Thing), Lengkok Canning (Next to Woolley Food Court). Dinners only. Variety is the name of the game here. A giant food court with hawkers selling just about every local fare imaginable as well as local renditions of Japanese, Thai and Western fare. One of the attractions is a stall selling exotic Chinese seafood. RM4 upwards.
- Woolley Food City, Lengkok Canning, Ipoh Garden (Next to Medan Aneka Selera). Lunch Only. A food court selling a variety of local dishes as well as some localized versions of Japanese, Vietnamese, Western and Thai cuisine RM4 upwards.
- Nam Heong Coffee Shop, 2 Jalan Bandar Timah. This Chinese coffee shop is the original home of the famous "Ipoh White Coffee," Also serves egg tarts, fried rice noodles and other local eats. Meals from RM3.
- Sin Yoon Loong Coffee Shop, 1 Jalan Bandar Timah. Located across the street from Nam Heong Coffee Shop, they are rivals in the "White Coffee" business. A favored breakfast location among locals, they also serve good "kaya cakes," sponge cakes with coconut jam. Meals from RM3.
- MichelangelO'S Pizzeria, 40, Jalan Medan Ipoh 1B, Medan Ipoh Bistari. Opened by an American, this place serves authentic American style pizzas in a lively environment. RM25 upwards a pie.
- Restoran Samy, 70, Jalan Besar, Chemor. South Indian style banana leaf rice, the choices of curry are aplenty. Besides the typical chicken, fish, prawn, squid and mutton curries, they also serve crab, shark and seasonally, turkey curry as well. RM10-RM25.
- Kalai Curry House, 38, Jalan Sultan Yussuf. Located in the heart of Little India, serves up Southern Indian fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Great Indian breads and banana leaf rice RM3-RM25.
Ipoh is known to serve up some of the country's best Dim Sum. Jalan Leong Sin Nam has been coined "Dim Sim" street because of the concentration of popular dim sum outlets there.
- Foh San Restaurant, 51 Jalan Leong Sin Nam, ☎ . 6AM -1PM. Most well established dim sum restaurant in the city. Tourist flock here by the bus loads (literally). RM3-4 per plate.
- Ming Court Restaurant, 32 Jalan Leong Sin Nam, ☎ . 6AM-12PM. Many locals will argue that the dim sum here is superior to more well known Foh San. RM3-4 per plate.
- Restoran Yoke Fook Moon, 67-69 Jalan Leong Sin Nam, ☎ . 6AM-10AM, 6.30PM-11PM. The lesser known Dim Sum restaurant on "Dim Sum" street, one can generally avoid the crowds here. Portions are slightly bigger and unlike Foh San and Ming Court, this place is open for dinner too. RM3-4 per plate.
Chicken and Bean Sprouts
- Lou Wong Restaurant, 49 Jalan Yau Tet Shin, ☎ . 10.30AM-2.30AM. Proudly claims to be Ipoh's most famous purveyor of the local speciality chicken and beansprouts. about RM10 per person.
- Onn Kee Restaurant, 51 Jalan Yau Tet Shin (Next to Lou Wong Restaurant), ☎ . 1PM-3AM. Rivalling its neighbour's claims to the best chicken and beansprouts in town, Onn Kee is also worth a visit so you can decide for yourself. about RM10 per person.
- Cowan Street Ayam Tauge & Koitiau, 44 Jalan Raja Ekram, ☎ . 7PM onwards, closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Less famous than Lou Wong and Onn Kee but popular among locals. from about RM10 per person.
- Citrus Wine & Dine, No. 38-46 Laluan Ipoh Perdana, ☎ . Tues-Sun:11:30AM-3PM, 6:30PM-11PM. Closed on Monday. Modern Euro-Asia Cuisine. RM30-RM300.
- Indulgence Restaurant and Living, 14, Jalan Raja Dihilir, ☎ . Serves European inspired meals all day. Opened by nationally renowned chef Julie Song, what was once a quaint cafe has now expanded to a Western fine dining experience few can rival. RM40 per person upwards.
- Friend's Cafe Ipoh, 28-30 Jalan Medan Baru Ipoh 4 (Bandar Baru Medan), ☎ . 7.00pm - 12.00am. Serves Italian inspired meals all day. RM17++ per person and up.
Ipoh does not have a large night scene; however, there is a large concentration of pubs and bars at Bandar Baru Medan (behind the Kinta City Shopping Center) and at the Greentown Business Centre. Rum Jungle at Sunway Ipoh is another new night spot with live band performances that could be checked out.
Ipoh white coffee was invented here: to reduce the bitterness of coffee roasted in the European style without adding sugar (as during the roasting of Kopi-O), beans are roasted with palm-oil margarine, the result is a mild tasting kiddies' version of what westerners would call real coffee. A few genuine Chinese coffee shops that sell Ipoh white coffee are located opposite the Kinta Heights flats in the old town.
- Miners' Arms Bistro, 8-10 Jalan Dato Maharajalela (In the commercial part of the old town), ☎ . Mock Tudor pub complete with wonky stained wooden beams and correctly placed apostrophe. The convivial clientele is entirely ethnic Chinese but the inevitable karaoke is kept at a civilized volume.
- Old Town White Coffee, 3 Jalan Tun Sambathan (on the Padang, opposite the Tourist Information Office), ☎ . 9AM-12.30AM. Chain of coffee shops selling Ipoh's very own white coffee in comfortable surroundings. Reasonably priced but uninspiring snacks. A rarity in Ipoh but standard in all branches is free WiFi. Coffee RM3.50.
- Also has a 24hr branch at 248 Jalan Raja Dr Shah (+60 5 3126950), which is within walking distance of the Medan Gopeng Bus Station and the Sam Poh Tong cave temples.
- Restaurant Nam Heong, 2 Jalan Bandar Timah. 6AM-6PM. Chinese restaurant also notable as one of the long running places selling Ipoh white coffee.
Hotels in Ipoh tend to be tidily kept yet long faded establishments, but the new energy in the city has sprung up a lot more choices. Bigger hotels will be found in Ipoh New Town, Greentown and also near the theme park in Tambun, while boutique hotels have set up shop in Old Town or big colonial bungalows. There is a cluster of budget hotels around Jalan Ali Pitchay in the new town area just off Jalan Sultan Iskandar.
- Abby By The River, 55-57 Jln Sultan Iskandar, ☎ . Right next to the bridge on the Kinta River and can be spotted by its brightly coloured facade. A little bare, but rooms are fairly new and serviceable. Free Wi-Fi. Dorms from RM30, rooms from RM90.
- Bed & Bike Backpackers Studio, 2A Jln Sultan Yusuff. A small charming hostel on the first floor of a shophouse, with dedicated service from its owners and temporary hosts taking a break from travelling. There's free Wi-Fi and bicycles to use. Dorms from RM30.
- D Eastern Hotel, 118 Jln Sultan Idris Shah, ☎ . Refurbished rooms are basic albeit spacious. Traffic can get pretty noisy from the main road since the soundproofing isn't great. Includes parking space. Rooms from RM100.
- Grand Park Hotel, 19 Jln Bendahara (Opposite Sri Maju bus station), ☎ . A centrally located, nostalgic Chinese family mansion. Original Chinese decor is reflected in the connecting upstairs patio, the foyer and the large upstairs double rooms to the front of the building. Converted to a hotel in the 1950s, it also had a restaurant in the 60s and 70s. Rooms from RM50.
- Hotel Fair Park Ipoh, 85 Jln Kamaruddin Isa, ☎ . Conveniently located 5 minutes from Ipoh's city centre and conveniently located close to major sporting and government facilities like the Ipoh Stadium and Indera Mulia Indoor Stadium. Rates from RM99.
- Hotel Ipoh City, 18 Jln Dass (off Jln Horley). Close to the colonial buildings of Ipoh Old Town. Furniture is old but rooms and bathrooms are clean. Breakfast can be had in the hotel's Chinese restaurant. Rooms from RM90.
- Paradise Hotel, 29-A & 29-B Jln Ali Pitchay Isa, ☎ . , Clean, comfortable, and basic. High ceilings and lots of windows make it an attractive option. The shared bathroom for the cheaper rooms has a squat toilet. Hand basin as standard in all rooms. No Wi-Fi. A/C RM42. Fan RM39..
- YMCA Ipoh, 211 Jln Raja Musa Aziz (beside D.R. Park), ☎ . Has two dormitories, one with ten beds and another with five, as well as smaller private rooms. Air-con not guaranteed. There's a small cafeteria with not many choices nearby, since it's a little out of the way from town. Dorms from RM20, rooms from RM50.
- Hotel Excelsior, 43 Jln Sultan Abdul Jalil, ☎ , fax: +60 5-253 6912. Recently renovated, the rooms and furniture are all new. Rooms are not very soundproof. Stay at the high floors for the best views. The Oversea restaurant is opposite. RM150-300.
- M Boutique Hotel, 2 Hala Datuk 5, ☎ . The urban vintage style this boutique hotel has been decorated with gives a fun, modern vibe. Standard rooms are small, but the smart arrangements and little extras including afternoon snacks make up for that. There's a self-service laundry area, a fitness room, and an inhouse shop selling items that match the hotel's style. For food, guests can choose between the adjacent Oldtown Whitecoffee Grand for Asian, or the continental hotel restaurant. Opened in 2013. RM170 and up.
- MH Hotels Ipoh, PT 21 2695B Jln Medan Ipoh 1A, ☎ , , fax: +60 5 545 9300. The hotel has concept theme floors and spacious deluxe rooms and suites. It has privileged check-ins and also a special floor for ladies. For extra entertainment, there's a rooftop bar. RM180-300.
- Regalodge Hotel Ipoh, 131 Jln Raja Ekram (Located behind General Hospital and beside UOB Bank), ☎ , fax: +60 5 241 1555, e-mail: email@example.com. Provides free mineral water, soft drinks and instant cup noodles in their rooms. Also houses a foot reflexology centre and a fairly good fine dining restaurant called The Limestone's. The area gets a little dark at night. RM150-350.
- Ritz Garden, 86 & 88 Jln Yang Kalsom (easily recognized as the building with the pyramid-shape roof), ☎ , fax: +60 5-242 1166. Deluxe and standard rooms are old and not in the best of condition. Ask for the newer rooms which start from RM210 nett. Has a private cinema, gym, swimming pool, computer / reading room, billiard table for all staying guests - no extra charge. There's a decent Indian restaurant just beside selling good fried chicken. Free Wi-Fi in its public areas as well as guest rooms. From RM150.
- Sekeping Kong Heng, 75 Jln Panglima, ☎ , fax: +60 5 253 3335. Restored bunch of heritage shophouses that is now home to a boutique hotel. The design is historically and architecturally interesting, leaning on the rustic side. Rooms aren't terribly private, with a fairly open air design that carries sound, especially early in the morning when the nearby coffeeshops start preparing for the day. RM170++.
- Syeun Hotel, 88 Jln Sultan Abdul Jalil, ☎ , fax: +60 5 253 3335. An imposing looking hotel opposite Ipoh Parade shopping mall, the interior retains its grandness but is pretty much showing its age. Ask for a room with city views as the ones with no windows are worse off. RM190-420.
- The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat, 1 Persiaran Lagun Sunway 3, Sunway Ipoh. This five star wellness and spa resort has 25 luxury villas and is located in a 56-acre valley that is surrounded by a cluster of towering limestone hills with natural caves, waterfalls and geothermal hot springs, all unblemished by time. RM1000-1500.
- Happy 8 Retreat @ Old Town, 46 Market Street, ☎ . A terrace corner house converted into a boutique hotel, with the size and lighting that entails although the rooms are all very unique. Breakfast is included. Has a pricey relaxing café decorated with lots of wood and nature elements. They have a few other suburban properties, none as convenient. RM220-400.
- Indulgence Living, 14 Jalan Raja Dihilir, ☎ . A boutique hotel with 3 designer suites and 4 themed rooms. The airy colonial bungalow lends an opulent yet homey atmosphere. Guests can kick back and mingle in a lounge; no kids above 3 allowed. Located above the fine dining Indulgence Restaurant, breakfast is complimentary and a tray of light bites is provided to guests free of charge. RM420 and upwards.
- Lost World Hotel, 2 Persiaran Lagun Sunway 1, Sunway Ipoh, ☎ . Located just a stone's throw away from The Lost World of Tambun theme park, this hotel is convenient for any traveller who plans to spend time visiting the attractions within the vicinity of the park. A night's stay includes breakfast and access to the famous Tambun Hot Springs Spa. RM280 and up.
- WEIL Hotel, 292 Jln Sultan Idris Shah, ☎ . Room design is modern, stylish and clean. The rooftop swimming pool is a big draw, and there's a bar too, with welcome drinks on check-in. The hotel is also connected to Ipoh Parade shopping mall. Lifts are a little small and slow. Weekends get pretty busy. RM250 and up.
Ipoh is in general a very safe city, certainly by international standards. However, there are some irritants like beggars, especially at bus terminals. It is better not to attract any unwanted attention by giving money to the beggars as most of them are professional beggars operated by syndicates.
Perhaps not so much a safety thing per se, but at the Central Market in New Town, particularly if you are an orang putih (white person), don't let the traders rip you off (which they are likely to do, if you let them). If the prices are signed clearly, hold them to it! Furthermore, Ipoh is probably not as tourist-friendly as some publications make it out to be.
The city centre is relatively safe, but again, pickpockets do work in the stations. If you are carrying a bag make sure that it's secured (all zipped up). If you have a wallet in your pocket keep a hand near it while exiting the buses. It is not advisable to leave your handbag dangling on your shoulder while walking next to main roads, as motorcycle snatch thefts do happen.
- President Pro DC - 4 Jalan Yang Kalsom (Near the budget hotels on Jalan Ali Pitchay) +60 5 2557477 Laundry and dry cleaning. Same day wash and fold RM3 per kilo, minimum RM6.
- Cameron Highlands is Peninsular Malaysia's most famous highland destination, known for its vegetable, strawberry and tea farms as well as its cool weather and beautiful scenery. There is a toll-free road to Cameron Highland close to the Simpang Pulai Exit off the North South Expressway. The journey up is just about an hour long.
- Taiping is about 1 hour North on the North South Expressway. Some of the most scenic views of mountain ranges and rain forests can be captured on the stretch of highway between Ipoh and Taiping. Taiping town is one of the oldest and most historic in the country.
- Bukit Merah, a family eco-tourist destination by a lake. Home to the largest water theme park in Northern Peninsular Malaysia and the only Orang Utan Island in the country.
- Penang is a 2 hour bus ride or drive away. The island is a UNESCO World Heritage site with some good beaches and great Malaysian food.
- Kuala Lumpur, the nation's capital is just a two-hour drive by car or a three-hour journey by bus or train.
- Pulau Banding is an island in the middle of the huge man-made Temenggor Lake, 3 hours' drive along federal road 4 leading to Kelantan. A quiet hideout with a hotel resort.
- Pangkor is a 2 hour drive and ferry ride away. It is a quiet fishing village island with many beautiful beaches. This less well known island is significantly quieter than other more popular islands in Malaysia but still provides a wide selection of accommodation for backpackers and budget travelers as well five star hotels and world class resorts for those with money.
- Singapore, the island city state is just an hour away by plane, somewhat longer by bus or train but with convenient overnight timings.