Ipoh: The Friendliest City in Malaysia

A huge clap of thunder. And then the rain… It was my first day in the city of Ipoh, Malaysia and I had decided to take a walk into town. Queue an unexpected thunderstorm. Murphy’s Law dictated that no taxi was in sight.

So there I was, standing under a tin awning outside of a mechanic’s shop when the owner beckoned me inside to wait out the storm.

His daughter—she was about four or five—was doing her homework in the corner and kept looking at me curiously. I think my white face was one of the few she had seen up close and personal. In broken but understandable English—English is not as widespread here as in other parts of Malaysia but you will get by—the mechanic asked me where I was from and why I was in Ipoh. He relayed all this information to his shy and curious daughter.

Ipoh is the capital city of Perak state, in the north of the country. A traditional mining town, it grew rapidly in the 1920s and 30s but today it is more of a holiday destination for locals and expats coming from Penang and other parts of Malaysia.

I was there to explore for International Living Australia and to take a little break. After travelling for almost two weeks solid I wanted some place easy and relaxing. And Ipoh is the perfect place.

My comfortable two-hour bus ride from Penang, had cost just MYR25 ($8.40).

The old town is west of Kinta River. It’s vibrant with lots of shop houses centred around Leech Street. It is here that you’ll find the “Taj Mahal of Ipoh”—as the railway station is called. It was built in 1917 to the “British Raj Moghul” style and the Moorish domes and turrets led to it being likened to the famous Indian mausoleum. Getting lost in the old town, among the old town’s laneways amid colourful street art, is a great way to spend some time.

The New Town is east of Kinta River and was developed in 1908. Here you will find numerous shops, shopping centres and hotels. Located right beside the colonial style Hugh Low Bridge—which connected the two sides of town—is the beautiful Kinta Riverfront Park with a children’s playground, fountains, arches topped with mosque-like domes and plenty of shaded areas to escape the heat. I visited here quite late in the evening so there weren’t many people around but it really is a relaxing place to spend time.

In the Old Town Grand Café right next door to my hotel I got a barbecued noodle dish which consisted of bok choy, noodles, soy sauce, fish sauce, barbecue chicken, minced chicken and three wantons. I also got a water and an iced chocolate which brought the grand total to $7.85.

But the best thing about Ipoh? The people are the friendliest…

After 20 minutes with my new friends, the mechanic and his daughter, and no end in sight to the rain, he started closing up shop. I thanked him for his generosity and apologised for taking up so much of his time. But this gracious fellow even insisted on taking me back to my hotel. He brought around his car, we loaded up daughter’s school bag and off we went. Within five minutes I was back in the comfort of my spacious and modern room…just $57 a night.

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