My Ipoh itinerary covers Ipoh’s best attractions, the top things to do in Ipoh including street art, architecture and hawker food – plus how to get from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh.
Occasionally when I travel, I have a sensation that’s closer to experiencing a moment in time and less like visiting a physical destination.
Sight, smell, taste, sound and touch plus something else—a vibe, I suppose—combine to make a place feel all-encompassing. I become completely immersed. It’s like plunging into a different epoch rather than just ‘arriving’ at a new point on the map.
Ipoh is one of those places.
Also read: 30 best places to visit in Malaysia.
The biggest city in Peninsular Malaysia’s central Perak state, Ipoh is one of the country’s best-girded secrets. Sultans, Brits, tin miners, tea barons, Chinese merchants, street artists and entrepreneurs have all left their mark on Ipoh.
The city perfectly captures the multiculturalism and visible strata of history and custom that I so love about Malaysia, with an undercurrent of nostalgia and effortless old-school cool.
Walking the colourful streets of Ipoh’s New Town.
I spent a week wandering Ipoh’s streets, slinking in and out of cafes, sipping on white coffee and eating egg tarts. It was one of my top travel experiences of the year. This 3 days 2 nights Ipoh itinerary and Ipoh travel blog brings together everything I enjoyed most about the city, with a strong focus on food, architecture, culture and street art.
I’ve also included some practical travel tips to help you make the most of your visit to Ipoh.
Please note: This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may earn a commission if you make a purchase by clicking a link (at no extra cost to you). Learn more.
Why visit Ipoh?
I’ve had my sights set on Ipoh ever since Lonely Planet named it one of their top picks in Asia for 2017. Having spent a week there, I can confirm that Ipoh really holds its own as a destination for foodies and art connoisseurs.
Ipoh is often compared to George Town (Penang); both have street art, culture, hawker markets, and cute architecture. In my experience, Ipoh is much quieter and far less touristy than Penang (in terms of foreign visitors at least), which only adds to its appeal.
Simple scenes like this are why I love Ipoh.
More than that, there’s something totally unique about Ipoh that I’m yet to find anywhere else in Malaysia. When I shared a photo gallery from Ipoh, one of my readers, who was born and raised in Malaysia, described it as ‘The KL of yesteryear’.
Ipoh has a wonderful retro vibe and a close-knit community feel. It feels more like a big country town than a city.
Top things to do in Ipoh: Ipoh itinerary highlights
Many people consider Ipoh Malaysia’s culinary capital. Like every city on the peninsula, Ipoh has hundreds of restaurants.
At night, vast hawker food markets take over the streets and alleyways. There are a few notable specialty dishes that were dreamed up in Ipoh kitchens and that you can’t find anywhere else in Malaysia. Must-eats include Hakka mee, Chee cheong fun, Kai se hor fun, and Ipoh laksa. Keeping reading for more recommendations of what to eat in Ipoh.
Another claim to fame: Ipoh is the birthplace of Malaysia’s famous white coffee, which is served in retro cafes throughout the city.
Food & drink is a highlight of any trip to Ipoh.
There are a few historic laneways in Ipoh Old Town that have been transformed into street art and culture precincts.
Concubine Lane is far and away the most popular. Ipoh’s lanes are the perfect place to wander, people watch, and cafe-hop an afternoon away.
Ipoh street art
Penang might be Malaysia’s street art capital—but did you know that Ipoh has a collection of murals by the same artist? Truthfully, I prefer the street art in Ipoh! For starters, you don’t have to queue to get a look in.
Ernest Zacharevic’s work spurred on a local street art scene, and now Ipoh is decorated with dozens of colourful murals done by local artists.
One of my favourite street art murals in Ipoh.
I love Malaysian architecture, especially Chinese shophouses with their five-foot ways and pretty shutters and tiles.
Ipoh mixes heritage shophouses and British Colonial architecture with modernist concrete monstrosities. If you’re a fan of the Malaysian city aesthetic, you’ll love Ipoh.
Every shopfront in Ipoh is colourful.
Ipoh cave temples
There are some truly magnificent temples nestled in the jungle and built into limestone rock formations on Ipoh’s outskirts. Sam Poh Tong, Kek Lok Tong and Perak Cave Temple are three of the most prominent.
When you need a break from the city, Perak’s lush landscapes are only a short drive away.
Ipoh travel essentials
How long to spend in Ipoh?
While it’s possible to visit Ipoh as a day trip from Kuala Lumpur or Penang, I highly recommend staying for at least a few days.
We spent a full week in Ipoh and didn’t run out of things to do. 3 days and 2 nights is a good amount of time to spend in Ipoh if you’re a first-time visitor.
How to get to Ipoh
Finally, Ipoh’s location roughly halfway between KL and Penang means it’s perfectly positioned for a stopover and easy to incorporate into any Malaysia itinerary.
It’s possible to get to Ipoh in a few hours from Kuala Lumpur by car, train or bus, or to travel from George Town or the nearby Cameron Highlands.
Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh train
There are regular daily trains between Kuala Lumpur’s Sentral Station and Ipoh, starting at 8.30am and running until late. This was our preferred method of travel when we visited Ipoh. The journey is fairly unremarkable, but it must be said that Malaysian trains are a very comfortable way to travel!
And for under 10 USD per person, it’s also very affordable. The trip by train from KL to Ipoh takes around 2.5 to 3 hours.
View the latest train timetable and book your train tickets online here through 12GoAsia.
Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh bus
If you prefer to travel from KL to Ipoh by bus, there are a number of companies that make this journey. Express coaches depart from TBS Kuala Lumpur (centrally located in Bandar Tasek Selatan) or the airport and terminate at one of three bus depots in the Ipoh area.
Look for a bus that will take you to either Jalan Bendahara or Aman Jaya—both are not too far from the centre. You’ll need to take a taxi for the final part of the journey into town.
There’s no arguing with the price—a bus ticket will set you back as little as 5 USD per person. The bus from KL to Ipoh takes a little over 3 hours.
View the latest bus timetable and book your bus tickets online here through Bookaway.
Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh by private car
If you’re short on time or you just prefer to travel comfortably, a private transfer by air conditioned car (or minivan for large families and groups) is the fastest and easiest way to get from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh.
GP Global’s door-to-door service includes pick up from your KL hotel – and you can make as many rest stops as you like along the way.
Check prices and availability for private transfers here on Bookaway.
George Town (Penang) to Ipoh
It’s also possible to travel to Ipoh from Penang. The only option here is to travel by bus—but take heart, because the journey is slightly shorter (a mere 2.5 hours on the road).
A number of different companies run express buses throughout the day and drop passengers off at Aman Jaya station in Ipoh. A ticket for this service will set you back approximately 5-11 USD.
View the latest bus timetable and book your Penang to Ipoh tickets online here through Bookaway.
Cameron Highlands to Ipoh
There are six daily buses connecting Tanah Rata (the closest town to Cameron Highlands) with Ipoh. The journey takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes, and tickets cost 5 USD per person. This service also terminates at Ipoh’s Aman Jaya station.
View the latest bus timetable and book your Cameron Highlands to Ipoh tickets online here through Bookaway.
Can you visit Ipoh on a day trip?
It’s possible to visit Ipoh in a day from Kuala Lumpur, Cameron Highlands, or even Penang. If you have your own rental car, you can drive yourself to Ipoh and spend a day exploring.
If you don’t have a car, I recommend joining an organised day trip that includes transfers. If you try to visit Ipoh in a day using the train or bus, you’ll run out of time.
This private full-day trip from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh covers all the highlights and is incredibly good value for money.
Ipoh is full of retro hotels like this one.
Where to stay in Ipoh
For a city of its size, Ipoh has a great range of accommodation options in both the Old Town and New Town. As you’ll see, Ipoh is fairly walkable, so it doesn’t really matter which side of the river you choose to stay on.
Generally speaking, the new part of town is where you’ll find contemporary hotels and hostels, while the Old Town is home to Ipoh’s heritage inns and boutique accommodations. If you want to be right in the thick of it, I recommend choosing a hotel in the Old Town.
Budget accommodation in Ipoh
Beds in Garden Hostel | Newly opened in 2018, this is probably the best hostel option in Ipoh. Beds start from 14 USD/night. Check availability and rates on Agoda.
Mid-range hotels in Ipoh
French Hotel | Located in the New Town, this hotel is simple but clean with excellent air-con (so important!) and an on-site cafe. Doubles start from 32 USD/night. Check availability and rates on Agoda.
Ban Loong Hotel | Heritage accommodation in a restored Old Town shophouse. Rooms are modern and sparse; some have loft spaces. Doubles start from 40 USD/night. Check availability and rates on Agoda.
Boutique hotels in Ipoh
27 Concubine Lane | Another heritage hotel, this time located right on Ipoh’s Concubine Lane. Brace yourself for crowds and possible noise pollution. Private rooms with a shared bathroom start from 30 USD/night. Check availability and rates on Agoda.
Sarang Paloh Heritage Stay | An exquisite heritage building situated at the quieter end of Ipoh’s Old Town. Rooms are clean and modern, and the indoor-outdoor common spaces feature original floor tiles and loads of greenery. Doubles start from 65 USD/night. Check availability and rates on Agoda.
Sekeping Kong Heng | An uber-trendy warehouse conversion right in the heart of Ipoh Old Town. Some rooms feature sleeping lofts, and there are beautiful shared terraces that open out onto the treetops. Because of the location, it can get noisy (there are cafes and bars directly downstairs and next door), and the chic design isn’t kid-friendly nor accessible. The simplest single rooms start from 20 USD/night. More information and rates here.
Need more Ipoh inspiration? Check out my Ipoh street photography.
Orientation & getting around
Ipoh is split into two by the Kinta River. The west side of the city, the aptly named Old Town, is where you’ll find most of Ipoh’s shophouses, heritage buildings and museums.
The eastern side of the city, the New Town, was developed at the turn of the century. It’s the more ‘livable’ side of town, with parks, gardens, and most of the city’s best restaurants and hawker markets. The New Town area is less atmospheric but has an interesting mishmash of architecture.
I highly recommend taking the time to explore both sides of Ipoh. This Ipoh 3 days 2 nights itinerary includes the Old Town and the New Town.
Ipoh is pretty compact and generally walkable. It does get extremely hot though—and there isn’t a whole lot of shade—so it’s a good idea to avoid walking in the middle of the day. We caught one taxi during our week-long stay, and that was on a particularly blazing day.
Ipoh’s red and yellow metred taxis are generally reliable and can take you across town for a couple of dollars. Uber and Grab, Malaysia’s homegrown rideshare service, are both available in Ipoh as well.
Welcome to Ipoh!
Things to do in Ipoh: 72 hour Ipoh itinerary
72 hours is a good amount of time to spend in Ipoh if you want to see the main sights and sample the best Ipoh food.
Here’s a quick overview of my recommended 3 days 2 nights Ipoh itinerary:
Day 1: Heritage Ipoh
Breakfast at a traditional coffee shop
The Ipoh Heritage Trail
Self-guided tour of Ipoh’s best street art
White coffee & egg tarts
Ipoh’s house museums
Kong Heng Square
Explore Ipoh’s laneways
Beansprout chicken & snow beer
Gerbang Malam night market
Day 2: New Ipoh
Dim sum for breakfast
Ipoh Flea Market
Mural Art’s Lane
Panglima Kinta Mosque
New Town architecture
Tong Sui Kai Hawker Centre
Cocktails at Tiga Bar
Day 3: Beyond the city
Ipoh Cave Temples
Ipoh itinerary Day 1: Heritage Ipoh (the Old Town)
Breakfast at a traditional coffee shop
At the time of my visit, I remember commenting that Ipoh makes me nostalgic for a childhood I never had. There’s just something about Malay coffee shops (kopitiam) that’s so sentimental.
Maybe it’s the ambiance, or the fact that service staff tend to be older and approach their work with extreme diligence. Or it might be the fact that they serve iced Milo (I actually did drink Milo all throughout my childhood).
I love the addition of crackers on the side of every saccharine cup of white tea. Thick white toast with Kaya butter (coconut jam), which tastes a bit like vanilla or pandan, feels like something your mum would make for you when you were feeling under the weather.
A typical coffee shop in Ipoh.
My favourite old-school Ipoh coffee shops:
- Lim Ko Pi ⚑ This no-frills eatery embodies everything that’s great about a traditional Malay coffee shop. You can’t go wrong with a cup of sweet tea with crackers on the side (pictured above). The noodle dishes and dim sum are also tasty.
- 22 Hale Street ⚑ This cute cafe doubles as a heritage museum and souvenir shop. Their rendition of Kaya Toast (pictured above; note the Jenga tower of butter!) was the best we had in Ipoh. Don’t leave without visiting the restroom—the decoration is really something!
Walk the Ipoh Heritage Trail
As in other Malaysian cities, the British left a legacy of stunning architecture when they exited from Perak in 1957. Ipoh’s colonial buildings have since been overlaid with townhouses, mosques and municipal buildings in a range of architectural styles.
But it’s the well-preserved British colonial buildings and turn-of-the-century townhouses that steal the show.
Highlights include the white-domed Ipoh Railway Station and adjoining Majestic Station Hotel, which I’ve heard described as ‘The Taj Mahal of Ipoh’; the neo-Classical High Court; the 1931-built Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank building; and the Chung Thye Phin building.
Shophouses of note are the Dramatists’ Hotel (as the name suggests, it served to accommodate actors performing at Ipoh’s since-demolished Chinese Theatre); the Mikasa Photo Shop (famously used as a cover for a Japanese spy during WWII); and the Seenivasagam Brothers’ residence and offices, a row of gorgeous pre-war townhouses.
One of the best ways to explore Ipoh Old Town is using the Ipoh Heritage Trail map. Most buildings marked on the route are signposted and feature information plaques out the front. Ipoh’s tourism information office has a reputation for long queues—avoid that by downloading a PDF copy of the map instead.
If you would prefer to explore Old Town Ipoh in depth with a private local guide, this 8-hour itinerary focuses on the city’s Heritage Trail and includes a visit to Kellie’s Castle at the end.
Heritage shophouses in Ipoh, Malaysia.
Track down Ernest Zacharevic’s Ipoh murals
When Lithuanian street artist Ernest Zacharevic left his mark on Penang, he contributed in no small way to the city’s explosion in popularity. Can you blame Ipoh for wanting a piece of the action?
In 2014, Zacharevic was invited to paint a series of eight murals in Ipoh, each inspired by a different facet of local culture. Only seven remain visible today.
Zacharevic’s Ipoh murals are artfully woven into the Old Town and fit seamlessly with Ipoh’s heritage architecture. They really bring the history of the town to life. All the major murals are marked out on Google Maps and are pretty easy to spot from the street.
Ernest Zacharevic murals in Ipoh:
- Old Uncle Drinking Coffee ⚑ This mural, one of the largest in Ipoh, was commissioned by Oldtown White Coffee. The design on the cup is delightful—exactly like the painted china you still see in Ipoh’s cafes today.
- Kopi Break ⚑ You’ll have to come early if you want to see this large-scale mural without the parked cars in front. Coffee is often consumed this way in Southeast Asia, in small plastic bags that can be tied to the handle of a motorbike and sipped on the go.
- A Single Bag of Coffee The smallest of Zacharevic’s Ipoh murals, A Single Bag of Coffee is just that—a life-sized plastic bag of coffee with a drinking straw painted on a blue and white metal gate.
Old Uncle Drinking Coffee.
- Trishaw ⚑ Located in Market Lane, this 3D mural incorporates a metal trishaw frame mounted to the wall. My favourite Ernest Zacharevic mural in Ipoh.
- A Yellow Hummingbird ⚑ I love the colours in this piece, which really pop against the blue-wash wall where it’s painted.
- A Paper Plane ⚑ This mural depicts two kids riding in a paper plane. It’s painted quite high up on the side of a rather weathered building. The child’s bright yellow shirt is the easiest feature to spot.
- Evolution ⚑ This large-scale, monochrome painting on the northern side of the Han Chin Pet Soo house museum (see below) is an ode to Ipoh’s tin mining history.
Try Ipoh’s famous white coffee & egg tarts
No trip to the Old Town would be complete without a glass of iced white coffee and an egg tart. White coffee, an Ipoh specialty first developed by Chinese tin miners in Perak, is prepared with coffee beans that have been roasted in margarine.
The white colour comes from the copious amounts of condensed milk and creamer added at the end. It’s tooth-loosenly sweet. Pair a glass with a piece of Dan Zhi (toast with a soft-boiled egg) or even better, a Macau-style egg tart—another Ipoh classic.
Where to try Ipoh white coffee:
- Kedai Kopi Sin Yoon Loong ⚑ One of the oldest (if not the oldest) cafes in Ipoh that still serves white coffee the old way. Food stalls along the perimetre offer sweets and lunch meals. Always open, and always crowded.
- Nam Heong White Coffee ⚑ Located directly opposite Sin Yoon Loong, Nam Heong vies for the title of Ipoh’s original white coffee merchant. Try both and decide which one you prefer.
- Oldtown White Coffee ⚑ Malaysia’s biggest white coffee brand, with several branches located across the city.
Learn about local history at a house museum
There are two small house museums in Ipoh Old Town that I think are worth a visit. The first, Han Chin Pet Soo ⚑, explores Perak’s tin mining heritage. The venue started out as the Hakka Miners Clubhouse, founded in 1893 by a miner named Leong Fee.
Once strictly off-limits to non-members, it reopened as a museum fairly recently, and now displays a collection of mining memorabilia and antiques donated by members of the Ipoh community. Entry is free; reserve online in advance.
The nearby Ho Yan Hor Museum ⚑ is dedicated to one of Ipoh’s most famous residents, Dr Ho Kai Cheong. The herb magnate is the man behind one of Malaysia’s most prolific medicinal tea brands, and it all started at this little shophouse in Ipoh.
This museum really stole my heart—the family’s story is quite remarkable, and the museum staff are extremely sweet. Entrance is free (no reservations required).
Kong Heng Square
Ipoh’s hip new creative precinct, Kong Heng Square ⚑, houses a few gift boutiques, a barbershop, and a museum dedicated to local film director Yasmin Ahmad. Plan B, probably the city’s trendiest cafe, is also located inside the industrial-chic complex.
Admittedly I didn’t love the food at Plan B, but the Melbourne-style lattes were fantastic. There are some cool street art pieces and independent shops scattered around as well, making it a nice place for a wander.
A street mural outside Kong Heng Square.
Discover Ipoh’s laneway culture
Back in 1892, a fire destroyed much of Ipoh’s Old Town. As part of the urban renewal project that followed, Ipoh was reconstructed in a more ‘orderly’ fashion, with gridded streets to make navigating easier, and laneways to organise the city’s various trades and merchants.
At the time, Yao Tet Shin, a local mining tycoon and land owner, is said to have gifted a lane to each of his three wives. These would go on to become Ipoh’s three most popular laneways.
Wife Lane (now known as Lorong Hale or 大奶巷), Concubine Lane (now known as Lorong Panglima or 二奶巷) and Second Concubine Lane (now known as Market Lane or 三奶巷) are all lined with townhouses that once served as opium dens and brothels.
Those illicit days are long gone—now, many of the historical facades along the lane have been restored and turned into cafes and shops. Add a few interactive street murals and some hanging lanterns, and you have yourself a picture-perfect laneway.
Concubine Lane ⚑ is by far the most popular laneway in Ipoh. It’s packed to the brim on weekends (verging on unpleasant in the afternoons). The other two lanes are probably awaiting a similar fate; but for now, they’re largely empty so you can still enjoy an unfettered stroll.
While you’re in the area, make sure you pop into BookXcess Kong Heng Ipoh ⚑, a bank turned bookshop where novels are displayed in the old vaults, and the nearby Ipoh Heritage Barber ⚑, a very photogenic men’s salon that channels those old-school Ipoh vibes. Both are walking distance from the western end of Concubine Lane.
Beansprout chicken and ‘snow beer’ in the Old Town
There are a handful of one-dish-specialty restaurants dotted around the western end of Concubine Lane. Try Restoran Tauge Ayam Lou Wong ⚑ for a big plate of Ipoh’s famous chicken with beansprouts, and Kafe Sun Yoon Wah ⚑ for a ‘snow beer’ (literally frozen beer).
If you want to keep the party going, there are a few open-air ‘beer gardens’ located in this area as well (just look out for the blue plastic chairs).
Wander through Gerbang Malam Night Market
If you have time, end your first day in Ipoh with a wander through the lively Gerbang Malam Night Market ⚑, where dozens of small Gerai shops open up every night at 7pm and sell an array of clothing, accessories and knickknacks.
I wouldn’t necessarily do my souvenir shopping here, but it’s worth visiting for the local atmosphere.
Ipoh itinerary Day 2: Contemporary Ipoh (the New Town)
Dim sum for breakfast
Do as many of Ipoh’s families do and start your second day with a breakfast spread at one of the city’s dim sum joints. I’ve never been a huge fan of dim sum, but I absolutely adored eating it in Ipoh. The ordering process can be a bit confusing; if in doubt, grab a seat and watch how other people do it.
Usually a waiter will take your drink order first (I highly recommend starting with a pot of jasmine tea). You’re then free to approach the different counters scattered around the dining room and pick out which bite-sized morsels you want to try.
At Restaurant Foh San (pictured below), there are two counters: One for baskets of steamed goodies, and another for sweets. Other restaurants serve dishes on wheely carts: You simply take a seat and wait for the servers to come to you. Everything gets marked off against a long docket, which you present at the cash counter to pay.
The best thing about dim sum restaurants is that they open bright and early, most by 6am. It’s a perfect way to kick off a big day of sightseeing.
Breakfast at Restaurant Foh San.
Old-school dim sum joints to try in Ipoh:
- Restaurant Foh San ⚑ My favourite dim sum in Ipoh. The food is fantastic (try the tofu, steamed prawn dim sum and sesame balls), and the open-air dining room is very pleasant. Open from 6.30am (closed Tuesdays)
- Restoran Chef Fatt ⚑ More than 50 dim sum on offer, including a nice rendition of
lau sar pau
(salted egg custard buns) made with lotus paste. Open daily from 6am.
- Ming Court Hong Kong Dim Sum ⚑ Right across the road from Restaurant Foh San, this is another popular dim sum venue. Try the black sesame soup and fish balls. Open from 6am (closed Thursdays).
- Greentown Dimsum Cafe ⚑ Located at bit further out near Ipoh Town Square and open later, from 9am. We didn’t make it to this dim sum restaurant, but it gets consistently good reviews. It’s a little cheaper than other dim sum joints, too.
Ipoh Flea Market.
Browse the Ipoh Flea Market (Sundays only)
If you happen to be in Ipoh on a Sunday, you can take a stroll down Memory Lane—literally. On Sunday mornings, this laneway in Ipoh’s New Town hosts a colourful pop-up flea market. Dozens of stalls descend on the area, selling an eclectic range of vintage Malaya memorabilia and British-era goods, including melamine plates, tiffin boxes and old records.
There is also a fair amount of second-hand clothing on offer, as well as a sprinkling of food and drink stalls. See if you can spot the two dads who set up a little sex shop on a single trestle table—pretty hilarious.
You never know what treasures you’ll turn up!
Be dazzled by Mural Art’s Lane
Also in the New Town, Mural Art’s Lane ⚑ is where you’ll find the city’s best contemporary street murals. There are literally dozens and dozens of paintings large and small dotted all throughout this area. It’s a visual feast! Some murals are the work of school or community groups; others can be attributed to local artists and collectives.
All blend in perfectly with the urban environment, conforming to the angles of doorways and window grills, and accommodating the sprigs of green emerging from the cracks in the concrete.
These artworks are more colourful than Ernest Zacharevic’s murals, which is why I personally prefer them. Many reference local festivals and traditions, so you can learn a bit about Ipoh as you go.
One of my favourite murals in Ipoh.
Pop into Panglima Kinta Mosque
Located at the end of Mural Art’s Lane, Panglima Kinta Mosque ⚑ is worth a quick visit. Dating back to 1898, the blue and white mosque was one of the biggest and most impressive in all of Ipoh when it was finished. Visitors are welcome to enter the mosque outside of prayer times.
Eat your way along Ipoh’s dessert strip
For an afternoon pick-me-up, head to Ipoh’s unofficial sweets strip. Some of the city’s best bakeries, cookie shops and sit-down dessert bars are spread across several blocks in the New Town area.
Start with an ice cream sandwich at Hokkaido Ice Cream Puff ⚑ before sampling some of Perak’s famous pastries at Chin Han Guan Biscuits ⚑ and Guan Heong Biscuit Shop ⚑ (takeaway available). An egg tart or two from Hong Kee Egg Tart ⚑ is also a must.
Check out the New Town’s eclectic architecture
If the Old Town is a well-curated landscape of heritage buildings, Ipoh’s New Town is a total hodgepodge of past and present. As someone who loves concrete, Brutalism and abandoned buildings, I’m a big fan of this style.
Aside from the 1950s theatres (such as the Ruby, pictured below) and a bevvy of dilapidated hotels, offices and banks, you’ll also see some incredible (and original) terrazzo floor mosaics, hand-painted shop signs and the like.
Ipoh has some lovely arched five-foot ways and forsaken buildings that nature has reclaimed. I spent several afternoons wandering around this part of Ipoh with my camera. It might not encapsulate everyone’s idea of beauty—but it’s a street photograph’s dream for sure.
Dinner at Tong Sui Kai Hawker Centre
Dinner at a traditional Malaysian food market is a must for any Ipoh itinerary. Ipoh’s best hawker centres are all in the New Town. Tong Sui Kai ⚑ (open from 6pm daily) is my pick of the bunch.
If you’re not familiar with the concept, a hawker centre (essentially a night food market) is comprised of many separate stalls, each specialising in one or two dishes which are cooked fresh to order.
The idea is to grab a table and rove the aisles, collecting as many plates as you can stomach (or carry) to piece together your own dinner spread.
Hawker markets are the perfect place to try all of Ipoh’s culinary delights.
Nasi Kandar, Ipoh Laksa (pictured above) and Ayam Garam (salted chicken) are among the Ipoh specialty dishes you should look out for.
For dessert, try a bowl of Ais Kacang (a mountain of shaved ice topped with fruit, coconut milk, syrup, and other goodies), or pop around the corner to Funny Mountain Soya Beancurd ⚑ (open until 7.30pm) for a bowl of Tau Fu Fah (soy custard pudding).
Cocktails at Tiga Bar
Top off your second day with a drink at Ipoh’s coolest cocktail bar. Tucked away in a heritage building on Market Lane, Tiga Bar ⚑ serves imaginative drinks, many of them themed around Ipoh’s heritage and local ingredients. The Dr. Ho Remedy made with cognac infused with Ho Yan Hor tea is a must-try!
Ipoh itinerary Day 3: Temples, caves & lakes
Once you’ve had your fill of city activities, travel just 5km south-east of the city centre to discover Gunung Rapat, home to Ipoh’s best natural attractions.
You can comfortably fill a whole day exploring this area using taxis or rented bicycles to get around.
One of Ipoh’s many gorgeous cave temples.
Ipoh’s Taoist temples
If you’ve been to Vietnam, Gunung Rapat will remind you of Ninh Binh or Halong Bay. The otherwordly landscape is made up of pockets of jungle, rock formations and shimmering waterways (except in Ipoh, you’ll find lakes instead of rice fields).
This area is known for its spectacular Taoist and Buddhist temples, nestled in caves or clinging to the sides of limestone karsts. Don’t miss Sam Poh Tong (Three Buddhas Cave), the oldest cave temple in the area and the largest of its kind in Malaysia (yes, it’s bigger than the Batu Caves Murugan Temple!). Beautiful views of Gunung Rapat can be found from the temple entrance, reached via 240-steps.
Perak Tong Cave Temple is another Ipoh cave temple you should visit. Behind the temple you can access a walking path that leads you to the top of a limestone formation for amazing views of the landscape.
Nearby, Nam Thean Tong Temple and Ling Sen Tong Temple are also worth seeing. A little further south, you’ll find the Buddhist temple at Guanyin Cave and further east, the incredible Kek Lok Tong Buddhist Temple.
Tasik Cermin (Mirror Lake)
Popular with locals, Tasik Cermin (Mirror Lake) is part of a network of waterways around Gunung Rapat. There are viewing platforms and restaurants nearby.
You can also do short walks or bike rides around the lake and up to Qing Xin Ling Leisure & Cultural Village, another popular tourist attraction in the area.
We didn’t get to go to Mirror Lake when we were in Ipoh, but Daphne’s guide includes everything you need to plan a visit.
Kaya puffs – another treat to eat in Ipoh.
Where to eat in Ipoh: More Ipoh restaurants to try
- Funny Mountain Soya Beancurd – for Ipoh tau fu far
- Deen CT Corner Cendol – for Malaysian cendol and other desserts
- Lou Wong’s – for delicious chicken and rice
- Yum Yum Restaurant – for authentic Nyonya food
- Sri Anandha Bahavan – for authentic Indian cuisine
More time? Here are the best day trips from Ipoh
If you have more time left on your Ipoh itinerary, try one of these day trips.
Ipoh to Cameron Highlands
If you have a day in Ipoh to spare, take the opportunity to visit Cameron Highlands. Spend a full day hopping between tea plantations, picking strawberries, or even hiking in the nearby rainforest.
The easiest way to travel between Ipoh and Cameron Highlands is by bus. The first bus from Ipoh to Tanah Rata (the closest town to the tea fields) departs Ipoh at 8am and arrives in Cameron Highlands at 10.45am. The last return bus departs Tanah Rata at 6pm.
Note that Cameron Highlands can get very busy on weekends with day trippers from KL, so it’s best to visit on a weekday if possible. I also recommend pre-booking your transportation from Ipoh to avoid disappointment.
Click here to view the bus timetable and reserve tickets online through Bookaway.
Ipoh to Kuala Kangsar
Kuala Kangsar, Perak’s royal town, is an easy half-day trip from Ipoh. It boasts a beautiful mosque (the Ubudiah Mosque, pictured), and is close to some of Ipoh’s cave temples. The train journey from Ipoh to Kuala Kangsar takes just 30 minutes.
Services depart regularly (every half hour during peak times) from Ipoh Railway Station, and a one-way ticket costs around 4 USD.
Click here to check times and reserve train tickets online through 12GoAsia.
Alternatively, you can join an organised day tour from Ipoh to Kuala Kangsar. This private tour includes hotel transfers by air conditioned car. As well as visiting the mosque, you’ll also participate in a hands-on pottery workshop and visit the historic Victoria Bridge.
Click here to check prices and availability on Klook.
Ipoh to Kellie’s Castle
For a slightly off-beat addition to your Ipoh itinerary, travel 20km south to Batu Gajah. There you’ll find Kellie’s Castle, an abandoned country home sponsored by a Scottish rubber baron in 1915 but never finished.
The Moorish-revival architecture is quite spectacular, and the castle is filled with history (tours are available if you want to learn more). Nowadays, most people visit to take selfies in front of the deteriorating brickwork, which is utterly ‘Instagrammable’. More details about Kellie’s Castle here.
More Malaysia inspiration
What are your favourite things to do in Ipoh? If you have any tips or recommendations to add to my Ipoh itinerary, please leave them in the comments below!