Things To Do In Ipoh Malaysia – Disclosure: This post (probably) contains affiliate links. If you click on one, I may make a small commission. Of course, this is at no additional cost to you and helps keep this site running.
Malaysia isn’t exactly a destination in Asia that most people have on their bucket list. Beyond a few obvious candidates like Kuala Lumpur and Penang, many would be hard-pressed to find another name. That being said, one of the best Malaysian destinations is the curious city of Ipoh. Located inland from the northwest coast of the Malay Peninsula in the state of Perak, there is plenty to do in Ipoh, as it differs from other Malaysian destinations.
Things To Do In Ipoh Malaysia
In recent years, Ipoh has become an increasingly popular stopover for travelers traveling through the country. This is because it sits neatly at the crossroads between Penang in the north, Kuala Lumpur in the south and Cameron Highlands a little further inland. Throw in the sights and attractions and clearly become a natural inclusion in a good Malaysian itinerary. For ideas on what to do in Ipoh, here’s a look at the sights I saw during my visit there.
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Chances are you want to know more about Ipoh city before we get to all the tourist attractions, right? This is also a good idea, because Ipoh is a bit different from other major destinations in Malaysia. Rather than having a long history spanning several centuries, Ipoh’s origins are humble and recent. More than 100 years ago, Ipoh was nothing more than a small village and not the third largest city in Malaysia as it is today.
It was not until the mining boom of the 1880s that Ipoh began to grow rapidly. The town continued to grow, but the mining industry collapsed in the 1970s. Even with its economic center, Ipoh remains a big city and has since become a tourist destination.
This city has even been called the “hipster capital of Malaysia” given its external status, and I kind of get it given its popularity among bloggers and backpackers. It will be interesting to see how the city becomes in the future given everything.
Looking at this list of things to do in Ipoh, a few common themes should stand out – caves and temples. The first temple I took the time to visit was also one of the most remote, Kek Lok Tong Temple. On the outskirts of the city, this Buddhist temple is inside a huge limestone cave. Despite the temple, it is difficult not to be disturbed by the rock formations and stalactites.
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Pass through this cave temple built in the 1920s and you can get out on the other side to a small beautiful park that unfortunately borders a huge mining site. Although you can see mines and things in the distance, it does not disturb the peace of the garden. It’s funny how the entrance to this cave temple looks quite ordinary in comparison to the temple and the garden that protects it.
Of the attractions I visited in Ipoh, Sam Poh Tong Temple is definitely my favorite. When you arrive at this Buddhist temple, you will be greeted by a beautiful pond full of goldfish and a living pagoda. This park area is just beautiful, but it gets even better when you enter the temple cave. Walking in, I wasn’t sure what I was going to look for and then bam, there it was.
While the cave at Kek Lok Tong Temple opens to a large outdoor garden, it is here. The cave at Sam Poh Tong Temple takes you to an open air space, surrounded by steep cliff walls, with a huge pagoda in the middle.
Completely hidden away from the world, like a temple slowly floating down to space. Nearby is a dimly lit pond full of turtles that you can choose to feed with lettuce or just watch. For me though, it was the sight of the impossible temple that caught my attention all the time. I just want my photos to do it justice.
Best Places To Visit In Ipoh
Although this is another temple, Lin Sen Tong Temple still has its own interesting quirks. A Taoist temple not far from Sam Poh Tong Temple, this has to be the most vibrant and colorful of the three mentioned here.
Everywhere you look there are golden statues of various kinds, colorful dragons and the actual temple itself becomes the focus rather than the surroundings. It may not match the spectacle of other temples, but there is something different, but it is beautiful and touches on various aspects of Chinese spirituality.
Sometimes there is a place to go because of its name. It is this intrigue that draws so many visitors to Concubine Lane, also known as Commander’s Lane. Unlike the modern red light district, this narrow pedestrian street in the heart of the city is one of the better places in Ipoh.
This name comes from the fact that there used to be an alley full of opium and a brothel for miners, then it became a place for rich Chinese merchants to keep their concubines. Basically left in their original state, some of Concubine Lane’s buildings are a little worse for wear but offer some real character.
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Walking around downtown Ipoh, it becomes very clear how much the Chinese population has influenced the city. As in Malacca, it looks a bit like Ipoh has been shaped by houses and shops designed in the Chinese architectural style. Of course, these buildings do not have a long heritage from Malacca, but they lend the center of Ipoh some real character. I really like the series of shops seen above in different rainbow colors.
Just one of the best things to do in Ipoh is to stuff your face. Food in Ipoh is heavily influenced by Chinese cuisine, which gives it a different flavor than other cities. It also means you can dig into some dim sum while you’re there. Hell, there’s even a Dim Sum Street!
For breakfast and dinner, I choose a nice place to eat. In the morning there are different dim sum places like Restaurant Foh San and in the evening there are small plastic chairs to eat whatever is served. In both cases, I’m basically the only obvious foreigner as far as the eye can see. Simply put, Ipoh is exactly the place to dive headfirst into the incredible melting pot that is Malaysian cuisine.
When it comes to street art in Malaysia, George Town on the island of Penang is very famous. But I think Mural Art’s Lane in Ipoh gets the city the second place it deserves. Along this single lane you will find piles of murals filling every empty space on the walls. It’s no surprise that you’ll find lots of people taking photos with clever street art.
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In an effort to attract visitors to some parts of the city, the city of Ipoh and some local schools have transformed this road with various murals and street art. What could be a pretty gloomy backstreet in Ipoh is now bursting with color and life. The art can be professional and creative, but it also reflects the community and the region.
While I have mentioned most of the main landmarks and attractions are found in Ipoh, that is really just the beginning. The list of things to do in Ipoh can be done easily, if you have more time in the city. For starters, there’s all the British colonial architecture to be found in the city, from the Birch Memorial Clock Tower to the bright white Town Hall.
Not far from Mural Art’s Lane you will find the Masjid Panglima Kinta with its striking color design. There are also many other temples in and around Ipoh, including Nam Thean Tong Temple, right next to Lin Sen Tong Temple.
New destinations and junctions, you won’t find it difficult to reach Ipoh. Even though it’s on a train line close to KL and Penang, trains can sell out days in advance, so you’ll need to get on board. If it wasn’t like me, it would be a bus trip. Whether it’s KL, Penang or Cameron Highlands, it’s only a few hours in either direction and the bus is frequent. The only thing that can be done is that while the train station is in the city center, the Amanjaya Bus Station is very far away.
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To get to the city, you can jump on the local busnumber T30a which brings you to the city center for next to nothing. To take more time, I decided to go with Uber (now Grab in this part of the world) which works well and is a comfortable and affordable way to get around.
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