Things To Do in Ipoh
Always in the shadow of Penang, Ipoh is underestimated for many things. For instance, Ipoh is known in Malaysia for its terrific food and is worth the visit for this alone! Spend one or two days but only if it fits in your itinerary.
1. Sam Poh Tong Cave Temple
A short 10-minute drive from the town is the extraordinary Gunung Rapat Limestone Hills, which are home to many temples. One of the most interesting is the Sam Poh Tong Cave Temple, a beautiful Chinese Buddhist temple built into the limestone.
The temple is picture-perfect, set amongst beautiful gardens and pools. The entryway leading through a cave comes out into an open space in between the limestone.
A stunning temple painted in reds and oranges touched by the rays of the sun. It is believed to be the biggest cave temple in the country and a great thing to do in Ipoh.
There are plenty of other temples to see in the area such as:
- Ling Sen Tong Temple
- Kwan Yin Tong Temple
- Kek Look Tong Cave Temple
2. Walk down Concubine Lane
Concubine Lane is a cute narrow lane flanked by old-style Chinese shop houses, complete with shutters and beautiful tiles. You can find trendy boutiques, fascinating antique shops, and countless cafes selling the traditional white coffee of Ipoh.
The lane is less crowded during the week but most fun to visit at the weekend when stalls are set up selling souvenirs and typical foods of the area. The old charm and vibrant history of this area are not to be missed!
3. Tasik Cermin (‘Mirror Lake’)
Experience Ipoh’s best-hidden gems: a secret lake named Tasik Cermin. This setting of the lake, surrounded by limestone karsts, is truly unique and has been given the nickname ‘Mirror Lake’.
It is located close to the Sam Poh Tong Cave Temple. To enter the cave, you have to pass an abandoned house and follow a narrow path, until you see the cave entrance on your right. Walkthrough the limestone rock tunnel that brings you out on the edge of this exceptionally peaceful part of nature.
We spotted a group of wild beavers swimming around and making noises that echo through the entire nirvana. Sadly, despite the peace here, the lake is under threat from the extraction of limestone, which is slowly getting closer to its boundaries.
To get out to the temples and the limestone hills, it is best to take a ‘Grab’ taxi and ask/pay him to wait.
4. Kong Heng Flea Market
The Kong Heng Square market is a small crafts bazaar and flea market in the center of the city. This space is creatively decorated and has a fun walk-through. The market is located behind the Plan B restaurant and is open daily between 10 AM and 5 PM.
5. Ipoh Railway Station
The Ipoh railway station, built in the typical colonial-style architecture of the time, opened in 1917 and still stands out over 100 years later! It is a fully functioning station, with many trains running daily to numerous destinations throughout Malaysia. If you’re planning on visiting Penang, Ipoh Railway Station has fast trains to Butterworth throughout the day (once you’re at Butterworth, change onto a ferry for Penang).
6. Street Art (Mural Art’s Lane)
If the street art around Concubine Lane left you wanting more, then Mural Art’s Lane should be your next stop! The lane, running between the main roads Jalan Sultan Iskandar and Jalan Masjid, is home to dozens of murals that brighten up the walls of houses. Most are painted by Ernest Zacharevic who has had many successes as a street artist in Penang.
7. Memory Lane Flea Market (Sundays only)
If possible, plan your itinerary so that your time in Ipoh falls over a weekend. Although the streets will be busier you’ll get the opportunity to see the renowned Memory Lane Flea Market, which only takes place on Sundays.
The market takes up the entire length of the street, with vendors laying out endless treasures from vintage records to antique typewriters. Have fun trying to drive a hard bargain here and leave Malaysia with some amazing artifacts and memoirs.
8. 22 Hale Street
The 22 Hale Street buildings are two old shops transformed into a museum and cafe. The heritage gallery displays the Ipoh lifestyles over time. You will find a lot of retro items being displayed here.
There is an entrance fee with a ticket but this seems to change depending on the exhibition.
9. Climb to the viewpoint of the Perak Tong Cave Temple
Enter the small passage between the limestone of the Perak Tong Cave Temple. Inside opens up into an enormous space with a 12 meter high Buddha statue.
In the back of the cave, you will find steps that lead all the way to the top of the limestone rock. It is a walk of 10-15 minutes to the top with the last steps being quite tough. On top, you will have a view over the surrounding area.
Getting to Ipoh
Ipoh is very well placed as a stopover before exploring other places, like the Cameron Highlands and Penang. Both buses and trains run regularly to Ipoh from Kuala Lumpur and take 2.5-3 hours.
From Ipoh, you can take a bus to the Cameron Highlands, a bus to Penang, or a 2-hour train to Butterworth (for a ferry connection to Penang).
How to get around Ipoh
Ipoh may technically be a city, but its size and atmosphere make it feel more like a town. As a result, it is very easy to see the old town and many of the key sights on foot or by bike.
Where to eat in Ipoh
Many specialties exist in Ipoh, such as it’s sweet white coffee, varieties of dim sum and famed egg custard tarts, yes the same one as the Pasteis de Belem from Lisbon!
Here are our favorite places to eat in Ipoh:
- Vegan Delights Cafe
- Lodge 163 Cafe
- Old Town Kopitiam
- Nam Chau
- Plan B
Vegan Delights has delicious plant-based dishes but the impressive part is that you’re served by incredibly friendly people, who are either deaf or mute. A must-visit!
Where to stay in Ipoh
There is a diverse range of budget hostels to luxury resorts within Ipoh, set within the bustling center of the town or set amongst the serene nature. As a recommended stay in Ipoh is around 2 days, it’s best to situate yourself in one of the many good quality guest houses, within the old town, as a base to explore.