Ipoh - capital of Perak
Ipoh is the capital city of Perak state. It is located about 85km North East from Pangkor / Lumut and about 200 km from Kuala Lumpur and 200 km from Penang. The name originates from a local tree known as pokok ipoh. This particular plant is known for its tree sap. This sap is poisonous and it was used by the asli in their blowdarts.
The capital of Perak is located in the rich tin bearing valley of the Kinta river. The origin of the city, as many in this region is based on the tin mining industry. However the city's growth stagnated ever since the closure of these mines. Immigration seemed for a lot of people the only solution to escape from poverty. But that all said, the city is still in the top 5 of Malaysia's biggest cities with a population of over 600.000 people.
The Kinta River basically runs through the middle of the town. In 1892, a great fire gutted the East part of town center.
The town had to be rebuild. So this part became known as the "New Town". The reconstruction of the New Town also made way to deliberate town planning.
And this explains why buildings file along roads that are set into systematic grids.
Another curious fact about Ipoh is that, although it was a rich town, it was not the original administrative centre of Perak.
Even more curious, it was not the British, but the Japanese that provided the turning point for the city.
During their occupation of Malaya in 1941, the Japanese Imperial Army transferred all administrative activities from Batu Gajah and Taiping to Ipoh.
Interestingly the British continued to retain Ipoh as Perak's administrative centre after the war.
Today, as a capital of Perak has developed significantly. The Greentown area near the City Council is fast becoming an entertainment hotspot with the construction of the Greentown Business Center.
Here you find many restaurants and cafes. Ipoh's very own 'Bangsar" is located in Ipoh Garden. It is one of the famous places for its nightspots.
There are plenty of hotels in Ipoh.
Attractions in and around Ipoh
Ipoh has some very famous attractions. The most well known is Kellie's Castle. It was the mansion of an eccentric English planter.
You will find Kellie's Castle about a half hour's drive (14 km) from Ipoh city centre.
It is now deserted but worth a visit to explore some of what should have been one of the great castles of modern times in Asia.
Some claim that the castle is haunted and that secret passages leading to hidden chambers exist. Neither secrets passagers or hidden chambers have ever been found. But regardless, Kellie's Castle is a must visit.
Sam Po temple and Perak Tong temple
Another sight worth visiting is the Sam Po Tong temple. This is a Chinese temple built within a gigantic limestone cave. Sam Po temple has a sister: Perak Tong. Perak Tong has a steep, tall staircase in the interior of the cave. The staircase rises up to the top of its hill. There's fine views on the city and its surroundings.
It's an active temple and there seems always something to do. Check for example the turtles in the pond and feed them some veggie sold around. It supposedly bring you luck.
Kampar is located just over 30 km south of Ipoh. It's no longer a tin mine town but in the countryside you will find plenty of lakes which originate from the tin mine industry. Nearby are the Gua Tempurung caves, see below. You can go fishing here.
A special attraction in Kampar is the roti kari ayam, a bread filled with curry chicken.
As far as I was told this is the only place in Malaysia where you can find this extra-ordinary dish. More about the curry chicken bread at our Kampar page.
Gua Tempurung caves
The Gua Tempurung caves are some of the very best and largest limestone caves you can visit in Malaysia. The caves can be visited as a day trip.
The Perak Museum
The Perak Museum was build in 1926 by a rich and successful tin miner called Foo Choong Kit. Back then, he built it for his own private domain. The rumour goes that it once there were forty people living in this house. The house did not stay long with the family. In 1950 it was sold to the Perak Government. which utilized these premises to house the administrative centre of its Department of Works. In 1992 this building became the Perak Museum.
The museum contains artefacts from the early history of Perak and follows up to the present with plenty of photos and memorabilia of the British administrators and rulers who played key roles in Perak.
The museum contains various pictures of colonial building in Perak. You may recognize them later when you walk through the city.
The museum opens all week from 9.30am-5pm.
Padang is the Malay word for 'field', and this is exactly what it is. In the colonial days the British used this field for cricket. Nowadays it is in use for many things including playing hokey, football or having a picnic with the family for over a century now.
St Michael's School
It is maybe the grandest and biggest of all the old colonial buildings in town.
The St Michael's school was opened by a group of La Salle Brothers in 1912. St. Michael's was one of the more prestigious Christian missionary schools in Perak.
Appearance tells a lot about an institution. St Michael's architecture and façade are reminiscence of a true Christian masterpiece.
The architecture is absolutely brilliant. Right in front of it stretches the school green. If you're lucky, you may spot the school band marching up and down the field playing some musical score in their full regalia.
Even the Japanese army could not stay away from St Michael's. During the Japanese occupation, this army converted the school for its centre of administration for the state of Perak.
Royal Ipoh Club
The Royal Ipoh Club was once the domain of planters, tin miners and administrators. It is build in white Tudor style.
FMS Bar and Restaurant
F.M.S. stands for "Federated Malay States". This was a creation of the British to bring the different Malay states under one union. Perak was one of them.
The building was built at the turn of the 20th century. It became a bar and restaurant in 1906.
Both bar and restaurant (together with its antique décor) have managed to survive the ravages of time.
It was in use until very recent but it is now abandoned and close to destruction. It's a shame such piece of Ipoh's history is not been taken care off.
Birch Memorial, The Clock Tower
The clock tower is quite hidden and for good reasons. J.W.W. Birch was (and still is) an unpopular character. He was the first British Resident.
He showed little sensitivity towards local customs and religion. The feeling was mutual and eventually he was assassinated.
His actual grave can be found at the Pasir Salak historical complex where the Malaysian government build a memorial monument.
For whatever Birch was to the Malays, the British made him a hero. On all four sides of the Clock Tower there are colorful murals depicting various 18th Century professions.
There, they also erected a bronze bust of their Mr. Birch although this has been removed. The Clock Tower is quite a fine monument despite the history of the man to whom it was dedicated.
One of Ipoh's architectural wonders is definitely the Town Hall. It boasts the neo-classical architecture, which was popular in the early 1900s. The Town Hall exhibits a mix between renaissance and roman architectural features. Construction began in 1913, and was finally completed in 1917.
This building has also served as a Post Office, and was once the District Police headquarters in 1948.
The Railway Station
Some people call it the local Taj Mahal and although that is way too much honour, it has definitely a fantastic neo-classical architecture combined with domes you will find in India.
The Railway Station was built in the height of the tin mining industry. Obviously it an important feature for the colonials in transporting tin. It has been renovated in recent years and shows itself now in all former glory
Above the train station, on the second and third floors you will find the Station Hotel. It is also known as The Majestic or The Heritage Hotel though it seems too much run down.
You can take the ancient lift up to the main lobby, and it will take you back in time.
In the early 1900s, the hotel was a 'first class accommodation' and had an 'excellent cuisine'. A 200m long veranda runs the length of the building. There is cozy bar.
For years the hotel and railway station were rather run down. However, in recent years the complex is completely renovated and breath again some colonial days atmosphere.
Famous people from the capital of Perak
One of Ipoh's most famous natives is actress Dato' Michelle Yeoh. She acted in the James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies.
One of Hong Kong actress is Angie Cheung Wai Yee was also born in here.
There are frequent buses to and from Lumut which take about 2 hours to reach the main bus station in the state's capital. Check our Getting there page for the details for bus schedules.
Ipoh is very good connected with the rest of the country. The north-south highway from Singapore to Alor Setar and Thailand passes and from Lumut there is now a 4 lane highway via Ayer Tawar which makes the journey by car limited to about 1 to 1.5 hours.