Walking Around Ipoh (Perak)

While the current state capital of Perak had bigger heydays during the early 20th century, it is now better known amongst Malaysians for its excellent restaurants, hawkers, and famous local dishes. Old residents are returning to their beloved hometown, eager to remake Ipoh into the “City of Millionaires” yet again. The country’s third largest city, with 657,852 inhabitants as of 2010, is also a gateway to the Cameron Highlands and Pangkor Island. Ipoh was the city that tin built, developing into one of Malaysia‘s major cities after rich alluvial tin deposits were discovered in the Kinta Valley in 1876. Its location as the furthest navigable point on the Kinta River at that time made it a prime spot for the centre of all trading activities, an upstart little village bypassing the already established towns at nearby Gopeng and Papan. Waves of starry-eyed prospectors, many of them Chinese immigrants, came to find their fortunes working the mines and providing support services to the industry. It rapidly grew into Malaya’s second commercial and administrative centre after Kuala Lumpur (the Straits Settlements of Singapore, Penang and Malacca were administered separately during the British colonial era), overtaking Taiping, the then state capital. World War II hit Ipoh hard, with all mines shut down and left to flood. Even after their reopening, demand for tin continued to drop steadily over the years and production costs rose. It culminated in the debilitating crash of tin prices in October 1985 from cartel meddling which then became the final nail in the coffin for the mines, just slightly over one hundred years after the very first tin rush. Many residents of Ipoh finally left for greener pastures elsewhere, as their forefathers did before them, though the city has been slowly reclaiming its stature since. Food, and not tin, is now the word most synonymous with Ipoh. The post-independence economic decline let the city escape the Brutalist towers of concrete that represent 1970s ideas of progress, and its colonial importance still shines in the grand old buildings, such as the railway station and the town hall, which complement the rows of shophouses. There are surprisingly few tall buildings for a city of its size due to height restrictions for the local airport, hence inadvertently maintaining its sleepy old town charm. However, this is soon to change after a push by the state government for more development projects. NOTE: Ipoh is split into half by the River Kinta: Old Town on the west side and New Town on the east. Old Town is walkable, New Town less so. City outskirts are reachable by taxis or public buses in a pinch, and your own wheels are best for further outlying areas. Streets were renamed in the 1980s. This can still be confusing as many locals still refer to the former colonial road names. Local buses run around the city and its suburbs and have a hub called 2 Ipoh Bus Terminal, Medan Kidd (or also bas stesen), which is on Jalan Tun Abdul Razak in the old town (follow the road south from the railway station and past the post office, the bus station is on the right of the first big junction). This is not to be confused with Jalan Bendahara which is in the new town and has long distance services by some bus companies. Ipoh city buses: www.peraktransit.com.my may be useful. https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Ipoh

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