My first impression of Ipoh was that this wasn’t going to be easy to get around my public transport.
The bus I had caught into town ended its route 25 minutes walk away from my hostel and it wasn’t clear whether there was another bus that would take me further.
The guy on reception almost went into shock when I said I hadn’t caught a taxi and at this point a taxi was looking like the most straight forward plan for leaving town in a few days.
I went for a walk. Fortunately, most of what I wanted to see here was walkable.
Ipoh gives the impression of having an interesting history. There’s an element of faded grandeur in the buildings.
It’s actually Malaysia’s third largest city and is filled with some stunning buildings from the colonial era. The railway station, for example was started in 1914 but only finished in 1917 as a couple of distractions and few resources hindered its building.
Efforts appear to be being made to increase its popularity with travellers – such as riverside bazaar developments though most of the units are closed.
There’s what looks to be an excellent hop on hop off bus service taking you to the key tourist attractions… as long as you’re here on a Saturday or Sunday.
I headed for the Old Town and ended up stumbling on several pieces of street art. I set off on one path and with every corner I turned I spotted something else that demanded a closer look.
There are several towns in Malaysia famous for street art but Ipoh doesn’t seem to have hit the the heights of tourism yet. Even allowing for coronavirus fears, several reviews of the city over the last few years show that it is consistently quiet.
Therefore there were no problems in getting shots of the various murals as there weren’t crowds of people standing in front of them.
Ipoh is also a very friendly city.
People smile, say hello, ask where you’re going and what you’re photographing… without being intrusive. It’s polite not invasive.
As a result of finding out that I like one particular mural, one man gave me directions to a lane filled with similar.
This morning, another man pointed out a nice angle for a photograph of a lake in the park.
It’s just a friendly place, but back to the street art.
Ipoh launched “The Mural Art Trail” in 2014 in order to boost tourism, though in 2020, word does not appear to be getting around.
The works were developed in collaboration with the City Council of Ipoh, Ernest Zacharevic (a Lithuanian street artist) and the Ipoh coffee brand Old Town White Coffee. This is why several pieces of street art in Ipoh have a coffee reference.
This one on the side of a coffee house was obviously a prompt for me.
And the coffee is really good.
Not all of the street art in Ipoh is painted solely by Zacharevic – this is not his own personal gallery. However, it does appear to have created a core and there are lots of other works to spot too, though his Paper Plane was one of my favourites.
Back to the coffee for a moment. Ipoh white coffee originated in Old Town Ipoh, resulting in the city being named one of the top three coffee towns by Lonely Planet.
The coffee beans are roasted with palm oil margarine, and the resulting coffee is served with condensed milk.
So after more street art spotting, lunch at Haji Yahaya – a buffet restaurant serving piping hot and freshly cooked Malaysian food…
I went in search of more coffee (and cake) though there were a few more lanes to explore. The Market Lanes are known locally as the Wife’s Lane, the Concubine’s Lane and the Second Concubine’s Lane.
They were a gift from a local tycoon to his three wives after a fire destroyed much of the Old Town in 1892.
The area was notorious for opium dens, gambling and brothels until World War Two. Today the area is being restored and gentrified, filled with street art and cafes.
So, by now I was definitely ready for another coffee and this was Aud’s Signature Ice Cube Coffee.
Over the espresso cubes pour warmed milk and sweet syrup. The more the cubes melt the richer the coffee. It was delicious.
I’m going to have to watch this. I won’t sleep tonight.