Ipoh, the capital city of the state of Perak, is the third largest city in Malaysia. But somehow, it does not enjoy the same level of fame and popularity, nor receive as many tourists as other cities like George Town, Malacca, Johor Bahru or Kuala Lumpur.
Visiting KL? Read this: What to do in Kuala Lumpur with kids?
Perhaps it is that the days of tin mining glory of Ipoh have passed, but the general feel we got of Ipoh was that it was an extremely sleepy town and no one seemed to be in a rush. Everyone we met was helpful and patient, which was a very refreshing change for us, coming from a busy cosmopolitan city.
Despite the fact that there were few shops open for business, there are plenty of food options around. It was funny actually – everywhere was quiet, so much so that you wonder if it’s a public holiday and everyone’s out of town. You wonder where everyone is and what they’re up to and then you step into a restaurant and BAM! Hello, Ipohians, there you are! Speaking of food, here are some suggestions to whet your appetite.
Top row, L-R: Tau fu fah from Funny Mountain, Curry noodle from coffee shop across the street from Funny Mountain, full breakfast at Ben&Lynette at Ipoh Parade Shopping Centre
Middle row, L-R: Tauge (of tauge ayam fame) from Restoran Lou Wong, roast duck from Sun Yeong Wai, Egg caramel custard from Restaurant Sin Yoon Loong
*Across the road is Foh San Restaurant that looks much more authentic, and more affordable, but it was way too crowded
We stayed at French Hotel, and apart from Sun Yeong Wai, everything shown above was within a comfortable walking distance.
If you want more than just a gastronomical holiday within Ipoh, then hiring a driver to take you to slighter further away places (we even managed to squeeze in a day-trip to Cameron Highlands) is a good idea.
31000 Batu Gajah
This incomplete castle was supposed to be the holiday home of William Kellie, a rich Scottish planter. Unfortunately he passed away before it was completed, and it never got finished. On top of that, part of it was damaged during the war. Apparently there are hidden rooms and secret passageways but we didn’t manage to find any. It’s a beautiful place, but ever so slightly creepy. Just a tad.
Apparently some parts of the 1999 movie of Anna and the King was shot here. Please exercise caution – you’re allowed to go into most areas but that isn’t to say that there are always safety barriers. For example, no one will stop you if you want to climb up on the roof top but there are NO barriers or railings to prevent accidents.
Visiting Penang? Read this: Ten family-friendly things to do in Georgetown.
Perak Tong Cave Temple
Jalan Kuala Kangsar
Located 6km North of Ipoh is Perak Tong Cave Temple. It’s a beautiful Buddhist temple inside a limestone cave. The cave is home to a 40-ft high Buddha, as well as painted murals on the walls. Unlike some limestone caves, this one is dry inside. If you’re up for a climb, you can get to the top of the 163metered hill by means of narrow stairs that reminded us very much of those at the Great Wall of China.
Visiting Malacca? Read this: A slice of Baba-Nonya Heaven in Malacca
Taman Rekreasi Gunung Lang Waterfall
Jalan Damai, 30100, Ipoh
When we left Perak Tong Cave Temple, our driver asked if we wanted to visit a waterfall. Upon arrival at Taman Rekreasi Gunung Lang, he was relieved that ‘it was turned on’. Who would have thought – a man-made waterfall in the middle of nowhere! The waterfall itself, set against the backdrop of gorgeous limestone caves, was a pretty sight, and there were huge turtles swimming in the pool below. But I’m not sure if it’s worth a trip out on its own.
Staying at Batu Ferringhi in Penang? Read this: What to do around Batu Ferringhi
The Banjaran Hot Springs Retreat
No 1, Persiaran Lagun Sunway 3, Sunway City Ipoh, 31150
Source: Banjaran Hot Springs Retreat
Lost World of Tambun
No.1, Persiaran Lagun Sunway 1, Sunway City Ipoh,
31150 Ipoh, Perak Darul Ridzuan,
Image: Sunway Lost World of Tambun
If you’re traveling with kids, you may want to check out the Lost World of Tambun. A spa, theme park, water park, amusement park, petting zoo and the opportunity to get close to tigers. This looks like a place with something for the whole family. We gave it a pass though; this was a go sloth, anti adrenaline rush kind of trip.
Planning a trip to LEGOLAND Malaysia? Read this: LEGOLAND is fun for the whole family!
Cameron Highlands is just a 2-hour drive from Ipoh. For ease of transport and flexibility, we opted to go with a private driver. The last time we went to Cameron Highlands as a family was 20 years ago. Many more little farms have sprouted up and opened themselves to public, and temperatures are warmer than they were, due to global warming.
For more information on Cameron Highlands, check out this useful site.
Where to go in Cameron Highlands
There’s no lack of farms to visit and explore on Cameron Highlands, from Butterfly Farms to strawberry farms and tea plantations. We visited a handful but the two that we particularly enjoyed were Cameron Tea Valley and Big Red Strawberry Farm.
Cameron Tea Valley
Batu 34, Jalan Besar, Cameron Highlands
The Cameron Tea Valley plantation was gorgeous, almost like a giant maze. Walking around is free, but ATV rides are chargeable. The further up you go, the less crowded it gets. Just stand in the middle of the plantation, take a deep breath and absorb the view. Sometimes we have to be surrounded by nature to realise how big the world is.
Big Red Strawberry Farm
Brinchang, Cameron Highlands
Sometimes you see the name of a place and you’re not quite sure what to think. It certainly wasn’t the case with Big Red Strawberry Farm! Among the farms we visited, many had a small area for strawberry picking. This one however, had a huge area dedicated to strawberries, which was pure bliss.
Visitors are given a plastic basket (2 to share a basket) and after the simple instruction of filling it up at least half of it with strawberries, you’re set loose into the huge area with tons of beautiful strawberries. There is no time limit and you can head back whenever you’re ready with your harvest, and it will be weighed. I think it was RM25 for 0.5kg of strawberries (equivalent to half a basket).
I think I might consider a career change. Being a strawberry harvester is so much fun!
What to eat at Cameron Highlands
Restoran OK Tuck
26, Jalan Besar, Brinchang, 39100 Cameron Highlands
We didn’t do any research on food and wandered into Restoran OK Tuck. The original idea was to have a nice hot pot of steamboat to accompany the cool weather but the weather wasn’t cool enough for steamboat in the afternoon. This was my favourite meal of the trip but unfortunately there are no pictures because by the time we got there for lunch, it was about 3pm so we were famished.
Assam fish, egg fuyong, hot plate tofu, salted vegetable soup, stir fried kailan… it was all delicious. And cheap.
So there you have it. Where to go and what to eat around Ipoh. If you know of someone who’s planning a trip to Ipoh, feel free to share this post!