Ipoh: A Journey Back In Time

Ipoh: A Journey Back In Time

Ipoh: A Journey Back In Time

/ Ipoh, Malaysia /

/ Story: Samutcha Viraporn / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Sitthisak Namkham

Foods, retail shops, and buildings that evoke wistful affection for the past are three things that have drawn us to Ipoh. It’s nice to be back to find those gorgeous old hotels and cafes’ doing very well indeed.

A lone Ipoh tree, its namesake, thrives in the front yard of the town’s train station. In times past, sap from the Ipoh was the main ingredient in making poison-tipped arrows that kill.
Old meets new. Creative wall painting ideas add life to the distressed interior of an old-town cafe popular among visitors.
A mixed variety of buns comes crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

Ipoh is situated just 200 kilometers by car from the capital Kuala Lumpur. And it’s not just those visitors. Malaysians from across the nation are drawn here in droves.

The old town sits on the west bank of the Kinta River. Here colonial architecture abounds, the most important landmark of which is Jalan Panglima Bukit Gantang Wahab.

The white Neo-Classic piece of architecture on Club Road is dubbed Ipoh’s Taj Mahal. In front of it stands a lone Ipoh tree, the town’s namesake.

In times past, sap from the tree was used as the main ingredient in making poison-tipped arrows that kill. Cross the street, and we come before the majestic Town Hall and nearby Postal Service Building. Beautifully kept Neo-Classic details in shades of white indicate they were products of the colonial period.


The train station is a beautiful piece of architecture. Pardon the appearances. The Majestic Hotel located inside is closed for renovation.
A well-kept postal service building is a graceful sight across from the train station.


The Church of St John The Divine.
The St Michael’s Institution

The city’s main drag leads further north to the historic Church of St John The Divine. At one time, it was regarded as the largest house of worship in Malaysia when it was completed in 1912.

The structure was crafted of building materials known for the best qualities in years gone by. The exterior walls showcased bare brickwork made of coconut-shell fibers mixed with sugar and egg white to create strong binding agents.

There is a school, known as the St Michael’s Institution, standing right next to it, as well as a mosque, called Padang.

A journey down memory lane. Well-preserved row houses line the peaceful thoroughfare of old-town Ipoh.



Small old-styled shops dot both sides ofPanglima Lane, or Concubine Lane,famed for its cobblestone look.
Walls covered in satirical graffiti abound in public places across town.
One of Malaysia’s oldest restaurants, the FMS, stands graciously on the corner.
Vine-covered shop facades speak to an unhurried lifestyle in this nostalgic part of town.


Left: Tenaca Nasional, Malaysia’s main energy provider, also has an office here in this magnificently kept building. Right: Distressed walls along a shopping arcadeevoke nostalgic feelings on a journey down memory lane.
Retailers showcase interesting arrays of handicraft goods on the covered passageway of Sekeping Hong Heng, an Ipoh neighborhood.

Heading south, we come to a commercial district on Jalan Sultan Yussufand Jalan Dato Maharajalela Roads. The area known for old-world charms is home to beautiful restaurants, including those dubbed the oldest of Malaysia.

There are a few Japanese-owned photo studios that have been here since the 1930s. Rumors had it that they were here to gather intelligence during those thrilling days of yesteryear. Convincingly enough, the Imperial Japanese Army came ashore in 1941.


The Old Town White Coffee, a cafe’ chain ubiquitous across Malaysia, has its origin right here in old Ipoh.
Downtown restaurants are packed when the day is done. There is nothing like mouthwatering collections of recipes, for which Ipoh is famous. Take-outs are available, too.
It makes my day to drop into a local delicatessen offering Chinese-style flaky buns rich in creamy fillings, Xiang Bin.

It’s impossible not to mention the good foods that have attracted visitors to Malaysia, and Ipoh for that matter. White Coffee, the famous cafe chain, was born here.

The same applied to pomelo, dubbed the king of citrus fruits, and Chinese-style flaky buns with creamy filling. Find them at any local delicatessen. Whilst here, look for the greatest taste of the country – Hunan chicken with rice served with bean sprouts the authentic Malaysian way. It’s heaven on earth.



A memorial in honor of war victims stands in front of the train station.




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