Is Ipoh, Malaysia worth the visit? You should definitely visit!
This former tin mining city has something for everyone – interesting history, mesmerizing street art, beautiful cave temples, and much more. We stayed in Ipoh for 3 days and loved our experience.
Here are the best reasons why you need to visit Ipoh on your next trip to Malaysia.
We also recommend that you read our post on what to know before traveling to this city.
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1. It’s easy to get here from Kuala Lumpur or Penang.
Ipoh has a small international airport, but getting here from Kuala Lumpur or Penang is convenient.
You can take either a train, bus, or hire a driver. The tickets are affordable for train and bus.
We took the express train from KL to Ipoh and it was $8 USD per person for one-way. The comfy seats for the 2 hours and 40-minute ride made the time go by quickly.
2. It’s easy to travel around Ipoh with ride-hailing apps.
We recommend that you download the Grab app on your smartphone. It’s the top ride-hailing app in Southeast Asia (similar to Uber).
To use the app, input your starting location and ending location, the size of the car, and wait for the car to pick you up. The payment is done through the app via credit card. But, cash with exact change is also accepted.
What about other public transportation options such as buses or taxis? We didn’t see any buses when we were there so we’re not sure how frequent they are. As with taxis, you can ask your accommodation to book you one.
3. Ipoh has fewer crowds.
If you’ve been to KL or Penang, you’ll notice the crowds at the popular tourist sites and main areas such as Penang’s Georgetown.
Yet, Ipoh is the opposite. This underrated city is quieter and more laid-back. The places we went to never felt crowded (except for the super tight quarters on Concubine Lane).
You can easily wander around the small alleyways and just explore without any hassle.
4. It’s a fantastic place for foodies!
Ipoh’s foodie scene is not to be missed. It’s a mix of Malaysian, Chinese, and Indian foods. You won’t run out of things to eat here.
Check out our list of the restaurants that we ate in Ipoh.
Don’t miss the tau fu fah, a silky smooth tofu pudding dessert with sweet ginger syrup. We normally eat tau fu fah when eating dim sum in California. Yet, in New Town, there are a handful of places selling this simple yet delicious dessert in standalone shops.
Also, visit small coffee shops with food stalls. You may see the Malay word, “Kedai Manakan” on the restaurant sign. It’s not the same size as Singapore’s hawker centers but still provides some cheap eats of local foods. We had a plate of char kway teow (fried noodles) for $2!
The most popular drink to try is white coffee. It’s a special flavor that originated from Ipoh where the beans are roasted with margarine to get the caramelized flavor and mixed with condensed milk.
You can get white coffee either iced or hot, and it’s available in all restaurants and coffee shops.
Ipoh’s Old Town White Coffee brand is well-known and you can buy powdered white coffee and tea bags at your local grocery store. They also have coffee shops around the country where you can sit down and enjoy a beverage and eat food.
5. It’s also halal and vegetarian-friendly!
For those who cannot eat pork, there are many halal-friendly places to eat in Ipoh.
We had halal (pork-free) dim sum at Greentown Dim Sum Cafe. It was a unique experience to try traditional dim sum without pork.
Many restaurants also offer vegetarian options. You can also check with the servers to ensure that there isn’t any meat or sauces with meat added to the dishes.
6. Ipoh is a budget-friendly place to visit.
Malaysia is an underrated destination to visit in Southeast Asia, yet it is very affordable to travel through.
Ipoh has many free and low-cost activities to visit. For example, you can visit the cave temples for free (although donations are accepted). The museums in the Old Town area such as Han Chin Pet Soo and Ho Yan Hor Museum are also free to visit.
You can also eat local Malaysian food at a cheap price. We had halal dim sum at Greentown Dim Sum Cafe and spent $16 for 7+ dishes. We also ate a bowl of delicious tau fu fah for $.60 each.
Transportation costs are also inexpensive. We traveled from Old Town to Kek Lok Tong Temple in a Grab ride-hailing car (similar to Uber) and it was $2.30 for a 9 9-kilometer (5.6 miles) ride.
Accommodations are reasonably priced depending on your budget.
7. The city has a rich history and historical buildings.
As mentioned earlier, Ipoh is a former tin mining city. It was a booming city in the 1800s and many people migrated here, especially Hakka Chinese people, to earn a living.
Because of the tin mining, it has also earned the name of “City of Millionaires” as many wealthy tin mining owners became millionaires.
In Ipoh’s Old Town, there are many historical buildings and areas to check out. You can walk along the Heritage Trail and see important landmarks such as the Railway Station, Concubine Lane, Market Lane, and more. Click here to download a copy of the walking trail.
We also recommend that you take a tour of Han Chin Pet Soo, a former Gentlemen’s Club for the tin mining owners. Reservations are required.
Ho Yan Hor Museum, located next to Han Chin Pet Soo building, where you can learn about Dr. Ho Kai Cheong’s life and his creation of the herbal tea company, Hor Yan Hor. You can still buy the tea today.
8. There are fascinating temple caves everywhere.
Ipoh is a unique place where many temples are embedded into limestone caves.
The two impressive caves to visit are Kek Lok Tong Temple and Perak Cave Temple. Each is noteworthy in its own way.
Kek Lok Tong has tons of Buddha statues and a manicured park in the back of the cave.
Perak Cave, one of the oldest temples in the city, has mural art in the cave and Buddha statues. Check out the featured photo of this post to see the inside of the temple.
Yet, the main highlight is a short hike up through the natural cave and then seeing the aerial 360-degree views at the top of the cave.
The caves are not located near each other but you can easily hire a Grab ride-hailing car to travel between the two locations.
Note: Beware of the monkeys as they like to jump on the temple rooftops.
9. It’s a beautiful area!
The gorgeous limestone cave temples and the tall limestone caves are a highlight of Ipoh. We recommended the two caves above.
Another recommended place to visit is Qing Xin Ling Leisure and Cultural Village. It’s a pretty nature area surrounded by tall limestone mountains.
While you can’t hike into the caves, you can walk around the cultural village. You’ll want to take photos of the lake as the reflections of the limestone mountains on the lake are jawdroppingly gorgeous!
Read our detailed guide to Qing Xin Ling Leisure & Cultural Village for more information.
If you want to experience nature, Kledang Hill is a recommended place to go for a day hike. While we haven’t visited, this hiking post is on our bucket list.
10. The incredible street art is stunning!
One of the best parts about visiting Ipoh is seeing the street art and murals in the alleyways, side of buildings, and storefronts.
You’ll see artwork about daily Malaysian life, Ipoh history, and even unique and unusual ones by local artists.
We recommend visiting Mural Art’s Lane in New Town to check out Eric Lai’s artwork.
Also, Ernest Zacharevic, a famous artist who painted murals in Penang, has 7 murals in Old Town to check out.
Read our post on places to see street art in Ipoh here.
11. Many locals are multilingual so you can ask for help if needed.
What we loved about Ipoh is the friendly locals and how everyone is multilingual.
You can ask questions in English, Cantonese, Mandarin, Hakka, Malay, Tamil, and more. Someone will be able to help you!
If you listen closely to locals’ conversations, you’ll often hear 2 to 4 languages being used at one time. It’s very impressive to hear.
12. Ipoh has consistent weather all year round.
Want to escape the cold during your hemisphere’s winter time?
Ipoh and the rest of Malaysia has hot and humid weather throughout the year. The weather is usually around 30-33℃ (86-91℉) in the daytime and 22-25℃ (72-77℉) at night.
The rainy season is from September to December with November having the heaviest rain. It will still be hot and humid with the rain.
But don’t let the rain deter you from visiting. After living long term in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, we’re used to the rainy season. Just find an indoor place such as a museum or cafe and hang out till the rain passes.
Have we inspired you to visit Ipoh? We hope you enjoyed reading these compelling reasons why Ipoh should be added to your Malaysian itinerary. We will be back to visit again and see what else there is to discover.
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