Once upon a time Ipoh was the centre of the tin mining world, fortunes could be made here and the city gained the nickname of “the city of millionaires”. As such the city is full of old colonial buildings, all that is left of those tin mining boom times.
Ipoh these days is the 3rd largest city in Malaysia and despite being half way from KL to Penang, and also being a good gateway into the Cameron highlands it doesn’t really get much in the way of backpackers, which I haven’t worked out whether is a shame or a good thing.
With a whole day of exploring in front of me what better way to start the day than with breakfast Ipoh style…..white coffee and toast with soft boiled eggs.
Ipoh white coffee is made by roasting the coffee beans with palm oil margarine and then serving this brew mixed with condensed milk, don’t let the margarine put you off…it’s actually really nice.
There is an Ipoh heritage walk that takes you around the old part of the city with over 20 locations that date back to the golden age of Ipoh, these include the station, the town hall, several banks, a church, a mosque, shop houses, a clock tower, and even a sporting club where a game of cricket was in full swing….how very colonial!
The old town does remind you a lot of Penang, with all the shop houses, although in Ipoh these are very much still used as shops and businesses and the area feels very authentic and nostalgic, the only place that really felt touristic being concubine lane, a very narrow lane where prostitutes and mistresses used to live and is now full of souvenir shops.
The similarity with Penang doesn’t stop there, there is also a street art scene with 7 pieces dotted about the old town that were painted by the same guy who did the ones in Penang.
The last place I visited in the old town was the Han Chin Pet Soo Hakka tin miners club museum. This building used to be the home of a club for wealthy Hakka Chinese tin miners basically where they would participate in debauchery out of sight of their wives, with gambling, prostitution, and opium smoking all on the menu. It is now a museum about the tin mining era and offers free tours at various times during the day with a really enthusiastic and funny guide. Although the tour is free they do suggest giving a donation of 10 Rm…it’s well worth that.