Many visitors to Malaysia miss Ipoh off their travel itinerary, but that’s a mistake. This charming town in Perak is full of character and history and, not unlike its big brother Penang, is also full of street art!
Ipoh is definitely worth visiting and can easily be reached from other Malaysian tourist destinations like Kuala Lumpur, Penang and the Cameron Highlands.
I spent two days exploring the colourful streets of Ipoh and visiting the incredible cave temples. In this article, I have shared my 2-Day Ipoh Itinerary, which includes all the must-see attractions, places to eat and places to stay. It’s a simple-to-follow itinerary for you to make the most of your visit to Ipoh.
Where To Stay In Ipoh
I stayed at the WEIL Hotel for two nights and found it modern and comfortable. It has a restaurant, a rooftop pool, and a bar with views across the city. If you need to stock up on provisions, there is a shopping centre next to it. It’s not something I was expecting to find in sleepy Ipoh, but it’s there!
If you fancy something slightly more authentic in the Old Town, I would suggest a budget room at Sarang Paloh Heritage Stay. It is close to the heritage museums and cafes mentioned in this itinerary.
Getting Around Ipoh
Ipoh is a walkable city; however, it can get extremely hot. If you plan to stay at the WEIL Hotel, don’t try to walk into the old town on a summer’s day because of several things. One, the pavements are mostly broken; two, for a small town, the roads are really busy and hard to cross; and three, GRAB taxis are cheap and efficient. Save your energy and get a taxi, as there’s not much to see between the hotel and Ipoh Old Town.
Day One Ipoh Itinerary
You have probably arrived in Ipoh from the Cameron Highlands or Kuala Lumpur or, in my case, from a 3-night stay at the Pangkor Laut Island Resort in Lumut. So, first things first, you will want to settle into your hotel before you hit the streets of Ipoh.
First stop: Mural Art’s Lane
Once you’ve freshened up, filled your water bottle, and gotten your bearings, it’s time to visit Mural Art’s Lane. If you have done any previous research on this place, you will probably have read that it’s ‘amazing’, ‘incredible’ or a ‘must-see in Ipoh’ – it’s not. I could have easily passed it by and not missed it; however, it’s here, so have a look.
It will take around 10 minutes to walk along Mural Art’s Lane, and at the end of it is the blue and white Paglima Kinta Mosque. After that, there’s not much to see until you are in Ipoh Old Town, and then it starts to get interesting.
Stroll along the Laneways
Several narrow lanes with names like Tin Alley, Concubine Lane and Second Concubine Lane (now called Market Street) are interesting to see. They take their names from trades that were once in business on them.
After WWll, the area was notorious for opium dens, casinos and brothels when it became home to many rich tin miners’ concubines. Long gone are those days, and the laneways have been tidied up and decorated with street art, banners, and umbrellas hanging from above to bring a joyful vibe.
Seeing the street art in Ipoh was a priority on my itinerary as I had heard Ernest Zacharevic, of Penang street art fame, had created it. I have to say I wasn’t disappointed. There are several great interactive murals to see around the laneways and in other pockets of the old town.
Drink Ipoh White Coffee
By now, you will be in need of refreshment, and of course, you can’t visit Ipoh without trying its famous white coffee. There are many different places to get white coffee, but Old Town White Coffee is like Ipoh’s version of Starbucks, with several branches dotted around.
We headed to the one around the corner from the Ipoh Tourist Information Centre and opposite Ipoh’s cricket green. I am glad I tried it, but it’s not for me – I will stick to a flat white; however, when in Ipoh, you have to partake.
Wander along the Heritage Trail in Ipoh
After coffee, look for Ipoh heritage trail markers. They are mostly made from black marble and have information (in English) about the area or building they are next to. If you’re interested in Ipoh’s history, it’s a good way to learn about it.
We found the first two markers by the Old Town White Coffee shop. On the side of the building next to them, a huge mural of two boys sitting on a paper plane can be seen. It’s one of Ipoh’s most famous pieces of wall art.
Keep walking, and you will see the Birch Memorial Clocktower. It’s another heritage structure built in 1909. Close by is the town’s most famous landmark, Ipoh railway station. For a small town, there is a wealth of history to be uncovered.
Visit a Heritage Museum
There are several museums in Ipoh, and they are all worth visiting. In fact, for me, these museums are among the top reasons to visit Ipoh.
Arlene House is a white building that we first thought was simply a gift shop. Once inside, we were offered a tour, and boy, was it good. I learned much about Ipoh’s last Kapitan, Chung Thye Phin, who was our equivalent to a politician/mayor.
Each room contained artefacts related to his life, interests, and family. Our guide was charming and spoke perfect English. Her enthusiasm for sharing her culture made the tour come alive.
Eat Dinner in Ipoh Old Town
After the museum, grab a table in Plan B for dinner. I know that Ipoh has a claim to fame as the foodie capital of Malaysia, but having been in Asia for two weeks already, we just wanted some Western food, so sorry (not sorry), we had burgers and chips, and it was mighty fine!
Enjoy your evening in Ipoh
For us, that translated to going back to the hotel, swimming, and planning tomorrow’s itinerary. For you, that could mean having a few cocktails, scouring the Ipoh markets, or finding a traditional restaurant/bar.
This Ipoh itinerary is a brief snapshot of what to do in two days. If you want more in-depth details about the attractions I have mentioned, please read my post ” Is Ipoh Worth Visiting? ” 13 Reasons Why You Should Visit Ipoh. “
Day Two Ipoh Itinerary
Visit the Cave Temples in Ipoh
This morning was all about seeing Ipoh’s cave temples. Amazing altars with statues of deities, ponds, and pagodas are all hewn into limestone rocks. You can’t miss the unique experience of seeing them yourself while in Ipoh.
There are several cave temples to see, and you’ll need at least half a day to see the best ones. You can catch a GRAB from Ipoh and will be at the cave temples in about 15 minutes.
The most famous are Sam Poh Tong and Kek Lok Tong cave temples. Another popular one is Perak Cave Temple.
Eat lunch at Aud’s Cafe
Once you return to Ipoh Old Town, stop at Aud’s Cafe for lunch. It gets great reviews, and I now know why. The food is great, the staff are welcoming, and it’s where you can have ice cube coffee! It’s fun to try, as is beer coffee!
Visit the Historic 22 Hale Street
Before calling it a day, make sure to pop into 22 Hale Street Heritage Gallery Museum. This museum showcases the history of tin mining in Ipoh with a glimpse into the Peranakan way of life. It is also a gallery and artisan gift shop, so I dare you not to come home with a souvenir.
If you’ve been to the Pinang Peranakan Mansion in Penang, you will know how elaborate and decorative Peranakan homes were. At Hale Street, one room showcases a Peranakan wedding ceremony, with furniture, bridal clothing and ancient photographs. It is really interesting. Who knew the bride and groom slept with chickens under their bed to determine the sex of their first child?
Other rooms are recreated as a prostitute’s bedroom, a communal dining room for tin miners, a shop, and much more.
Time to say goodbye to Ipoh
For us, this meant visiting the Ipoh Mall for dinner before packing our cases for our next adventure in the Cameron Highlands. There are many different restaurants in the mall, and we chose Korean – not our best decision, as while the food was perfectly cooked, the textures and taste just weren’t to our liking. That said, it was the first time we had tried Korean food, so nothing ventured, nothing gained!
Want to add another place to your Ipoh Itinerary?
If anything in this itinerary doesn’t appeal to you, swap it out with a trip to Gua Tempurung. It’s a fascinating cave, one of the biggest in peninsula Malaysia and close to Ipoh. You can walk inside its huge chambers or, for adventurers, go potholing. Read here about my visit to Gua Tempurung.
Or how about a visit to (the-very-out-of-place-in-Malaysia) Kellie’s Castle? It is a manor house built by a Scotsman and a popular place for locals and tourists alike. It’s supposedly haunted, but you can discover that myth for yourself if you dare to visit. It will take around 30 minutes to reach from Ipoh.
I visited Gua Tempurung and Kellie’s Castle on my way from Ipoh to Cameron Highlands using the transfer company MyDaytrip.com. They allow you to stop en route at any landmarks you fancy seeing, which I found great.
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