Leave Penang to the organised tours—Ipoh is the authentic Malaysia. A street photographer’s dream just 3 hours’ north of Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh makes a strong case for Malaysia’s hawker food, street art and Peranakan shophouse capital. This Ipoh photography collection will inspire you to visit Ipoh and the beguiling Perak region.
Ipoh is my kind of town. Of all the travel plans we had slated for the first half of 2018, Ipoh was the place I was most looking forward to visiting. And it didn’t disappoint. The capital of Malaysia’s Perak region, Ipoh is located roughly halfway between Kuala Lumpur and Penang. You can reach Ipoh in just over three hours when travelling by train from KL.
Read this: My 72-hour guide to Ipoh.
A different dimension
It feels as if Ipoh operates on a different dimension to Malaysia’s thronging capital city. In Ipoh, the day unfolds at a different pace—it’s as simple as that. Nostalgia and melancholy hang over the city. Motorbikes rule the roads. Pedestrians take shelter from the midday sun and spontaneous bursts of monsoon rain under the arches of five-foot ways. Cups of chai and Milo are served with crackers on the side, just like mum used to make. Restaurants are tended by middle-aged waitstaff who approach customer service with earnest dedication. Hipster cafes and bare-bones milkbars alike serve Ipoh’s legendary white coffee and Macau-style egg tarts. People are outgoing and friendly—I lost count of how many times we got invited to sit down for a drink. Every Sunday morning, a massive flea market unfurls in the centre of Ipoh, where locals gather to sell antique tiffin boxes and melamine plates.
Heritage colonial buildings, including Ipoh railway station, have been beautifully restored. In the new town, turn-of-the-century theatres and brutalist apartment buildings crack and crumble. Packs of taxi drivers sit in their cars reading newspapers, occasionally tossing handfuls of crumbs to the flocks of pigeons that sweep over the city. It’s grungy. Ipoh Old Town is dedicated almost entirely to rows of Peranakan shophouses—their terrazzo floors and hand-painted signs and awnings the most gorgeous I’ve ever seen.
Ipoh street art
And then there’s the street art. Atmospheric alleyways with names like ‘Concubine Lane’ conceal larger-than-life murals by Lithuanian Ernest Zacharevic, the same artist behind Penang’s best-loved pieces. Only in Ipoh, you won’t have to queue for a photo. Mural Lane in Ipoh’s new town is plastered with an impossible number of contemporary artworks.
I love Malaysia for its mix of cultures and religions. I find it so fascinating to see Malay, Arabic, English and Chinese text all printed on the same shop sign. Ipoh is probably even more multicultural than Penang, best reflected in its hawker food scene.
In short, Ipoh is an art, design and food lover’s paradise. Here is a selection of my favourite Ipoh photography to inspire you to visit the capital of Perak.