After a week in Kuala Lumpur, we pack our bags and leave for our new destination north of KL, Ipoh. Ipoh you say? Probably you have never heard of this city before, but according to the Lonely Planet, it’s one of those cities in South-east Asia you really should visit. Why? There are a lot of historical buildings, you can eat some fantastic food and there’s a lot of street art to be discovered. Doesn’t sound so bad, don’t you think?
Ipoh New town
We choose to go to Ipoh by train. Ordering our train tickets online turned out to be very easy. We even could work because the kids were distracted by a movie of the Minions that was playing on the train. And after a smooth and pleasant trip, we arrived in the old part of Ipoh. The train station immediately appeared to be one of those old buildings you must see.
Our first accommodation was situated in the new part of town, so we booked a Grab and after only 15 minutes we arrived at our destination. We booked a room at EDM Space, a basic and cheap hotel, exploited by a very friendly Chinese couple with 3 most adorable children. The room was simple (4 mattresses on the ground and a shared bathroom) but the common sitting area and friendly family made it a pleasant stay. The kids had a great time, as they immediately became friends with the youngest daughter of the house, who was 6 years old. A very good motivation to start their English lessons, as Desirée spoke English fluently. After hearing for the 500th time ‘mama, what is she saying’, we introduced some notes with their first words and sentences.
In the meanwhile, it got time to discover the neighbourhood, looking for some good places to eat. We had already made a list of some eateries we wanted to pay a visit. And coincidence or not, we immediately bumped into one of them, the Lou Wong restaurant. Famous for its chicken with bean sprouts (Taugé Ayam). We can confirm it now, it was a fantastic prepared chicken accompanied with a delicious sauce. You do need to look out when you enjoy the taste of the chicken, however. The Chinese tend to chop the chicken in pieces without taking the bones out.
Because visiting old buildings isn’t exactly the most exciting part of our journey for Yuna and Hanne, and we can also use some nature, we decide to go to Gunung Lang National Park, which is about 14 kilometres away from Ipoh. With Grab, we’re again at our destination within 15 minutes for less than €3/$4. Grab really is easy, especially with the kids. The entrance fee for the park is only €2/$3 and even the little tour on the boat in the park is included. We immediately see our first turtles who get lots of food from the local Malaysians. During our crossing of the lake, we see a big animal in the water. Smaller than a crocodile and it moves like a snake. At least a metre long! When it suddenly gets out of the water a bit, we can see it is an iguana. Our first encounter with this amazing and a bit of a mysterious creature is a fact. Unfortunately, he didn’t want to go on the picture…
In the park, there are lots of places to picnic and a mini zoo with ostriches, chickens, deers, … Nothing to phenomenal but the kids had a good time. Or maybe daddy as well… And the park is just nice to wander around. In the trees are lots of monkeys. Afterwards, we read an article that it is kind of a plague for the moment in Malaysia and that they have to kill some monkeys now and then. But we won’t tell the kids about that, however. In the meanwhile, another tropical rain shower has started and we need to hide. Everyone who has been in the tropics before understands when we are saying you don’t want to be waiting outside when the rain is pouring down. Just before we take the boat back, we discover a colony of catfish who are very happy with the fish food of the kids.
Back at the entrance, Heleen wants to take some photos of the monkey families. We told our kids not to go to close to the monkeys, as they can be aggressive when you have some food on you. While Hanne is watching, a monkey approaches her and out of fear, she puts the bag of fish food on the ground and runs away. As a result, the monkey quickly grabs the bag and takes off with it. After the first tears are wiped away, Hanne withers the monkeys with some looks for at least the next 10 minutes. It was a little consolation that the monkey appeared to be a mother, who gave the bag to her tiny cub. The love is gone however between Hanne and the monkeys for at least a while…
Ipoh old town
On our third day, we moved to the old part of Ipoh. Our accommodation was the Ban Loong Hotel, situated in the Chinese quarters of the city. Nicely decorated and comfortable rooms, but not for light sleepers. You really hear just everything through the walls. In the evening, we ended up at a local Indian restaurant near our hotel where they stuffed us with roti, chapati and puri. They kept on bringing new dishes and us, as well as the kids, enjoyed everything. Extremely tasteful and cheap! When we discover the neighbourhood, you immediately see the difference with the newer part of town. The atmosphere is more hectic, but a nice mix up of Chinese, Indian and Malay people and influences. You definitely see more tourists in this area. The old buildings are a joy to look at, a colonial feeling that immediately brings you back in time.
In the meanwhile, the lessons of Yuna and Hanne have started. Teacher Heleen and the kids still need to get used to everything, but Yuna and Hanne find it very cool they get teached by their mom. A decent repetition is necessary however after the summer holidays. After some playtime, it is time for the heritage walk in the old city of Ipoh.
We discover Concubine Lane, a very neighbourly but touristic street filled with shops and food stalls. And there, we unexpectedly find some good Ipoh dishes. The durian (a typical fruit in Asia which is very smelly) in coconut milk doesn’t seem to be anything for the girls. The ice ball and big candyfloss in the shape of a flower are a direct hit, however!
Inside one of the historical buildings, they have made Kong Heng Square, a cosy place with beautiful shops and street vendors. It is a good example of keeping the old structures of the building but turns it in a beautiful modern place. We finely find a hat for Hanne which we all like… Now we still need one for Yuna. Definitely pay this market a visit when you are in Ipoh!
If you would have asked us a couple of months ago what we knew about street art and where to find it, we probably wouldn’t have been able to answer your question. From now on, we can send everyone to Ipoh. It’s not that there are numerous paintings, but they just are beautiful and so much fun! Especially when you are going with kids, they will love it. A lot of the paintings are a bit interactive. Our personal favourite (May the smell be with you) is even the decor of a virtual fight between Yuna and Hanne. Most guesthouses can deliver a plan with walks for street art and the old heritage buildings.
What did we think about Ipoh?
We stayed in Ipoh for four days. You definitely can tell the locals are trying to reach more tourists. But it still remains a place that is a bit “off the beaten track”. Probably two days would be enough to discover it all, but we enjoyed having time to wander around.
First of all, the obvious reasons are the colonial buildings and beautiful street art. Another nice thing is the new and hip coffee bars and restaurants that keep on popping up. They are beautiful businesses, located in older buildings. They leave the old structure and fill it up with a modern or vintage interior. Definitely an extra value for the city and worth paying a visit.
Besides the old buildings and funny street art, delicious food is also a good reason to get yourself to visit Ipoh. We didn’t have any bad food when we were there. Be aware however that if you choose to go to more western restaurants or one of the hip coffee bars, you will pay much more than what’s normal by Malaysian standards. Most of the local eateries are very cheap and incredibly tasteful.
What could be approved
It stays, however, a quite busy town with a lot of car traffic. Maybe they should consider a car-free zone or invest in a more safe way to cross the street. Some sidewalks here and there would be nice as well, especially with the kids. The problem is that every family has two or three cars. Luckily Grab always provides a temporary solution.
So, if you ever pass Ipoh during your travels, definitely stop for a few days and let this old colonial city bewonder you. Or just plan your trip and make Ipoh fit into it. Do let us know what your experiences with Ipoh are or what you think of our travel diary in the comments below this article.