Ipoh Springs To Life
Senses of Malaysia|Oct/Nov/Dec 2017

More than a town of white coffee and great noodles, Ipoh is increasingly flexing its modern muscle as a legitimate tourist destination. Travel photojournalist David Bowden visits the Perak capital city once again and finds the tourism evolution in full swing.

David Bowden

In tourism terms, Ipoh is best described as a later developer. It is often overlooked as a holiday destination, but one gets the impression that things are changing as more and more people become aware of its tourism assets and increasingly appreciate just how close Ipoh is for a weekend getaway.

Most KL travellers probably drive past Ipoh on their way north to Penang (and the inverse is also true), and few would therefore consider it as a holiday destination. However, recent developments have injected new zing to ensure Ipoh is a more viable proposition for a weekend escape, especially as it is just a two-hour drive north of Kuala Lumpur, and a bit closer for Penangites.

Ipoh’s reputation as a tin town is well known, but tin alone probably isn’t something that will motivate visitors to travel to what is Malaysia’s third-largest city after Kuala Lumpur and Penang. Tin was discovered in the 19th century and it made some people in Perak’s Kinta Valley very wealthy, as seen by the many large bungalows located in parts of Ipoh. Fortunately, heritage has been recognised by many as an important ingredient in the tourism equation and now Ipoh is achieving recognition for its historic assets. Weekend market, Concubine Lane

HERITAGE HEARTLAND 

A close inspection of Ipoh’s historic town centre reveals many fascinating aspects of the city’s past and of the wealth that was generated through the discovery and subsequent mining of tin. Arguably the finest building in the city is the railway station which is the second such station to be built on the site. The first station opened in 1894, while construction of the second and current station commenced in 1914 and was only completed in 1917 due to difficulties in sourcing some materials during WWI. Built along the lines of Moghul architecture, it opened as the Perak Railways Building. The station celebrates its centenary this year, and while the exterior remains mostly untouched, the interior has been modernised and made more functional for travel in the 21st century.

The old hotel within the station appears to have closed, but hopefully an entrepreneur will come to its rescue and renovate it back to the grand hotel that it once was. While new hotels have more recently opened in Ipoh, the Railway Hotel was once the place to stay in the grand era of railway travel.

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