The West Coast of Malaysia

IPOH

Global Mark : 13.50

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Parks Culture Market Relax Fiesta 

Cost

AVER.
4 2 2 4 3 3 3 3 12.00

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
6 100% 67% (4) 83% (5) 8 to 18 15.00


Description : The "City of millionaires" is a rather charming and laid back Chinese city

Comments : Even if you do not wish to stay, take half an hour to check out the beautiful Railway station, 5mn walk north from the bus station. This might convince you to be original and spend a night here...

What to do ? Spot quite a few impressive colonial structures, incl. the local "Taj Mahal" / Compare the modern look of the State Mosque with the charm of the old one on Jalan Masjid (just east of the river) / Walk the paths along the river / Relax in nice parks / Watch the evolution of civilization on the small panels of the Memorial clock tower / Listen to mah jong games / Shop in one of the 14 shopping centers / Get money in one of the 31 banks / Watch a movie in one of the 9 cinemas / Play lots of different sports in one of the best complex of Malaysia / Speak Chinese / At the caves : see colorful dragons, dream by a rocky pond, watch hundreds of turtles, be impressed by huge statues, study large wall paintings, get up stairs to panoramas,... / Also in the surroundings : become an expert in minerals (Geological Museum), see locally bred horses (National Stud Farm), splash at waterfalls or boat by beautiful limestone pinnacles (Lang Hill) / Eat Chinese / 

What you may not like ? The lack of GH / Those damn buses who do not stop at intermediary stations if full already / The rubbish inside some caves / The bats droppings / Sweating too much for not such a good view as the panorama is wasted by factories / Spending too much time to reach Kellie's Castle, a dilapidated place strangely recommended as a must seen by a French guidebook / 

How long ? Checking all the surroundings attractions would require at least two-three days. One afternoon is however enough for a walk around the not so big city. 


Where to stay ? 

Hotels  << Get precise info, book online & save money !

- In the south-east of town on Jalan C.M. Yussaf (if coming from Kampar, ask to get off there) :

  • ® Embassy Hotel (2549496), at No35, opposite the bus stop coming from Kampar / Room w. shower & TV 24(1) or 29(2) / Go there for the relatively clean spacious rooms / What you may not like : the bad isolation from the other rooms
  • Grand Cathay Hotel (2419685), at No88, corner with Jalan Pasir Putih / Room w. shower (but no toilet) 21, w. AC 26 / Go there for the cheapest spacious rooms in town / What you may not like : the old decrepit look and the lack of separation for the shower
  • Hollywood Hotel (2415322), at No72 / Room w. shower 28, w. AC 32 / Go there if the above are full as it really lack charm...

 - Near the bus & train station : 

  • ® The Majestic Station Hotel (2555605), inside the beautiful "Taj Mahal" train station / Future huge dorm (20-30 beds) announced w. HW shower, TV & video for R15-20 per bed, classic rooms from R63 / Go there for the superb colonial charm with high ceiling and a 183m long colonnaded verandah ! / What you may not like : that they change their mind about the dorm or the size & prices of it


- In the north of town (bus No93 to the hospital for R0.4 then 5mn walk) :

  • ® YMCA (2540809), 211 Jalan Raja Musa Aziz, just north of the big Seenivasagam Park / Dorm (5) 12, Dorm (15) 10, room w. AC & HW shower 30(1), 40(2) or 50(3) / Non member & ladies OK / Go there for the cheapest bed in town (or the cheapest room if on your own), the comfortable & clean AC rooms or to play tennis / What you may not like : not getting the dorm for yourself if Passplanet or Ipoh become popular... 
  • Across the road, a smaller YWCA with more intimate atmosphere caters for ladies only : Sgl or Dbl rooms without shower at 30 or 20 per person plus a R5 registration.


Where to eat ? There is no shortage of small Chinese restaurants in town so it would be a pity to head toward McDonald (worth a look for its Maybank section) or Pizza Hut... A small and late night market set up just south of the Central Market on Jalan Theatre : this is a good place for snacks and original drinks (incl. Bird nets')

Internet ? A few places around town. The cheapest spotted was Triple Net (open 10 to midnight) at 41 Jalan C.M. Yusuf, next to Embassy Hotel : R2 per hour w. R1 min. charge. A more peaceful & friendly atmosphere can however be found at The Networks (open 11 to 19) on Jalan Mustapha Al-Bakri, opp. Kamdar Shopping Centre, two blocks east from the Central Market : R3 per hour w. R1.5 min. charge


Journey breaks at Buddha Caves ?

- Sam Poh Tong area : a series of three temples with various interests, south on the way to Kampar (20mn by bus 666, R0.75). The first temple is the kitschy one with colorful dragons & other animals. The second is rather empty but let you go up inside the cave to smell the bats. The third one, Sam Poh Tong (open 8 to 16:30 daily), is the only real reason to visit, not so much for the statues but for the beautiful rocky pond. In the back, a tortoise pond and a new temple set in a dramatic surrounding are also worth a look. Vegetarian food is available at the temple, except on Monday. The best way to visit would be by breaking your journey from/to Kampar and ask the dragons to keep your bag. Another Temple, Kek Lok Tong, look close on the map or if you listen to some locals but is in fact about 5km away on the road by the Petronas Station. Might not be worth bothering...

- Perak Tong, definitively a must visit, 6km north on the way to Kuala Kangsar (15mn by bus, R0.75). The Chinese temple can be spotted on the right but the bus might stop a bit further. This grandiose cave is full of statues (in particular a 12.8m high sitting Buddha) and wall paintings, some of them actually quite tasteful. Stairs (open from 9 to 16:00) go all the way to the top of the hill (from near the top, concrete stairs on the left; the right stairs lead to a statue and a disappointing panorama) where a small garden offer panorama & relaxation until you get your breath back. Again, the best way to visit would be by breaking your trip to/from Kuala Kangsar.

 << Discover a few sights


Backpacker's Tips :
Weng Chuen, Yip, Malaysia  (March 03)
« Ipoh has more to do and explore. There is a cave system by the name of Gua Tempurung (Coconut Shell Cave) about 24 Km from Ipoh. It is well known for its cave system and it is said to be the 2nd oldest cave system in the world. Inside the cave is well-lit, they say the lighting system is based on some cave in Australia. 

Getting There:
- From Ipoh:
Get on a non-express bus headed to Kampar. Bus company’s name is “Kinta”. Tell the conductor that you want to get off at Gua Tempurung. The stop should be 4 Km after Gopeng town. Fare should be less than RM 3.00.

- From Kampar:
Get on a non-express bus headed to Ipoh. Bus company’s name is “Kinta”. Tell the conductor that you want to get off at Gua Tempurung. The stop should be 6 Km after Jeram town. Fare should be less than RM 2.00.

You’ll recognize the stop from the sign they put up. From the stop, it will be a 5 Km hike to Gua Tempurung. The first 2 Km will be a tar road through a typical Malay village. The last 3 Km will be dirt road, nothing much to see on either side. One thing for certain is to keep a wary eye out for snakes, monitor lizards and please stay clear of the water buffaloes that may be enjoying their mud bath there. Nasty critters with short tempers, they are.

At The Caves:
1. Catwalk Tour: No river adventure involved. Any number of persons, spare clothing and torchlight is optional

Golden Flowstone:
- Anytime from 9.00am to 4.00pm (Mon to Sun)
- Entrance Fee: RM 6.00 (Adults), RM 2.50 (ages 12 and below)
- Time Frame: 40 minutes
- Category: Easy

Top of the World:
- Anytime from 9.00am to 3.00pm (Mon to Sun)
- Entrance Fee: RM 9.00 (Adults), RM 4.50 (ages 12 and below)
- Time Frame: 1 hour 45 minutes
- Category: Not Strenuous

2. River Adventure Tour: Minimum 10 persons per group, have to bring torchlight and spare clothing

Short River Adventure:
- 2 sessions per day (10.00am & 2.00pm, Mon to Sun)
- Entrance Fee: RM 9.00 (Adults), RM 4.50 (ages 12 and below)
- Time Frame: 2 hours
- Category: Not Strenuous

Top of the World & Short River Adventure: 
- 2 sessions per day (10.00am & 2.00pm, Mon to Sun)
- Entrance Fee: RM 11.00 (Adults), RM 6.00 (ages 12 and below)
- Time Frame: 2 hours 30 minutes
- Category: Exciting and challenging

Grand Tour:
- 1 session per day (10.00am only, everyday except Friday)
- Entrance Fee: RM 22.00 (Adults), RM 11.00 (ages 12 and below)
- Time Frame: 3 hours 30 minutes to 4 hours
- Category: Challenging and strenuous

They have a campsite for campers. Camping gear is not provided. Rates are at RM 5.00 per tent (regardless of size), and RM 2.00 for every camper for use of toilet and bathroom facilities.

Discounts are given for a group of more than 10 people. Tours 1,2,3,4 are discounted RM 1.00 / person, and Grand Tour RM 2.00 / person. Call up and ask them for it.

Contacts:
Managed by: Heritage Acres Sdn Bhd (307834-T)
- Head Office:
107-8.01, Jalan Brick Klin (Jalan Gurdwara), 10300 Penang
Tel: 6-04-2299888 Fax: 6-04-2262333
- Ipoh Office:
31A-1, Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah Utara, Taman Ipoh Selatan, 31400 Ipoh, Perak
Tel: 6-05-5458834 Fax: 6-05-5458837
 

Links: http://www.impressions.com.my/gua_temp/gua.htm 
http://www.showcaves.com/english/misc/showcaves/Tempurung.html 

There is also a waterfall, Lata Kinjang, which is renowned over here. It towers over 300 meters. It is further away, and you would need to take a bus from Kampar or Tapah heading to Chenderiang.
Link: http://www.geocities.com/Yosemite/Gorge/7313/Pfalls/txp29kinD.htm
»


An exotic Island ? Ipoh is the traditional transit place to reach beautiful Pulau Pangkor. If the monsoon prevents you from reaching the better eastern islands (Perhentians), this should be a great alternative. I did not have the time to go, so I won't talk about it too long but those who have been recommend it. Reaching it is easy : take a bus to Lumut (R3.75, 1 hour) and then a boat (every 20mn, R3) for the short crossing. Accommodations seem however to be expensive with Sgl reported at around R30 and Dbl at R40. It should be possible to find much cheaper if you are not too picky. If you visit, please share your experience with other backpackers...


Leaving Ipoh ?
Some destinations with a few buses only, such as Kota Bahru or Cameron Highlands, would usually require a reservation one day in advance minimum.
The bus routine could also be broken by taking the train, even so it will be slower & more expensive. Going north, the late morning XSP/4 train (the only convenient one) is unfortunately running on Friday, Sat, Sund & holidays only (see the trains table)

 

Bus Schedules ? 

To  Price Class D Time Nb Freq.
Kuala Kangsar 3.05 ordi 1 6:15 to 21:30 a lot 10-20mn
Kamunting 4.3 ordi 1.5 6:30 to 18:30 a lot 30mn
Penang 9-10 ac 2.5 9:30 to 21:30 a few hour
Hat Yai 28 ac 6 24 1 na
Kota Bharu 18 ac 7 9,22 2 na
Lumut 3.75 ac 1.5 7 to 19 a few 30-60mn
Kampar 1.7-2.3 various 1 6 to 22:30 a lot 10-30mn
Cameron Highlands 12 ac 2.5 11,18 2 na
KL 9.5 ac 2.5 6 to 19 a lot 30-60mn
Singapore 38 ac 8 9 to 10,13,20 to 24 a few hour

Notes : To Kamunting then change to Taiping (15mn) / To Penang : a few companies / To KL : a lot of companies


The trip to Kuala Kangsar : SSS / R / R0.75 + 2.75 / 15mn + 1 hour / AC buses
The first short part, up to Perak Tong, offered a pleasant view of limestone formations on the right, in particular Lang Hill. And then you see the temple. You may wish to remind the driver where you wishes to stop but you should not shout at him if he makes you walk back a bit as the bus stop is 100m further from the temple. 
The bus can however be caught straight opposite the temple if you gesticulate well enough. The second part was less attractive but pleasant nevertheless. 19km before Kuala Kangsar an originally shaped hill can be spotted on the right and that's about it. For more view, wait to reach Kuala Kangsar...

See also the trip from Cameron Highlands