Sinhalese Bar – A Relic of a Bygone Era

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I refer to “Ipoh’s Nightlife Renaissance” (Ipoh Echo Issue 175) where a number of the city’s night joints which offers drinks, live music and fun for the younger generation were mentioned.

However, not being a young man anymore, I walked into this bar located in Old Town. One might wonder whether this is the Wild East! The swinging saloon doors of a Western movie, take you to a dingy bar that has not changed since it was opened in 1931.

In the bar are various kinds of liquor stacked on the racks of the glass cabinet. On the wall is a Victorian pendulum clock, a sculpture of a deer skull and a faded photo of the founder, untouched since 1931. The surroundings exude much of the decadent colonial charms of yore.

It is a well known fact that the oldest restaurant in Ipoh is the F.M.S. Bar, which was founded in 1906 by a Hainanese. It was the most celebrated watering-hole of European planters and miners and their wannabes then.

With the migration of white-collar Ceylonese to Ipoh in the late 1800s, it prompted an enterprising Sinhalese businessman to start a similar bar in Treacher Street (Jalan Bijih Timah). After the Japanese Occupation the joint was managed by his sons and they called it, “The Sinhalese Bar”, being the only one of its kind in the country.

Like the F.M.S. Bar, which was a favourite with British planters and miners, the Sinhalese Bar became a popular spot for the Ceylonese, Tamils, Malayalees and Sikhs.

These days you can find all kinds of people patronising the Sinhalese Bar. Gulping mugs of beer and relaxing in the cool comfort of the bar, one is reminded of what it must have been like in an era gone by.

S. Sundralingam